Jamieleigh's Parrot Help

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One of my sun conures on the door into my daughter’s room.

I posted a couple photos recently, of a “breakthrough” I had with my african grey parrot, Cressi and my ten month old daughter, Sydney.

To me it was a breakthrough, because it was a huge step in a positive direction. A step I wasn’t expecting to happen so soon.

My daughter loves seeing, being close to, and just being in the presence of any animal but especially our birds. (You know this if you follow my instagram at all) Her favorites are the sun conure girls, but she loves all the birds. She once woke from a nap and Rocko our toco toucan was the first thing she laid eyes on and all I heard was her murmur, giggle a little and just beam at him. She was sitting up happily smiling at him. I wish she woke up that way when the first thing she sees is me but alas, it’s the toucan that does it. ;)

Rocko watching Sydney sleep.

Rocko watching Sydney sleep.

It will never cease to surprise me how people judge in all aspects of life. Ever since becoming a parent, I see it even more-so. Everyone expects you to do things the way they did them, as if it’s the only way that is acceptable to them even though we all know there’s not just one right way to do something.

The best advice I received for parenting was to do what feels right to me. That’s how I go about it. If it doesn’t feel right, I don’t do it. If I get stuck, I ask what others did and see what feels right for me to do. I tell people this in the bird world all the time – you should be learning from everyone, not just one source, and then creating your own path from all that you learn into what works for you. What makes sense for someone with a cockatiel in an apartment isn’t going to be the same for the family in the log cabin with a macaw, or the girl on the island with the toucan.

I would use the expression ‘more than one way to skin a cat’ but I really hate the image that pops into my head when that’s used…

Sydney excitedly looking up at a conure girl.

Sydney excitedly looking up at a conure girl.

We’ve been working on getting Sydney to pet nicely to our dog, Diesel (german shepherd) and our cat Ninja. Diesel is way more tolerant – he’s about to be two years old this year so he’s still a pup and likes to play rough so a harder pet or stepping on the tail doesn’t even cause him to look in your direction. But we still work towards it.

Sydney recently began to pet our cat Ninja to where she actually enjoys the petting which is a huge step for us! From the cat that avoided the twitching kid that looked like she had no control of her limbs (which was pretty true during the time they are figuring all that out!) to now coming up for a petting is pretty awesome.

Sydney petting our cat Ninja.

Sydney petting our cat Ninja.

While changing cages and feeding birds, I sometimes have Sydney in the bird room with me “helping” (rearranging their dishes… on the floor… playing with the dog usually, finding pieces of fruit Rocko disregarded and the vacuum didn’t find) you know, the things ten month olds specialize at.

Which brings me to Cressi. I always try to share part of my day with our fans – through bird photos or videos. That day I picked up Sydney in one arm, and let Cressi out on the other. I posed us for a picture, though Sydney couldn’t help herself but stare at Cressi rather than say cheese for the camera:

Sydney staring dreamily at Cressi.

Sydney staring dreamily at Cressi.

Then something happened in literally a second. While I was still holding the camera trying to get a good photo of us where I didn’t look so sleep-deprived (ha!), Sydney reached out and as I pulled her further away, Cressi responded with a fluffed head and bowed it down so that Sydney could more easily reach the proper spot that needed the most petting. Seeing this, I let Sydney’s hand get closer after all and she pet Cressi on the head for the very first time ever.

Sydney petting Cressi.

Sydney petting Cressi.

The moment was a second. But it was an important, awesome moment. I was so excited that Cressi invited Sydney’s petting – and that Sydney was able to do it gently as she had been working on. I’m all about short, positive interactions to build the bond and trust between my daughter and my birds. I figure short, baby steps (pun intended!) are the way to go.

Now, I don’t share my moments to say “Go do this with your kid and birds!” I do it to share what I’m doing in the hopes that it helps someone have an ah-ha! moment along the way in their journey, and gives them an idea or what may work for them and any issue they may be currently having. Plus, I like to think I’m raising an animal lover. ;)

Like I said before, I wasn’t planning on this – but Cressi gave Sydney the opportunity and I decided to act on that moment. That’s what animal training is about – that is why it’s so hard to film things, at least for me, because I always work on things when the bird presents the opportunity vs trying to plan anything. This was one of those special moments.

