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Saturday, June 18, 2005

INCUBATION
In natural conditions most parrots provide three important conditions which have to be met to ensure successful incubation. The eggs are warmed to the optimum temperature, the humidity is maintained at the required level and the eggs are turned regularly.

If artificial incubation is decided upon, the choice of incubators can be difficult. All electric incubators are convenient but other factors must also be taken into consideration. If eggs are to be hatched successfully by artifical means the criteria in respect of warmth, humidity and turning of the eggs have to be met. Ventilation, too, is an important factor if the eggs are to be hatched without loss of chicks. With so many different make and models to choose from the first time buyer must do a fair amount of research to find the machine that will duplicate as close as possible to what the hen on the nest will do. There are two types of incubators: still air and forced air. The former is generally of a smaller capacity and heated from above. The cooler air leaves from ports near the base, so it actually operates by convection. Still air machines, with their large capacity heaters and ether capsules, are prone to overshoot as the capsules are not sufficiently sensitve and are slow to respond. Forced air incubators rely on a fan or paddle to circulate the hot air given off from the heater, the circulator normally being situated near the heat source. Many small incubators are constructed of plastic to give a clear view of what is happening, however these machines lose heat very quickly because of their lack of insulation.

Although the control of humidity is not as critical as that of temperature, it is a very necessary factor. Many incubators fluctuate five to ten percent from what it is actually set at. Humidty control must be given consideration when selecting an incubator. Also, relative humidity in the incubator can and will fluctuate, depending on the weather. When choosing an incubator to artificially incubate those precious parrot eggs it all boils down to one thing, "you get what you pay for". It only stands to reason that an incubator that cost $500 should do a better job of incubating than one that cost $80. And naturally an incubator that cost $2000 will be better than the $500 machine. Many breeders will say that they hatch their parrot eggs just fine in their incubator, that only cost them $125 but do they tell you how many eggs they lose.

The third essential for successful incubation is the turnng of the eggs to ensure that the embryo does not adhere to the protective membranes. Most incubators have automatic turners, vital if the incubator is to be left unattended for long periods. It is useless in this day and age to purchase a machine that does not turn eggs. Eggs must be turned a minimum of 8 times in a 24 hour period. I prefer my eggs to be turned every one to one and one half hours or a minimum of sixteen turns in a 24 hour period. There have been many studies that actually show the hen turns the egg at least once an hour and sometimes more often depending on the stage of incubation the egg is at. When deciding on what type of incubator to purchase you must check the turning mechanism, many incubators vibrate to such an extent that they can and will seriously jar the egg of many species. During the first week to ten days care must be taken to handle and turn the eggs very carefully as this is the most vulnerable time to damage the formation of the vitelline blood vessels.

Friday, July 16, 2004

The Cage




Whenever possible, try to purchase the largest cage suitable to the species that you can both afford and accommodate. Minimally, the cage should allow for the bird to spread its wings without touching the sides of the enclosure.

The cage should also be wider than it is tall, yet still tall enough to accommodate the bird's tail. Avoid cages that are tall and cylindrical. These type cages aren't very practical and don't offer the bird useful room. Also avoid cages with ornamental scroll work. I've seen birds get their leg bands and heads caught on the loops.

Powder coated or stainless steel cages are excellent choices. They are both practical and long lasting in addition to being very attractive and easy to clean.

Bar spacing is also a very important consideration. If the bars are spaced too far apart, smaller birds may be able to slip through or get their heads wedged between the bars. Even if they don't get their heads stuck, it still presents a danger in homes with other predatory animals like cats and dogs. The cage should also have some horizontal bars so that the bird can climb around the cage easily.

