Sunday, October 24, 2010

Parrotlet Chewing on Cage Wire

Good Morning,

I have recently acquired an 11 year old Parrotlet and she has started biting on the bars of her cage, what I would call "strumming" or "picking" them. Her name is Chloe and she is a beautiful little thing and I have had a couple other issues with her, but I really would like to help her or stop her from this practice as it seems there is something emotionally or physically causing this problem. Can you offer any help or suggestions?



Dear Mark:

Thank you for your email. I have to admit in 30 years I have never had anyone ask this question. Since I am not there and cannot observe the bird’s behavior, I’ll give you some background on this issue.

Birds chew on wire. It is part of their natural behavior. It could be because the cage is too small, she doesn’t have enough toys or enrichment items, it may be she is missing minerals in her diet, it could be because of the stress of going into a new home or it may be something she just enjoys doing. I would go through each issue – make sure the cage is large enough – at least 18” by 18”. She should have a variety of toys and perches made from different materials. Be sure and provide her a nutritious diet with lots of fresh foods including vegetables, fruit, greens, cooked legumes, whole grains and sprouts. She should also have access to minerals such as cuttlebone and mineral block. You might want to add some vitamins or bee pollen to her diet although only a pinch of either several times a week is all that is needed. If it is due to the stress of the move, you will just have to wait that out. The older the bird, the harder it is for them to adjust to a new environment. Also, if this is a behavior she has been doing her entire life, you are not likely going to change it and attempting to do so by putting bitter materials on the cage bars or trying to discourage it by adverse training, is going to be more harmful than the chewing on the wire itself. 11 years old is pretty aged in parrotlets these days – it would be like trying to get a 90 yo person to stop smoking. Probably not going to happen. I do know that so long as the wire isn’t toxic – i.e., made from zinc, lead or brass, it isn’t going to hurt her. Its probably more annoying to you than anything else but it isn’t harmful to her.

I would try these other things and see how it goes.

Best of luck to you and your bird.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.

Toilet Training a Parrotlet

Hi Sandee,

Dibblee continues to get tamer and tamer. Okay, is this my
imagination? After he is on my shoulder for awhile he loves to go
down the front of my shirt and sometimes he stays there for a long
time. Lately, he has been coming out from down below and climbing
back onto my shoulder and thoughtfully pooping there instead of down
in my clothes. At first I thought it was a coincidence but he has
done it the last three or four times he has been out. So...Also, when
I place him on a flat surface or on my bed while I change shirts or
something I noticed that he would immediately poop when I put him
down. So it got me thinking. Now when I have him out I occasionally
take him off my shoulder and place him on the table or counter on a
paper towel and he does his thing and he's good to go for awhile.
I've been trying to associate the paper towel with a command but I
think he's getting the message. If he is out for many hours and I
periodically put him on a paper towel he often stays perfectly clean
the whole time out. Am I reading too much into this or is he one
smart guy?

Thanks for listening to my parrotlet ramblings.


Dear Randy:

Thanks for the update. No, it isn't your imagination. Most birds do not like to step in their own excrement so its not that difficult to 'toilet' train them. Actually, it is more training you to respond to their needs rather than the other way around. My latest book has an article on how to teach the bird. I'm sure that Dibblee is very happy with your progress!

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,

Friday, October 15, 2010

Dilute/Yellow Pacifics, Color Mutation Nomenclature

Was just wondering why the American yellows were renamed dilute? I can't believe how much has change with these birds in the last few years.


No problem Matt. The name was changed to dilute years ago – at least 5 years ago or probably longer. The reason? The bird isn’t yellow. Genetically, it is a dilute not a yellow and since the probably is that eventually we will have a true yellow, the name was changed. One only has to look at “American white” also not a genetic white and the name was changed to the correct term of dilute-blue. We now actually have a dark-eyed white so it was prudent to get the name corrected before the white was produced.

