BIRD ISSUE FIFTY TWO: AUTUMN 2021
THE MAGAZINE FOR HOBBYIST BREEDERS AND CONSERVATIONISTS
BREEDING GREATER BLUE EARED GLOSSY STARLINGS
HOMEMADE AVIARY COLOSSUS
W IN 6T TER H E D D 20 ECE ITIO 21 M N BE O R UT
BY RAY HOLLAND
AS THINGS ARE KEEPING IN TOUCH WITH OTHER BIRD KEEPERS, SEEING OTHERS’ BREEDING RESULTS AND GENERALLY HAVING A CATCH-UP IS JUST ABOUT IMPOSSIBLE.
WHY NOT TRY THE PSUK FACEBOOK PAGE’S ‘COMMUNITY’ AREA? POST SOME PICTURES, ASK FOR ADVICE, SHOW OFF YOUR SUCCESSES (AND FAILURES), LET PEOPLE KNOW WHAT YOU’RE KEEPING AND HOW THEY ARE GETTING ON.
GIVE IT A TRY!’
CONTENTS BIRD SCENE: AUTUMN 2021
THE NATIONAL EXHIBITION IS GOING AHEAD! By Les Rance
BREEDING GREATER BLUE EARED GLOSSY STARLINGS Ray Holland
ZEBRA FINCHES By Ken Lockwood and Gerald Massey
ON THE COVER
BIRD ISSUE FIFTY TWO: AUTUMN 2021
THE MAGAZINE FOR HOBBYIST BREEDERS AND CONSERVATIONISTS
BREEDING GREATER BLUE EARED GLOSSY STARLINGS
BY RAY HOLLAND
ZEBRA FINCHES HOMEMADE AVIARY COLOSSUS
HOMEMADE AVIARY COLOSSUS By Dot Schwarz
CLICK THE LINK BELOW:
DONATE TO OUR CONSERVATION FUND…
IN 6T TER H ED D 20 ECEMITIO 21 BERN
USING STABLE ISOTOPE ANALYSIS TO DETECT ILLEGAL TRADE IN YELLOW-CRESTED COCKATOOS AND OTHER PSITTACINES Dr David Waugh
BIRD SCENE: Issue Fifty Two: Autumn 2021 BIRD SCENE is run by The Parrot Society UK, Audley House, Northbridge Road, Berkhamsted HP4 1EH, England. FOR SALES AND EDITORIAL ENQUIRES Telephone or Fax: 01442 872245 Website: www.theparrotsocietyuk.org / E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org The views expressed by contributors to this magazine are not those of The Parrot Society UK unless otherwise explicitly stated
BIRD SCENE 3
Les Rance, Editor, The Parrot Society UK | www.theparrotsocietyuk.org | les.rance@
n the introduction to the summer edition of Bird Scene I wrote about the difficulties we were experiencing obtaining parrots and parakeets. I do not wish to go into that again as you can read about it in the Bird Scene archive. However, as we have moved three months on and are rapidly approaching The National Exhibition at Stafford County Showground on 3rd October it will be interesting to see how many birds will be offered for sale at this prestige event. My personal experience is that there is still quite a shortage of both parrots and parakeets and there have been some quite staggering increases in prices. What has been good news is that there appear to be few Covid-19 related problems affecting shows at present and October appears likely to be free of difficulties for show organisers, the Parrot Society is, however, still recommending that visitors to The National Exhibition wear a face covering. The great thing is that we have a show on, after missing these enjoyable events throughout 2020. I am delighted with the numbers of people booking tables and the early entry wrist bands are also attracting plenty of orders from the eligible Parrot Society members, there is no doubt that being able to enter the Show halls at 7.30am and get the opportunity to purchase the best birds is a very real member benefit. As we enter the autumn period we must turn our attention to ensuring that our birds that will be going through their annual moult are provided with the best
food we can provide for them whilst they grow new feathers, this is possibly the most demanding time of year for our birds and we should do everything we can to ensure they have good volumes of nutritious food so that they can regrow their feathers quickly. We then need to worm all our stock, there is no point in spending out on good food only to be feeding those parasitic worms living in the intestines of our birds – worming is a very important task. Also at this time of year watch out for ticks which attach themselves between the shoulder blades or on the head of their victim. Where I have my aviaries, there is a large beech hedge close to 12 flights, I think the ticks climb up the hedge and then jump onto the roof of an aviary, then carefully walk down towards a perching bird, presumably at night before climbing onto their victim and gorging themselves on the blood of the victim. Dogs and cats can stand high numbers of ticks on them, as they have become immune to the toxin that the adult tick injects into its victim to stop the blood from coagulating, tropical birds that have only been in this country for 200 years have not developed this immunity and only one adult tick can easily kill a large tropical bird. So study the head and shoulder area of your birds and if you see any raised feathering catch it up and make sure there is not a tick attached. In this issue we have a very interesting article from David Waugh ‘Using stable isotope analysis to detect illegal trade in Yellow-crested Cockatoos and other
BY THE EDITOR
psittacines’ and an article reprinted with the approval of ABK Publications and Australian BirdKeeper Magazine by Dot Schwarz ‘ Homemade Aviary Colossus’. Also in this issue we have a pictorial review of past National Exhibitions as the event that was due to be held at Stafford County Showground on Sunday 6th October 2020 unfortunately had to be cancelled due to Coronavirus that started in March 2020. The images taken by our Designer Neil Randle are excellent and allow readers of this publication, who may not have been able to attend this event, a real insight into the day. So really quite a lot for you to read and hopefully pick up some pointers that may well assist you with whatever species of birds you currently maintain. This is now the fifty-second edition of Bird Scene, how quickly nine and three quarter years can pass when you are working on a project – the first FREE on-line bird magazine produced in the UK. At 48 pages this is quite a big read! Every time we post the Parrot Society magazine I cringe at the cost. Postal costs appear to have increased far faster than inflation and if The Royal Mail are not careful they will find that their income will reduce even further as people and businesses send less and less by conventional means. A price increase to 85p for a First Class letter became effective on 1st January 2021. With CPI inflation now running around 3.5%, costs continue to rise. These costs obviously affect
bird clubs when the show schedules have to be posted to potential exhibitors and equally it affects the exhibitors when they return their entries. In addition how much longer will bird clubs be able to afford to post magazines to their members? This must be a great worry to many club officials. Fortunately with an e-magazine we do not have this problem, or for that matter the cost of colour printing. As a result of increases to the costs of both postage and printing I am really pleased that we decided to produce Bird Scene as a FREE e-magazine. We have learnt a great deal over the past nearly ten years about this way of communicating with bird enthusiasts and I am sure that this knowledge will become more and more valuable as we see further increases in costs to paper magazines. We are always happy to receive articles about the species that are being exhibited at The National and are very pleased to give publicity to the club supplying the information. Regular readers will know that Bird Scene has been produced to publicise The National Exhibition held each year (Covid-19 restrictions excepted) at our October Sale Day/Show at Stafford County Showground. This publication is also used to promote our Conservation efforts for threatened parrots in the wild. An archive of earlier editions of Bird Scene can be found on the Home Page of our website www.theparrotsocietyuk.org so if you would like to see earlier versions please do look at the Bird Scene archive.
