Last winter, I won a raffle. The prize was a couple passes to Imaginarium, a convention aimed at writers. I haven’t been to a writing convention ever or to a science fiction convention since AggieCon most of twenty years ago, so I was pretty excited. One of the publishers I work for even arranged to help cover the cost of getting me to the convention so I could learn more about editing and promote the company some.
Unfortunately, I would only be able to go if I could find a way to keep Masika stocked with fresh food and water for 4 days, the amount of time I’d be gone. For various reasons, asking someone to come in or taking Masika to someone else’s house was out of the question. It’s complicated, but those options were not open.
So, I tried several other sneaky tricks involving giving her various configurations of food and water bowls, hoping one of those strategies would work. No joy. The food wasn’t the problem. I can provide her with plenty of food. She turns most of it into organic confetti by the end of the first day, but it’s still edible, even if it’s in smaller pieces.
Water, that’s where the problem was. Masika, like a lot of parrots, is part raccoon. I’m not sure why they feel the urge to dunk their food, but they do, and invariably that makes “soup,” which turns into a fabulous bacterial breeding ground. That just won’t work. I don’t want my fid (feathered kid) to get sick any more than I would want a human kid to get sick.
My search turned to hunting down some kind of water bottle. Something that would mount on the side of the cage and provide water in small amounts sufficient for avian hydration but not baptizing food.
The initial hunt was disappointing. One place had only “hamster water bottles.” You know, the sort with a bottle, a spout, and a little metal bead in the spout. The critter taps the bead and water drips out. Great for rodents and maybe small birds, but Masika is a curious critter. As soon as she decided the water bottle was not her mortal enemy, she’d be striving hard to get the bead out of there. This is a bird that has bent the bars on her travel cage. She’d either crimp the tube and cut off her water supply or pry at the metal until the bead, which then turns into a choking hazard, comes out.
Another local store had a sort of test tube inverted into a small, plastic dish. That used to work for my cockatiels … until one of them got bored one afternoon and chewed on the plastic dish. That goofball bird created enough of a dent to start a leak, and by the time I got home, the floor was wet and the bottle was empty. Give such a thing to a destructo-beak like Masika? No. Just never mind.
I searched online next and eventually, through many convoluted gyrations, found a water bottle that might do the job. It was a PVC bottle with a little spout on one end triggered by a little stick embedded in it. It was like the hamster bottle but without the bead. It looked like the rig attaching it to the cage would be on the inside of the cage, though, and with a parrot who can untangle bolts, open quicklinks, and spin off wing nuts, that would be bad. A quick email to the company got that straightened out, though. The wing nut is on the outside, far away from beak range.
So, the next trick was getting it in the cage and teaching Masika how to use it. She panics at the sight of new toys unless they start on the far side of the room and gradually work their way over during a several week adjustment. Sadly, I didn’t have a few weeks left before the convention, and when I tried to speed the process up by moving the bottle closer over a span of days rather than weeks, Masika got panicky.
I didn’t get to go to the convention, but Masika will have more time to adjust to the new device and learn how to use it. Maybe next time I can go play, and Masika will have a good, safe water supply.