Country Living Series

Friday, August 8, 2014

A new addition to our household

For some time now -- several years, in fact -- Younger Daughter has wanted a parrot.

Not a huge parrot such as a macaw, but a smaller parrot. However we've always told her it would be difficult to keep a parrot in north Idaho because our winters get so cold and parrots do not handle cold weather well. Additionally, since our home is heated with wood, our inside temps can drop to the low 50s at night during cold snaps. We'll all used to this and it's no big deal, but tropical parrots would have a hard time adapting.

So started Younger Daughter's diligent research into a parrot breed that can handle cooler (not COLD, but cool) temperatures.

She had other criteria as well. She wanted a bird that didn't screech (macaws are famous for their glass-shattering voices) as well as a breed that could be trained easily to talk and be handled. After a long search, she settled on a breed called a Quaker Parrot, so known because they have a tendency to "quake" their heads in an adorable fashion. They are small parrots (sometimes called "parakeets") that measure about 11 inches from top to tail.

Quaker parrots are tolerant of cooler temps; they don't "screech" loudly (they screech, but it's not obnoxious, and they can be trained out of it), and they can easily be trained to talk. They have a lifespan of about 30 years, so Younger Daughter must be prepared for a long-term commitment. They require frequent interaction (in other words, they are best placed with families that are home much of the time, as opposed to homes where people are away most of the day).

Armed with every imaginable fact and figure, Younger Daughter presented her case to Don and I. This kid had done her homework and knew an impressive amount of Quaker behaviors, training, intelligence, breeding, health, caging requirements, and other issues.

We agreed she could get her parrot. She located a reputable breeder and made arrangements to meet with her. In the meanwhile, she started pulling together the necessary equipment.

She found an enormous birdcage for an amazing price (an older couple with health issues who was reducing the number of pet birds they kept). The cage has a stand with rollers on it. The whole thing was so large it barely fit into the back of the car with the seats laid down.

Although it was in squeaky-clean condition, Younger Daughter cleaned every inch of it.

We'll also get a low-grade cage warmer (apparently they're not expensive) before winter hits, for use during the coldest nights and in the early morning before we get the woodstove going.

As the day crept closer to meet the breeder with her bird, Younger Daughter was bouncing with excitement. After much thought Younger Daughter settled on the name Lihn for her new pet.

Because the breeder lived about as far out from Spokane as we do -- but from a different direction -- we agreed to meet at a hole-in-the-wall place called Sparky's Bird Store on the north side of town, which specialized in nothing but pet birds. At first I thought to myself, "Sparky's Bird Store. Yeah right. How can a place like that stay in business?"

Well my goodness, it was crowded with customers. Novice bird keepers, experienced bird keepers, curious visitors... I never knew there were so many bird enthusiasts in the region. And they all knew Sparky. An older fellow with a passionate love of birds, the guy was walking encyclopedia.

The breeder had dropped Younger Daughter's bird at the store a couple of hours before and then gone to a doctor's appointment. We got to Sparky's early and had no problem waiting for the breeder's arrival since there was so much to see.

Cockatoos literally dripped from perches. Here Older Daughter meets a friendly specimen.

We also met a Military Macaw...

...who conceived an enormous affection for Older Daughter and bobbed his head and danced on her arm for as long as she would let him. Sparky said it's because his first owner (over 20 years ago) was a teenage girl, and he loves teenage girls. "With parrots, memory is everything," Sparky told us.

At long last, Younger Daughter got to meet Lihn.

She fell in love with the lively, curious young thing. She listened intently as the breeder explained feeding, watering, training, health, etc. At thirteen weeks of age, Little Lihn is not quite "weaned" and onto solid food, so Younger Daughter will be hand-feeding her for another couple of weeks and transitioning her to solids. But since she's been hand-raised, Lihn is already tame, affectionate, and curious.

We had bought a smaller traveling cage at a thrift store, and Lihn did very well driving home with us.

Here Lihn is getting spoon-fed. It's a messy business.