Dr. David Waugh
Correspondent, Loro Parque Fundación
BY DAVID WAUGH
USING STABLE ISOTOPE ANALYSIS TO DETECT ILLEGAL TRADE IN YELLOW-CRESTED COCKATOOS AND OTHER PSITTACINES 06
Free-living adult Yellow-crested Cockatoo in flight. © Charles Lam/CC BY-SA
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Free-living adult Yellowcrested Cockatoo feeding on unripe seed-pods. © Charles Lam/CC BY-SA 2.0
any countries have laws in place to protect wildlife, including legislation related to being signatories to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). However, it is often difficult to distinguish between wild species (and their products) which have been obtained legally or illegally. Those intent on circumventing the law can use the cover of existing legal trade in wild species to try to launder illegal specimens. Unfortunately, this is a common problem for many aspects of wildlife trade and affects a wide variety of wildlife, including parrots of course.
What can be done to tackle the problem? Well, little by little, methods are being developed which can identify the source of a specimen, not only captive or wild, but also the geographical region where a specimen was removed from the wild. One of these methods is stable isotope analysis, which has been recently used to distinguish Yellow-crested Cockatoos (Cacatua sulphurea) of wild or captive origen. This species of cockatoo is ‘Critically Endangered’ in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, and therefore needs all the help it can get. The Loro Parque Fundación has been supporting an important project of Manchester
FEATURE Metropolitan University and BirdLife International, led by field biologist Anna Reuleaux, to define as precisely as possible the current situation of the Yellow-crested Cockatoo wild population in Indonesia. Given that one of the major pressures on the species is capture and trade, stable isotope analysis of origin can be a powerful forensic tool to help authorities to reduce this threat. A brief explanation of this analytical tool involves some rudimentary physics. Isotopes are atoms of the same element, carbon for example, that have a different number of neutrons in the nucleus, and hence their atomic mass (weight) is different. Thus, any element that has isotopes will have lighter and heavier
ones. Isotope analysis is the measurement, with a mass spectrometer, of the ratios of naturally occurring stable isotopes. Stable isotopes do not exhibit radioactivity and do not decay into something else. The relative abundance of isotopes with respect to each other varies significantly with geographical location. The elements and their isotopes at a given place enter the food chain and hence get incorporated into the tissues of living organisms. Hence, for an unknown sample, if the relative abundance of isotopes of a particular element is determined (its isotopic signature), it becomes possible to predict the geographical origin of that sample by matching it with reference values. The isotopes most commonly used in forensic
… little by little, methods are being developed which can identify the source of a specimen, not only captive or wild, but also the geographical region where a specimen was removed from the wild. Orange-crested Cockatoo (C. s. citrinocristata) under human care. © Loro Parque Fundación
science of this type are frequently of the elements carbon (12C and 13C), nitrogen (14N and 15N) and hydrogen (1H and 2H). To help monitor and regulate trade of the Yellow-crested Cockatoo, researchers at the University of Hong Kong tested the applicability stable isotope analysis to distinguish between specimens of captive and wild origin (Andersson et al., 2021). Global trade in wild-caught Yellow-crested cockatoos was banned in 2002 but sale of captive-bred individuals is still permitted. The researchers surveyed Hong Kong markets to reveal that more Yellow-crested Cockatoos were for sale in 2017–2018 than the total number recorded as legally imported over the previous 13 years. Using stable isotope analysis of carbon and nitrogen, the researchers established the isotope ratios in known plant foods of the wild diet, and commercially available foods of the captive diet. They found almost no overlap in the separate isotope signatures of wild and captive diets. The researchers then analysed samples of feathers taken from Yellow-crested Cockatoos of known origin, and revealed an almost complete alignment of wild birds with wild diet
1. A plot of 13C against 15N showing the separation of values for wild foods and commercial foods for captive birds, and the parallel separation of values in feathers from wild and captive cockatoos. © Andersson et al, 2021 2. Graphs comparing values of 13C in four amino acids between wild and captive cockatoos. © Andersson et al, 2021
The researchers surveyed Hong Kong markets to reveal that more Yellow-crested Cockatoos were for sale in 2017–2018 than the total number recorded as legally imported over the previous 13 years. Using stable isotope analysis of carbon and nitrogen, the researchers established the isotope ratios in known plant foods of the wild diet, and commercially available foods of the captive diet. and captive birds with captive diet. These results came from bulk stable isotope analysis, that’s to say from the tissues in general. However, in cases where the bulk isotope analysis was ambiguous, the researchers showed that compound-specific stable isotope analysis, which provides carbon isotope values in specific amino acids, can be applied. They found six amino acids that differed significantly between captive and wild samples, with valine being the most informative. Another group of researchers based at the University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa have previously shown the usefulness of stable isotope analysis as a forensic tool for monitoring and reducing trade in African Grey Parrots (Psittacus erithacus)(Alexander et al., 2018). This is another threatened species for which
the Loro Parque Fundación has supported conservation projects in Cameroon and Ghana. These researchers measured stable isotope values (13C, 15N and 2H) in different African Grey Parrots and determined standardization values for feather types, for example wing primaries and tail, for comparing individuals. 13 C and 2H values differed between known wild and captive individuals, and 13C and 2H
values in feathers from a consignment of 100 deceased African Grey Parrots closely matched those of known wild birds. The research clearly shows that stable isotope analysis can be an important forensic tool to help combat illegal trade of Yellow-crested Cockatoos and African Grey Parrots, and has the potential to be expanded to other psittacine species threatened by wildlife trade. Wild-caught African Grey Parrot kept as a pet in Ghana. © Nat Annorbah
References • Andersson, A.A., Gibson, L., Baker, D.M., Cybulski, J.D., Wang, S., Leung, B., Chu, L.M. and Dingle, C. (2021) Stable isotope analysis as a tool to detect illegal trade in critically endangered cockatoos. Animal Conservation. https://doi.org/10.1111/acv.12705 • Alexander, J., Downs, C., Butler, M., Woodborne, S. and Symes, C. (2018). Stable isotope analyses as a forensic tool to monitor illegally traded African grey parrots. Animal Conservation. 22: 134-143. 10.1111/acv.12445.
