The Ten Plagues of Aviculture

You know if you have dogs or cats, you’re going to fight off fleas now and then. Guinea pigs get mites, as do reptiles. If you have birds, you’re going to deal with plagues of things. Here’s my list:

1. The Plague of Seed Moths
Some people call them Millers or pantry moths. They get into seed and lay eggs and spin silk through all the good food. They hatch out in warm weather and perch on the ceiling and the walls. The best way to deal with them is to put out bowls of water, or pretty moth traps with soapy water in the bottom. The traps need to be refreshed with water and new pheromone baits now and again. We have four of these things, and when we remember to keep up the maintenance, they work well. About the best thing you can do to prevent the moths in the first place is to freeze all seed that you buy. Put it in the freezer for a couple days to be sure. Oh, this works okay and is fun, but tiring.

2. The Plague of Ants
I don’t know for sure what attracts the ants in the first place. Usually the weather is warm, and they look for water. Their top priority is food, and they attack anything that can help their colony survive. So to prevent the invasion, make sure everything is clean, cupboards, pantry, counters, floors, and put dishes into the dish washer or wash as soon as you finish eating off of them. Right. That’s exactly how I want to spend my free time. Another way is to provide a poison food that will decimate the whole colony. Most of the recipes I am finding on line call for borax and sugar for a bait, but that will only attract the ants that like sweets. I want to get rid of the grease ants, too. Using pancake syrup with borax covers all the bases. Here’s more information:

3. The Plague of Rodents
Yeah, spilled seed is going to attract mice and maybe rats. I’ve had both in the yard, but luckily only the mice inside. We use regular spring traps in the house, which are a pain because I won’t touch the dead mouse, and a wounded mouse will drag the trap a good distance before dying. Outside, we use a cat.
True story, our neighbors had a very tall palm tree, and screech owls nested in it every year. There were very few mice in the area. Then the neighbors removed the tree, and who knows where the owls went. We have been overrun with mice ever since then.
I’ve tried many things to help with this plague, like putting rosemary and bay leaves around. Rodents use scent marking to guide the whole family to food. But we had too many mice for the leaves to do much good. Then I read about sealing holes with steel wool, and I set to work. That and the traps work excellently. We find maybe a mouse per month now.

4. The Plague of Guano
I love to have my parrots sit on me. Therefore I am resigned to wearing bird poop. Shit happens, and as long as it stays off the keyboard and out of my food, I’m okay with it. However, the birds cannot be left to deal with piles of the stuff in their cages. That would be cruel and unhealthy. I find that canaries and finches drop more poop than my bigger birds, or so it seems. I clean their cages much more often. I did a set of blogs on spring cleaning a while ago, possibly in the spring, and I love being able to take a cage outside and turn the hose on it. But in cooler weather that isn’t the best solution. And while I love the commercial product, Poop-Off, it’s not economical to use for a large flock. This site has a recipe for a home-made cleaner that works just as well.

5. The Plaque of Food
This plague comes as seeds, shells, and fresh foods, and can be found on floors, walls, ceiling, cages, furniture, and visitors who get too close. In the wild, parrots and most birds are agents for plants, spreading the seeds all over the forest or jungle or prairie. They also provide food for the animals on the ground. If you have a parrot, and you have watched it eat fruit, you know the bird will eat about half and drop the rest. Share and share alike.
The best suggestion for keeping this plague under control is to only feed the correct amount of food every day for each bird. Remove fresh food within a couple hours to prevent spoiling. And keep track to which foods your bird likes and doesn’t like.

6. The Plague of Shredded Toys
Usually the debris of toys stays in the cage and isn’t too difficult to stay on top of. However, if you are unwise enough to, oh let’s say, let your Amazon chew on a perch while sitting on the back of a chair, you may be picking splinters out of sensitive parts for weeks to come. Most importantly, you must keep an eye on all bird toys and swings and even perches. The safety of your pet demands constant vigilance.

7. The Plague of Noise
When you walk into our living room, you will be announced and welcomed by conures and cockatiels. The birds in other rooms will call out, wanting to know who has arrived and what’s going on. It’s loud. So we keep a small glass full of ear plugs. And yes, we have had guests make use of them. People always want to know how we can stand the noise. Right now, on a calm summer evening, I can hear the budgies outside chattering gently to themselves, the parrots near me chewing on things, and an occasional pithy remark from Maynard. He’s on a t-stand need to me. Under normal circumstances, the birds are quiet. At night, they make very little noise. It’s only when we have visitors or a cat crosses the street outside the front window, or there’s an earthquake that an alarm call will go up.

8. The Plague of Predators
Speaking of cats, outside birds have been harassed by cats, raptors, rodents, possums, and ants. There’s not much that doesn’t find birds tasty. We’ve never found snakes in the aviary but I know others who have. Wonderful. But even the inside birds get shook up when a raptor flies past the window. They have no way of knowing the hawk can’t get into the house easily. We just have to bear with it and wait until the calm down.

9. The Plague of Night terrors
Cockatiels must sleep with a night light. Trust me on this one. We don’t cover any of our birds’ cages because they get enough dark time for sleep and are perfectly healthy without that cover. To my way of thinking, covering them provides one more thing they might get a toe caught in and flap themselves to death. Not the best thing to wake up to. It’s much better to leave them uncovered, leave a low wattage night light on, and give them all the time they need to wake up in the morning, happy birds.

10. The Plague of Feathers
I collect many of the feathers my birds drop. I have friends who use them to make earrings. I’ve trade some to others for jewelry. And that still leaves a couple tons that have to be swept up so they don’t clog the vacuum cleaner. Birds and feathers go together like mud and puppies. Wait, I mean puppies and shedding. Anyway, molting is the high time for feather loss, and daily sweeping and dusting might not be enough. It’s crazy. But stay on top of it and you will have conquered the most insidious of the plagues.

Have a good week, and I’ll be back on Sunday.

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