Sunday, June 13, 2010

Enrichment Aviary Project – Update 3

Things are getting very tight time wise with just over three weeks to go to the Parrots 2010 and the focus of one of my presentations – designing and constructing an outdoor enrichment aviary, yet to be completed! This is seriously going to come down to the wire and I’m getting nervous. Here are some pics and a few updates to let you know where we are up to. A long way still to go before these are inhabitable…

Aviary Footings
Traditional footings for aviaries are usually designed to provide a concrete platform around the full perimeter of the enclosure. This provides both a uniformly flat base and a solid anchor point. Normally, a trench will be dug around the perimeter to facilitate the construction of a concrete footing 200mm in depth and 150mm wide for a small complex. I have done this in the past with some of my aviaries and it’s both labour intensive and costly. For the enrichment aviary complex I decided to do things a little differently and just anchor the primary corners of the complex to a concrete base, rather than run the concrete around the full perimeter. We welded base plates to each corner of the frame and drilled a hole to facilitate dropping a 10 gauge bolt into the base plate. The bolt was positioned upside down with an oversized washer at the bolt head and a washer and nut at the screw head. The concrete was then poured into a pre-dug hole at each corner, encasing the length of the bolt below the base plate. Once the concrete was dried, the bolt was tightened to further secure the frame to the ground. I’ll discuss why we can get away with this level of footing security in my presentation at Parrots 2010.

Landscaping and Planting
The past two days have been huge with plenty of digging and planting going on in and around the aviaries. I’m not finished yet but here’s a snapshot of some of the landscaping work in progress.

I gotta say, when this is all done – the one thing I am looking forward to more than anything else is being able to spend more time with two of my favourite animals – my daughter Darcy and my Rotty Rosie!

Small Parrots – Love ‘em!

I recently had the opportunity to work with a Meyer’s Parrot (Poicephalus meyeri) that belongs to a friend of mine. I needed an extra bird for a hands-on parrot-training workshop I was teaching at the Pan-Pacific Veterinary Conference and the little Meyer’s ended up being perfect (that's her in the pic above). We had her at our place for the week leading up to the Conference and it was the first time in over a year that we’ve had a parrot indoors `living’ with us. It got me thinking about just how much more appropriate the small parrot species are as indoor companion animals as opposed to the medium and large parrots that increasingly seem to be grabbing the attention of companion parrot buyers in Australia.

What is a real shame is that species such as the Meyer’s, and indeed the whole Poicephalus group, are so rare in Australia that their value places them well and truly out or the reach of the pet bird owner. We have a unique situation here in Australia in regards to the availability of parrots. Our native species are plentiful, affordable, and as such, are commonly kept as pets. Many of the small non-native or `exotic’ parrots are rare, exceedingly expensive, and therefore not an option for the pet bird owner.

Unfortunately, many of the Australian native species, in my opinion, are much less suited to captive conditions, particularly the situations generally encountered in indoor pet environments. There are some good exceptions – the humble Budgerigar is as good as any, but it would be interesting to do a study on the behaviour spectrum and capacity of different species to maintain functional behaviours when kept as pets. I bet we would see some enlightening results that would shift people’s attentions more towards the little guys. Easier to cater for in terms of enclosure size, less mess, less destructive, quieter, flights aren’t much of an issue, and they’re just a heck of a lot easier to keep amused!