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Proper housing for a bird

Expert Question

Hello, I may have received bad advice & would appreciate your help. I live in S Dorset, but the last two winters have been very cold (down to -10C). During both of these my pair of Plumheads were in outside accommodation. They are 5 years old. They had a large indoor section. The female laid eggs and sat but the eggs did not hatch and showed no sign of development. Male too cold + too short day length?

I am no longer able to use this accommodation and have built a new aviary. This is tucked into the corner of our house, sheltered, and they give every sign of contentment. Flight area 7.5ft (L) x 6ft (H) 3.25ft (W). There is an additional security entrance.

I was advised that the birds would be fine with a shelter box. This I constructed from an aluminium locust cage as outer protection. Inside this is a polystyrene fish box for insulation, this being lined with thin ply and the interior space furnished with perches. One perch extends from outside, into the box. The entrance to the shelter is 10(H) x 6(W) inches. It has a ‘green roof’ of turf to give it a more natural appearance. The internal dimensions are 18(H) x 12 x 12. Dimensions are approximate as I am writing this in London. This accommodation could be kitted out with an electrical heat pad. I could also install artificial lighting to increase the ‘day length’.

In spite of providing favourite goodies (Russet apples / blackberries) inside this structure, the birds show no inclination to use it, or even venture inside. They just about manage to reach in to pick the blackberries from bramble ‘twigs’. They have been in this accommodation since mid July.

The birds insist on roosting under the open shelter I have provided for their food station.

I am just about to provide them with an apple log, hollowed out to the internal dimensions recommended in Jack & Syd Smiths’ guide.

I am worried that this set up will not be safe for them over (another hard) winter, even if they can be persuaded to use their insulated shelter.

Any advice very welcome.

Expert Answer

I would recommend some form of heating over the winter period for these Plumheads.

The aviary you describe is adequate but the shelter box may not be to their liking for a number of reasons.  Two things to ensure are that the box is well lit and that the perches within the box are higher than those in the outdoor aviary, as you no doubt know birds often favour a high roosting perch.

Here in Cornwall we maintain and breed Plumheads in enclosures similar to yours and last winter we reached -12 C.  Our shelter area is a metal cage with wire front and roof which is under cover and accessed via a pophole which is always open.  Above the highest perch in the shelter is suspended a 150w dull emitter infra red lamp which is always on during the winter.  The birds are frequently seen under the heat lamp and invariably roost under or near it.  Although Plumheads may be able to endure low temperatures they really should not have too.  In my opinion they should always have free access to a warm area. Our heated shelter area is also lit on a timer to increase day length and to encourage the birds in to the shelter area as dusk approaches.

David Woolcock - Paradise Park, Cornwall, UK

David Woolcock
About David Woolcock

David has been concerned about wildlife since he was a child. This concern led him as an adult to help found the World Parrot Trust in 1989, where he remains a Trustee.

David also serves as the curator of Paradise Park in the UK—the home of the World Parrot Trust—and has been responsible for overseeing the care and well being of the animals at the park, as well as being a professional member of IAATE (International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators.)

David also heads-up the Flight School, located at Paradise Park, which offers expert training and consultation on everything from behaviour interpretation, modification, and enrichment to all aspects of avian husbandry.