Travel Cage and Vet for Sirius

Sirius the starling had his first vet visit today!

Details of the vet visit after the pictures. Basically, Siri was very good and he appears to be in good health too, though there are a few mysteries about his health that couldn’t quite be solved (vets don’t really know a lot about starlings, since they’re so rarely kept as pets).

Here are some pictures of Sirius at the vet, in his travel cage, and some pics of the cage by itself. It’s not pretty, but it’s the only travel cage we’ve been able to design that Siri seems comfortable in. He’s really comfortable in it, too! He’s been on a three-hour car ride in it before, and seemed fine!

It’s John’s design, but easy enough for me, or probably anyone, to build.

It’s made of a plastic bin and some black plastic mesh from the hardware store, held together with zip ties. (We know that dowels don’t make the best perches, and we’re trying to find actual branches that fit well in the holes of this mesh. His regular cage at home is much bigger and has real branch perches.)

The opening is just three cuts in the mesh, with the cut sides covered with plastic from a heavy-duty trash bag (held in place with zip ties) to protect from any sharp edges. The mesh is bendy enough that we didn’t need to create a hinge. A small bungee cord holds it shut when needed.

A bigger bungee cord holds the top of the cage onto the plastic bin bottom, and it can be taken off to replace the paper or rearrange the perches and other accessories.

I made a smaller version of this cage, too, with a shoulder-carrying strap, in case I ever need to get him out of the house extra quickly.

Anyway! Here are the pictures:







And, in our experience so far, Como Park Animal Hospital in St Paul, MN, is a very nice, very reasonable and very accepting veterinary hospital. Very few vets around here will treat birds of any kind, but these people were totally fine examining a captive-raised starling.

Although Siri didn’t show any real signs of being sick– he’s still eating healthily, singing and being active in every way– we’d been concerned about a swelling on his abdomen and a callus and bruise-like mark on his foot.

And we didn’t really get that resolved on this visit, but the vet gave us some reassurance.

After the examination, they said that from the location and texture of the abdominal swelling it looked like a gastrointestinal issue… but since his stools are still normal, and a test for parasites didn’t turn up anything, they weren’t able to give us any conclusive answer. They did give us some options, though.

We could have an x-ray to see if any problems were visible that way. We decided not to, since an x-ray on a bird requires anesthesia, which gets more risky the smaller the bird is, and if something did show up, it would probably be something we couldn’t do anything about anyway. The vet explained these things very honestly and reasonably.

He also said that if the problem gets worse, we could give the bird a deworming medicine just to see if there might be any parasites that didn’t show up on the standard test. But since that’s not so likely, and since Siri still appears to be in good health, we decided not to do that right away either.

As for the foot, he said it didn’t look bad enough to be dangerous, but recommended giving him softer perches, maybe by wrapping them with padding material (I think he was talking about this stuff, since I’ve found some mentions online of people using that to wrap perches.) He also suggested extra vitamins and maybe more sunlight to help with the few overgrown scales that keep coming back on his feet.

And this all did cost some money, about $130, just to have him examined, tested for parasites, and prescribed a vitamin powder. But honestly I was expecting to pay more; I was scared of having to spend thousands on him, because I’ve heard so many stories of awfully expensive vet procedures. This vet is reasonably-priced by vet standards, as far as I can tell, and didn’t push unnecessary expensive procedures on us. (There was no pressure to do the x-ray, for instance, and if we had chosen to, it would only have been about $40 for the anesthesia and $80 for the x-ray itself.)

And it’s good to know that there is a vet in town who’s willing to see starlings. And it’s good to have a clean bill of health regarding parasites. Overall I think this was well worth doing.

Petting Sirius the starling

Siri isn’t crazy about petting, but it’s important to keep him accustomed to the touch of hands in case he needs to be handled for emergency reasons.

And once we start petting, he kind of gets into it and starts enjoying it. Until he’s done. Then he lets us know.

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Sirius and his fluffy feathers

2017-01-15 13_38_49 2017-01-15 13_54_08 2017-01-15 14_23_52  IMG_20170115_102217Sirius the starling has grown back all his missing feathers!

He still has a few crooked ones, like the feather that sticks up on his head and the one that droops on his tail. But he is very fluffy and pretty today!

Counting blessings, 2

Oh, and another thing I’m happy about, although I don’t have pictures of it yet:

I have a bunch of my handmade jewelry in the Music Forest Cafe! It’s this really charming little vegan cafe in St Paul, and it has a section with locally made crafts for sale, and my stuff is there!

And I am happy about that. I’ll get some pictures of my pieces on display when I stop in this weekend.

Oh, and John and I gave a speech in Marshall, MN last week. It went great! We do have a pic from that. Not a very interesting picture, but here it is:


It was a pretty typical speech, except for one thing. Because it was so far away from home, we had to stay the night at John’s parents’ house in a nearby town… and because our roommate has moved out, we couldn’t have him look after the bird while we traveled.

So we had to bring Sirius the Starling on a road trip!