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My husband Dave with our 6 month old daughter Sydney, galah Bondi and grey Cressi.

One major player in making me encourage a relationship early on between my birds and my daughter has been my daughter’s enthusiasm about the birds. If she was less than interested, I wouldn’t be meshing them so much as I am. So if your child shows no interest in your birds, don’t force it. The best thing you can do is show your kid how awesome it is for you, and hope they will want to be a part of that, too. But I’ve learned you can’t force someone to care about animals the way you do (I wish!)

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My daughter is SO happy just watching the birds, as you can see here.

I take in information – I watch for a while. When I first go on a house consult, I just listen and watch and observe. And that’s a big part of what I do with my birds and daughter to make this whole thing work without anyone getting hurt. I watch how Sydney reacts and responds to my birds while they’re with me, my husband, in their cage, out but far away, etc. And it really helps me know what to do when they’re both in proximity of one another.

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Bondi wanting to snuggle close for a kiss but Sydney is not so sure…

Cressi showed no interest in getting any closer to Sydney, so she stayed contently with her favorite person; my husband Dave. Bondi, however, is SUPER social and loves everyone so she was moreso curious and happy to come closer if we wanted. My husband held her closer, and then held Sydney’s hand still so there would be no sudden movements to scare either one of them.

I don’t recommend you do this with your kids and birds just because if you aren’t great at reading body language, your kid could get bit in the face. Cockatoos are especially harder to read when it comes to body language. Bondi, however, we are confident in and this lasted merely seconds. Bondi became more interested in chewing Sydney’s sweatshirt zipper so their time together was quickly over!

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Sydney’s THIS IS AWESOME face.

One day we were all just playing on my bed, Sydney and “the girls” as I call my three sun conures (all sisters). I put Sydney’s hat on her and we hung with the birds a bit. I figured if they landed on her head, she wouldn’t get freaked out about it because she would barely be able to feel it. Sharp claws scare kids away FAST! So keeping the nails of your birds trimmed is ideal.

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Me being so proud of Sydney for being this excited about hanging with the girls.

The girls were constantly landing on Sydney’s back and climbing up, and would land on her head and she would look around – knowing she felt something and then getting excited when she couldn’t see them but would know where they were. It was to die for.

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Leaning in for a photo!

My birds are mostly OK with this because being with me is reinforcing to them, second they really trust me not to put them in a scary or harmful situation (this doesn’t mean they aren’t sometimes uncomfortable with how Sydney tends to move or something). And, a huge part I feel is that my birds are fully flighted so anytime they feel uneasy, they leave. Simple as that. They are never scared that they won’t be able to get away, or be forced into anything, so they feel in control with no need to feel intimidated. That’s HUGE.

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This is seriously the face she makes whenever she realizes there is a bird in view. Pure excitement.

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Did I mention it’s the conures who encouraged her to finally crawl? She was going to skip that stage otherwise.

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Me with one of the conures talking to Sydney about them…

I just recently began taking the girls into Sydney’s play room to hang out as well. This way Sydney gets distracted playing with toys and things, and only devotes some of her attention to the birds vs 100% which can get overwhelming for the girls. This keeps things more manageable and makes it so that I can spend more time with the girls while Sydney plays. Then when she comes over, it’s like a break and it just works. Finding your own balance is going to be important.

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In the play room (door shut from distractions!)

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Playroom girl time.

As I continue to raise my daughter with my birds, I will keep you all updated in new things I discover and of course, I will also be sharing my mistakes along the way. Which in a way, I am DREADING, but also know there’s no learning without mistakes.

Note: Just because I titled this “kidS” doesn’t mean I have any more in my sight for the future. It just sounded better, and more likely for people to relate to than “raising A kid…” so yeah, don’t go looking into that title!

My six month old daughter Sydney holding my sun conure "Lily".

My six month old daughter Sydney holding my sun conure “Lily”.

Recently my sun conures Lily, Phoebe and Detka have been escaping from their cage and making surprise visits to me throughout the warehouse – they always seem to find me wherever I am! One of the feeders is broken on their cage, and other than the occasional piece of tape, I haven’t bothered to fix it yet. I guess I kind of like the surprise visits!

