Friday, January 3, 2014

The Politics of 'Keet Nutrition

It turns out that there is some controversy about the best diet for your parakeets.  Well the people on either side of the controversy don't think there is any controversy at all, they just think the people on the other side of the controversy are flat wrong, ... and leading our country into oblivion. Sort of reminds me of the US Congress.

You might think that the parakeets would have the power to settle this issue themselves.  Think of them as the voters in this analogy.  I don't want to go too much further with this analogy stuff, I've already experienced one unnecessary two week furlough, and I think if there were a two week shut down of the parakeet feeding system at this critical juncture, we might be turing to the gourmet cookbooks for parakeet chick pot pie recipes.  Hmmm, I may already have gone too far, where was I taking this?

Oh yes, the issue of what to feed the little parrrots.

I'll start with the avian vet we have taken our little birds to.  Avian vet?  But of course, you don't thnk we would leave the fate of our little wing-ed jewels to any old cow and cat man do you?

Right off, we heard that most commercial keet feeds, those composed primarily of seed were 'bad'.  The 'good' stuff is those pelleted formula feeds which have just the right balance of nutrients, vitamins, and mineals and will help your birds avoid development of lifestyle and diet related health issues; aka getting fat.  Yes, Parakeets (in captivity) are prone to getting fat, just like us. Seed is generally considered about on par with fast food in our world.  Think if you ate all your meals, and all your in between meal snacks at McKeets, or BasKeet Robbins.  That's how the anti-seed lobby paints the picture.

On the other side of this story are a legion of counter culture ogrganic natural food keet owners, the bleeding hearts of the keet-keeping world. In this age of the information superhighway, there are forums, chat rooms, keet bloggers, and advocacy groups all over the world.  Because you know, parakeets are all over the world.  These people feed their parakeets a dazzling array of varied foods, and there are many who are still pretty much dedicated to a mainly seed based diet.

Back to Kermie and Billie.  When we first got 'the lecture' from the vet we went right out and bought a big ole bag of pelleted feed, and filled up a feed tray (a BIG feed tray) with this better-for-birds grub.  Remember me saying that the keets represent the voters in this analogy?  Well, actually they are perhaps more like 14 year old voters;  They are just fine with eating McKeet seed food morning, noon, and night and are not at all bothered by having the pellets somewhere in the cage, so long as it does not get in the way of their McSeeds.  You have probably heard about those controlled experiments where, if you leave kids to their own devices they will eventually chose the oat hulls and wheat chaff granola over the super sugar charged chocolate goo goo cluster cocoa puffs.  Well I never believed that either but I can tell you without any doubt that parakeets will go for the junk food every time.  We still have most of that big bag of pelleted food; I change it every week or so in the feed tray.  I figure stale pelleted food is probably not the best way to change tiny hearts and minds.  

 I've also taken to making them a lovely 'fresh' salad every morning of the best fresh (organic mind you!) fruits an veggies that they like.  Umm, that the book says they like.  Right, those darn books again.  The fresh salad is a mix of grated carrot, sweet potato, romain, apple and corn.  Organic because the books warn that even the tiniest amount of pesticide or herbicide can mean instant death for bably keets.  I knew there was a good reason that we lived within driving distance of those fabulous yuppie emporiums such a Whole Foods Paycheck and Money Changer Joe's. Here's the salad in the making.

I make this fresh, every moning, and then before I do it again the next moring I dump yesterdays now stale and untouched salad in the garbage.  One person on one of the granola head forums said that she quit doing this, complaining that it was so wateful.  Really?  Maybe  a quater of a cup tops, and that's a big waste?  gimmeabreak.

To his credit I have actually seen Mr Greenburg eating some of the pelleted chow in the last week or so.  My guess is that if you are eating for 6, a little variety might be attractive after a while.  It's in a feed tray right next to the morning salad.  I have not seen him eat any of the fresh salad, ... ever.  I also hang a fresh 'bouquet' of the choicest young hearts of romaine sprigs along side the fresh salad and the pellet tray. 

This part of the cage might be considered something of a drive through health food spa.  Meanwhile one level higher in the cage we have the two trays of seed based feed, this is akin to the fast food express check out. We also occasionally, but only occasionally hang a sprig of millet spray up there.  They go wild for this and though she didn't say it in so many words, I got the impression from the vet that this is the crack cocaine of keet treats.  Think chocolate covered sugar cubes, dusted with powdered sugar (or in my case chili cheese nachos)  It's clear that this is a mind altering substance because I can occaionally entice the little green eating machine almost onto my finger, ... when there is a millet spray attched with a rubber band to my hand.   (come here little birdie, first hit's free)  This is a well known 'taming' technique among 'keet whisperers'.

