Saturday, June 18, 2011

Boarding Recommendations

Hi there,

We live in Pittsburgh PA and have a pair of parrotlets whose clutch of eggs just
hatched a few days ago... and we have a one week out of state trip
scheduled for July 2-9th. So we're looking for someone to board our
birds with that has experience with breeding parrotlets (we wouldn't
ask the boarding person/facility to pull the babies, just to feed the
parents and check on the babies every other day or so). Would you
be able to recommend someone in our area?


Dear Kim:

Thank you for your email. You can't move those birds if you want to keep the offspring. The parents will most likely either abandon or kill them if you move them. Also, the risk of disease contraction, especially to the chicks is very high in veterinary offices, pets stores or even with other breeders. You will need to bring in a pet sitter who can care for them in your home. I would not have them check the chicks but just feed and water. This will be stressful enough for your pair, whose natural instincts would be to abandon the nest since they do not know if they will be safe with a stranger around. This has been my experience and I've kept parrotlets for almost 30 years.

I would check with a vet or local pet store to see if they have someone who they recommend. Be sure that they are licensed and bonded. Experience with birds is not necessary since they will only need to be fed and watered. I would not recommend that the cages be cleaned. As I said, the birds will have enough stress with strangers caring for them and you want to keep the disturbance to a minimum so that the parents will not abandon the young. Also, it has been my experience that people do are not familiar with birds will take care of them exactly the way you show them. People with birds not only can bring in diseases on their person but they often will do what they think is 'best' for the birds regardless of your instructions.

Hope this helps and best of luck to you!

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
Secretary, International Parrotlet Society

Friday, June 17, 2011

Parrotlets & Children

i would like a blue,yellow or green and is there a difference in male or female for temper. i do have a 3 and a 9 year old who love birds as well what are the rough prices for the birds i would love to have a parrotlet my brother had one when i was about 12 and i was the only one who could hold it without getting bit. can it break skin ? our last bird was a green cheek conure we loved him
and he was a great addition to our family. what is your input i have been looking into these birds for a couple years and i feel like the info i find is all the i am open to anything and looking for any info you can give me.

thank you for your time
chris young

Dear Chris:

Sorry for the delay in responding, I have been incredibly busy these days.

Birds, like people, are all individuals. While one can make general assumptions, no one can predict the personality of a particular bird just based on species, color or sex. It really depends on the birds’ own personality, how it was raised and socialized and how it was trained. So what you really need is a breeder who has experience with birds, spends a lot of time with them and honestly evaluates each bird to place it in the right home. That being said, I find that males tend to be more gregarious than females and therefore you have much less chance of them becoming ‘one-person’ birds.

If your brother had a parrotlet, then you know how tiny and fragile they can be. Indeed, a parrotlet is smaller than the tail on the conure so they are not birds that can withstand a person being very physical with them. Therefore, I always am much more concerned about the welfare of the bird when it comes to interaction with young children. While a parrotlet can break the skin, a child can squeeze, throw, step on or otherwise injure or even kill a parrotlet in an instant. This would be more devastating for a child than getting bitten so it is something to strongly consider before a parrotlet comes into a home. It is for this reason I often recommend a larger bird such as a conure or even a cockatiel for small children. They are larger, easier to handle, are domesticated birds so they have a more even temperament and not as fragile as a 4” parrotlet. However, you know your children and their needs as well as your ability to supervise the kids when they are with the bird but it something that should be seriously considered.

I have written 3 books on parrotlets and also have a blog, website ( and a Facebook page for the Parrotlet Ranch so I have a ton of information out there. I am also available to answer questions, as time permits. If you would like to have your name placed on my waiting list, just let me know. I don’t take deposits and work on a first-come, first-served basis. Right now, my list is at least 4 months long.

Hope this helps and thank you again for your patience.