It didn't take Lihn any time at all to weasel into our affections. She's a playful curious little girl, and loves anything shiny or that makes noise (i.e. bells).

She also loves to rip paper. She doesn't chew or swallow it, just rips it.

She's clever with her beak and can even pick up flat coins from a flat surface. Then she carries them around. Very cute.

And baths! She loves to get wet!

She also plays a game called "Target" in which we put her on the floor and she chases after our trailing fingers, like a cat after a mouse. It makes us laugh every time we see it.

This little girl has got a TON of personality and Younger Daughter couldn't be more pleased. We're all enjoying her charming antics.


  1. When are you going to introduce her to the dogs ?

  2. The spoon feeding will keep you busy for a while. We raised a baby blue jay that appeared to be abandoned in our yard (1970's). We watched a long time but mom and dad didn't show up and there were lots of cats in the neighborhood. He went into a dog kennel and we fed him (of all things) soggy Friskies dog food. We would take him out in the yard and "exercise" him. About 3 weeks later he was able to fly away and he did! You will have fun. It stays with you. I have Black Headed Grosbeaks (a brood - about 4 individuals) eating suet in my yard now and we are at the very, very edge of their north/eastern summer range. I even made the state website for siting (and photographing) a bird WAY (800+ miles) out of its range 10 years ago...... Like I sticks with you!

  3. I really enjoyed this post. Once when I visited my aunt and uncle down south, I walked by their parrot's cages and one of the birds wolf whistled at me. I thought that was amusing.

  4. Sounds like a great little bird. I care for a friend's bird when they go on vacation. It would pull hairs on my neck as it sat on my shoulder. Please use the rule of no ceiling fans if the bird is out.

    Take care. Alex in Florida

  5. That's amazing! Makes me want to get one too! Don't think my cats would approve though. :-) Lihn looks like great fun, enjoy!

  6. Our grandson has a quaker parrot. It is blue colored and has a great personality. The grandson likes to take his bird into the shower with him. The whole family just loves him but they must watch him when he is out of the cage because they also have dogs and a cat..

  7. That is so cute! I can't wait to see more posts about Lihn as she grows! Congratulations on the new addition!

  8. The bird is the word! What was Lydia's reaction? Probably thinks it's just an indoor chicken!

  9. Just watch those doors! They can sneak out and it is heartbreaking.

  10. This is a very uplifting story. My wife & I feed wild birds in the backyard all year. We enjoy watching the youngster learn from there parents. If my wife is not feeling well watching the birds at the feeder & both bird baths lifts her up. We spend lots of time each day watching the birds.

  11. You will certainly enjoy your pet, however I have a tip. Years ago we had a couple of small birds (canaries). One year we had family over for Thanksgiving. In the process of cooking the meal and a large turkey, the canary got sick and died. It happened again with another canary at Christmas. It seems that in the process of cooking in the oven, something is given off that is toxic to birds. Seems like I read something about it but can't recall where. You might want to check up on it. Don't want to be a "Job's comforter", but it might be wise to try and avoid it. I really enjoyed our pet birds but we haven't had them since.


    1. earl and patrice,
      read that parrot family [and maybe other birds?] are killed by something released when nonstick cookware is used, even if they are far away from the kitchen.
      deb h.

    2. It's teflon that kills birds. The new ceramic or silicone non-stick pans are bird safe. My birds cage is near my kitchen area so i had to give away most of my pans.

  12. Patrice,

    Congrats to your daughter and family on the new bird. Enjoy!!!
    They live forever, my mom has one and she gives it attention but apparently not enough because it screams.

  13. Congratz on the new addition!! I will add another warning...Keep Your Papers Put UP!! Lihn can't tell the difference between the old business envelope and the new W2 form. Just saying. Also I'm jealous, I've wanted a parrot for years too.

  14. I have a cockatiel that doesn't like to be pet or handled. Despite that he is wonderful to have around. He says "Hi Cookie", "Hiya", laughs, whistles with the microwave, shrieks with the alarm clock, tears up my papers, etc. People don't understand how I can get along with a bird that I can't even touch but he's great. I've trained him to sit on a perch to take him in and out of the cage.

