We relocated from south Florida to a little hamlet 250 miles north of the state at the beginning of last winter. Moving the family and all of our belongings was not the priority. The difficulty that kept us up at night for months previous to the transfer was how to securely transport and temporarily house our collection of over 400 birds.
Surprisingly, the birds handled the relocation and climatic shift better than we did. Our new property has ten gorgeous tree-shaded acres ready for the construction of big aviaries to house our flock. We have been lucky enough to be able to offer them with temporary refuge in a thirty by sixty foot metal structure used as a store by the prior owners while the aviaries are constructed.
We used chains to hang the majority of the cages from the rafters. The circumstances was not perfect, but the majority of the birds fared well. My collection of roughly 150 cockatiels was a little more crowded in the flying cages I could put into the restricted area, but they were safe and dry. The structure was not heated, but since temperatures in this section of Florida do not get too cold, their refuge sufficed.
Although their temporary house featured many skylights, we supplemented the lighting with Vita Lite fluorescent lamps. When the weather warmed up, we were able to wire in the two sides of the structure that had sliding doors and add exhaust fans to improve ventilation. The facility was still excessively hot, but providing air conditioning was impractical.
The noise level was something we couldn’t change. The acoustics of the all-metal structure accentuated the cries of the giant macaws and cockatoos, as well as the harsh chattering of the conures. The birds were crammed into a small space and were way too close together.
I kept a tight eye on my cherished cockatiel collection. They were eating, but not enough to maintain their previous weight, even with the addition of several special goodies. They seemed sluggish. The flights were rather quiet. I had many cultures taken to rule out bacterial illness. I offered them vitamin pills, something I had never considered essential previously. Their feathers remained dingy and drab. Only minor mistings were possible since we had coated the cement floor under the cages with shavings. My lovely exhibition birds no longer seemed to be ready for competition.
Willy, my African Gray, has a favorite expression in which he repeats “What’s wrong?” with a melancholy, concerned voice. I immediately understood that these birds were not unwell as I stood in front of a bunch of my cockatiels, Willy’s comments running through my thoughts. They were just dissatisfied!
They were disturbed by the loudness and the closeness of the bigger birds. They’d grown up in a remote aviary that was exposed to the sun and surrounded by waving palms and flowering hibiscus. They were used to bathing in summer showers at the tail end of their trips. This new setting was nothing like home. They were resistant to the shift.
My instinct was to get them away from that massive, loud structure and onto a calm location shaded by many large oak trees. It was necessary to first create some protection from the all-day rains. Possums, foxes, and snakes have been seen in the nearby woods. They also need some protection from wild animals. We had to consider these essential demands before making the transfer, even if we were only staying for a short time.
A trip to the local flea market supplied the answer to the problem of shelter. We discovered a form of temporary carport that could be constructed in less than an hour and readily disassembled for storage. It was made out of brackets that were supposed to support lengths of conduit pipe, forming a basic A frame construction. A plastic tarp was secured with ropes twisted through gimlets. The ten by twenty foot model cost less than $150.
The conduit legs were driven approximately two feet into the earth. Our building was unaffected by a couple heavy wind storms. We supported the cages using four-foot-high supports to keep them off the ground. We had no issues with visiting animals.
The awning over the cages did not interfere with the summer winds. Even on the warmest days, this wonderful area was shielded from the blazing heat by the dappled shade of the trees. When the summer rains weren’t enough, having the cages open to the ground made periodic misting of the birds a breeze.
The cockatiels first seemed agitated as a result of another abrupt shift in their habitat. They were responding positively in three to four days. They started to eat well, and the weight increase was obvious even without the use of a scale. Their feathers got brighter and smoother. Best of all, they soared about the cages, chirping and whistling as they played with their long-forgotten toys. They were pleased and cheerful. It was fascinating to see how this altered their physical look. Even once they’ve settled into their new aviary, I may let them out beneath the trees for summer camp.
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