Sincerely yours,

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

"Striking" Parrotlet Mutations

Hi Sandee,

Thanks so much for taking the time to call me. I think that
after all is said and done, this is what I would like to do:

I would like to get on your waiting list for a "striking" blue
mutation and an American yellow mutation - both males, unless
you can come up with a reputable breeder who has Lutinos. The
problem I forsee with finding a Lutino, is that the chance of
finding and adopting a Lutino and one of your blue mutations at
the same time is pretty small. Because you are so obviously
knowledgable about these beautiful little birds, I will go with
what you think best. Are any of the double factor mutations
particulary striking? If, so I would consider a male from that
category. I know that your waiting list is long so I will try
very hard not to be impatient.

I am very grateful that I found your website early on and it was
a pleasure to talk with you. Thanks again for your time and I
will continue to follow up on my own reading and other research
so that I can do these beautiful little guys justice when I
finally get them.


Dear Sue:

It was a pleasure talking to you. Beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder. A "striking' bird to you, may not be one to me. Indeed, I prefer a normal green Pacific over any mutation. I also breed for conformation and vigor not pretty colors. Indeed, in exhibition, coloring is the LEAST important factor and is given only a small number of points - far behind conformation and condition. These are the qualities I breed for. Also, unlike dogs, birds change color as they age and molt. The color of the bird at the time of weaning is not the color the bird will be when it is an adult. Also, the number of mutated genes such as a single or double factor has nothing to do with how the bird appears visually unless it is a new color. This is because these are recessive mutations and unless they combine for form a new color such as dilute-blue or albino, you can't see the mutation. If you want a dilute-blue, albino, fallow-blue or any of the other combination mutations, again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If you want a particular combination mutation then let me know. I can't make that decision for you.

I have placed your name on my reservation list. Feel free to contact me

Sincerely yours,

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

Join the International Parrotlet Society, – the World’s Largest and Oldest Parrotlet Organization

A Chattering Bird Builds No Nest.
Camaroonian Phrase

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

How Many Parrotlet Clutches? Preventing Breeding.

Hi Sandee
My name is Dena. I have only recently been breeding Parrotlets, not for profit, just for fun. I have been told that you will answer parrotlet questions when people write to you, Sooo, here's hoping. I have an adult American white male and a blue female. They have had 2 clutches this year, one in March, the other in May. I pulled the babies from the second clutch last week to hand feed them, that is going well. I removed the nest box from the parents thinking this would discourage breeding for a while but unfortunately I see he is breeding her several times a day. My first question is, should I throw the eggs away this time or is it safe to let her have a third clutch at this time? They had 4 the first time and 5 the second time. I am not an indiscriminate breeder and I want to do what is best for my adult birds. Also, Do you know any other ways to discourage breeding short of separating them? They screem constantly when they are separated. I would appreciate any advice you can give me. I have read several of your books and I think you are the Master of parrotlets and their breeding. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this. Sincerely. Dena

Dear Dena:

Thank you for your email.

Unfortunately, when you place two adult birds together and provide them with nutritious food, a secure place to live and a nest box, they will do what Nature intended and they will breed. With some pairs, simply removing the nestbox will stop them from breeding; others you need to separate them. Yes, it is inconvenient for us to listen to them call to one another for a few days but eventually they will stop. I know people think they are suffering emotionally but I’ve never heard of a parrotlet dying from being separated from a mate. I have heard them dying because they just keep breeding and breeding. It is much more important for them to rest – if they are allowed to continue breeding indiscriminately, the hen will deplete her body of calcium and she can become egg-bound or worse such as having a collapsed uterus. It will also shorten her lifespan as well as her breeding life. Hens that have more than 3 clutches a year generally only produce for 3 years while hens that are managed with restricted breeding will continue breeding until 7 years or more.

Males can also suffer from exhaustion if they are constantly feeding the hen and chicks. Many males do not eat as much as they normally do when they are feeding a clutch so they can starve to death or develop a stress-related illness. This can be passed onto the hen and chicks and you can lose not only your male but the hen and babies as well.

