by Linda Greeson

At the beginning of last winter we moved from south Florida to a small town 250 miles north in the state. Moving the family and all of our possessions was not the focus of our attention. How to safely transport and temporarily house our collection of more than four hundred birds was the problem that kept us up nights for many months prior to the move.

Surprisingly enough, the birds tolerated the move and the change in climate with less stress than we did. At our new home we have ten beautiful tree shaded acres waiting for the building of spacious aviaries to house our flock. Until the aviaries are completed we have been fortunate enough to be able to provide them temporary shelter in a thirty by sixty foot metal building used by the former owners as a shop.

We suspended most of the cages from the rafters with chains. The situation was not ideal, but most of the birds adapted quite well. My collection of about 150 cockatiels were a bit more crowded in the flight cages possible to fit into limited space, but they were inside and out of the weather. The building was not heated but as temperatures in this part of Florida do not drop too low their shelter proved adequate.

Although their temporary home had a number of sky lights we added more light with Vita Lite fluorescent fixtures. When warm weather came we were able to wire in the two ends of the building which opened with sliding doors and install exhaust fans to provide better ventilation. The building was still uncomfortably warm but it was not practical to provide air conditioning.

The noise level was a factor we could not control. The screams of the large macaws and cockatoos and the shrill chattering of the conures were amplified by the acoustics of the all metal building. The birds were all in one enclosed area and far too close together.

I watched my prized collection of cockatiels closely. They were eating, but even with the addition of many special treats, not sufficient food to maintain their former weight. They seemed listless. There was little activity in the flights. I had a number of cultures done to rule out bacterial infection. I gave them vitamin supplements which I had not found necessary before this. Their plumage remained dull and drab. Because we had covered the cement floor under the cages with shavings, only occasional light mistings were possible. My beautiful show birds no longer looked ready for competition.

My pet African Gray, Willy, has a favorite expression; he repeats "What's wrong?" with a mournful, anxious sound. As I stood in front of a group of my cockatiels, Willy's words going through my mind, I suddenly realized that these birds were not sick. They were just unhappy!

They did not like the noise and the close proximity of the larger birds. They had been raised in a secluded aviary, open to the sunlight and surrounded by waving palms and blooming hibiscus. They were used to bathing in frequent summer showers at the open ends of their flights. This new environment was not like home. They were not accepting the change.

My impulse was to immediately move them far away from that big, noisy building to a pleasant area under the shade of several big oak trees. First some shelter from all day rains had to be provided. We had observed possums, foxes, and snakes in the adjoining woodlands. They also needed some protection from the threat of wild life. Before making the move, we had to consider these basic necessities, even for a limited stay.

A visit to the local flea market provided the solution to shelter. We found a type of temporary carport that could be assembled in less than an hour, and just as easily taken down for storage. It consisted of brackets designed to hold lengths of conduit pipe making a simple A frame structure. Ropes threaded through gimlets attached a plastic tarp. The cost of the ten by twenty foot model was less than $150.

The conduit legs were driven into the ground about two feet. Our structure sustained a few strong wind storms with no problems. We placed the cages on four feet high supports to keep them well off the ground. We had no problems with visiting creatures.

The summer breezes were not hampered by the awning well above the cages. Protected from the hot sun by the dappled shade of the trees, this was a delightful spot even on the hottest days. When summer showers were not sufficient, having the cages open to the ground made frequent misting of the birds an easy task.

At first the cockatiels acted a bit stressed by another drastic change in their environment. In just three to four days they were reacting favorably. They began to eat well with a weight gain that was clearly evident without the use of a scale. Their plumage became bright and smooth. Best of all, they flew about in the cages, chirping and whistling, busy with their long neglected toys. They were happy and content. The change this made in their physical appearance was a delight to observe. Even after they are established in their new aviary I may still put them out under the trees for their summer camp.


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