    Please don't clip the wings! I can't stand birds being made helpless just to keep them dependent on people. I allowed my bird to grow out his wings to help keep him safe around my dog and I can't imagine clipping them now. Not even when he was so aggressive during puberty/mating season that he was attacking me and that was people's first suggestion. Now that his hormones have calmed down he's much better and gets to fly around my bird-safe living room/kitchen area. The same precautions for a flighted bird apply to a clipped one so there's really no reason to do it.

    My dog wears a muzzle when the bird is out. He's a good dog but when one snap can end the birds life I feel better taking the precaution. They make plastic and metal mesh muzzles that are fairly comfortable. After learning that muzzle time=treat time Tanner doesn't mind wearing his at all. He even sleeps with it on.

  15. What a delightful little bird! I wonder if the paper shredding is a nesting behavior?


  16. Others have said the same, but here goes:

    Non stick cookware releases fumes that can kill and do kill birds, particularly Teflon.

    Watch out for the dogs around the bird.

  17. If you are busy and can't be around her while working, try turning on the radio for her. Better yet, the TV. Our African Gray Parrot always loved to watch TV. We would leave it on during the day for her while we were at work. She would pull her feathers out in boredom if we didn't.

    Another good heat source are the Electric portable oil filled radiator heaters. We kept one in from of our parrots cage in the winter. Plus put a good blanket over the back and sides to help keep drafts off her.

    Also be careful to watch her toys, especially with beads and bells, as she tears them up. Make sure there are no small parts she can swallow.

  18. Sparky is a wonderful resource! Our cockatoo plucks feather on her chest twice each year. One year she opened up a gash on her chest, and I had to call Sparky to get advice. He was amazing - you'll definitely need to keep his phone number.

    I also agree with the comments about Teflon, but other fumes can be dangerous for birds as well (prolonged exposure to oven cleaner, for one). Lihn will also need to avoid chocolate, coffee, avocadoes, and alcohol.

    We currently have four birds (two lovebirds, a cockatoo, and one of those screamy macaws). They each have such different personalities, and we enjoy them immensely. Good luck with your new "baby!"


  19. Patrice,

    I forgot to mention of Sparky's customers let the store mascot play with her earrings which were inexpensive costume jewelry. Several thousand dollars later, they were lucky to have been able to save the bird. I can't remember which metal was the problem, but birds love to play with jewelry, and it can be very dangerous for them.


  20. Patrice, I just clicked on the link in your blog for Quaker Parrot and was taken to a porn site. I've been using the Internet for 20 years and this is the first time this has ever happened, guess I've been lucky. Jo

    1. Whoa!!

      I just clicked on the link myself and it took me to the correct site (NOT a porn site!). However to be on the safe side, I've substituted the link to a Wikipedia page on Quaker parrots.

      Sorry you had such a shocking experience!

      - Patrice

  21. Hi There,

    A very nice looking parrot, I'd not heard of this breed before but he looks a bit like an Indian ringneck. I live on the southern edge of Sydney so we feed a lot of different parrots in our backyard, cockatoos, King Parrots, Rainbow Lorikeets, Crimson Rosellas to name a few. My wife & I also have 2 Cockatiels and budgie who thinks he is a Cockatiel, they give us much joy and like to come into the house as much as possible. They are fond of coming to bed with us when we are reading at night and they settle down on the soft blankets.

    I am a firm believer in clipping the wings of pets, it does not harm the bird and if you do it right they can still flutter short distances insides but they cannot fly freely, I see too many notices for lost parrots and often hear the calls of lost Cockatiels in the bush. If your bird can fly one day he WILL escape, it only takes a moments inattention, once they are up in a tree outside your house it is nearly impossible to get them to come back down, they will eventually fly off and that is that. All the best with your new baby, I raised a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo from a chick (I was 10 years old) and I had him for 34 years, I still miss him.

  22. I also had a Quaker Parrot for many years, Bill was his name, sweet affectionate, smart as a whip. You won't regret a moment of the decision.