Although this visit was intentional, but still unplanned as far as including my daughter in it. As much as I want to force the birds on her and be like, “LOVE THEM AS MUCH AS I DO, MY CHILD!!!” I have refrained from doing that, and actually been able to completely push it from my mind at all. But that doesn’t mean I don’t still totally want her to be an animal lover, love my birds like I do, and meet them. So as certain times show themselves appropriate for interaction, I am definitely taking advantage of them! This was one of those times.

The girls (my three conures) were hanging out on me and my daughter was playing in her play chair on the floor (like seen in the top photo – her legs reach through and she can move around a bit – though mostly backwards right now). The way my daughter looked at me and those moving balls of colorful feathers I just knew I HAD to take advantage of the excitement in her eye.

The conures and myself keeping an eye on my daughter who wanted to photo bomb and did.

The conures and myself keeping an eye on my daughter who wanted to photo bomb and did.

Between the look of complete curiosity and happiness on my daughter’s face and the overall playfulness and contentment of my conures, I knew the opportunity was there.

This is the first big thing when it comes to socializing your birds – being able to read both parties equally so you know when the time is right, and when it’s not. Being able to do that just comes from experience and learning subtle signs and body language.

Sydney wanting to pet/touch the sun conure and going for it!

Sydney wanting to pet/touch the sun conure and going for it!

Knowing that my daughter’s reflexes and such aren’t fully developed yet – meaning petting is not so gentle (we still say when she wants something she WIGGLES at it!) I knew I had to be in control of the situation more than usual so that the birds, as little as they are, didn’t feel threatened or hit when she attempted to touch them. I held them just far enough away – and they were not interested in moving closer on their own so it was all on me to determine the right distance. I chose a distance where she felt like she was touching them and they felt just a bit uncomfortable with her lack of petting skills but not upset by it.

Then I spoke softly to Sydney, telling her how cute the conures are and how sweet they are, and asking her if she wanted to hold one. She was SO interested in what I was saying. I explained to her how I was going to hold her hand so that she could hold a conure on it and she listened soooo intently and complied perfectly. My sun conure Lily happily obliged…

Sydney holding my hand as I hold hers, explaining how she can hold the conure best.

Sydney holding my hand as I hold hers, explaining how she can hold the conure best.

After she got to hold Lily on her hand, she was SO happy! This was seriously her face immediately afterwards when I asked her how it was:



I think I can confidently say this is the day I fell in love with my daughter. It was just amazing all the way around from her experience to mine, to my birds learning that she is OK as well. Not to the point where they would initiate contact which she would be too young for anyway, but to the point where if I am there to initiate it, they trust me enough to go with it.

Just amazing. Love my birds. Love my daughter.

I’m realistic enough to realize I can’t control every interaction and keep it positive forever, but for as long as I can, I will… especially during this crucial introduction period.

For those of you that follow me more closely, you will notice I use the same techniques when introducing any of our birds to other people (such as at the pre-show in the circus when people wanted their photo with a bird on them) – holding people’s arms, especially KIDS, is important because many people will  get spooked no matter how confident they go into the experience – and drop their arm. Plus, when you hold their arm it makes it so that the bird, if suddenly too uncomfortable, can easily make its way back onto you and feel immediately better and safe again without having to go to extremes of biting, screaming, flying, spooking, etc.


My daughter with her stuffed animal toucans (all gifts) and toucan art from Minted.com.

We’re renting a warehouse for the winter months up here in north Idaho for our birds – we usually keep them outside year round but that’s not happening here in Idaho! It’s not Florida weather anymore, that’s for sure! We had looked into certain types of partially underground aviaries where the underground part of it stays one temperature all the time, while the above ground part lets in all the sunlight and air and such – and then the birds can choose which one they want to be in, and just fly down to escape the too cold temperatures. But, we only know of ONE person doing this successfully and we can’t find him or anything online about how he did it. So, warehouse it is for now. Until we figure that one out.

In the warehouse, there are three bedrooms downstairs along with a bathroom and makeshift kitchen area. I’ve set up the kitchen with a sink and refrigerator for all the fresh and frozen foods for the birds – along with an area to be able to clean dishes.  I keep a metal bin full of extra dishes so that feeding goes smoothly each day.

