Saturday, November 14, 2015

Fresh air and sunshine!

Lately, the weather here as been gorgeous! I am a big proponent of getting our birds outside as much as possible. The cages on the back deck and outdoor aviary (built by my talented husband ♥) are utilized almost every day. Our birds enjoy their time outdoors immensely. It gives them a chance to disconnect from humans and just be birds for a while. When I look out the window to check on them, I see them ruffling their feathers in the cool breeze, napping, preening, playing with their toys and snacking on healthy foods. They watch the hummingbirds, squawk at hawks and crows in the distance, and interact with each other in a flock dynamic. My two pet quakers get along well enough that they can share an outdoor space together. My other pet birds do not get along so well, so they each have their own space when they go out. But even in separate enclosures, they interact with each other as one unit, a "flock". If one bird sees something and gives a warning call, all the birds react accordingly.When I am bringing them out one by one in the morning, none of the birds will begin to eat their breakfast until all the usual flock members have arrived.

Sunlight is very important for our birds physical health. Birds have a uropygial or "preen gland" above the base of their tail. This gland secretes a special oil that produces vitamin d when exposed to sunlight. As the bird preens the oil over it's feathers, it ingests some of this oil which converts to vitamin d3 by the birds liver and kidneys. This vitamin is best known for it's role in aiding the body to absorb calcium. Some people use full spectrum bulbs for this reason. Vitamin d is also one of the vitamins included in pelleted foods. This is good, but I feel natural sunshine, not only promotes physical health, but emotional health as well. Who doesn't feel better when they get out of the house and spend some time outdoors for a while?

Bird harnesses are also a great way to get your bird outdoors. Our pet caique, Sukha LOVES her harness! When she sees me with it, she gets very excited because she knows we are going to be doing something together. She can barely contain herself while I am placing it on her. The harness has allowed me to do more activities with her because I know she is safe. She goes out with me every afternoon to help me with the outside chores. She goes with me to the feed store when I buy supplies. She "helps" me bring the garbage cans to the curb and check the mail. My husband and I recently went to a friend's barbeque, and Sukha came along with us! She loves all the attention she receives when she goes places!

For my other birds who don't wear a harness, I use a small lightweight cage to put them in so they can be a part of outdoor activities as well. They also accompany me to the feed store this way. My amazon puts on quite the show of singing, burping and laughing when she meets new people. As the people start laughing at her antics, she gets wound up and can sometimes act unpredictably. The travel cage allows people to interact with her in a safe manner while she's "doing her thing".

Our young birds start to go outside at a young age. First I bring their familiar weaning cages outside. Then as they become more confident, they spend time in the larger outdoor cages on the deck. After that, they spend several hours a day in the walk-in flight aviary. Exposing young birds to being outside adds another dimension to their life experience. They fly, climb, chew on bark, feel the elements and are exposed to different sights and sounds. They love it!

I have seen some very creative ways that people have come up with to provide their birds some outdoor time. There is even a facebook group dedicated to helping it's members with outdoor enclosure ideas. The group is called Home Aviary Design. The people are very supportive. You can check it out here:

If your bird has not been outside before, take things slow and keep it positive. Most learn to enjoy it after they've been out a few times.