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Everything Real Housewife of Potomac Monique Samuels Uses to Care for Her Parrot

Photo: courtesy

Our kids fell in love with birds when we were on vacation in the Bahamas. When we came home they were like, “Mommy, can we get a bird?” I was like, “Daddy’s going to say no, but we can ask him and try.” My husband is not an avid animal lover like I am, but when we asked him, he said yes. I started looking for birds that same day. We did a lot of research, but when we went to our local bird shop, we let the bird choose us. Someone gave us that advice. T’Challa, an African grey parrot, just came right to us. He was so sweet. I never knew how affectionate birds are. I call him a puppy with wings. He acts just like a puppy; he gets excited the same way. He’s so friendly: He’ll fly to my sister, my brother, my mom. And he’s the ultimate diva — talkative, funny, vain.

African grey parrots have the brain capacity of a 4- to 6-year-old. They’re so intelligent and they need stimulation. They cannot be bored. The worst thing you can do is buy a bird and keep it in a cage. It’s like me locking my child in a room and just telling them to sit there. They’ll go crazy. I work from home and I’m a stay-at-home mom of three, so there’s always action and people in the house. But that’s a good environment for a parrot. If you are considering getting one, just make sure you have the time.

Photo: retailer

I will never not have a harness for my bird. We are very outdoor people. We like taking walks. T’Challa loves being outside and seeing other birds and the trees. The one time I did not have a harness and leash on him, he flew away. But since we had already been taking him on walks through the neighborhood, my vet thinks he was more familiar with the outside world and probably had a good sense of where his home was. Thank God for that. He’ll let me put the harness on him with no problems. He does chew at it sometimes, but he doesn’t really mind it. Especially after he had the whole incident where he flew away, he has been more willing to put this on. I think he understands why we got it.

Photo: retailer

Since starting an Instagram page for T’Challa, I’ve connected with a lot of other bird owners who have been giving me their tips and tricks. That’s how I found out about this particular company. He tears the pellets up! He always has his head in the bowl. I can definitely see the difference this food has made in his overall well-being. I always have pellets and fresh water out all day, but in the morning, he also loves fruit. Then, toward the evening, I’ll give him veggies — string beans and carrots and potatoes.

Photo: retailer

We take him with us when we go to our second home, which is an hour and a half to two-hour drive. So we bought this clear cage for that. I love that the acrylic lets him see, which makes him more comfortable. I put a seat belt around the cage so that he’s secure. He actually likes being in the car and seeing where we’re going. He’s completely quiet.

I use these for training. He really loves them — the Cranberry-Apricot flavor is his absolute favorite. I’ll give him one whenever he does something good. For instance, I’ve been potty training him, so when he doesn’t poop on me I’ll give him a treat. I also use them for recall: When he’s flying around the house, he has a command for him to come to me. When he does, I’ll give him another treat. He’ll do anything for them. I don’t have to train him to talk, that he does on his own. The more you talk to a parrot, the more it’ll learn how to pick up words. We talk to T’Challa all day long, the same way I did with my kids when they were babies. His first word was T’Challa. I was like, “How vain are you? You’re saying your own name.” He says his name in different voices. He’ll say it in his robotic bird voice, but then he’ll say it in a way that sounds exactly like my husband’s deep voice. And now he’s starting to say it like me.

He has areas in the house where there’s paper that he can relieve himself on. I love this paper. A lot of people use newspapers, but I don’t recommend that because the paper isn’t treated. When a bird poops on it, it can seep through. This birdcage liner keeps whatever falls on top of it contained. You can wrap it up and know that the surface underneath is still clean. I kind of treat him the same way I did my kids when they were potty training. When we got him, every time he pooped, I would say a word so there was word association. But I didn’t want to just say poop. My assistant’s husband is from Nigeria and he speaks Yoruba, and I thought it would be really cool to teach my parrot in Yoruba. He told me that the word for poop in Yoruba is igbẹ, so that’s what I say to T’Challa every time he poops. As soon as I take him out of his cage in the morning — the only time he’s in his cage is when he sleeps — he stretches his wings, and then I say igbẹ and he’ll go. After he goes, he knows he can fly wherever he wants to fly. Because of our routine and because he knows he has to poop on paper, he does not poop midair. Thank God.

Photo: retailer

He’s loved this since I bought it for him. It hangs from his main perch. He will hang on it, he’ll swing on it, and he just has the most fun. But he will tear it apart. I keep several of them in a closet ready to go because it’s his absolute favorite toy.

T’Challa has several perches: One in his cage, one on top of his cage, one on our kitchen counter, one in the living room. I try to space them out so when he is flying around he has somewhere to land. I love this one because it has suction cups, so I can pop it onto pretty much any surface. Whenever I take a shower, I bring T’Challa in with me so he can get that steam and humidity. They’re used to living in a climate that has a little bit more moisture in the air. So I put this perch inside the shower and then he’ll sit in there. When I get out, I take it off and I pop it on a wall in my bathroom near the vanity. I’ll put a space heater nearby because parrots should air-dry and I don’t want him to freeze. So he’ll sit on the perch drying while I’m getting dressed.

A lot of times I might have a tank top on for our walks; without this guard, T’Challa would just be sitting on my exposed skin. His nails are pretty long, so this protects me from getting scratched. It also gives him a more stable grip because of the material. And there’s a little toy on it that keeps him occupied.

Hemp Well Bird Hemp Oil

This is probably my favorite buy of the year. When we had to travel to North Carolina for a funeral, I couldn’t take T’Challa with us. I had to take him to a “bird hotel.” He missed us so bad that he started to pluck some of his feathers. When I got back I was like, “Wait, did somebody swap out my bird?” I could tell he was very stressed, he was not acting like the normal, happy T’Challa. So I did some research to figure out how I could help him calm down. I found people online who were complaining about the exact same thing: They took a trip, their bird plucked, they came back, and their bird was not the same. Some of those people suggested this hemp oil, which is made for birds. It has a little dropper: He’ll open his mouth and I’ll put a few drops in. I also put it directly on areas where he plucked to help stimulate feather regrowth. It really works. His feathers have grown back and he’s much happier and calmer. We immediately saw a difference after a couple days of using it. I would recommend it to any parrot owner, especially if they’re going on a trip. And if I ever have to leave him again, I will leave this with his caretaker so that they can administer it if he gets anxious. I don’t know what I would do without it.

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Real Housewife of Potomac Monique Samuels’s Bird Essentials