Had to show that she actually has OTHER stuffed animals, too...

Had to show that she actually has OTHER stuffed animals, too…

The first bedroom downstairs is Dave’s office, the second is our daughter’s playroom and the third is the bird room. The bird room has the thermostat, the air filter, the scale and weight/training charts, and of course, the birds and all their supplies (food, extra food, newspaper for changing cages, toys, perches, treats, trash can, and a door to outside). Their room is “unfinished” but we chose to put them in it because of the easy access to outside air on nice days, the thermostat and it being the largest of the rooms.

The smallest room went to our daughter, Sydney, to act as a play room for her so that she can have fun, take naps, be entertained while her dad is working and I’m taking care of birds. It was kind of like designing a nursery all over again for me – but this one was just for play with the occasional nap!

Vintage mirror from a local antique store. Play pen from Amazon.com.

Vintage mirror from a local antique store. Play pen from grandma, I mean… Amazon.com. Woven basket from grandma, I mean… Tuesday morning.

Dave surprised me one day and painted the entire room pink! At first, it was crazy on the eyes pink but after a few days it mellowed out quite a bit. All the painting was done long before the birds were ever brought into the warehouse in general.

Here’s how I kept the bird theme going for her playroom…

It felt like with this pink paint, we could really do no wrong, as if everything worked because it was so awesomely pink.

Chair hammocks from the islands mounted on the wall with large hooks to hold her stuffed flock.

Chair hammocks from the islands mounted on the wall with large hooks to hold her stuffed flock.

Color inspired by...

Color inspired by…

Our galah Bondi rocking out with her approval of the playroom color.

Our galah Bondi rocking out with her approval of the playroom color.

The room isn’t totally done yet – I plan on mounting two candle mirror holders on each side of the toucan art print and then getting her some super pink glittery girly candles to put on there (just for looks)… and the rack holding her clothing was found at a consignment shop locally and is intended for quilts. But I thought it would be great for her clothes. I plan on painting it white with a crackle… some day, when grandma and grandpa take her for a few hours… (hint, hint)

Playing with a bird egg toy I got from my registry at Amazon.com. The more bird related toys the better!

Playing with a bird egg toy I got from my registry at Amazon.com. The more bird related toys the better! Oh, and look at that onesie from Cafepress.com/birdtricks!

Art from Minted.com, clock from Etsy.com.

Art from Minted.com, clock from Etsy.com.

Frame made by Wendy at BirdTricks.com, hook from a local antique shop, bibs are all gifts.

Frame made by Wendy at BirdTricks.com, hook from a local antique shop, bibs are all gifts.


One of the only “non bird” walls… these are photos of my mom and I. I plan to do the same photoshoot with Sydney one day. And then all her head bands I use on a daily basis to dress her up… in bird colors! Haha.

Did I mention incorporating lots and lots of bird toys? Amazon, Etsy, Ebay...

Did I mention incorporating lots and lots of bird toys? Amazon, Etsy, Ebay… even her play mat is bird themed (Thanks to DKplus9.com!)

Bird themed play mat, I believe available at Target (also a gift).

Bird themed play mat, I believe available at Target (also a gift).




Playroom with bird pillows (all gifts).

Playroom door.

Playroom door. (On the handle is a custom made Womach baby owl from our friend Connie!)

I would love to eventually get her more pink and gray and white colored bird pillows. I’m thinking with galahs playing on them or pink toucans. But we’ll see what Christmas brings to incorporate! On the playpen are some bird themed blankets we received as gifts, hand made as well. Larger items you saw in her old Florida nursery (toucan rocker) and such, had to go upstairs with her crib (all toucan themed) as her playroom could only fit so many things! Hope you enjoyed and maybe got some ideas for your own playrooms!

Pictured: Sun conures Location: Whidbey Island, WA My daughter at 5 months old bird watching.

I was fortunate enough to become friends with one amazing woman and animal lover deep down to her SOUL… Susan Hilliard. She loves animals like I’ve never seen anyone love animals before. It’s admirable. I seriously adore this woman and if you’ve ever met her, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.