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HOMEMADE AVIARY COLOSSUS
BY DOT SCHWARZ
Spot the macaw—the aviary complex that Dot Schwarz, supported by her late husband, Wal, developed as a parrot refuge Below: The first sections of the aviary in 2003 that were added to over five years
y aim was to create an outdoor aviary environment that would stimulate and enrich the birds’ lives and be spacious enough for me to spend leisure time inside training, playing with them or simply watching them. My
two pet Congo African Greys— Artha (female) and Casper (male)—were used to spending sunny days in a homemade outdoor flight measuring 1m x1m x 2m. I wanted more space for them to use their wings. Noticing that they didn’t chew the
Top: The aviary in autumn 2008 Above: The aviary in summer 2020
wooden framework enough to weaken the structure, an idea gradually emerged to extend the flight using wood. Metal aviary panels were too costly for the sort of size I wanted.
AVIARY DEVELOPMENT The next question was where to put a large aviary? The lawn would have too little shade. We live in a bungalow with an acre of garden in an Essex village. Next to the front gate stands an ancient mixed hedge, several of its trees grown into full-sized oak and beech. So, I hoped that with an aviary here the birds could imagine that they were living under a forest canopy with plenty of dappled shade and sunshine. As elderly and not particularly
competent DIY-ers, we luckily had the help of more professional friends. The first area we enclosed was 20m x15m and 4m high at the centre. We made a double door and even accommodated some of the oak branches into the aviary. We buried a 20cm wire underground to protect against rats. That first section appeared a success at the start. My ambitions grew and I added another section. When local parrot people realised I had such a large space, I was offered and accepted various rehomes or rescues. The local zoo gave me a pair of wild-caught Orange-winged Amazons, already aged when they arrived. The male bird died a decade later and the female four years after him. It was a privilege to have the care of them for those years. We used wooden poles and beams in construction. Obviously, metal would have been more practical but it was much more costly. Cost of wood is less and the appearance is nicer. Annual painting with preservative takes a couple of days. The two longest posts we could buy were 4m high. They would be the roof’s high points. A builder friend cemented in the supports and stretched the rolls of wire across. He used a heavy-duty staple gun to attach the wire netting to the wooden posts. I tied in hundreds (or was it thousands?) of wire twists, attaching the rolls to the support wires. (This must
One alarming incident raised our awareness. Where the branches of an oak were incorporated into the structure with only a single layer of wire, one branch moved in a storm, allowing a gap for the male rosella to slip through and enjoy two nights of liberty! count as one of the most tedious tasks imaginable.) What was to be much more fun, apart from providing cups of tea, was designing and making the aviary fittings. FIRST SECTION The first section of the aviary went through its first winter well. It contained the Greys in the daytime and 24/7 the poultry, and five rescue parrots, Mirt, my Timneh, and a pair of cockatiels and a pair of rosellas. One alarming incident raised our awareness. Where the branches of an oak were incorporated into the structure with only a single layer of wire, one branch moved in a storm, allowing a gap for the male rosella to slip through and enjoy two nights of liberty! We closed up the passageway and double-wired it. The rosella was caught at night while he roosted against the exterior wire, and returned to the aviary.
Over a five-year period, I continued adding sections to the first one. So, at the end of 2020 the whole aviary was 35m long with three main sections and two smaller ones at the far end. There is a 20m-long side aviary and four internal flights that can be shut off. Three years ago, we moved the poultry into a separate 5m x 5m section, which can be useful if a parrot comes for holiday boarding. The sections all interconnect and can be opened or shut as needed. ENTRANCES AND WALLS I believe you must have double doors of some sort. I have four—one at each end and one in the middle. The central one has hooks for items needed in the aviary—wire, scissors, millet sprays, gloves, etc. In the cold season, from November to March, we protect the side walls by insulating them with sheets of clear plastic. There is no external heating provided but plenty of windbreaks. In the middle of the aviary, there is a flap between the flights. When the aviary was first built, the species were mixed but now I keep the larger parrots away from the smaller species. So, two macaws and the parrots are housed in one half and the parakeets in the other. The height of the aviary is important— the higher the better as birds love the highest parts. It is good to cover this for weather protection.
GROUND COVERING Originally we left the ground bare but it grew muddy. I covered it with straw—a disaster! The straw became rain-sodden and impossible to shift. The solution was to hire a shredder, use branches from pruning and make a large heap of woodchips. These last for two seasons and then have to be replaced. The woodchips cover the floor area and the droppings appear to easily decompose. In more recent sections, I’ve used pebbles. The paths are paving stones which can be swept easily. PLANTS AND TREES You can grow plants inside the aviary but be careful what you choose. Contrary to accepted belief, the parrots have not destroyed everything. I mostly use plants unfriendly to beaks, such as ilex, conifers, yucca and mahonia. They are thriving. Conifers provide roosting places and are not destroyed. Palms will survive through the English winter if you wrap them in fleece, and the parrots don’t use the leaves for browsing and can’t perch on palm leaves, so they make good aviary subjects. Eucalyptus, mimosa and bamboo sustain greater beak damage but will survive. The parakeets love to bathe in wet bamboo leaves after rain. Some of the bamboo, now nearly 20 years old, reaches the roof. Clumps of bamboo are planted outside the mesh and join together.
