All birds should live in a suitable environment. A bird’s home affects how the bird feels, thinks and behaves. Providing your birds with a large, safe, secure place to live that is sheltered from the weather is one way you can make sure that your birds stay healthy and happy.
This law is called the Animal Welfare Act. The Animal Welfare Act outlines how people must take care of and act towards animals in New Zealand. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), the Police and SPCA work together to make sure people in New Zealand follow these laws.
Under the Animal Welfare Act, all animal guardians (owners) are responsible for making sure the welfare needs of animals in their care are met. Learning about the Five Domains helps us to understand these welfare needs and how we can make sure we provide these. One of the Five Domains is Environment. In this section you will learn about this domain and how you can make sure your companion birds have the right environment, shelter, perches, etc. they need for positive welfare.
Birds in the wild fly over great distances, foraging for food and finding mates. Companion birds need to be able to fly around each day, in order to stay happy and healthy. The bigger the enclosure, the better! No space is too big for a creature adapted to flying through rainforests and across large oceans! Birds are happiest living in areas they have space to flap their wings and move around.
By keeping birds in your home, you are taking away some of their natural instincts and pleasures. To make up for this, you need to ensure their living area is as large as possible, spend time with your birds as often as possible and create safe flying areas where they can fly from perch to perch, forage for tasty treats and chatter away to their heart’s content!
Did you know that a wild budgie can fly over 400km in a single day! This is why all birds should be housed in large aviaries - regardless of whether they live in your home, or outside. Bird cages sold in pet stores or on the internet are FAR too small for a bird to have the freedom to fly. A bird in a small cage is an unhappy bird.
Another reason that bird cages are much too small is due to the fact that all species of companion birds are social creatures and should live with other birds. Bird cages are much too small for multiple birds to be happy in. Imagine if you were stuck in a tiny room with your best friend for life. As much as you may enjoy spending time with your best friend to start with, they may start to drive you crazy after a while if you aren’t able to leave. That is how a bird in a cage would feel.
If you wish to have tame birds inside your home, research different styles of indoor aviaries. If you don’t have enough space to put an aviary inside or outside, perhaps birds are not the right companion animal for you.
There are lots of things to consider when deciding where your birds’ home should go. Before you even think about what type of birds you want, consider where you have space to put an aviary - would it go inside, or outside? This will help determine what type of birds may be suitable for your home.
There are pros and cons to having an aviary inside compared with outside, and vice versa. Outside aviaries are better for birds that have not been handled much by people and may be stressed about the presence of people, other animals or household noises such as vacuum cleaners, kettles and stereos. If you are planning on having an outside aviary, consider your climate and what temperatures the environment may reach in summer and winter. Many companion bird species are from regions warmer than New Zealand (e.g. Budgies and Cockatiels are from Australia) and may not cope when temperatures plummet. If you live in a cold region, an outdoor aviary may not be suitable for house companion birds.
Indoor aviaries are great for tame birds, as they allow you the opportunity to let them out of their aviary for time to fly around and spend time with you. The best location for an indoor aviary within the home is a place where your birds can frequently see and interact with people within the household, as tame birds can become bored easily in an empty, unused room. While birds love interaction, too much noise and activity may stress out your birds, which is why a corner in a room is better than a doorway or corridor. By placing your birds’ aviary in a corner between 2 walls, they have an added sense of shelter and security.
Do not house your birds near a kitchen, as there are many hazards that could prove fatal to your feathered friends. For example, when non-stick pans coated Teflon are heated, they give off vapour that is toxic for birds!
Companion birds are completely reliant on their owners to provide them with everything they need in their life. It’s up to you to check your birds’ environment every day and make sure they have everything they need, and that nothing in their environment can harm them.
Here is a basic guideline of what should be in your birds’ home ALL of the time:
Another thing to consider when housing your birds is the temperature. Birds generally do best in temperatures between 18°C and 27°C. If your birds’ environment is too hot or too cold for too long, they can become sick quite easily.
Be aware that these are also signs that your bird is unwell, so if you are unsure, contact your bird’s veterinarian.