The physically exhausting part of breeding for a hen is producing the eggs. That is what depletes the body of calcium and causes the stress which can result in birth-related such as egg binding and prolapse of the uterus. There is no point in removing the eggs at this point since the most dangerous part of breeding is over for her. If you remove the eggs at this point, she may just start her cycle all over again since this is what would happen in the wild. After all, again, Nature designed these birds to survive in the wild and we cannot undo that instinct just because we keep them in captivity. Instead, we have to manage them in order to protect them and ensure they are healthy and strong and produce healthy offspring. Again, its not about emotion or ‘what the birds want’ it is about instinct and biology.

If they were my birds, I’d let them finish out this clutch then either take the box down or separate them for 2-3 months. Again, it may be difficult but no one said breeding birds is easy or fun. In fact, I give a very in depth presentation on how hard it is to breed birds – the decisions that have to be made, the sacrifices we as breeders have to make and the amount of work, resources, time and money that are involved. It isn’t easy nor is it always fun but if you want to be serious about breeding – and that has nothing do with making money – it has to do with the ethical considerations when breeding birds.

I hope this helps.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,
Join the International Parrotlet Society, – the World’s Largest and Oldest Parrotlet Organization
A Chattering Bird Builds No Nest.
Camaroonian Phrase

Monday, June 6, 2011

Talking Parrotlets


Just happen by chance to get your website.
I have a White Bellied Cacique and had a Pacific Parrotlet that I taught to talk quite a lot.
Was wondering if you have any baby parrolet that is very vocal?


Dear Pam:

Thank you for your email. Actually, quite a few parrotlets can learn to talk and many learn a great number of words. One of my friend's parrotlet's knew over 200! As for your question, I'm not sure if you are asking if I have any parrotlets available for sale that are vocal or if I have any parrotlets that are vocal. The answer to the first question is no, I always have a waiting list and if you want a bird from me, its going to be at least a 3-4 months wait. As for the second question, I've hundreds of parrotlets over the last 30 years and yes, many have been very vocal and learned a lot of words.

Hope this helps and good luck with your birds.

Sincerely yours,

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

Join the International Parrotlet Society, – the World’s Largest and Oldest Parrotlet Organization

A Chattering Bird Builds No Nest.
Camaroonian Phrase

Friday, June 3, 2011

Pellets & Color Mutation Parrotlets

I have a blue mutation parrotlet named Izzy. He’s about three months old. I am very confused about what to feed him. The breeder gave us a diet that includes pellets, Goldenfeast, and a dried mixture to cook that includes beans, dried carrots, seeds and nuts. The vet thinks that there’s too much fat in the diet, and wants him to eat mostly pellets and fresh or cooked vegetables (so far he won’t touch them, he just picks out the seeds), with a small amount of the less fatty seeds. On the other hand, I keep reading about suspected issues with mutations and pellets. The breeder says that she’s never had a problem.

I don’t know what to do. I would like to find documentation to give the (avian) vet on the kidney issue with pellets, but so far all the evidence I can find is anecdotal. So I have two questions. First, what would your advice be on feeding Izzy, and second , do you know where I can find documentation such as studies on this issue? The anecdotal evidence seems suggestive, but the vet is (rightly ) going to want something more objective. I would feel better myself with stricter evidence.

You have probably gone over this in the past, so I’m sorry to ask it again if you have.

Thanks for your time,

Dear Raisl:

Thank you for your email. If I had a dime for every time I have had to discuss this issue and that includes my chapters in books, magazine articles I’ve written, web-pages I’ve published, seminars I’ve given, countless phone and in person conversations and hundreds of emails, I would be almost as rich as the pellet manufacturers. However, because there is so much misinformation and misunderstandings about this subject, I am happy to answer the question again. I am going to go into the history and basic understanding of parrot nutrition and the invention of pellets and you can make your own decision about it.