You can grow plants inside the aviary but be careful what you choose. Contrary to accepted belief, the parrots have not destroyed everything. I mostly use plants unfriendly to beaks, such as ilex, conifers, yucca and mahonia. They are thriving. I have planted herbs and flowers, but they get chomped up too fast for anyone to enjoy their colours and scents. The parakeets and Perdy cockatoo are enthusiastic ground-foragers and simply strip flowers. But plants are forgiving. Alatu, the Princess Parrot, adored privet so much that in one week she stripped the whole bush bare. But the twigs sent out new leaves and the bush is flowering this summer. Jasmine and Virginia creeper, which took several years to establish, now cover whole sections of the exterior wire. They also send shoots through the wire inside but are not chewed. Roses, philadelphus and jasmine, planted outside the aviary, scent the interior beautifully in season. Experience shows which plants birds will allow to grow. Two Eucalyptus trees survived a dozen years until a hard frost killed them. I have planted a young one this year and will protect it with fleece this winter. You can protect plants with netting until they are large enough to survive.
Top: Protected section housing various mediumsized parrots in winter 2006 Above: Insulation from the easterly winds installed and plantings doing well in summer 2012
AVIARY FITOUT Not much power comes into the aviary. We have low-energy bulbs—one in each section. Water comes from a rainwater butt filled from a hosepipe. Since the roof is mostly uncovered, the birds bathe frequently within bamboo leaves and fir tree
branches, as well as the basins set out for them. There is an insulated shed at one end. I always expect the parakeets to roost there but they never do, preferring to roost in the fir trees. (The macaws and parrots are taken indoors at night.) Fittings are all homemade from recycled materials— mirrors from junk shops are popular with conures and kakariki. The parrots never look in them. Perches are made from fruit tree branches or dowel screwed onto flat pieces of wood which are then screwed into the wall supports. This makes them very easy to unscrew and replace with fresh wood. Although the aviary is built under mature trees, Essex suffers from east winds. The back wall of the aviary is hung with cane, hazelwood and hawthorn screening which comes in 10m rolls from our local hardware store and cuts out the worst of the winds. I took a gamble as to whether the birds would wreck it—they don’t, and it looks extremely natural. Branches are replaced every few months because they become chewed and soiled, and fresh branches look very attractive. Trunks of dead trees 2–3m are dug into the ground and replaced when chewed or soiled. 20
Top: Mina, the Military Macaw on her personal feed station
ENRICHMENT Swings and Toys To have plenty of swings in a large aviary provides not only the birds but the carer with endless fascination, watching how the residents use them and how each individual bird shows a particular preference. The easiest to replace are broom handles and plastic or metal chains or ropes. Rubber tyres make cheap swings,
as do inner tubes. Ship ropes last for years, but check all ropes for fraying, etc. Toys should be inspected regularly and changed often. Accidents can and do happen. Baskets are the most popular toy. I have a regular supply of Moses baskets from op and charity shops which provide several months of enjoyment for the birds to play in and destroy. Most toys I buy are baby objects from such shops. Wreaths made of twisted willow branches last for several months.
Diet Fir cones, the birds’ favourite toy and snack, come free from local woods. Willow and fir branches come from our own garden and provide endless occupation for chewing. Dishes are all stainless steel as plastic gets slimy out of doors. I find that the more food stations I put up, the more the birds like it. Filling up bowls and threading apples onto skewers through the interior wire is timeconsuming but worth it. It prevents
Sunflower is an enjoyed foraging treat
arguments and it is fun to watch how the birds forage for their food. I feed fresh fruit or vegetables and pulses in the morning, and parrot and Cockatiel mixtures in the afternoons. Wasps and hover flies were a plague last summer but of limited duration and can be controlled with old-fashioned jam jars filled with sugar water. Weeds are welcomed by all the birds—dandelion, chickweed, rosehips, berries and whatever I find in the hedgerows and flowerbeds. I have flat water dishes for bathing and steel bowls attached to the inner wire. I don’t change water every day but put a few drops of vinegar in it.
BREEDING The aviary was not conceived as a breeding venture. However, over time, I’ve let enthusiastic couples breed. This has meant that they have had to be separated from the main flock during nesting and fledging as the other parrots, even of the same species, interact with serious and even fatal consequences. My two pairs of Orange-winged Amazons never bred, nor did Artha and Casper, my original Greys but there have been parakeet chicks of various species. The two macaws are now bonded, so perhaps in 2021…?
1 Aged Amazons rest within natural camouflage 2 Parrots bathe in rain 3 Ship ropes last for over 40 years… but check for fraying regularly
ADVANTAGES & DISADVANTAGES Positives • I have seats, wooden benches and folding plastic chairs in each section, so I can sit and enjoy my birds. • I have training perches which can be moved around and a small ladder. • Most parrot poo is assimilated into the soil. Rain washes off most perches. • The double entry doors make escape unlikely. (Sadly, not impossible.) • Everything is set up pointing towards the middle of the aviary, so the birds almost never hang on the exterior wire. • Having so much in each section to engage the birds means they have to make a lot of curving flights, thus increasing their activity. When we built the first section, our friend who offered to do most of the work suggested that galvanised chicken wire was strong enough for the roof and most of the walls. He convinced me. So far, nearly 20 years later, his decision has worked out. There is no rust and no holes, but I would advise using a heavier gauge. Perhaps because there’s so much interest inside the aviary, none of the birds have chewed through—not even the macaws.
Drawbacks • The mixed species do not always get along. Fights, injuries and deaths have occurred. • The whole aviary effect is messy because it has been homebuilt under budget constraints. Despite installing a
Above: It is amazing what inexpensive items you can find in op shops—like this wreath made of twisted willow branches that provides entertainment for birds. Always ensure items are safe to chew, are not poisonous and do not contain heavy metals
concrete apron 50cm deep and 10cm thick set underground, which we put in six years ago, I haven’t eliminated rats. Better aviary planning could eliminate predators. A concrete floor and a brick wall would be the best. • There is much more physical work in the upkeep of a large homemade wooden aviary like I have, rather than a smaller, more conventional metal structure with a cement floor. Not having the cement 24
floor was our major mistake. • The wooden supports are chewed somewhat. The solution is to tack small pieces of wire over places that the birds chew and touch up exposed wood every few months. • Keeping the ground clear of debris isn’t possible. Once a week I have a good clean-out—I rake up droppings, wet straw from the poultry house and uneaten food rinds.
