The Hospital Cage

Hospital cages are used for any bird which is sick or showing signs of illness such as fluffed up and not eating or drinking or basically sleeping too much or for any hen which may seem egg-bound.

For a quick hospital cage you can place a heat lamp (not a bright bulb) near the bird cage and monitor the temperature to 85 to 90 degrees F. with a thermometer, or place the bird in a warmer room where you can raise it to this temperature. Hospital cages can be bought from some farm supply depots. If you have a pet shop nearby you can purchase a reptile heater which looks like a dish/ceramic heater combination which is perfect for throwing heat. They also have under tank heaters and warming stones that can be placed near a cage for warmth which are about $30. We place a heating pad on medium under a cage when the birds are ill but you must never leave this unattended. The heating pad and a heat lamp are good sources of warmth. The bird should be placed in the cage 1st and the heat gradually raised to keep the bird from being stressed by a sudden temperature change. You can also use a ceramic heater which is $20-$30 about 2 feet from the cage and monitor the temperature with this as they have no fan to create a draft or if they do leave it off. Make sure the bird has plenty of fresh water when in this warmer environment.

You can also use a small transport cage, a show cage or the birds normal cage and wrap a heating pad around it. Put the heating pad on medium; make sure that the bottom of the cage is clean and covered with paper towel. Food and water should be placed at the bottom of the cage within easy reach of the bird, and the water should have electrolytes added to it, unless you are administering a different medication in the water. Cover most of the cage with a towel to keep the heat in, but keep an eye on the bird. Make sure it eats and drinks at least a little, and if in the period of an hour, it doesn't eat or drink anything, force feed it some hand feeding formula mixed to a thick consistency & warmed.

If you are planning on building a good hospital cage for potential future use, you may wish to construct something more sturdy and functional. I would suggest a small (perhaps 2 feet long X 1 foot high X 1 1/2 feet wide) cage, closed on all sides but the front (which should be wire). The closed sides can either be constructed of ply wood, or can be wire covered with plastic to hold the heat in. The bottom of the cage should have mesh cover suspended about 1/2 inch above the bottom of the cage, such as the commonly bought pet store cages which have a tray and a wire separator to keep the birds away from the floor. The reason this is necessary is because many diseases (bacteria, etc.) can be spread through the feces, so you want to keep the bird away from its own droppings. The cage should be equipped with two or three low perches, a shallow seed and water dish near or on the bottom of the cage, and a thermometer (that is capable of measuring "outdoor" temperatures). An infrared lamp can then be fitted to sit near the upper front corner of the cage, allowing a range of temperatures from about 90-95 degrees F (nearest the lamp) to about--but no less than--86 degrees F (farthest from the lamp). With this range of temperatures, the sick bird can choose to either sit close to the lamp or move farther from it on its own, so that it does not become stressed from being overheated. You may even wish to rig a thermostat to the lamp (I have no idea how this is done, but read it somewhere) to help regulate the temperature. Or you can utilize the thermometer to figure out just how far away the lamp should be placed from the cage to reach the desired temperature.

If the bird can perch, make sure to provide an additional 2 dishes (one for water and one for food) near the perches so that the bird can eat/drink all that it needs to. Birds will most readily consume soaked seed and spray millet when they are ill, so make sure that those two items are available to the bird to stimulate it to eat. The cage should be kept at a constant 86-95 degrees F, preferably closer to 90 degrees F than 86. Keep the bird in the cage for at least 1 week, and medicate it (if necessary for the required period of time). Once the bird begins looking better, you can start to lower the temperature of the cage down to room temperature very gradually, over the period of several days. If the bird begins to fluff up again, move the temperature back up and try again in a few days.

Making a cage:
To make a hospital cage, construct a simple 5 sided plywood box about 16" wide by 20" deep by 28" high. On the ceiling install 3 - 60W bulb sockets, switched separately. Install a fire proof baffle between the light bulb area and the bird compartment. Ventilate by drilling a few holes on each side of the box. Provide for a perch, seed/water cups and a thermometer. A small door to the side can provide access to the bird and cups. A metal screen (hardware cloth) separates the bird compartment from the removable tray filled with sand below. Main access to the cage will be provided by a hinged plywood door. A small plexiglass window near the door center is a useful way to keep an eye on the patient. A thermometer fastened to one side of the inside of the cage is necessary. There are few ways to control the temperature. The light bulbs are on 3 separate switches so that you can have one, 2 or 3 on. 40W bulbs can be used instead of 60W or a combination of the two. Also, the number of ventilation holes can be increased on the sides. The temperature should be set at between 85 to 90 degrees F. With a little experimentation the target temperature can be easily established. The heat source for the box can be one of several options, but the key elements are to make sure it is safe and to make sure the hospitalized bird can move away from or nearer to the heat source as it requires to help regulate its temperature. The target temperature range for the box is usually about 85 to 90 degrees. The drawing shows using a 60 watt incandescent light bulb, but you could also use a heating pad underneath 1/2 the box or an infra red heat lamp held safely above the box. You should line the bottom of the box with layers of newspaper covered by a layer of clean paper towels and then provide a source for clean drinking water and food. The water should always include water soluble electrolytes of some kind, but beyond that you should make adjustments based on what the initial assessment of the problem might be.


E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca



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Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc.