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Taking Your Flock Outdoors

-by Gaye Thomasson

It’s summertime, and time to get some Vitamin D for your birds! No, I don’t mean a pill, I mean good old sunshine! My Amazons and macaws go outside after breakfast to their flights any day the temperature is over 50 degrees, there’s a clear weather forecast, and it’s not too windy. They hang out, climb, chew up toys, occasionally bicker with each other, and squawk their lungs out at full volume. They’re curious about the world around them; our two dogs as they play chase, the airplanes above, the juvenile hawks on training missions with their parents, the little finches at the bird feeders, and the zinging sounds of our dive bombing hummingbirds. It’s hours of healthy entertainment. They come inside in the afternoon, head to their food bowls, and they are totally quiet. Exhausted? I’d like to think they’ve really burned up some parrot energy. (They’re resting right now as I write.)

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If you, too, take your parrots outside, there are a few things to keep in mind to make every occasion a safe and enjoyable experience for your birds.

Go on toy patrol.  Check the toys in your aviary or flight. Are they frayed, destroyed, hanging by a thread, covered with bird droppings?  Remove anything that isn’t safe.  Repair it or replace it.  Take a close look at the Quick Links.  Make sure they’re safely closed.    Look also for rust on items in the flight – if the area is susceptible to the elements, there’s a good chance that wood and toys have been saturated with snow and rain over the months.  Something rusty?  Get it out!

Is the flight safe from potential predators?  Check your latches and make sure everything shuts and locks the way it should.  Are there any places where “security has been breached?”  Be a detective and carefully examine the interior and exterior.  One broken wire or a small hole could a) provide an escape route for your bird or b) give an unwanted visitor entrance, or even c) cause a potential injury.

Is the flight clean?  Make sure that your birds have fresh water when they stay outdoors, especially on these hot days.  Water dishes easily get emptied or  “muddied.” Take some paper towels and a jug of water outside every day, wipe out their dishes, and give your birds fresh water.  Take a look for droppings, molted feathers, and destroyed toy parts on the floor of the flight.    If it’s messy, then sweep, shovel or however you do it, rake the excess out.  If you have birds that spend time on the ground, ensure that grasses are kept very low, and that they don’t have to traipse through their own messes to play.  Pull weeds.   Hose the area down, including any droppings on perches, branches, swings.

Don’t leave food in the flights. Make sure your birds have had a good breakfast before taking them outside.  And if you feel your bird(s) may get hungry, consider doing two things: 1) take them a treat (a nut in the shell, a Nutriberry or?) sometime during their outdoor time, or 2) hide something in the flight for foraging that you are sure will be consumed.  Whatever your strategy, remove any uneaten treats as a number of things might occur including spoiled food or once again, unwanted wild visitors, bugs included.

Does your bird like a bath?  Oh, hot days here mean that all my birds get a shower while they are outside!  It’s as easy as putting a spray nozzle on the hose, setting the sprayer on “mist” and letting the water spray fall gently onto them.  Imagine your birds in the rainforest – the rain drips from the leaves and mists down onto them!  And, never spray your bird into its face.  But…if you see those wings go up, the tail feathers spread out, and your bird starts swaying like she hears gospel music, then by all means, provide a spritz under the wings, on the back, wherever your bird prefers.  If you know your bird enjoys a bath over a shower, place a very shallow (safe) bowl or tray of water on the floor of the flight.

Protect your birds from the extreme heat.  Make sure that there is shade within the flight at all times of the day so that your bird has a cool space to go to when the temperature is intense.  That may mean a tarp, reflective insulation atop the flight, a towel. Whatever it is, never place your bird outside where she can’t get away from the direct sun’s rays. Your bird could easily become overheated.

Bugs bugs and bugs – Yes, it is mosquito season, and putting the birds outside may come to a screeching halt.  A few bugs here and there are no threat, in fact, I watch my macaws snap at wayward flies.  But, mosquitoes can infect our parrots with West Nile.  Two things: if there is an infestation where you live, just keep your birds indoors until the frost kills them. Their summer is over. Better safe than sorry.   If you choose to spray your yard for bugs/mosquitoes, you must keep your birds indoors, also.  And last, empty the water dishes daily.  Mosquitoes breed in standing water. Small wild birds may make their way into the flights to get a quick drink.  You have no control over that while your birds are outside and the spaces on the flight give wild birds access.  But, once everyone is inside for the night, again, empty those bowls.  No water, no visitors.  (Give your wild birds access to fresh water in birdbaths in another area.)

Last, never leave your birds outdoors unsupervised.  By this I mean, don’t leave your home or property with your birds outside.  Accidents happen, and you need to check your birds on a regular basis to make sure everything is copacetic. Weather can change quickly, too.    Don’t get caught away for your home, birds outside, alone, with a lightning storm over their heads. Those become extremely stressful situations for your birds.  No escape, lots of fear.

Whew!  That’s all!  It is a lot to consider, but extremely doable, manageable and so very good for your birds.  Get your flock outside soon.  They will love you for it, and their health will reflect that big yellow Vitamin D pill in the sky.

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