One of my favorite memories with her was the first time I’d met her, and I spent days free-flying birds with her in Moab, Utah at her cabin. We had the most amazing time and had become so close in such a short amount of time. As we sat at the airport waiting for my plane so I could go home, a magazine was spotted on the table and it had an article about Alex the Grey parrot. We began reading and it went into a short story about how Alex would look out the window and the wild birds and trees and say, “Wanna go tree.” and he was always told no. Susan burst into tears and exclaimed, “All he wanted was to go outside and be in the tree! Birds are so meant to be outside and to fly! That’s all he wanted!”

Susan and I.

Susan and I.

It was one of those moments where you want to laugh because it’s so darn cute, and compelling, and compassionate and sweet… but you know you shouldn’t laugh so I just grabbed her and hugged her as she wiped her eyes and went on about it… with a smile on my face. I smiled because I loved this moment about her SO much. I wanted to laugh at how fast it came about and her adorably loving interpretation of the story (my own interpretation was the same).

Shown: Blue throated macaw “Dreadful” on my shoulder along with other aviary birds. Location: Whidbey Island, WA. My daughter at five months old bird watching.

She was kind enough this last month to have me and my five month old daughter (who is now 6 months, where is time going?!), Sydney as well as my husband, Dave out to see her aviary on Whidbey Island. Now, she didn’t construct this aviary – but all the birds have been left in her care and so here they are. She works day and night fixing and making the aviary better as it literally was just dumped into her lap within the last week or so. So if you’re looking at it thinking about the improvements it needs – bare with her! She’s working on it.

I still wanted to share my experience from another perspective of ‘infants and birds’ – this was yet another opportunity I was given to make birds a positive experience for my daughter yet again. Luckily, it was a success!

Shown: Blue throated macaw “Gleam” on hubby’s shoulder. Location: Whidbey Island, WA. Kiddo at five months old.

Susan invited us into the aviary, telling us about each bird and its story. Most of whom we knew were the freeflyers – the troupe of calico macaws Cressi, our African grey, started off freeflying with as well as the duo of blue throated macaws, Dreadful and Gleam (my forever favorites!), the crazy noisy and colorful flock of sun conures (made me miss my own girls!) called Snicket’s Army! Buckle, the gorgeous shamrock macaw whom I remember as just a baby years ago… and then there were the new faces of a scarlet macaw that wasn’t Ariel (though she was there too), and amazon parrots, all kinds of cockatoos and even parrotlets, senegals and eclectus’. Susan often takes on birds from other people to help improve their lives (such as the plucking blue throated macaw Kayla who was making great progress).

Sydney looked unfazed as we approached the aviary; most people wore ear plugs but not me and not this girl. When she was really small I would take her out to the birds (my own) in the aviaries and it would immediately calm her just watching them. This seemed to prove no different.

Parrots hanging out in Susan's aviary on Whidbey Island, WA.

Parrots hanging out in Susan’s aviary on Whidbey Island, WA.

As we decided to go inside with her (I said we should take turns and Dave said I should just leave with her if it didn’t seem to be working… now we all know who wears the pants, haha! Not me.) I thought it best if Dave took treats for the birds and I went without. This way they’d be more likely to go to him, not me, and if they did come to me he would easily be able to bribe them off. It ended up not even being an issue. The only birds that came to me were a mitred conure whom I asked with a treat in hand eventually, and the beloved blue throat favorites of mine! So I was thrilled, and so was Sydney. She calmly just looked around.

The aviary was crazy tall which Susan filled me in on being a negative thing for her. She felt like when they needed to get a bird for whatever reason, they couldn’t always because of how tall it was so the one going up next door was not as tall and had a lot of changes learned from this one.

A view of the aviary filled with parrots.

A view of the aviary filled with parrots.

I guess that’s the only way to learn what kind of aviary you want – is to just do it and see what works and what doesn’t. Kind of an expensive way to learn, right? If you’re looking for an aviary option and are not the handy type (like me!) then you can actually work with Cages by Design (www.cagesbydesign.com) to come up with a custom design to suit your needs.

Overall, the sun conures proved to be her favorites to watch and she was not as content in dad’s arms as the birds were constantly flying over head and landing on and around him more closely than they were me. Plus, there’s just something about being the sole food source that makes me ever so more comforting!


A macaw sits at one of the highest points.

