Aviculturists everywhere know that simply having a nice aviary outside for your birds is not a simple solution. Based on my experiences with outdoor birds, I will share a few of the good things and bad things that might be part of your experiences.
Canary breeders know that these wonderful singers are susceptible to canary pox, a virus not just limited to canaries but mostly associated with them. The disease is spread by mosquitoes or mites and can kill a lot of birds in a short amount of time. Any bird that survives the pox becomes a carrier, so he or she cannot be introduced to any flock. This is the number one reason to keep canaries inside.
Other birds kept outside may get some similar illness, but if your sanitation is good, your water system better than an open bowl, and your observations of your birds consistent, you will likely have a good, healthy flock outdoors. http://www.exoticpetvet.net/avian/diseases.html
Keeping the food for your birds in bowls that protect it from droppings. Keep the bowls clean, the food fresh, and supplement with fresh greens, fruits, and healthy chopped veggies. http://www.birdheavenaviaries.com/Recipes.html I have button quail in my largest aviary, but they are not able to stay on top of the spilled seeds. So I have to shovel out the floor every few months. While I am in there, I encourage the quail to forage for insects in the seed layer that I overturn. They have kept ants out of the aviary better than any other solution I had.
In spite of keeping things clean, I get mice in the aviaries. The only system that has worked for me is putting out bait stations. I know there is a danger in the birds getting some of the poison and ingesting it, but I am very careful to put the station over the airlock between the aviaries. As soon as I see a mouse in the aviary, I know it’s time to put a new bait out. I’ve been very happy with the results.
I don’t stop my cat from eating the mice she finds near the aviary. The amount of poison she would need to be harmed could be found in a few hundred mice. As she gets one or two every three months, I think we’re good.
Outside birds get sunshine, which helps them produce the vitamin D and calcium they need for breeding and staying healthy. No amount of supplements can replace this, just make it less of an issue for inside birds. As long as the birds have a sheltered corner out of the wind and the rain, they can make it through Southern California winters without a shiver. Sometimes cockatiels aren’t smart enough to come in out of the rain, but they usually figure it out before any major drops fall.
Aviary birds also get to live in a flock situation, rather than as isolated pairs. This doesn’t always work for breeding, and I am moving to the idea of putting breeders in their own cages next to others of their species. In a large aviary, birds can fly and live much more like they would in the wild. And I can take a break and watch them easily. The tiels love it when I push grass stalks in through the cage wire.
Predators are a whole ‘nother topic. I believe mice may actually prey on baby birds and eggs. It’s nearly impossible to keep the rodents out of an aviary, unless you use the tiniest spaced wire you can find. Neighborhood cats love to watch the birds, and when they can, snag a wing or a leg. If nothing else, they love to panic the flock. Possums, raccoons, coyotes, snakes, hawks, and the occasional eagle would all love to have the birds for dinner. Or breakfast or lunch or snacks. You simply have to do your best and protect the flock as much as possible.
Finally, human error is always a concern. This is the reason I have an airlock, what might also be called a safety porch, on the aviaries. While using a device to grasp things in the aviary, I panicked one of my violet lovebirds, and he flew out of the open cage door. I have never been so happy to have an airlock, or to have been smart enough to always make sure it’s contained before I open the cage doors. I managed to get the bird back in place with little trauma.
We’ve also come out to find a cockatiel in the airlock. We still don’t know how the bird got there without being spotted, and were simply thankful he stayed there when we exited the airlock.
For more pros and cons, you might be interested in this web page. http://feistyhome.phpwebhosting.com/cagevsflight.htm Thanks for reading, I’ll be back on Sunday.