Bar and cage space: While you want to get as big a cage as possible for your bird, make sure the bars aren't spaced far apart that your bird could stick its head through them. Here are some guidelines for bar spacing by species:

Proper bar spacing:

Budgies, finches, canaries: 3/8 to 1/2 inch

Cockatiels, small parakeets, small conures, lovebirds: 1/2 to 3/4 inch

Large conures, large parakeets, medium-sized parrots, mini macaws, small cockatoos, African Greys, amazons, Eclectus: 3/4 to 1 1/2 inch

Large cockatoos and Macaws: 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch

Minimum cage sizes: (measurements are length by depth by height)

Budgies: 14x14x14 inches

Finches, canaries (flight cages) 36x18x18 inches

Cockatiels, small parakeets, small conures, lovebirds: 18x18x24 inches

Large conures, large parakeets, medium-sized parrots, mini macaws 20x20x24 inches

Small cockatoos, Eclectus African Greys, amazons: 24x20x24 inches

Large cockatoos, amazons and macaws: 3x3x5 feet

Lining the Cage
There are a variety of materials that can be used to line the cage, including corn cob, crushed walnut shells, and wood chips or shavings. We feel the best cage liner is plain old newspaper, paper bags or paper towels. They might not be the most aesthetically pleasing substrates, but they are cheap, functional, and easy to clean. They also do not promote the growth of bacteria and fungi the way that many of the other substrates do.

Cedar, redwood, and pressure treated shavings or chips should not be used as they are toxic.

A grate with adequate distance between the cage and lining pan is a must in order to prevent the bird from having access to droppings, substrate, and discarded food. Many substrates, especially walnut shells and corn cob litter can be harmful if ingested.

Perches
Perches should be made from selected branches of clean, non-toxic hardwood that have not been treated with pesticides or chemicals. They should also be free of rot or mold. We strip the bark from our perches and wash them in a bleach and water solution. They are then rinsed thoroughly and allowed to dry in the sun.

More than one perch should be supplied and they should be of different diameters. They should be sized to allow comfortable perching. Perches that are too large or too small in diameter do not allow the bird to properly grip and this can lead to foot problems.

Perches need to be sturdily mounted and should not move or vibrate under the weight of the bird. They should also be high enough to prevent the bird's tail from coming into contact with the bottom of the cage but not so high that the bird has to bend it's head to avoid contact with the top of the cage. Also, position the perches in such a way that the bird's droppings won't soil the food, water or other perches.

Concrete perches can be used in combination with wood perches to assist in dulling sharp nails. However, sandpaper perches should never be used as they can create foot sores.

Toys in the Cage
Toys are very useful and very necessary. They are mentally stimulating and encourage your bird to exercise. A bird that is deprived of diversion will quickly become depressed and lazy.

There is no quality control regarding pet bird products. It is therefore up to you to be aware of potential hazards and to keep safety in mind when selecting toys for your bird.

Choose toys that are free of toxic metals, hooks, sharp objects or small easily consumed parts. Good choices will vary in shape and color as well as stimulate activity and fulfill a bird's natural tendency to chew.

Toys should be made of very strong materials, especially for the large macaws and cockatoos. In addition to wood toys for chewing, acrylic toys are also good. Acrylics are a little more expensive but they are generally safe and long lasting.

Select toys that are size appropriate. Toys designed for small birds should not be used for large birds. Small bird toys may contain parts that a large bird will easily consume. Large bird toys may contain parts that are large enough for a small bird to get it's head or other body part caught in.

Some toy components are safer than others. Avoid toys with open chain links, snap type clasps, and bell clappers. Safer choices are toys containing screw type clasps and closed chain links.

Try not to overcrowd the cage with so many toys that it becomes an obstacle course that the bird must maneuver just to get to it's food and water. Parrots are natural chewers so be prepared to replace toys and perches on a regular basis.