Susan’s aviary is not one that is open to the public (unless maybe you wanna go help out!) but hopefully when the new aviary is completed, I will be able to see it and update all of you with the improvements and changes along with pictures of my daughter hopefully holding a few birds herself!

Shown: Blue throated macaw “Jinx” Location: Centralia, WA My daughter at two months old

Since having my daughter Sydney Capri (who I refer to as both “Capri” and “Sydney”) I’ve gotten asked a ton about “have the birds met her yet? What do they think of her? What does she think of them?” well, for the last bit of her life (she’s two months old exactly today!) she hasn’t really been able to focus on objects, and she can’t communicate much besides a need for food, sleep, a diaper change or just overall comfort from being close.

I’ve allowed her to observe the birds a lot from a distance and cage bars or windows in between them so that both the birds can get used to her as a living being and she can get used to them as well. The noise of one another doesn’t seem to bother either one – but the abrupt movements from her seem to definitely get my birds attention. Those unpredictable movements from her as she figures out how to control those little arms and legs are a sign to me that it’s wayyyy too early for any physical interaction (that and the whole not being able to communicate to her thing… ;) )!

Pictured: Galah “Bondi” Location: Phoenix, AZ My daughter, totally clueless, at 3 months old

But I’ve slowly taken advantage of certain times when things feel right to move a step closer.

Now, keep in mind my birds aren’t just “pets”, they’re trained performers and have been socialized with THOUSANDS of people (I’m not exaggerating – we toured for 2 years around the USA playing to large arenas that held people like Carrie Underwood, Kid Rock and Elton John – the crowds were huge and before every show we were putting birds on kids and adults of all ages and races. And that’s just two of the 9 years the birds have been seeing the world and meeting new people.)

My most social parrot is my rose breasted cockatoo (galah) Bondi who loves absolutely everyone. She’s the type of parrot that will skip a freeflight trip outdoors just to hang out with someone new! My second most social (via training and not as natural as Bondi) is my blue throated macaw, Jinx. I was freeflying him in Washington at my brother in law’s house and decided before putting him back into the aviary that I’d let him hang out in the RV a bit. We always stay in our RV at his house and I was rocking Sydney to sleep for a nap. He flew over to me and I set him on my leg as she was in my arms. He naturally kept his distance.

Shown: Galah “Bondi” Location: On the road from FL to ID My daughter, still clueless, at 3 months old

After I laid her down to sleep I thought it would be cute to get a photo of Jinx on her sleeper. When I set him down he tried to steal her blanket with his toe! I snapped away on my camera, and she yawned and turned to him which made him drop it like he was just busted!

That was the end of their interaction but the important aspect of it, no matter how small of an interaction it was, was that is was positive for both parties. Both my bird and my daughter didn’t leave afraid of one another, and neither was forced upon the other.

(The above portion of this blog post was written on June 9, 2013, the rest is written on September 21, 2013… thus is blog life with an infant!) 

Photography by Daniel Kuykendall of my daughter as a newborn in a blue and gold macaw outfit (hand made by a fan of BirdTricks.com)

One of my absolute pet peeves is when someone else tells me a bird is “fine” or “friendly” and INSISTS I take the bird even though the body language I’m reading says otherwise. This actually happened just the other day while visiting an aviary with my husband and fellow bird trainer, Dave. This blue throated macaw absolutely loved him and followed after him everywhere, but I saw that because it took such a strong liking to him it was becoming actually possessive. This meant everyone else was more of a threat than a friend aside from Dave.

While moving my daughter from me to him, Dave insisted I take Kayla, the blue throat macaw newly madly in love with him from his hand. I resisted, wanting him to just set her down instead. He insisted again that she is fine, friendly, really nice. All the things that describe how she is with HIM right now… I looked at her and immediately knew she did not want to come to me, and that she would likely bite me trying to even get her from him. But he kept insisting so I ignored what I FELT and went with what he SAID. Which he only really said to make his situation easier of being able to take our daughter from me. He spoke form a place of “hurry up and make this simple for me” rather than the bird trainer he really is. Kayla stepped up for me with a pinning eye and her wings held from her body a bit, which had been completely flared out before that. With a sideways look at me and tipped up feathers on her head she hit me with her beak as a warning, not a bite, and I moved just a titch so that she’d fly to the nearest perch – not wanting any behavior to escalate.

