Roosting site and perch:
When the outdoor aviary is ready, the next question is where to fit branches and rods in order to offer suitable perches and roosts to the birds. Nailing on a few branches, decoratively but indiscriminately, is not the answer. The birds must have adequate flying space, unrestricted by a tangle of branches. It is sufficient to fit a perching rod at each end of the outdoor section, these rods should be fixed about 30-50 cm from the wall and wire netting respectively and in the top third of the enclosure. The best are hardwood rods derived from broadleaf trees such as oak, beech, or apple. Less suitable are conifers such as spruce, pine, etc., which contain too much resin. It is not necessary to remove the bark, as the parakeets like nibbling at it. Dowels or round timbers that have been turned are not as good as naturally shaped branches, since they force the birds to continuously grip the same thickness, causing the gripping organs to suffer a certain loss of mobility as a result. After all, in its natural environment the bird also flies onto branches of varying thickness. Furthermore, a rod that has been turned is difficult for the parakeet to grip when it lands. For this reason, metal rods are even less appropriate. In the winter these have the added disadvantage of almost inevitably causing frostbite of the toes. Again, the most appropriate perch is a natural branch. Be certain that the wood has not been sprayed with chemicals, especially wood taken from branches of Fruit trees, one cannot stop parakeets from gnawing at all the wood they can get their beaks on. Perches should be replaced at least once a year. If this is done more often, so much the better. To make the replacing easier, wedge-shaped pieces of sheet metal can be fixed to the wire or wall so that the branch or rod can simply be inserted and is kept in position by the wedge shape, irrespective of its thickness. Particular attention and care must be devoted to the roosting place. Offtimes one wonders why a bird is sitting about with fluffed up feathers when there is no reason to suppose that it might be ill, very often this is due to an inadequate or unfavourable roosting place. Every bird endeavours to sit as high up as possible. If the perching rods in the outdoor aviary are placed higher than the ones indoors, no bird will voluntarily go indoors for the night. Usually it will hang suspended from the wire netting in some corner of the aviary, which is undesirable. There the bird is exposed to wind and rain, becoming vulnerable to cats or owls that may injure it from outside. In the winter there is particular danger of frostbite. It is, therefore, always best for the birds to spend the night in the indoor shelter, and this should be encouraged by installing the appropriate rods. The indoor perches should be hung at right angles to the warm wooden wall so that the birds can lean against it. Walls that are cold or, worse still, damp should be insulated. The distance from the ceiling should be just sufficient to enable the birds to sit in an upright position, the rod being fixed as high up as possible. The roosting place and perch must not be exposed to any drafts whatsoever, not even minor ones coming through cracks in the wall. Drafts are always dangerous, particularly to roosting birds. Since parakeets have the convenient habit of always returning to their usual roosting place (this can easily be confirmed by the accumulation of droppings under the permanent roost), it is sufficient to shut the birds into the indoor shelter every night for one week to encourage them to establish their permanent roost there. Once they have grown used to this spot, no further measures are required. The windows or the flight hole can be left open again, especially during the summer, since the birds day begins at sunrise.
The easiest but also the worst feeding method is to simply scatter the food on the ground. Although most species of parakeets prefer to look for their food on the ground, as this is what they do in their natural habitat, we know that this increases the risk of infection and particularly of worm infestation. If need be, one can scatter small quantities of food in the outdoor aviary during the breeding season from time to time. The dampness of the ground softens the seeds and might even cause them to germinate slightly, which is definitely an advantage. If they lie about for too long, however, they can grow mouldy, which is a serious disadvantage. The aviary must always be clean if one occasionally throws a little food on the ground. Another major drawback to feeding on the ground is that rodents are greatly attracted this way. It is therefore essential to make every major feeding place inaccessible to mice. This is certainly not guaranteed in the case of feeding houses or feeding boards that have been fixed to the wall. There are only two ways of keeping a feeding place relatively mouseproof, by fixing the feeding board to a wire suspended from the ceiling or by simply putting it on top of a tube well away from the walls. It is also important, that there are no branches above the feeding tray, from which the mice can jump down or the food can become contaminated by the birds faeces. Cleanliness is the first commandment when it comes to feeding. Feeding places should, therefore, always be arranged in such a way that they are easy to clean. If the feeding place consists of a wooden board, a landing platform should be fitted around the edges so that the bird does not land in the middle of the food and knock it off or cause it to scatter. Hard food is best served separately in round earthenware or china bowls. There are some very suitable earthenware bowls on the market that have a narrow margin at the top. Tin cans are inadvisable, they rust and can cause serious injuries to the toes. Plastic bowls are not well suited but are more acceptable than tin cans. Earthenware bowls are easily cleaned in hot water so that pathogenic organisms are killed, and they are less likely to get knocked over than lighter plastic bowls. The water bowl does not belong on the feeding board, as placing it there exposes the food to unnecessary dampness. The birds like bathing and splashing about, so the food would inevitably get wet. Water bowls should be large but not deep and should always be placed on the ground.
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Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc.