The modern bird breeder

Many devices and appliances are being used by the innovative bird keeper. With modern methods, more birds can be raised with less effort. Every technique described here has been successfully implemented. Through the true experiences of fellow bird lovers, all can successfully care for their pets with less toil.

Proper illumination is extremely important. Change in the quantity of light controls the breeding cycle of birds. The quality of light also merits consideration. Without a full spectrum light, birds are unable to absorb and use calcium. Fluorescent bulbs are available that truly are artificial sunshine This form of lighting has the extra benefits of making birds’ colors appear brighter, encouraging plant growth in decorated flights, and of being healthy for the bird fancier!

By using these bulbs in conjunction with a timer, birds may be brought into breeding condition at any time of the year. This should be done, in most cases, from a minimum of eight hours of light per day. Eight hours of light has been used as the minimum by breeders of canaries and parakeets. Aviculturists who focus on the larger parrots generally do not go under ten hours of light per day. The birds will be kept at this short day for at least two months. This allows their system a complete rest from the strains of nesting and molting. The duration of the light will be increased one half hour per week for eighteen weeks, to a maximum of seventeen hours. In this way the whole aviary can be brought to nest as a unit. By dropping the light one half hour per week, reversing the procedure, nesting will cease and the entire flock will go into a molt. This allows the breeder to standardize chores, forcing chick production to coincide with a predetermined schedule. For example, if birds for the pet market are the goal, nesting would best start around Thanksgiving, for the peak pet buying season is from Christmas to Easter.

For commercial production, it is possible to build the bird room so that no natural sunlight is admitted. This allows the aviculturist to decide when he wants to work with his (or her) birds. One breeder might wish to finish feeding and cleaning before leaving for work. Here the lights should be set to go on before dawn. Another might look forward to unwinding evenings with his feathered charges. In this case the lights would be set to go on late in the morning or early in the afternoon.

If no natural light is used the seasons are totally under control. Several breeding seasons a year are possible. In an extreme case, five clutches were obtained in one year form a pair of Scarlet Macaws through the intensive manipulation of the lighting schedule.

Electronic timers are available that allow lights to be adjusted to a precise minute. These electronic control centers can also be purchased as programs for personal computers. All these devices can be used to gradually dim or brighten incandescent lights. This is great for imitating the sunrise or sunset. The main fluorescent lights can only be turned on or off. Incandescent lights are used as night lights. The incandescent lights are set to go on one half hour before the main lights go off. The birds will soon learn to recognize this signal and will be prepared to perch or nest for the night. The incandescent light will be gradually dimmed after the main lights are turned off. Come morning, the incandescent light will be gradually brightened. This stops the more sensitive birds from being shocked by lights suddenly going on or off.

Quartz and infrared lamps are valuable heating devices. These bulbs concentrate heat in a small area. Thus a cage with newly fledged young may be given supplemental heat without raising the temperature of the whole bird room/ In England, wire heaters, similar or identical to those used in the United States by horticulturists, are utilized to warm a row of cages or perches in flights.

The quality of the air is an often over looked, but easily controlled, factor. Most basement bird rooms are too damp. Excess moisture allows molds and bacteria to prosper and to attack our birds. Seed and pellets lose quality very quickly stored under such conditions. An automatic dehumidifier will remove all problem water from the air. The reverse situation should also be of concern. If the air does not contain enough moisture the young will have trouble escaping from the egg, perhaps dying in the process. Here, the fancier would install a humidifier in the bird room. Canaries and Australian birds, both finches and parrot type, have lower humidity requirements than birds that originally came from the humid jungle.

Various air cleaners are available to purify the air in the bird room while keeping down heating and cooling bills. Dust in an aviary causes many problems. Many people develop allergic reactions or respiratory problems due to dust from feathers, seed, and bird droppings. Dust rapidly causes an unsightly build up. Disease is also spread from one bird to another by contaminated dust. Without an air cleaner, or an exhaust fan, a lingering odor will pervade the birds’ quarters. There are three main kinds of air cleaners. Ionizers turn impurities into a heavy particle that “falls” out of the air. Ionizers are inexpensive and are fairly efficient. Unfortunately, a room with an ionizer must be vacuumed often to remove the particles. Often soot will build up. Air cleaners that use some sort of filter medium also work well. The filter medium must be frequently cleaned or replaced in order for the unit to maintain efficiency. The best sort of air cleaners uses an electric current to “magnetically” attract dust particles to a filter element. The filter element is easily cleaned with a hose.

Television monitors keep the bird room under constant surveillance. This has the obvious bonus of warning of burglars. The human presence affects avian behavior. Some hens will fly to nest upon the sound of footsteps, only to leave the eggs upon the exit of the aviculturist. Other hens leave the nest when people are in the vicinity, perhaps expecting a treat, but sit tight at all other times. The remote monitor allows the situation to be correctly analyzed. Bullies, chasing other birds from food and water, can also be immediately identified. This helps to prevent the sorrow of dead birds in the flights.

A video recorder may be used to permanently record the activity of breeding pairs. Professional video recordings are available to educate and entertain.

Every bird room should have a micro wave oven. This makes it possible to produce any soft food(nestling foods, hand feeding formulas, nectars, soft bill mixes, etc.) in quantity at a convenient occasion. The perishable food may be frozen into daily portions. The micro wave can defrost the daily ration in no time. Many items will be purchased in economical quantity lots and frozen, to be defrosted as required. In the micro wave, hand rearing formulas may be precisely heated and kept warm. It is best to heat such foods in individual bowls. If heated directly in a syringe uneven results are obtained; the core boils while the material in contact with the barrel remains cool.

Ultraviolet insect lamps are useful items for controlling flies and moths in the bird room The bugs are electrocuted by an arcing spark. Even with these lamps, pyrethrum sprays and ivermectin, dispensed by a bird veterinarian are still necessary for many aviaries. The pyrethrum insecticide, used properly, is harmless to all warm blooded animals but quickly kills flies and roaches. Used regularly pyrethrum will control mites and lice on the birds. Ivermectin will actually remove most parasites, internal and external. Ivermectin must be used in a proper formulation for pet birds. Trying to dose your pets with a product designed for farm animals is courting disaster!

Every aviculturist should own an incubator and brooder. These invaluable devices allow the bird breeder the option of hand rearing if the avian parents prove unsteady. The dollar value of the infants will soon pay for the hardware.

And of course there’s the computer. Professor Harrison of Ireland wrote a computer program to pair budgerigars. A computer allows pedigrees and other records to be maintained to a superlative degree. As mentioned earlier, software is available to make it possible for a home computer to control lights and other devices, giving ON, OFF, BRIGHT, and DIM commands. Data base programs will print out detailed pedigrees. The aviculturist who can view at a glance a dozen generations of ancestors of any pair of birds will surely be better prepared to develop superior stock. A potential purchaser will be willing to pay more for young birds that are sold with detailed documentation. Information is power, the power to precisely improve the quality of our birds.

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