Right: African Grey Parrot Arta loves the tyre swing
CONCLUSION The aviary is my hobby not ‘just’ for the birds. I enjoy making swings, perches, toys and hidey holes. ‘Enrichment’ is the buzz word in parrot care. An aviary gives boundless scope for recycling any amount of found objects. Beachcombing takes on a new meaning. As most of my birds are rescues or rehomes, they often do not survive more than a few years, and I grieve for them. However, quite often a
flightless parrot which was relinquished for biting can be rehabilitated, relearn to fly in a large friendly space and find another pet home. Parrots are such active creatures that it seems sad when their environment—particularly outdoor aviaries—contains too few activities for their lively minds and bodies. BIRD SCENE
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am really pleased to report that The National Exhibition is ON and at present I am busy dealing with the myriad of background tasks to ensure that both our Sale Day and the Exhibition of birds goes as well as it can following our last event in 2019. Let us hope that Sunday 3rd October 2021 will be an exciting and enjoyable event for us all. We seem to have taken an age to get to where we are now, with the most used phrase being ‘we will have to wait and see’, well that is all over now and we are nearly at the time when we can all get
back together and see all those wonderful exhibits again. As the 2020 National Exhibition had to be cancelled due to Coronavirus I have asked our designer Neil Randle to trawl through the ten years of National Exhibition images and send us some memories from the past. I do hope you enjoy his selection. Every year Neil takes around 1,000 pictures at the show so there is no shortage of images for him to select from. Now that we can start holding shows again at Stafford please remember that The National Exhibition for
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the Exhibition of Show birds is held in the Sandylands Centre and the Argyle Centre, when you enter the showground with your birds you need to turn left and drive to the left-hand side of the complex. The numbers of clubs exhibiting birds this year will be down to 12 from the normal 18 but I am sure there will be some very good birds on Show. By buying prepaid entry wrist bands from your Show Secretary when you submit your entry forms, you enter the two Show halls quickly after 7.30 am. The sale of hobbyist breeding stock both from our member’s and non-member’s tables who can sell finches, canaries and budgerigars
but no other members of the parrot family is always very well supported with over 640 tables in the Bingley Hall and Prestwood Centre. A large number of hobbyist bred stock always finds new homes from the buyers who come in large numbers to our events. The National Exhibition is the leading and most popular bird show held in this country for hobbyist bird breeders, not just because of the sales tables but also the Exhibition that is held in the Argyle and Sandylands Centres. There is something for everyone available from the 60+ traders who so generously support this event, especially from our sponsor
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Johnston & Jeff Ltd the leading UK seed supplier. The exhibition in the Argyle and Sandylands Centres organised with the assistance of the 12 clubs that support this event continues to receive plenty of entries, may this be the case for many years to come. These enthusiasts work so hard to construct the staging from midday on the Saturday and take in many entries in the late afternoon and Saturday
evening. This judged event will be as popular as ever in the future, with many high class birds on view. A crystal glass rose bowl has been donated by The Parrot Society for best bird in Show and by Steve Roach of Rosemead Aviaries for the best junior exhibit, their generous donations for these valuable awards is always very much appreciated. Cage and Aviary Birds give the Exhibition a special supplement in their publication so that
THE NATIONAL, GOING AHEAD! - THE NATIONAL, GOING AHEAD! -
GOING AHEAD! - THE NATIONAL, GOING AHEAD! - THE NATIONAL, GOING AHEAD! FEATURE
all their readers are aware of which clubs to contact to enter their exhibition stock into the Show. Again Neil Randle our magazine designer will take over a 1,000 images on the day so that we have plenty of images for the next twelve months. Please do enjoy the pictures on the following pages. In 2021 the Show will be held on Sunday 3rd October and will follow similar lines to the 2019 event but more use will be made
of the Prestwood Centre to house the stands of such supporters as The Australian Finch Society, The Bengalese Fanciers Association, The Waxbill Finch Society and Java Sparrow Society. Within the two exhibition halls there is always a great buzz of chatter and excitement, it is always a pleasure just to stand there and absorb the environment and listen to people enjoying themselves and promoting their hobby.
- THE NATIONAL, GOING AHEAD! - THE NATIONAL, GOING AHEAD!
ARTICLE BY: RAY HOLLAND
t one of the Stafford shows I managed to buy five Glossy Starlings. One was a Purple Glossy which turned out to be a cock and the rest Blue-eared Glossy Starlings, some of which appeared to be slightly larger and the others smaller with a greener sheen. They were all housed together for some months in a fairly large aviary
BREEDING GREATER BLUE EARED GLOSSY STARLINGS (LAMPROTORNIS CHALYBAEUS) SUCCESSES & MISTAKES with Sumatran Laughing Thrushes. The Laughing Thrushes were quite well behaved with the Starlings, but the latter would often squabble amongst themselves and pick on various individuals in turn. It soon 32
became apparent that I had a dominant pair, the cock being slightly larger than the hen. The two of them would bow and scrape to each other making little squeaks and for the most part being very friendly, although on occasions even these two would squabble. I was fairly confident I had a breeding pair, so gave them an aviary to themselves approximately 16ft x 5ft covered except for the end which is
open to the elements and faces east. Two nest boxes were provided one open fronted and the other a Parakeet type with bob hole – this one was put in at a slight angle and was the one they chose to lay their first clutch of three eggs in, in late May. Dried grasses, evergreen leaves, moss and feathers were used to build the nest. I feed them on standard softbill food, pellets of various types and
flavours, chopped fruit, sweetcorn, wax moth larvae and mealworms. For some reason they do not appear to be very interested in crickets which surprised me. All three eggs hatched, but how long incubation had taken I could not be certain since the young were very quiet in the nest, but you knew something was happening by the constant coming and going of the parents. Upon inspection I found three very small chicks so increased the feed to three or four hour intervals for the first week using mini mealworms to start with and later added wax moth larvae. After about ten days the parents were observed picking up nesting material, particularly feathers and from previous experience this was an ominous sign of something going wrong, the parents wanting to nest again!! I checked the box and could find only one healthy youngster, about ten days old, the others had just disappeared. They may have been covered by the fresh nesting material or just thrown out of the nest box. At this time we were experiencing an unusually prolonged spell of really hot weather and this, together with a plentiful supply of live food may have been the spur to produce again, before finishing the first clutch. I decided to be positive and took the
I feed them on standard softbill food, pellets of various types and flavours, chopped fruit, sweetcorn, wax moth larvae and mealworms. For some reason they do not appear to be very interested in crickets which surprised me. All three eggs hatched, but how long incubation had taken I could not be certain since the young were very quiet in the nest, but you knew something was happening by the constant coming and going of the parents.
