1. Using a Garden Shed
Many bird keepers begin by converting a garden shed, having emptied it
first! It can be a suitable location for a pair of breeding Cockatiels
- that is for the first couple of years. The shed in this picture is not
small; it has electric sockets and it is warm, even cosy, and has maximum
affordable natural light all year round. The first problem one notices
will be the very high levels of dust created, mainly feather dust, especially
during the moult and winter months. Sheds can be difficult to clean and
deposits of faeces on the wall and floor require regular removal. However,
during nesting and rearing for just one brood, lasting up to a period
of three months, entry to the flight needs to be minimised so large quantities
of faeces can build up. The change from very damp to very warm climatic
conditions can encourage bacterial and parasitic development in a wooden
structure, especially when it starts to crack. In the developing crevices
mites can encroach through to the inside, linger and breed. Wooden outhouses
can be havens for pests such as mice and, whilst high dust levels can
be controlled with maximum ventilation, vermin needs to be eradicated
using recommended procedures and controls that do not harm the birds.
Problems can be further exacerbated if such buildings are positioned in
tight, compact corners making prevention and cure more difficult. It is
fair to say that a shed is a shed and that most are not built to withstand
the long-term hope of no maintenance.
So two most important considerations for shed or wooden
barn type housing are (1) good ventilation for the birds’ and the keeper’s
respiratory well being, and (2) ease of access for maintenance and dealing
with vermin, should it be necessary.
2. Traditional Wood and Mesh Aviary
This open type of housing is probably the most popular
and in some cases has served bird keepers well for many years. A hardcore
and sand base with large concrete slabs surrounded by wooden struts of
about 75mm x 50mm (3” x 2”), sturdy enough to form a solid frame to hold
the galvanised wire mesh forming the type of enclosure to suit one’s design.
Part open: the flight and part closed: the shelter. Flights of about 2m
long x 2m high and at least 1.5m wide are best. This spacing serves to
accommodate the birds’ needs for exercise. If the occupants are not tame,
the carer can see to any necessity without undue stress within a short
period of time. Some bird keepers like to leave part of the flight area
uncovered to allow rainwater in. A hand spray-bottle can be used for the
birds if the roof of the aviary is sealed, as there is a considerable
risk from wild bird droppings and possible feather mite contamination
with an open roof.
Probably the most important consideration to make initially
is the floor design. A solid, slightly sloping concrete base, without
divisions or cracks, and a secure drainage hole would be an improvement
on slabs. A brush with hard bristles and a scraper will remove the initial
top soiling and any floor covering used. Hosing and disinfecting doesn’t
take long and all of this can be achieved in a day, given favourable weather
conditions. The second most important consideration, at this early stage,
is to ensure the base of the walls is sealed and weighted completely to
provide enough sturdiness to survive strong winds and also as a preventative
measure against entry from four-legged intruders depositing urine as they
move over seed covered floors. Urine contamination is a deadly toxin.
Wooden panels should be treated with an application of a recommended preservative
once every couple of years to prolong their lifespan.
The question of cover for a nesting area in this type of aviary presents
a problem if, as in most standard roosting compartments, the design features
are restrictive. Bird keepers worry about birds not using the cover in
very cold, windy conditions and with the best efforts one cannot force
them to do so. A sheltered corner in the open aviary is often much preferred
by them and those cockatiels that decide to use the sheltered housing
can succumb to chill, which is detrimental to their survival, if the shelter
is not draught proof.
Whatever choice of design is preferred, if it is made
with only a single door, a safety porch of some kind will need to be provided
for entry and exit by the keeper. Cockatiels can be very elusive creatures
so, having entered their domain, the exterior safety-door should be sealed
first before opening the interior door, preferably of full height rather
than half height.
3. The All Steel Aviary
Steel galvanised panels with corrugated roofing, a lightweight
steel-mesh door at the entry point to each of the four flights 1.5m wide
and 2.5 m deep is a sensible size. Cockatiels benefit from as much exposure
as possible, but specially made Perspex windows with wooden frames, two
for each flight can be placed in position when the wind chill levels are
detrimental to the birds. During milder winter months only one window
may be used instead of two. Even with this type of shelter, sealing the
entire fronts throughout the period from the end of October to late March
can induce an early moult (as will all types of sealed housing) and this
will interfere with the natural cycle, delaying nesting from taking place
until June/July time.
It is necessary to remember that cockatiels are very
robust, resilient birds, however, protection from inclement weather and
wind chill are two of the most important housing considerations for more
exposed aviaries. Given that, the other issues such as artificial heating
and lighting are not necessary provisions, a security light switch can
be operated from indoors, if need be, but visiting birds after last light
is hardly necessary. These flights are well ventilated and there is not
a problem with dust. The floors have a smooth cement finish, which is
slightly sloped towards one corner for drainage with a suction stopper
and the provision of a soak-away; the panels are clamped and secured to
the floor. Above all, low maintenance is the outcome of all-steel aviaries:
easy to keep clean and resistant to vermin entering and regular checks
will ensure it remains so.
Problem solving and help
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related matters you may be concerned about can be addressed and resolved by our
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Articles on the following subjects are published in our quarterly journal:
sexing; nutrition; signs of sickness; minor problems such as dealing with mites
and worms; eye infections etc.