A lot of people have the misconception that just because there is a new color mutation in a bird like a parrotlet that it can be named whatever people want to name it. Not true. There are nomenclature standards that are accepted by the world-wide scientific community for the genetics of color mutations in birds. These are based on scientific and biological interpretations and follow the guidelines established for other birds. Hence a blue ringneck is the same genetically as a blue parrotlet as a blue Amazon as a blue budgie and so on.

Hope this helps and have a great weekend!

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Parrotlets & Timothy Hay

Tonight I saw at a pet store that they had put some timothy hay in
with the parrotlets. I bought a small amount but did not want to give
it to my bird until I asked you about it. Is it okay for him to eat
or play with. It looks clean but did not want to take any chances.

Update. The last frontier. When I put my hand in Dibblee's cage he
now jumps into my hand to come out. When I put him back in he won't
get off my hand. He has come such a long way from that untrusting and
biting little guy. Still does not play with toys though.

Okay, thanks again for everything.


Sounds like you are making progress Randy. I knew you would. Just takes patience, perseverance and a little luck.

Timothy hay? I have never heard of that. What is their reasoning for it? Parrotlets are not cows or horses so I see no nutritional benefit to providing it. They are also not lovebirds that would use it for nesting. The only think I can think it would do is possibly get wrapped around their legs, feet and maybe neck and cause injury or worse. Also, when hay gets wet it can grow mold, mildew and provide an excellent growing material for bacterium and fungi. If they are using it for substrate there are many other safer alternatives including newspaper. But perhaps you should ask them. I have no idea, have never used it, can't see any reason to use it and I would think it would be dangerous so I definitely would not recommend it.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Death of Parrotlet

I purchased my beautiful parrotlet 16 years ago. he was the love of my life. he started developing cyst on the back of his neck area and started chewing the feathers under his neck. I wasn't sure what was wrong with him so I took him to an avain vet in va beach, va. the vet showed me how to remove these cyst and he seemed to be getting better. I had noticed recently that his droppings were increasing. his weight was very good and his appetite was good. if his droppings did not slow down I was making another trip to the vet. unfortunately i lost him this past sunday. he passed away in my hands peacefully and my heart is broken. can you shine some light on what i did wrong to lose him at 16 yrs. old when i've read they can live as long as 25 yrs.

Dear Sharon:

Thank you for your email. I am very sorry to hear about the loss of your birds. Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to life expectancy in any animal but especially birds. Look at people – some die in their 50’s, others can make it to their 90’s. I do know when I started with wild-caught parrotlets they lived a lot longer than the domestically raised birds we have today. No one really knows why but I can tell you that 16 is very old for most parrotlets these days. I’m sure it was simply his time. I hope you find comfort in the fact he had a long, wonderful happy life with you.

Hope this helps.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,

PDD & Parrotlets


I was reading your article on dilatation disease and was wondering how common this was. I have a parrotlet that is 5 yrs old now and has been sick for a month now and the vet is not sure what is wrong. He does not act sick but has a hard time balancing himself. He also sometimes shakes or has like tremors. He seems to be weak in the legs. Can you what to look for or who to ask??

Thank you, Brenda

Dear Brenda:

Thank you for your email. I’m very sorry to hear about the problems with your bird. PDD is a gastrointestinal disease that causes wasting syndrome and death from starvation. It involves the inability for birds to process food and is characterized by severe weight loss, vomiting and the passing of whole seeds in the stool. While parrotlets are not immune to this disease, it is very rare for them to be diagnosed with it. Especially in a parrotlet that is not around other birds.

What you describe sounds like some kind of neurological problem. While PDD can have neurological impact it is usually in very advanced case and most parrotlets would have died from starvation before the disease would impact the brain. However, you need to discuss this with a vet competent in avian medicine. Neurological problems can have a variety of causes – injuries, viruses, bacterial infections, prions, fungal infections, genetic abnormalities, tumors, congenital defects, cancer – only a veterinarian trained in avian medicine can diagnose the problem. If your vet is not avian certified, I recommend you contact the Association of Avian Veterinarians at and see if you can find one that may be able to help you.

Best of luck to you and your bird.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.