remaining youngster away for hand rearing which we successfully achieved using a hospital cage with low heat, the youngster being placed in a plastic tub with paper towels on the bottom to give grip and part cloth covering to replicate the darkness of nest box conditions. Feeding by syringe and tweezers every 3-4 hours with the last feed about 10.00pm and starting again at 6.00am – not a particularly good regime for those who still have to work I might add. All went well, the youngster got used to the routine after the first 2 or 3 reluctant efforts and was always very excited at the sight of a wax worm. In addition mini mealworms and Orlux
hand mix were used without difficulty and after about another two weeks the bird was fully feathered and trying to fly. In the meantime the parents went down again, laying three eggs; the weather this time was getting back to something more like a normal British summer. In due course two eggs hatched and the parents fed the young very well, almost competing to feed the most food. I would say that the hen was the best, taking bunches of mealworms at one go – the cock usually one at a time. After what seemed to be an age the first youngster appeared at the bobhole, poking its head out to be fed and
at about four weeks both fledged. I had expected them to appear sooner; they were a duller version of the parents and could fly well at this early stage. The young are still with their parents in December and will have to be separated well before the next breeding season starts in the Spring. The two parent reared birds are surprisingly confident and tame, they come out into the service passage way every day for exercise and to pinch as much live food as they can get from my
The two parent reared birds are surprisingly confident and tame, they come out into the service passage way every day for exercise and to pinch as much live food as they can get from my food trolley. They appear fearless and fly at great speed about and around me – typical Starlings, real clowns and very entertaining. Strangely enough the hand reared one from the first round is quite the opposite, not a bit tame but just as hungry.
food trolley. They appear fearless and fly at great speed about and around me – typical Starlings, real clowns and very entertaining. Strangely enough the hand reared one from the first round is quite the opposite, not a bit tame but just as hungry. Due to enforced inactivity (knee op) I was very late in getting all my birds’ flights ready for the breeding season. The Glossy’s nest box was not put in until early May and not as high up as usual, normally near the roof at an angle some 7’ up. It did not make any difference, they began adding to the nesting material and after about 14 days I knew the Hen was laying green/blue eggs, this time three. In the past, when obviously younger, the pair would have four or even five eggs and rear them all. However as they age three seems to be the norm. After about 14 days the eggs hatch and both parents will feed the young with minimealworms, waxworms and crickets which seem to be the mainstay for the fledglings. The general diet for adults and their youngsters is softbill food, Bevo, Beaphar, Bogena, Softbill Pellets both fruit type and insect varieties. They also like plenty of fresh fruit, almost any is acceptable – they are not fussy feeders.
One rather endearing feature of the one youngster family is that they can all catch with aplomb. At feeding time they come out of their flight down the corridor to where I prepare the food and wait on the step. They are rather like a cordon of England cricketers in the slips – seeing who can jump higher than the next to catch the thrown mealworms. Not too long after the youngsters fledged the parents started to take in new nesting material and restart the breeding cycle again, whilst continuing to feed the first round youngsters. Not so clear thinking on my part and lack of aviary space caused the second round to fail when, given better management, they should have survived. The first round youngsters remained in the flight (my mistake!). The nest box should have been replaced or, at least thoroughly cleaned out, before signs of nesting again began (mistake). I did refresh the nest box when the second round young were about 7 days old but it was a messy job. Although two of the young grew and feathered well and even fledged, they were not healthy and nor did they leave the nest box when they should have.
I believe a combination of the aforementioned and the nest box being slightly too small, i.e. 7½“ x 7½“ x 13” and not at a great enough angle were also a contributory factor (mistake). So after what should have been six youngsters only the first round survived to be good healthy birds. Better news from another of my three pairs of Blue Eared Glossys. I retained some youngsters from breeding four years ago and this is the first time they have attempted to breed. Strangely only one egg but this was successfully hatched and reared. This youngster being an ‘only child’ so to speak is a really strong and healthy individual. So after all these years I am pleased with the result. The three birds are still in the flight together – the only difference being the black eyes as opposed to the bright creamy yellow of the parents. Adult eye colour of these birds does vary slightly, some being more orange yellow. One rather endearing feature of the one youngster family is that they can all catch with aplomb. At feeding time they come out of their flight down the corridor to where I prepare the food and wait on the step. They are rather like a cordon of England cricketers in the slips – seeing who can jump higher than the next to catch the thrown mealworms. This little exercise goes
on for some minutes and seems to be enjoyed by everyone, most of all me. One final point on feeding these birds, it seems I may be in the minority here but I continue feeding live food through the winter, although I do try to reduce the amount. I find the insects are a good carrier for the various supplements I give to my birds throughout the year, such as Insectivorous Feast and Daily Essentials 3 for my frugivorius birds like Barbets and Bulbuls. Most of my birds are through the moult now and look in excellent condition. I can thoroughly recommend them, they are real characters, rewarding and great fun to keep. I am keeping two flights empty in
the optimistic hope I will have a successful breeding season with somewhere safe to put all those youngsters. I wish!
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ZEBRA FINCHES BY KEN LOCKWOOD AND GERALD MASSEY
t is always pleasing to hear of people who have decided to take up Zebra finches, whether it is as a collection of birds in a garden aviary or with a view to breeding and – eventually – exhibiting them. From time to time we are approached by newcomers who want to know where to get stock. We are always willing to advise.
There is a tendency for people who are interested in one particular type of bird to ignore the articles about other species. This is a big mistake. Over the years we have learnt a great deal from articles about other branches of the hobby. In an article about budgerigars, Terry Pilkington related how he and his wife’s birds had benefitted from being given filtered water rather than water straight from the tap. However, we firmly believe in putting first things first and council strongly against even beginning to look for birds until an adequate aviary or birdroom has been set up. It is best to build up a fund of knowledge before doing anything at all – and there are several ways of doing this starting with books. In our experience, some of the books available on Zebra finches offer very little in the way of practical advice that can be applied to the fancy in the UK today. We are referring in particular, to some publications from the USA. An admirable book, which we frequently recommend is Chris Blackwell’s ‘Keeping and breeding Zebra finches.’