The key to this story isn’t to rag on my hubby – ;) love ya, babe – but to point out that you need to be thinking of things from the point of training and not any place else. Otherwise you could potentially ruin the relationship early on between your kid and your bird.

Photography by Daniel Kuykendall of my daughter in a hand made blue and gold macaw outfit by a fan of BirdTricks.com.

Basic rules of introductions:

  1. Don’t force anything. Take things in stride, don’t rush, don’t be in a hurry. Let the moments come and take advantage of them as they appear instead.
  2. Remember that small, short POSITIVE interactions are better than long, drawn out interactions that eventually end on a negative because they pushed each being to their limitations.
  3. Don’t go in with expectations. I love birds and animals in general, and I REALLY want Sydney to as well, but I can’t force that on her and the more I do the more likely she is to reject the idea – so I try really hard not to expect it from her which leaves her not having to live up to anything as an infant and me not disappointed. Disappointment leads to becoming discouraged which will make you stop trying. That’s what I’m trying to “drive home” here.

Glider chair with custom pillow by grandma. Mother found the fabric pattern.

My husband and I knew that we’d want a bird theme of some sort no matter what gender our baby turned out to be. We thought about going with a blue bird, like our blue throated macaw “Jinx”, if we had a boy. Then our colors would be blue and yellow. And if a girl, maybe we would go with the theme of galahs – pink and grey, everything! But in the end, our love for toucans overcame and as I got impatient waiting to find out gender, I wanted to decorate in a way that would work for either sex so our original thoughts of themes was not going to work. Toucans it was, in neutral colors to match the room overall – sex to be determined at a later date.

Because toucans are only commonly found among ‘jungle, rainforest’ and other animal themes which I knew I didn’t want – I had to go out on a limb and ask independent designers for custom products of just toucans.

For example, the mobile I wanted:


Custom nursery mobiles by LovelyFriend on Etsy

However, I just wanted a bunch of toucans! So I sent this lovely lady a message along with a picture of some bird artwork I had ordered for the nursery already and told her I wanted all toucans with the color scheme of the following picture:

When she was finished, I received this:

Custom toucan mobile.

As gifts, we received tons and tons of parrots, birds and toucans, all stuffed animals for her animal treasure chest. Here’s a glimpse at her stuffed-flock:

Stuffed animals all as gifts.

Custom made toucan and african grey.

More of her stuffed animal flock and a couple custom pieces too!

I can’t even believe how many different toucans there are out there that people were able to find. I know of a few on ebay or amazon, but that’s about it!

When I couldn’t find something as a toucan, I’d find it as a bird in general, like the door stop (etsy) or door hanger (gift). But then there were those totally original, off the wall finds like these:

Toucan lamp found at a pawn shop. But I’ve seen them in retail stores.

Toucan rocker from ebay.

For our name reveal we eventually did, I had baby blocks made custom with a toucan at the end that worked well into the room as well.

Toucan baby block. Custom painted from an artist on Etsy.

Custom baby blocks.

My mother found the following fabric in black, white and blue and I chose black. My grandma then sewed up a pillow for nursing, a blanket for the crib and bumpers for the crib as well. She also sewed the extra fabric with the toucans showing onto the bottom of my drapes for that room, too.

Toucan print fabric.

I finished the room off with tons of toucan books (gifts, pictured in the wagon) and a toucan piece of art above the crib from Minted.com.

Nursery with a toucan/bird theme.

Although what people fail to mention (or perhaps I didn’t research hard enough) is that you won’t even really use this room for the first few months. So, it still looks like this… minus the chair that I moved downstairs for easier access! Good thing that crib turns into a day bed because that’s when I’m thinking she will use it ;)!

All in all we had a lot of fun designing the room and finding little gems to add to it. The furniture is from Amazon (treasure chest, glider chair with ottoman, crib) while the wagon with the books in it is from Restoration Hardware. The night stand is from TJ Maxx, the diaper pail from Walmart, and the rug from Pier 1 Imports. The blankets are also from Pier 1 (the teal, red and purple).

I’m pretty excited for when she’s at the age to play with all those stuffed animals…!

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