STRESS – IT’S NOT FOR THE BIRDS!

How relaxing would you find living in a police station or a hospital? I am sure that the never ending hustle and bustle, the constant exposure to crisis and horror, would stress and wear down all but a calloused few. Imagine if you can, an even worse situation. You are forced to reside in such a place, but never know if you are going to be an observer or a participant in the never ending stream of nightmare dramas.

This is the home that we prepare for our birds. One day they are fed special treats. The next they may be netted and brought to the vet for surgical sexing. From our point of view, this is proper management. The birds, though, never know what to expect. This uncertainty must be very stressful.

How can we minimize this stress? Again, through proper management. Handle birds intended for breeding only when absolutely necessary. Wear some distinctive clothing when, and only when, the birds must be caught. This might be an unusual hat, a jacket, a jump suit, or a smock. Keep the garment out of view of the birds, except on those occasions when you must touch the birds. The same goes for carriers, holding cages, towels, gloves, and nets. Do not force your birds to constantly view what they must consider as instruments of torture!

Snakes, hawks, owls, cats, and other predators are quick to make
a meal of any bird small or weak enough to be killed. Birds by instinct constantly watch for their natural enemies. Because of this, birds will never be secure in a cage located in the center of a room or in flights open on all four sides. With this sort of situation birds must worry about something sneaking up on them from behind.

Something solid in back removes the anxiety. Keep cages against
a wall. If a flight is built in the open, cover at least one side
with sheet metal or plywood. One breeder reports covering all
four sides of an outdoor flight cage with plywood. With finches
and soft bills, the aviary can be planted so that the birds may
feel more at home.

Birds are concerned about attacks by hawks and owls from above.
A barrier should be installed over one end of an outdoor flight
so that the birds can get out from under the scrutiny of cruising
hawks. Even birds kept indoors worry about this. Visiting a bird
shop, I noticed that all the parrots were looking out the large
window at something in the sky. At first glance, I didn’t see
anything. By Squinting, I could just barely make out the form of a
gliding falcon. The parrots, with their superior eyesight, were
clearly observing the bird of prey. Since birds don’t understand
that glass is any protection, they must have thought that their
lives were at risk.

At home, make sure that your pet’s cage is not in a window or an
open patio or balcony. What is a pleasant and diverting atmosphere for you and I can be a horrible experience for a bird in a cage or on a stand. Don’t turn your parrot into a sitting duck!

Wild caught birds, with good reason, are deathly afraid of
snakes. Serpents eat both birds and bird eggs. If you have a pet
snake, keep it away from your bird. A large boa or python might
actually attack and kill a parrot. Even a small snake, if kept or
brought anywhere that the bird can see it, will make the bird ill
at ease. An object that vaguely resembles a snake can cause
problems. I have seen parrots panic at the sight of a vacuum
cleaner hose.

Pet birds can stress each other. Challenging each other, by
yells and display, can be very exhausting for the birds. Just
being under the constant observation of another bird may make some nervous. This can cause many problems. The most common is that
the birds refuse to go to nest or, if eggs are produced, fail to
rear their young. Constant stress of any kind paves the way for
disease. Male cockatoos can go into a jealous rage and kill the
hen.

In a large collection, various strategies are used to solve this
problem. Again as above, sheet metal or plywood can separate
the flights. Species may be staggered. For example, if you had
two pairs of amazons and two pairs of cockatoos, the cockatoos
would not be housed in adjoining aviaries. One of the pairs of
amazons would be placed in between the pairs of cockatoos. Even
better yet, would be to put finches in the flights between the
parrots.

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