The Avian Environment

Unfortunately, most bird rooms are constantly undergoing growing pains. New varieties, species, and types of birds are constantly being acquired. A disparate collection of cages fills the bird room. A confusing array of dishes, waterers, and utensils are used. Often the actual purpose for keeping the birds at all is not clearly defined in the mind of the owner.

The first thing thing that a budding aviculturist should do is make up his or her mind. Why are the birds being kept? If the birds are pets, only a few should be kept. Pet parrots become strongly attached to their owners. It is no possible to give many the attention that they crave, deserve, and need. Large wrought iron cages are the best housing for pets. These cages are roomy enough to allow the birds exercise, while being attractive additions to the human living space.

If breeding is the goal further questions are to be asked. How much time can be devoted to this task? Does the bird breeder expect the activity to become self supporting? Large numbers of parakeets and cockatiels can be bred in

limited space, and with comparatively little effort. These birds can be colony reared in flights, minimizing labor. Even with cages, automatic watering systems may be installed, halving the time needed to service the bird room..

The large parrots are a different realm entirely. A sobering investment in both time and capital is required to rear these birds. These birds are generally extremely noisy. Unless your home is some distance from your neighbors, expect complaints. Remember, these birds are loudest at sun up and sun down. The bird noise also attracts thieves and vandals. Some years ago, over seven thousand dollars worth of birds were stolen from me. A macaw that whistled at women walking by brought the collection to the burglars’ attention!.

Uniformity should be paramount in the bird room. Amazons, Conures, Lories, and similar size birds are efficiently housed in commercially available welded wire cages. The wire can be purchased separately and the cages constructed as a do-it-yourself project. If trays are not required, if, for example, all the waste is allowed to fall to a concrete floor, savings can be realized. If pans are needed, it is cheaper to buy the ready made units. It is best to use as few different sizes of cages as possible. Always have a few extra cages on hand. This way the cages can be washed and rotated, with as little disturbance to the birds as possible.

This minimalism extends to the dishes. Try to use only one kind of dish for all your birds. This way, seed, soft food, etc., can be made up, portioned out, and quickly distributed. I modify the welded wire cages to allow the use of dishes inserted from the outside. This way I do not have to put my hand into the cage, disturbing the birds. I cut holes in the welded wire and use plastic dishes like those in the pet style parrot cages. The dishes are held in place by a flap of welded wire. Crocks and the stainless steel bird proof dishes are also very good.

Water is most efficiently supplied to these birds by the gravity bottles sold for guinea pigs. This keeps the birds from fouling or emptying the water. To keep the hookbills from destroying the plastic bottle, cut and wire a piece of sheet metal to the welded wire screen. Position the metal neck of the bottle through the screen, just below the sheet metal.

All cages should be kept against a wall. Birds are not comfortable in cages or flights that are set up in the center of a room. Birds are most secure when they are kept against a solid surface, for they only have to concern themselves with intruders coming from one direction. If this is not practical, the screen should be covered with sheet metal on all but one side.

For the comfort of both humans and birds, the ventilation of the bird room must be considered. Birds, particularly budgies, cockatiels, and cockatoos, give off a tremendous amount of dust from the feathers. This can now be removed with electronic air cleaners. This equipment will also cut down the amount of cleaning required in the bird room. I installed a commercial heavy duty air cleaner in my bird room about six months ago. It is now much more pleasant to work around the birds. Also, many slight odors are now a thing of the past.

The bird room must be constantly inspected for vermin. Roaches may be controlled by spraying with a pyrethrin based spray. Cockatoos and cockatiels can not be sprayed directly with an oil based spray. Oils ruin the feathers of these birds. Mice are much more troublesome. Poisons are generally useless in the bird room, for mice prefer seed and fruit to poison. Some of the newer formulations contain lard. Mice will choose food containing beef fat over seed. Traps work very will. Bait them with the smoked sausage sold in delicatessens. I have found the “SLIM JIM” brand to be very popular! Cats also can be used. Some years back, I used to visit a bird store on Long Island in New York that housed a colony of cats. They were been raised from kittens alongside the birds. The cats, terrors of the local mice, did not molest the birds.

The large macaws and cockatoos require more planning in housing. The commercially available welded wire cages are not large enough for these birds. If flights are built from weld ed wire, do not use wood framing. All wood will eventually be splinters in the beaks of these ingenious destroyers. Large flights constructed of cyclone fencing are the perfect homes for these birds.

I have not found the gravity waterers to be useful for cockatoos or macaws. The giant parrots constantly work to remove them from the cage. Perhaps, a heavy spring would be the answer.

Any plastic dish will be quickly shattered, perhaps injuring the bird. The best dishes are the heavy clay crocks or the bird proof stainless steel dishes.

The water and soft food dishes of all birds must be sterilized daily. A dishwasher with a sterilize cycle is the best way to go. Without this, hot water and bleach will do the job.

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