There are a number of techniques for converting keets from the high fat seed diet to a more wholesome diet and given that there are chicks involved I can clearly see the value of avoiding a life style that might lead to 'childhood obesity' in keet chicks.  On the other hand I can also understand that a working mother of 4 with a lazy lout of a mate who just sits on the stoop eating all day might not be too keen on switching to a more healthy lifestyle.  When the chicks are adding 5% or more to their body weight daily, a sack full of H-burgers and curly fries starts to look awfully convenient.

In a test of wills, I don't like to think that I come second to a couple little birds. By golly, they will eat their fruits and vegetables or ....Hmmm?   Well they won't suffer rickets, beriberi, or juvenile diabetes for lack of opportunity.  As it happens I have a few tricks up my sleeve! 

This morning I added something to the salad which I have read is absolutely irresistable and packs a super protein punch: Hard boiled egg! I know what you are thinking, you advanced thinkers anyway: isn't that sort of...canabalistic (at least that came to my mind when I first read it). As I read on a little further, one of the proponents who has successfully trained her birds onto this boiled egg mash explained that it was not canabalistic at all because ... the eggs were not fertile! (Seems like splitting hairs to me, but hey, whatever makes your hair blow back). Who knows, perhaps the keets have read about this, ... it could happen.

And hopefully we will be able to introduce a magic bullet into the food issue next week.  I went on line recently and followed several different discussion threads that lead me to the same end point.  There is a US supplier of highly nuitritious, all organic(!) specially formulated bird food products.  This line of supposedly life altering formualtions is known collectively as Harrisons Bird Diet, more commonly referred to as HBD.

My inner skeptic has been laughing like a Hyena on nitrous oxide ever since I put in my order, and I have to admit that my inner 'sensitve male' is wondering if we might not have done just as well to have plunked down for an advanced energy healing crystal, and maybe a new set of ginzu knives the better to slice, dice, and chop that salad which goes daily into the compost.  We shall see.

So I launched the boiled egg sneak attack this morning

I even topped it off with a sprinkling of the evil seed mix.  (Embiggen the pic and you'll see the 'bait')

And you know what?  Mr Greenburg actually picked some of the seeds out of the salad! (remember those teens picking the peperoni off the pizza?) Oh well it's a start.

The HBD is supposed to land on the front porch Monday.  I hope this works because it will cetrainly be an added bother, not to mention an added cost.  But we are 'all in' on this keet chick business, and after all, it's the least I can do to help out two harried parents, both of whom have to hurl their breakfast, lunch, and dinner umpteen times a day to keep their chicks fed and growing (never thought of it quite like that did you?)  Put that way, my sacrifice seems paltry.

Sure, this is costing us a little more, but I don't think we are facing a budget showdown in the next few weeks, ... at least not here on the home front.  The other Washington is anyones guess.  

On a slightly more serious note, no new chicks this morning.  The prospect of the last two eggs hatching grows dimmer by the day.  We have decided to leave them in the nest box a couple more days just in case, and if nothing happens by Sunday (23 days after the last egg was layed) we will remove them.  On the plus side, you can see the four chicks are really growing! 

Chick #1 (in the background) looks like a beached whale, he's all fluffed out except for his head and face

and chick #2's feathers (foreground) are starting to fluff.

You can see that chick #3's feathers are just emerging.

This is just after Billie has fed them; eat, sleep, repeat  They were so sleepy they'd open their eyes to see me, and then the eyes almost immediately closed.  Too tired to be scared for long. 


The sun came out briefly this morning.  Mrs Dr C suggested we move the birds over to the sliding door to catch some sun.  In the summer we put them out on the back porch to sun themselves, they loved it.  So move them we did and immediately it became 'wash day' for the birds.  Mr G took multiple baths

Obviously he was really into it. 
he gets a bath, she gets a shower

extreme bathing?

Billie Holiday was slightly more demure about the whole affair, but she definitely enjoyed her bath and preening.

Of course, nothing whets the appetite like a swim and they BOTH tucked in to the salad and the pellets! 

Later I put more wild bird seed out on the porch.  The ground feeders flocked to it, we must have had 40 or so juncoes, chickadees, sparrows, pine siskins, wrens, even a spotted towhee. 

Kermit became very vocal and animated.  Not sure if he was trying to protect his territory or call to his long lost cousins.

Anyway, a nice change of pace for the birds. 

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