These days videos have a great deal to offer hobbyists and in our branch of the fancy the best offering is Peter Harrison’s ‘Breeding Zebra Finches step by step.’ Other advice is available from the Zebra Finch Society. Then there is the Cage and Aviary Birds, which not only offers informative articles but also permits readers to keep up to date with what is happening in the fancy. There is a tendency for people who are interested in one particular type of bird to ignore the articles about other species. This is a big mistake. Over the years we have learnt a great deal from articles about other branches of the hobby. In an article about budgerigars, Terry Pilkington related how he and his wife’s birds had benefitted from being given filtered water rather than water straight from the tap. We immediately began giving filtered water to our Zebras, still do and we are convinced that they are the better for it. Before setting up an aviary or birdroom it is best to visit an experienced Zebra finch fancier to get some idea about suitable layouts. Joining your local cage bird society will put you in touch with other bird keepers, but if you find difficulty making your own contacts, you can take advantage of the Zebra Finch Society’s area representative scheme. This
puts you in touch with someone who not only knows a lot about Zebra finches, but also has local knowledge. When starting up in a hobby, people tend to worry about apparent problems that, to the experienced person, are really not important. Being able to get good advice, quickly, can make all the difference.
Even if the birdroom you first visit is large and impressive, we advise starting with a fairly modest set up and to build up from that. It is a mistake to spend lots of money at the outset, just in case you change your mind. Laying out a fortune and then breeding nothing in your first year can be so disheartening as to cause anyone to give up. As individual breeders, our progress, as far as the birdroom size is concerned, was similar. The first birdroom was a 6ft x 4ft shed. The next step was to 6ft x 10ft and then when that was outgrown to 12ft x 8ft. We now both have fairly large establishments, each measuring 12ft x 30ft. If you have no interest in pedigree and do not intend to show your birds, an aviary in which the birds fly freely is ideal – but take advice on how many pairs can be comfortably accommodated in the space available. If your intension is to exhibit, you need to breed your Zebra finches under
controlled conditions and that means having cages, preferably within a birdroom. Once you have your birdroom erected (we will assume it is a timber construction) there are one or two refinements that can make life better for both you and your birds. Lining the walls with hardboard – melamine faces, if you can afford it, will give the room’s interior a pleasing appearance and also make it easier to keep clean. In our view it is essential to insulate the cavity between the outer wall and the lining. We also recommend installing a supply of electricity to the birdroom, though this is not a job to be undertaken by anyone 44
who is not qualified to do it. For everything else, the ‘Do-it-yourself’ approach is acceptable, but electricity is far too dangerous to be messed about with by the amateur. Electric lighting is the main requirement – particularly by anyone who is out at work all day. In the middle of winter, many fanciers go out to work in the dark and by the time they return home it is dark once more. If you want to look after your birds properly and have time to observe them during winter evenings you need extra lights. One of the main considerations, when setting up a birdroom, is to avoid damp and draughts. Zebra finches can withstand
the cold, but if damp and draughts are inflicted upon them it can damage their health. We have found that insulating a birdroom dramatically cuts down internal condensation – an insidious form of damp. With the room’s structure completed, you can now think about cages – their form, size and number. There is no simple answer to the question “How many cages should I start with?” It all depends on your circumstances. Our usual answer is “Having as many as you feel you can handle comfortably.” In practice, for newcomers, that usually translates to something between six and twelve cages. An ideal size for each individual cage unit, for one breeding pair, is 24 inches long x 15 inches high and 15 inches deep. However, single cages are not the best solution. It is far better to have cages that are two or three times that length, which can be converted into individual units by inserting divider slides. Then, the removal of one or two slides can give different permutations of flight cages – up to 6 ft long. These are ideal for housing groups of birds, such as youngsters who are being weaned. As you become more established (and your birdroom gets bigger) inside flights can be installed. So now you are ready to acquire some birds. Another question we are frequently asked is “What are the best colours of
Zebra finches to start with?” In our view, the best colours are the ones you like the best. It would be counterproductive for us to advise getting Normals when the colour that attracted a person to Zebra finches in the first instance was white. To begin with a colour that you are not very keen on is to risk becoming disillusioned. We would like to think that a newcomer to Zebra finches will still be keeping them in 10 years time. On the other hand, a newcomer with no hard and fast preferences might benefit by getting a few different colours and decide which ones he or she likes best after they have gained some experience of breeding them. Having said that, if you start with more than one colour it is best to choose those that can be used for interbreeding, from the exhibition standpoint. For example, Normals go well with Fawns and Chestnut Flanked Whites fit in well with Lightbacks. By contrast, Pieds and
We would like to think that a newcomer to Zebra finches will still be keeping them in 10 years time. On the other hand, a newcomer with no hard and fast preferences might benefit by getting a few different colours and decide which ones he or she likes best after they have gained some experience of breeding them.
As far as the seed is concerned foreign finch mixtures and mixed millets are suitable. We find the most economic and nutritious way of supplying our birds’ seed requirements is to use a millet-rich budgerigar mixture – which also happens to be the cheapest in the suppliers range.
Penguins do not mix. If you were to interbreed with these colours, you would be highly unlikely to breed anything useful and, worse, could be setting back your exhibiting ambitions by some years. Your own local contact or ZFS area representative can be very useful at this stage putting you in touch with breeders who specialise in your chosen colours and have had some success with them. Having read about exhibition Zebrafinches and watched videos you should have some idea of the sort of birds you are looking for, but it is still best to choose a breeder you feel you can trust and ask his advice – particularly about the way the birds you acquire should be paired. We have deliberately left the way you should feed your birds until this point because, if at all possible, you should base your feeding regime on that of the fancier/or fanciers who supplied you with 46
your initial stock. Many will give you small quantities to last a few days until you can arrange for a regular supply. However the basic requirements are a seed mixture, an egg-based softfood, grit and water. As far as the seed is concerned foreign finch mixtures and mixed millets are suitable. We find the most economic and nutritious way of supplying our birds’ seed requirements is to use a milletrich budgerigar mixture – which also happens to be the cheapest in the suppliers range. There are more good proprietary, eggfood mixtures on the market now than there have ever been before. We find it difficult to understand why breeders buy a specifically-balanced product and then add other foods – such as more eggs or carrot – to them. Our grit mixture consists of small mineral grit and oyster shell, in equal quantities. Cuttlefish bone is also provided as are millet sprays. As already explained, we offer filtered tap water. The only additive we feed is a mineral/vitamin supplement that is added to the drinking water at the rate and frequency recommended by the manufacturer. Again there are lots of good products of this type on the market. With a good, balanced diet such as the one we have described we see no reason for feeding other ‘extras’ – home grown, collected from the wild or purchased.