Monday, January 19, 2004

AMAZONA AMAZINGA

by Layne David Dicker

Ah, the amazon parrot. Probably no bird is more representative of the order Psittaformes, which encompasses all parrots and parrot-like birds, than members of the genus Amazona. For most people, the very word "Parrot" conjures up a green, talking bird, not infrequently perched on a pirate's shoulder. But, since most of the piracy that goes on these days is internet piracy, it should come as no surprise that there is no shortage of parrot websites.
Visually, however, the image is essentially correct. For the most part, amazons are green and medium sized. When you compare amazons to their New World cousins, the Ara macaws, which vary in color from blue and yellow, to red and green and in weight from the 160 gram Hahn's to the 1400 gram Greenwing, you can see why most people get very confused with amazon taxonomy and think that all amazons pretty much look alike. Adding to this dilemma is the fact that the genus is huge; by far the largest single genus of the medium to large parrots. For instance, Parrots of the World (Forshaw & Cooper, 1977) lists 27 species and 42 sub-species of the more homogenous Amazona parrots and a mere 15 species and 10 sub-species of the diverse Ara macaws. Amazons are similarly represented in aviculture with a total of 42 species and sub-species currently being bred versus a total of 16 for the Ara macaws and 16 for the Cacatua cockatoos (Parrots in Aviculture, Low, 1992). The only genus that even comes close is Aratinga with 31 members currently being bred. But while some may wonder how the gray and turquoise Meyer's parrot and the green and orange Jardine's parrot can be so closely related, as large as the genus Amazona may be, no one ever doubts that an amazon is an amazon.

So let's get down to some amazon basics here. These birds derive their name from the general locality of their natural habitat, which is the area of central South America known as the Amazon River Basin. While the bulk of these birds thrive in this massive and lush area, they do range as far south as north/central Argentina and as far north as Mexico. In truth, they "range" even farther north than that with feral colonies being well established throughout Southern California and other cities in the United States.

With rare exception, an amazon parrot will have a green body and a short, blunt tail. Most are defined by the coloring of their head and neck (Yellow-naped, Red-lored, Lilac-crowned), or by the location of their habitat (Panama, St. Vincent's, Cuban). And then there is the combination name: The Mexican Red-headed. While all of the parrot groups contain members of different species that look similar (Blue & Gold and Caninde macaws, Sun and Jenday conures, Citron and Lesser sulphur crested cockatoos), there are large numbers of amazons that look alike.


Saturday, January 17, 2004

Proper bar spacing:

Budgies, finches, canaries: 3/8 to 1/2 inch

Cockatiels, small parakeets, small conures, lovebirds: 1/2 to 3/4 inch

Large conures, large parakeets, medium-sized parrots, mini macaws, small cockatoos, African Greys, amazons, Eclectus: 3/4 to 1 1/2 inch

Large cockatoos and Macaws: 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inch

Minimum cage sizes: (measurements are length by depth by height)

Budgies: 14x14x14 inches

Finches, canaries (flight cages) 36x18x18 inches

Cockatiels, small parakeets, small conures, lovebirds: 18x18x24 inches

Large conures, large parakeets, medium-sized parrots, mini macaws 20x20x24 inches

Small cockatoos, Eclectus African Greys, amazons: 24x20x24 inches

Large cockatoos, amazons and macaws: 3x3x5 feet


Friday, January 16, 2004

Other Birds in the Household - If you have other birds in your household, they will need time to adjust to a new cage and a possible relocation of their own cage prior to bringing your baby home. Upon the baby bird's arrival, it is very important to recognize and maintain the hierarchy already established among your other birds. Birds are very sensitive to hierarchy and need reassurances that your new baby has not displaced them. Always feed and clean the older birds first and do not promote the dominance of your new baby over all the other birds.
Cockatoos - These birds need a low fat, high protein diet. Nuts should be given as a special treat only. Eating adequate portions of vegetable and pellets also help keep a cockatoo trim and in good health. Rosies should be kept on a low fat diet, and given only parakeet seed along with pellets, fresh vegetables and fruit. Generally, cockatoos given lots of fruits and vegetables plus high grade pellets and seed mixes will keep nice and trim.


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