Pearl’s Picks

When you have feathers and are naturally very confident and vocal and are even now counting down to your 20th birthday, your flock members never have to worry about hearing your honest opinion.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

This “beak-first” honesty policy is also super-helpful for training (and re-training) your large featherless assistant, who has great intentions but tends to be kind of slow on the uptake.

Let’s say, for example, she suddenly decides to swap out your favorite millet for a new brand. You give it a sample and it is oh-so-clearly not up to snuff. And you know that if you don’t let her know in the most clear and decisive way, she might try to serve it to you again tomorrow. Disaster!

Gripping the millet stalk in your beak, shaking it, flinging it and dropping it (with a hiss for emphasis) are all great communication tools to let your large featherless waitress know your order was not up to your usual high culinary standards.

The products you are about to discover are Pearl’s current reigning favs. As his tastes change, you can be sure his large featherless press secretary will promptly update them “right away, no waiting” – Pearl’s preferred method.

Pearl's Picks: Cockatiel food.

If you’ve cared for a bird longer than five minutes, you’ve probably been told that pet birds are supposed to eat pellets. Pelleted food is nutritionally more sound. It also avoids picky eating (where a parrot picks through and only eats the tastiest seeds…not that anyone ever does that in our household, of course).

Unfortunately, no one told Pearl and his mommy this until he had been happily consuming his daily portions of birdseed for approximately 11 years. So we’ve never been able to convert him fully over to pelleted foods.

But we have managed to achieve what I think is a pretty happy compromise. Pearl’s daily staple foods include Volkman Avian Science Cockatiel Birdseed with Sunflower with some Zupreem Natural Medium Bird Pellets mixed in.

He also gets a daily scoop of Food for Life Ezekiel Golden Flax cereal (you can get it at most grocery stores or online). He loves this cereal – it is like Grape Nuts (which he also loves) but it is organic – so no scary GMO stuff hidden in there anywhere.

For dinner every night, Pearl gets a warmed portion of Seeds of Change organic brown rice and quinoa blend with chia and kale (you can find it at nearly any grocery store). He loves it and if his large featherless waitress isn’t prompt in serving it, he screeches at her until she remembers.

Pearl's Picks: Vitamins & minerals.

Pearl gets free access to a calcium cuttlebone at all times. He loves his cuttlebone. There are different brands but I usually get the Living World cuttlebone for him.

He also gets four drops of Milk Thistle with Dandelion Extract (alcohol-free for birds) in his water bottle once per week. This is for digestive support – I have been told it is very good for older birds in particular.

About a year ago I found this awesome veggie powder called Super Greens N Things that I sprinkle on all of Pearl’s food. He doesn’t even seem to notice it is there (whereas normally he reacts to anything new like “get that alien out of here, Mom!”) and it helps get more nutrients into him on a daily basis.

Pearl struggles off and on with yeast and bacterial infections (plus a suspected intestinal polyp) that can cause bloody poops. This really freaks his mommy out!

So in addition to all the periodic antibiotics and anti fungal meds he’s had to take over the years whenever he has these episodes, now he is taking a vet-prescribed maintenance oral probiotic made just for birds. I give it to him every few days (after only a small skirmish – he actually seems to like the taste but he just doesn’t want to take it).

Pearl's Picks: Cockatiel treats.

Pearl’s hands-down favorite treats are not cockatiel foods at all. They are his Grandma’s baked goods, and in particular waffles, which he is not supposed to eat anymore because of the bloody poops issue. Sob.

So we try our best to find worthy substitutes. I buy him freshly sprouted and dried organic millet from a local (awesome) bird shop. He loves this millet so much I regularly drive 45 minutes one-way to the bird shop to get it for him! And I let him nibble some of my organic gluten-free crackers and ginger cookies now and again.

He also gets hard-boiled eggs (yup, you read that right) and nibbles on the cooked whites for some soft protein. And sometimes for a special treat I give him a dab of mashed potatoes with his dinner.

Pearl's Picks: Pet water bottle.

Several years ago, a fellow bird-owner friend converted Pearl from a water dish (which he insisted on roosting in – and pooping it – every single night) to a small pet water bottle. This was an awesome call!

Ever since, Pearl has used Petco’s You & Me small water bottle. It is easy to keep clean. I clean it and fill it with fresh spring water once per week, adding the four drops of Milk Thistle with Dandelion at that time. It is much more safe and hygienic than a water dish!

Pearl's Picks: Cockatiel perches.

We have tried so many different kinds of parrot perches over the years. I try to add in some different surfaces and thicknesses for foot fitness and health and to keep his claws filed down, but since he spends most of his waking hours outside his cage, this isn’t as vital as it would be with some pet birds.

He still has his original cage with his original plastic ridged wall-to-wall perch and he likes it so he gets to keep it.

Then he has two shorter perches that screw on to his cage bars. One is a Sweet Feet and Beak Safety Pumice Perch for birds and the other is a Petco You & Me 1/2-inch Natural Hardwood bird perch. He seems to like both of these a lot and uses them for sleeping and roosting daily.

Pearl's Picks: Winter birdie warmer.

A few years ago when we were living in a particularly icy and drafty little casa, I bought Pearl a birdie warmer. The one I chose for him is the K&H Pet Products Snuggle Up Small Grey Warmer.

Pearl loves it…and I mean that literally.

It is small. And grey. And emits warmth. And sits on the side of his cage right by his sleeping cup (formerly a water dish that is now filled with soft nest-able paper towels). So you can see where this is going….I finally had to get a washcloth and cover it up from the inside with bird-safe clips so he wouldn’t get territorial and hiss and try to bite when anyone (like his mama) got too close to it.

But it is a great resource, especially as winters seem to be getting colder here and he gets older. Now in the mornings when I go to wake him up he has warm little pink feet. 🙂

Pearl's Picks: Parrot toys.

Because Pearl struggles with a sensitive digestive system and a suspected intestinal polyp among other possible mystery issues that cause his periodic bouts of bloody poops, he isn’t allowed to chew on wicker or anything substantial anymore.

This has caused lots of problems in our casa, because where once we had a contented, happily chewing parrot, now we have a bored screaming frustrated parrot. In lieu of his beloved wicker, Pearl now tries to chew paint, wood, mini blinds, towels, laptop keys, his mama’s purse, anything he can get his beak on that looks chewable. I give him adding machine paper to chew which doesn’t seem to cause the bleeding if he accidentally ingests any. He likes it okay but it isn’t wicker.

He does love to chew the crap out of banana peels, but only while they are still on the bananas. No telling how many bunches of organic bananas he has chewed up, but then again, we really aren’t counting around here as long as the feathery “alpha” flock member is happy chewing them.

Pearl's Picks: Pet supplies.

As I mention in much greater detail in Pearl’s popular book, “Love & Feathers,” our entire casa pretty much revolves around that greatest invention of all times – the paper towel.

What would we do without those wonderful white select-a-size rolls? I honestly don’t even want to think about it.