Keeping birds warm in Winter

Like people, birds feel the cold. It's always disappointing to lose a bird because of the cold, especially in the southern states where temperatures can fall to single digits.  Now is the best time to prepare your birds for the coming winter. 

Pet birds should always be brought inside at night, especially if they are on their own. Placing the cage in a warm area of the house, well away from heaters and open windows is a great way to keep them snug and warm at night. 

Pet birds are usually the easiest to help through the winter, most being kept in doors. Don't be tempted to use fabric huts or cuddle buddies. The loose fibres when chewed could be swallowed and cause death or a very expensive vet bill.

Heating

Great for birds that don't have a companion to cuddle up to and are available in a variety of designs and styles. If installed correctly they are safe and effective. There are three common types available; electric, microwave heat pads or traditional lamps. See below;

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K & H Heated Snuggle Up is designed to help protect your exotic birds from the harmful effects of air conditioning and cold drafts. This low voltage heater mounts right to the side of the cage, allowing your bird to "Snuggle Up" to it to get nice and warm. Available in two sizes for any size bird.

Thermostatically controlled to an optimum body temperature

Uses harmless, 12-volt, low voltage electricity to warm the plate

Safe, consistent source of warmth, stabilizes the bird's environment

Reduces avian stress

Attaches easily to wire cages

Snuggle Safe is a unique microwave heat pad, designed especially for use in animals' beds but can also be placed against the side of a cage. Just pop it into your microwave for a few minutes, it will provide up to 10 hours of warmth. There is no electric wiring to worry about so there are no nasty shocks in that department. There is no scalding water to spill out. The tough outer casing is bite resistant and hygienically wipe clean. There is no safer way to keep any animal warm and comfortable. We recommend removing the fabric cover if being used for birds. 

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Heat lamps can be purchased from most pet/produce stores, low watt (40W) heat bulbs (not light bulbs) should be more than enough to warm a small area. It is important that birds can not have direct access to the heating element or electrical cords. Most stores will also sell wire cages to enclose the lights when mounted, often used for reptiles. 

Aviary Design

Aviaries should be free from drafts, this is a big factor especially in winter. Your birds will drop like flies if constantly exposed to even a soft draft. There are lots of ways of preventing draft in an aviary, the best way from our experience is ensuring your birds have adequate cover on at least three sides. 

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A simple and cost-effective way to help reduce drafts is plastic sheeting or heavy shade cloth. Bunnings or your local hardware usually stock a variety and you should be able to purchase it by the meter. Secure the cover to the top of the aviary, using a weight or pegs to secure the bottom at night. Covers should be removed or folded up during the day to allow birds access to the natural elements. Remeber measure twice, cut once.

If you keep a colony aviary or mixed species aviary adding a few extra perches in the sheltered area will ensure all birds can find a comfortable place to roost at night. You can kiss good bye birds that are kept in overcrowed aviaries where some birds might not be able to seek proper shelter due to fighting or not enough perch space in the sheltered area.

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Diet

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We always recommend all birds be wormed and mite and lice sprayed before winter, this will ensure they are healthy and can be properly conditioned before winter starts. Foods high in fat should be given in moderation at this time, although replacing seeds like sunflower with nuts in their shells in a great way of keeping them busy and they are still getting a somewhat high-fat content.

Small birds like Budgies and Finches will relish hard boiled eggs or a commercially available egg and biscuit mix. Always remember to consider the dietary needs of each species before making changes. Cold weather doesn't mean food won't spoil, remove any uneaten food before the end of the day. Seed or Pellets that get damp or wet should be removed immediately. Always dry the bowl and replace with fresh food. When winter is coming to an end around July (Queensland), remember to start conditioning before the breeding season.

Health Problems

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Egg-binding is a serious condition when the egg becomes “stuck” near the cloaca (vent/anus) or inside the reproductive tract of a female bird. Egg binding is common in female pet Cockatiels, especially those who may have low calcium levels or are continuous egg layers. Low temperatures can sometimes cause egg binding. Further risks from egg binding include infection and internal tissue damage especially if the egg breaks; if left untreated may cause death. Female Cockatiels will usually show late term symptoms of end binding. If you suspect egg binding may be the cause always consult your local Avian Vet for advice.

Potential dangers

Heaters, fan heaters, electrical cords and heat pads are deadly to birds if they can fly into them or chew them. Not only are you risking their health and well being, it could cause a house fire. Never let birds free fly in a room with a heater on, landing on it could cause burns and injury. Always ensure all fans are turned and windows and curtains are closed as well.

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