Breeding Zebra Finches One of the many challenges of breeding Zebra finches is that no two breeding seasons are ever alike. For example, in both our birdrooms, at the start of one season we had problems because the birds were too fit. This manifested itself in hens laying another clutch of eggs before they had finished incubating the first. By the second and third breeding rounds came around they had settled down and their breeding behaviour was normal.
We believe that a major reason for the disrupted first round was the weather being unseasonable. The seasons of the year appear to have become mixed up so that we get warmer than usual days in winter and colder than usual days insummer. To some extent, this has always happened but it is becoming the rule rather than the exception. So for the next breeding season we put down most of our pairs to breed in midDecember. The contrast with the previous year was marked. Rather than being BIRD SCENE
paired at the height of condition, our Zebras were put together as they were coming towards that peak. This time, the breeding pairs went about their business steadily and sensibly. Of course, there were a few pairs that did not get off to a good start, but their second round coincided with the timing of last year’s first rounds, so nothing was lost. We were only able to make this early start because our birdrooms are draught and damp free – and equipped with electric lighting and heating. Electric lighting has become an essential for most Zebra finch breeders. With artificial lighting available, those who have to go to work in the daytime can carry out jobs, such as feeding, in the evening, even in the depths of winter. Although you need to study your birds carefully, and make adjustments to get the best out of them, there are breeding basics that remain fairly constant though there is no need to get too anxious just because the timing of a particular phase of the breeding cycle is not exactly to the book. For example, we would expect the first egg to be laid around seven days after pairing, but it can be as soon as four days. In the opposite direction, even a successfully paired hen can take up to three weeks before laying. If no egg appears by that time, we may well come to the conclusion that the birds concerned need to be found new partners or given a rest in the flights.
Although you need to study your birds carefully, and make adjustments to get the best out of them, there are breeding basics that remain fairly constant though there is no need to get too anxious just because the timing of a particular phase of the breeding cycle is not exactly to the book. For example, we would expect the first egg to be laid around seven days after pairing, but it can be as soon as four days. In the opposite direction, even a successfully paired hen can take up to three weeks before laying.
You should not get over anxious, neither can you afford to be complacent. The vast majority of Zebra finches get on well with their breeding partners but, very occasionally , one attacks the other. So there is a need, be it ever so slight, to keep an eye on the pairings until they have settled. Another area which is not an exact science is the time between an egg being laid and hatching. Although the accepted time for the incubation period of a Zebra finch egg is supposed to be 14 days, there are exceptions. Occasionally, one will hatch after only 13 days and, if a hen does not begin incubating from the first egg, it can take a day or two longer. Do not discard fertile eggs just because they have not hatched when a book states that they should have done. We begin feeding slightly dampened softfood to breeding pairs 14 days after the first egg was laid – regardless of hatching or non hatching – and then continue on a daily basis. Softfood that is too wet causes messy parents, chicks and nestboxes and is more likely to turn sour. We stopped feeding bread and milk for this reason and now use one of the good propriety softfoods that are advertised in Cage and Aviary Birds. Because Zebra finch hens lay eggs on successive days, you can usually expect a chick to hatch every day if the hen sat
from the first egg. So with a fair number of eggs in a clutch it is possible to end up with quite a range of chick sizes in the same nestbox. If we feel there is a risk of the youngest chick being squashed or neglected we transfer that chick to a nest that contains chicks nearer its own size. Again do not be too anxious or you will finish up with chicks fostered all around the birdroom and – although you can take the precaution of moving the chick to a pair with different coloured youngsters - too much movement can make accurate important record keeping more difficult than it needs to be. The other time we tend to foster chicks is when there is only one in the nest. Hens seem to feed better when they have a few chicks demanding food, whereas those with only one to look after can become lazy. Anyone who thinks that a single chick, that gets all the attention, will develop more quickly than one in a nest of four has never bred Zebra finches. The other advantage of taking a singleton from the hen is that it lets her get back to producing what will, hopefully, be a full fertile clutch the next time around. The main reason for the nestbox inspections – which are carried out every day once a chick has hatched – is to check that chicks are being properly fed. So we inspect boxes in the evening rather than early in the day before proper feeding has begun.
It is not easy to decide what to do about a hen that appears not to be feeding her chicks properly. If you panic, you can finish up with more chicks being fostered than are with their own parents. In our experience, just because a hen behaves like a poor feeder with one nest of chicks, it does not necessarily mean she will be the same with her next brood. Sometimes a hen neglects her duties because she wants to start laying again. Dirty nestboxes are not easy to account for. The obvious reason would seem to be diet – particularly the softfood. However that does not begin to explain why you can have adjoining pairs, on the same diet, and one nest is dirty and the other one is clean. Even so we have found that cutting back on the amount of softfood being given to a pair with a dirty nest can often overcome the problem. Whatever the cause, nestboxes should never be left dirty. They should be cleaned or replaced. We overcome this by using cardboard nestboxes replacing as necessary. Another area where what the book says and what happens in reality can be in conflict is the timing of close ringing chicks – a must if you intend to exhibit the Zebra finches that you breed. Official rings can be obtained from the Zebra Finch Society. You may read that the Zebra finch chicks should be ringed when they are seven
days old, but it is impossible to be that precise and so the timing should be taken only as a guide and each chick should be judged on its own merits. You can get variations between the sizes of chicks of the same variety, even in the same nest, but the greatest variation in size occurs from variety to variety. You can expect Normals and Fawns to develop most rapidly of all the varieties and so they are usually ringed younger than, say, Penguins and other nonstandards which develop more slowly. It may be tempting to ring a chick too young, to make the job easier and to ensure you do not miss ringing it. Too often, this can result in the ring falling off and being lost in the nestbox. Once a complete nest of chicks has been rung we discontinue nestbox inspections. Unnecessary disturbance can cause the chicks to leave the nest before they are fully feathered. A chick without many feathers, marooned on a cage floor, can become chilled and, if undetected for too long a period, can die. At this stage of the breeding cycle, a second nest box can be very useful. It can keep chicks warm, prevent them from being ejected or feather plucked by their parents – and permit the hen to get on with laying the next clutch of eggs without having chicks climbing all over her. And so the cycle starts again.
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