John made the weirdest-looking cage and Siri actually liked it, unlike any other travel cage– he would willingly go into it, and when he wasn’t in it, he was on our shoulders watching the traffic go by, and he had a total blast riding in the car with us! I’m so happy– he has always hated car rides in the past, but we figured out a way to make it work for him! (Again, pics of the cage coming later.)

And at the speech, we actually brought him in, in his cage, and set him on the counter, way off to the right of that photo. It was so cool; I wish we could do that with more of our speeches!

Counting blessings

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, and to take a positive turn from the many negative thoughts I’ve been having lately, I’m going to make some posts this week of things I am happy about.

To start with: Sirius the Starling has been getting better. His face injury has healed and his feathers are coming back in, little by little.

Here are some pictures of him hanging out on my hand and eating crickets.











My bird sat on my arm so long he left footprints.

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Dancin’ Around

My silly starling plays with a hair accessory.

Dreams for the future



Here is one of my current fantasies, which I’m writing down mostly so I’ll be able to remember every detail of it years from now, if the time ever actually comes when I can put it into action.

Basically, John is hoping that someday he can get a comfortably-paying job that lets him work from home, and in the fields he’s studying, that’s somewhat a possibility. And we may soon be in a position to put a lot of money in savings (if we can sell the condo before another dismal housing market crash happens…) Anyway, we have a dream about what we’ll do if we, somehow, manage to become totally financially stable.

It involves buying a piece of not-very-developed land, not too far outside a city somewhere, and setting it up with wind and solar power, and a fair chunk of space to grow our own food… living somewhat off the grid.

And we would make part of it into some sort of attraction for local people. We got the idea from this awesome hobby-farm/petting-zoo/mini-golf-course near Minneapolis: (warning: horrendous flash site, with embedded music and everything. But great place to go in person.)

John and I have somewhat different dreams after that point. John wants to have a horse. I’m fine with pretty much anything as long as we can have wind and solar power AND a Monolithic Dome Home. I am praying that Monolithic is still in business by the time we can afford one, because these ultra-energy-efficient, ultra-long-lasting, friggin-tornado-proof miracles are an absolute object of worship for me.

Anyway, the following is what I fantasized about today. I thought of it because of our amazing pet, Sirius the Starling:

…and how, even though he is a totally ordinary bird by ecological standards, one of the most common, overpopulated pest species on our continent, visitors to our home STILL act as if they are witnessing some amazing zoological wonder whenever they get to see him and hold him.

Granted, he IS pretty awesome. He can sing. And talk.

And play the piano.

So the feeling is somewhat justified.

But anyway, I was thinking about how even a common bird, or other small animal, can be a kind of wondrous and fascinating thing, to people who aren’t used to seeing any animal besides a dog or cat up close.

And I got the idea for the Bird Garden.

I want to have two Monolithic Domes.

One, we will live in.

The other will be a shelter for “pest birds,” the invasive bird species that aren’t protected by law, that most states allow people to kill, capture, and keep as pets, but that wildlife shelters often won’t take.

Common starlings. House sparrows. Rock pigeons. If you find one orphaned or injured, bring it to us. If you must have a nest of them removed from your property, give us the babies instead of destroying them.

We won’t breed them or release them. (We couldn’t, anyway. Most birds raised by humans consider themselves humans, and don’t even want to fly away and live as birds, or mate with their own kind.) They will live out their lives in the Bird Dome, an educational and entertaining attraction.

It will have a tiled floor, several big windows (with shutters in case of bad storms) and plant-friendly electric lighting as well. It will be FULL of potted plants. Everything from flowers and vegetables to trees, as long as they’re bird-safe. And statues and sculptures and fountains. It will be like an enchanted fairyland.

Except the fairies will be birds.

There will be plenty of hiding places for them in case they want to be alone, but if they want company (probably human company, since they’ll be mostly human-raised and human-imprinted) I will spend virtually all my time in there. If I can’t, I will hire people to spend time with them when I can’t be there.

And whoever is there looking after them, will also get to be a tour guide. People from the city who want the experience of being surrounded by tame birds, they can come visit any time, for a tiny entry fee and hand-stamp that lets them stay all day.

They can buy baskets of food to let the birds eat out of their hands. They can peruse my gift shop where I’ll sell all the random crafts I make, as well as any bird-related stuff I can think of. They leave with warm feelings in their hearts, and lots of newly-learned facts about birds that I will have shoved into their heads.

And maybe we’ll have other animals living in the Bird Garden as well… rats? guinea pigs? lizards? Anything that’s fairly easy to care for, fairly friendly, and not very capable of harming a human. I’d have to figure it out. (The Big Stone petting-zoo/mini-golf-course has goats and horses and stuff, and I wonder how they do it without too many instances of customers getting bitten or kicked and suing them. I’m gonna inundate them with emails of praise and advice-seeking, if I can brave their awful website.)

So, that’s my fantasy. I know it will cost money and might never make money, and it would be lots of work, and there would be legal things as well as logistical things I’d have to figure out. But, for the moment, I’m finding it incredibly fun to dream about.

Fall Comicon

Here I was at the Minneapolis Fall Comicon on the State Fairgrounds! It went great– I sold tons of stuff and met so many fun people!



How to make a “Disarm the Bomb” Pinata

Instructions after the cut:

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