If the temperature of your birds’ environment becomes higher than 30°C, it is important that you take steps to lower the temperature, as this is too hot! For indoor aviaries, ventilation is hugely important. Place a fan or the air conditioning on or open the windows to allow extra airflow. To cool down the temperature of an outdoor aviary, you can place a sprinkler over the aviary. Most birds will start ruffling their feathers under the sprinkler as if they are taking a shower. Even if your birds choose not to have a shower, the cool water on the roof of the aviary will help reduce the temperature inside the aviary. Providing a fresh water bath is another way which allows your birds to cool down themselves - whether they are housed inside or out.
When it’s cold, nest boxes or ‘happy huts’ with nesting material can provide additional shelter and warmth. If the temperature drops below 10°C, heaters (for inside) or heat lamps (for outdoor aviaries) can provide additional heat. Make sure an adult is around to monitor the temperature.
So now you know that you need a large aviary - but what type is best, and where do I find it? Consider whether you want to get an aviary custom made (perhaps by a friend, or a builder), or purchase one already made.
Check with your local pet stores, home improvement stores (such a Bunnings, Mitre 10, Placemakers, etc.) or online.
Second-hand aviaries may be available on websites such as Trade Me, but do make sure that these are properly cleaned as birds can spread diseases.
Your birds’ aviary must be safe and secure, strong (so your birds can’t chew their way out), draught-proof, also well ventilated, escape-proof and predator-proof.
Birds are prey animals - they need to hide from things that scare them. Providing sheltered areas up high allows them to do this, helping them feel safe.
Birds tend to fly upwards and hide if feeling afraid, stressed, unwell or when they are wanting to have a break from other birds or people.
It is really important that you provide lots of perches and constant access to shelter within your birds’ home. This allows your birds to escape and hide (which is a natural behaviour) to feel safe and reassured. If your bird lives inside your home, place their enclosure on a stand, so your birds feel safe like they would in a tree.
There are lots of different ways to provide your birds with shelter.
Outside, birds housed in aviaries need even more shelter than birds in the home. Summer temperatures can get really hot, and in the winter; wind and frost can be deadly for birds.
Remember – sheltered hiding places are your birds’ safe places, it’s where they will go to escape and feel calmer. Never trap or remove your birds from them.
If your bird seems tired, or to be using the sheltered hiding places regularly, ask your veterinarian for advice - they may be unwell, stressed or frightened. Your veterinarian will rule out illness or injury that could cause the problem behaviour. You may also need to consider whether the location your birds live in is right for them.
How often you clean your bird’s enclosure depends on many things. The enclosure size, number of birds and what you feed your bird all contribute to how fast your bird’s enclosure becomes dirty. Old food and a build-up of droppings can make your bird very ill, so it is vital to keep your bird’s environment clean and hygienic.
As a rule, every morning when you feed your birds, always:
Always be careful when opening the door to your birds’ aviary. Make sure that your birds won’t get a fright by speaking in a soft voice as you approach and be careful not to let your birds escape. For larger aviaries, a double door system ensures that there are no escapes. When your birds are settling in, try to clean around them as quietly as you can. Never corner them, and allow them to seek shelter by making slow, predictable movements.
Outdoor aviaries should be large enough that you can clean around your birds without stressing them. The surface of the ground will determine how you clean your aviary.
If doing a thorough clean of an indoor aviary, move your bird into a different enclosure or ask someone to supervise your bird for a free flying time in an enclosed, safe area while you clean.
Birds are particularly sensitive to chemicals, so always check that you have a bird safe disinfectant. It’s best to use just water and a scrubbing brush for daily cleaning, and a bird safe disinfectant once a week for the full clean. When cleaning empty aviaries, a high-powered hose can be good for blasting any droppings that have hardened, but make sure no birds are nearby as the noise from the hose may scare them.
If your family are going away, try to find someone to care for and meet all your birds’ welfare needs within their familiar home.
If your birds have to move to a different place, try to ease the move by keeping them in the same enclosure, with the same paired/grouped birds together and leave them with familiar items, such as their toys and the same food.
Make sure you provide the person caring for your bird with the phone number of your bird's vet, in case of an emergency.