There are over 350 different species of parrots and over 9,000 species of birds. The only concrete information we have on bird nutrition is for poultry not companion birds. In fact, in hook bills, the only species we know anything about as far as nutritional requirements are lysine in cockatiels. These studies were done by Dr. Tom Roudybush (one of the few vets who is also an avian nutritionist) back in the 1980s. No other studies have been done. This is because if you can find an university doing research on companion birds its for diseases not nutrition. Even then, any honest vet will tell you that disease diagnosis and treatment is more of an art than a science. Nutrition studies are done by commercial food manufacturers, i.e., the pellet distributors. To say they have a conflict of interest when it comes to bias in this area is a gross understatement. That would be like having tobacco companies fund cancer research.

I have bred birds for almost 30 years and witnessed both the advent of pellets and the certification of vets with regard to avian medicine. It doesn’t mean I know more than vets but it certainly does give me both the opportunity for empirical (not anecdotal) data as well as remember why pellets were invented in the first place. Very simply it was for commercial use in making the feeding of caged birds the same as feeding dogs and cats. Of course, this is impossible since, again there are more than 350 species of parrots and only 1 species of dogs and cats. Pellet manufacturers felt that the correct feeding of birds – a diet made up primarily of whole foods (including seeds) but also fruit, vegetables, sprouts, whole grains and legumes was ‘too much work’ by bird owners. They decided if they could make a diet you can simply pour in a bowl they would deal with the usual problem with seed diets, which is the lack of vitamin A and in some species such as Amazons and cockatoos, the high fat content that often leads to fatty liver syndrome. Btw, when most parrotlets are diagnosed with fatty liver syndrome it is usually related to toxins and over vitaminization or medication not diet. So the invention of pellets was really for the convenience of the owners and breeders and, of course, to open up the market so feed companies could make a lot of money. Nothing wrong with that but if you think they were doing something altruistic to help make birds healthy that is incorrect.

One thing a lot of people do not realize is that pellets are made from seed, and it is almost always corn. Corn is one of the least nutritious grains on the planet and it is mostly made up of sugar. I myself do not eat corn for that reason. Moreover, in birds, it is not a natural food. But it is cheap and plentiful. There is one pellet, ironically the one promoted by vets, that is not made from corn. It is made from sunflower seeds. The same dreaded sunflower seeds that vets claim has too much fat when it is in whole form but apparently its ok when it has been processed into a pellet – or perhaps that has more to do with the monetary incentive that vets get for selling that pellet.

In any event, when you are told to feed pellets instead of seed, you are still feeding seed. Highly processed, artificially colored, flavored, often full of preservatives and vitaminized seed. We know with humans that processed foods are not recommended for top nutrition. This is true for just about all animals and it certainly must be true for birds. Birds have better eyesight than humans, they have a sense of smell, have a sensitive tongue for feeling textures and can taste food. I know I wouldn’t like living on something like “Ensure” even thought it is ‘nutritionally complete’ and I’m sure our birds wouldn’t like it either. More importantly, you will not convince me that drinking a highly processed, overly vitaminized, artificially flavored and colored food like Ensure is better for me than say a bowl of fresh salad made with lots of leafy greens, vegetables and lean protein. It also is more interesting and tastes better which adds to my enjoyment and well-being. I would say my birds would feel the same.

On another interesting note, since I know almost all the owners of feed companies personally, the honest ones have told me “Sandee, if you are feeding fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains, cooked legumes, sprouted seed, supplements such as bee pollen and calcium in addition to whole seeds, we can’t make a pellet that nutritious. We make pellets for people who either can’t or won’t take the time to feed their birds whole fresh foods.”

As for the issues with mutations, I have dozens of necropsy reports and had countless (off the record of course) conversations with vets, biologists and researchers and they have documented the problems with color mutations and the kidney problems. These have been given to me in confidence so I will not share them nor will I give the names of the vets who have entrusted to me their opinions. My feeling is that it really doesn’t matter. The fact is I have yet to have anyone convince me that feeding highly processed artificially flavored, colored and preserved seed is a better diet than feeding one rich in fresh whole foods including seeds, irregardless of the uric acid problems in mutations. I know I don’t eat that way and I’m not going to feed my birds that way. After all, there are no pellet trees in the wild.

