An Experiment With Lighting

Budgerigars need housing that offers cozy quarters away from draughts and protection from harsh weather conditions in order to reproduce effectively. However, when fanciers are building or remodeling their birdrooms, they must consider another element. I’m referring to the quantity of natural and artificial illumination that such an environment provides for our birds.

We should incorporate enough windows in natural lighting so that the sun’s rays may reach most regions without being overly intense. Birdrooms should give enough lighting but should not serve as a greenhouse with excessive temperature fluctuations.

It is all too simple to place fluorescent bulbs in a birdroom, set a timer, and forget about it when it comes to artificial illumination. Of course, if the final result allows you to track successful breeding seasons, you may leave well alone. On the other hand, if breeding outcomes aren’t what they should be, reconsider, as I have.

I recall reading an essay in Cage Birds in the 1950s by the late Cyril Rogers in which he outlined how budgerigar owners should reduce the amount of artificial illumination used during the non-breeding season and progressively increase it as pairing-up approaches. It was great advice, and I’m sure many readers took it. It was simple logic. Don’t wild birds grow into breeding shape every year as the days lengthen?

This information was elaborated upon during a visit to Dr Alf Robertson in Durban, who is widely regarded as South Africa’s most successful budgerigar breeder of all time. His medical understanding and the superb manner he presented the topic completed the puzzle. He described how light affects the glandular system of our birds.

He highlighted how light affects the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain, and how this crucial component of the body gives our birds the ability to procreate effectively.

Most bird breeders are aware of these facts. However, although many individuals adjust the amount of time their lights are turned on according to the season, others do not. Those who keep their lights on from early morning to late at night all year appear to fare just as well, despite their unscientific method.

Regardless of how successful we are, most of us believe we could do better – that is, produce more chicks, particularly from the top couples. This was the topic of my conversation with Fred Eatwell and his son, Kevin, a vet in Swindon, Wiltshire, last year. We covered the normal range of issues, such as health, cleanliness, and proper diet. However, one topic that came up stayed with me long after Fred and Kevin had gone home – the intensity of light, not only the amount of time artificial light is turned on each day. These breeders credit their success, at least in part, to the intensity of the artificial illumination in their breeding chamber.

They employ all-wire cages separated into groups, with fluorescent bulbs running vertically between blocks on the breeding room’s rear wall. This implies that all of their partners live in a far brighter environment than the majority of people. I must confess that I had not considered raising the quantity of artificial lights in my breeding chamber until Kevin recommended it.

It wasn’t until I decided to explore and installed three extra tubes on the ceiling at the front of my birdroom, followed by two more at waist height for the benefit of my bottom row of cages, that the difference in illumination became apparent.

Breeders have previously claimed that couples confined in cages with the least amount of light perform best. It would be tough to show whether or not this is true. What I am recommending is that breeders whose outcomes leave something to be desired should consider the quantity of illumination in their breeding facilities.

I started with three 5ft fluorescent tubes and now have eight. The area not only appears nicer, but the birds seem to be more active as well. It remains to be seen if I will produce additional young in the next season. Hopefully, the experiment will be well worth the time and effort.

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