I hope you understand I’m not trying to tell you how to feed your bird. Only you can make that decision. However, you should have all the facts available so you can make appropriate decision for you and your bird. You asked my opinion and the reasons therefore and I hope this meets your expectations. Best of luck to you and your bird.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,
Join the International Parrotlet Society, – the World’s Largest and Oldest Parrotlet Organization
A Chattering Bird Builds No Nest.
Camaroonian Phrase

Parrotlet Chewing Feathers

Hi Sandee,

I just wanted to give you an update on Tommaso. I took him to the avian vet here in Placerville this morning for his chewing of his wings. She checked his stool and it was okay. His weight and muscle was good as well. She took a smear and a culture. The culture won’t be ready for a couple of days. She did call me tonight about the smear and said she was real surprised that she found Spiral Bacteria in the smear she took. He shows no symptoms and she said feather chewing is not a symptom of this. She is going to wait to see what the culture shows before doing anything. She said otherwise he is a very healthy happy bird from the outside. I did tell her that I had put a coconut in his cage about 3 weeks ago. She suggested to be on the safe side to remove the coconut because there might be something in there that can cause him to chew his wing feathers that might be irritating him. You only could tell they are chewed when he spreads his wings, otherwise you can’t tell anything is wrong with his wings. The vet said, regardless with what’s causing him to chew his feathers, that the Spiral Bacteria needs to be treated with antibiotics. UGH! Tommaso has never lived with any other birds, so I’m baffled. Any thoughts with your experience on this bacteria? I don’t want something to happen to Tommaso down the road if I don’t do something now about it since he has no symptoms. Can this bacteria be inside a bird and not show symptoms or sit dormant? I know you mentioned you don’t like giving medicine to birds.

Thanks in advance,

Dear Maureen:

Glad to hear you brought the bird to a vet. However, I am concerned since there is no “bacterium’ called ‘spiral bacteria’. That is a description. Not a name. Also, you can’t see ‘bacteria’ under a microscope. It has to be grown on a culture. My belief is that you vet is seeing a fungus called Avian Gastric Yeast (formerly 'megabacteria') which is a normal fungus found in the gut. It is not a problem unless the bird is having pathogenic issues such as weight loss, dehydration, passing of seed in the stool, etc. None of which is an issue with your bird. Also, since AGY is a fungus and not a bacteria it is NOT treated with antibiotics. In fact, antibiotics can cause other yeast and fungal problems especially cyprofloxin and Baytril (same drug btw). AGY is usually treated with an antifungal called “Amphotericin B” which is no longer manufactured and must be made by a compounding pharmacy.

It is also possible the bird may have giardia. Giardia, a water-born parasite that can be seen under a microscope and that can cause feather destructive issues. It is also not treated with antibiotics but is treated with Flagyl.

So, to be honest I really have no idea what is going on with your bird since none of this makes sense. As for not giving medicine to birds, I have no problem with it when there is a definitive diagnosis and a correct course of treatment for the problem. I do NOT believe in the ‘scattershot’ approach of just throwing a bunch of medicine at a bird and hoping you get it right. If the vet said the cultures show that your bird had an e.coli infection and prescribed antibiotics that would be appropriate. However, in this case I would be very cautious and ask a lot of questions. I’m not saying not to listen to your vet – I’m just saying that if this were my bird, I would be asking a lot more questions before I just started treating. I have seen too many parrotlets develop liver disease and kidney failure after being over treated with very powerful antibiotics or being prescribed medication that is unnecessary.

Sincerely yours,

Sandee L. Molenda, C.A.S.
The Parrotlet Ranch, Owner,
Join the International Parrotlet Society, – the World’s Largest and Oldest Parrotlet Organization
A Chattering Bird Builds No Nest.
Camaroonian Phrase