For about the first four years of owning Captain Beaky, I was convinced that the cold would kill him and that he had to be kept inside throughout the Winter months. When we moved into a particularly cold house, I kept a cover around two sides of his cage at all times because I was so worried he would become ill (the house was very cold, more so than people usually imagine when they hear the stories of it!)
A couple of years after this, my dad built the aviary as my birthday present and Beaky spent the summer days outside by himself – I used to bring him into the house in the evenings so that he could have some company.
It was the following Autumn that I bought Rocky: the people who sold him to me said that he would be fine outside all year round, which really surprised me but I followed their advice and thankfully in the Spring I still had a healthy young parrot! Throughout that Winter Beaky spent mild days outside, and the rest of the time in the house.
This Winter the decision was made to leave Beaky and Rocky out together permanently – due to me being away from home now it is easier for my mum and much better for Beaky in a social sense as when he was alone he was quite reliant on human company.
There are however a few things we had to change in the aviary to ensure that the birds would make it through the cold months without any problems…
The first thing was to ensure that the aviary was sheltered from the wind – whilst the low temperatures don’t cause too much of a problem, cold winds could potentially make the birds ill so they need adequate cover. Sheets of corrugated plastic fit this purpose nicely and are tacked onto the upper half of the aviary (they will be removed in the warmer months). The narrow end of the aviary is left open: this side is well sheltered by the house and having the gap means that the birds can still see in through the kitchen windows so get some entertainment from watching us!
It was decided that their bath should be removed at this time of year, as Rocky in particular likes to splash around and completely soak himself – this could then result in him being more susceptible to catching a chill, so whilst it is a shame to take away one of his favourite activities it really is for his own good.
Another important factor in Winter (and all year round) is that the birds have a healthy diet.
As well as a scoop of mixed seed each day, they also have oyster grit mixed in which aids their digestive system. We add hemp seeds to the mix as these are good for the immune system and are a good source of iron.
On top of this we give them fresh fruit (usually apple although they can have many different types – it should however be noted that avocado is poisonous to birds!) and some form of dark leafy greens (for example groundsel and spinach) as these provide the birds with vitamin A.
Something else that I thought I would mention here which is not related to the cold weather but is something that happened recently while I was away in Manchester, is that Beaky broke a blood feather.
A blood feather is a feather that is still growing, so still has a blood supply. These are often sore, and if they are broken they can lead to the bird bleeding to death.
My mum went to feed the parrots one morning and realised that there was blood dripping down Beaky’s tail: I had warned her about blood feathers so she quickly looked up what to do and acted before it was too late.
Some people suggest using flour to prevent the blood from flowing, however it is more effective to remove the whole feather. Having caught Beaky, mum pulled the feather out (apparently this was easier than a normal feather would be) and the skin where it had been just closed over.
Thankfully Captain Beaky seemed perfectly fine after his little incident and is back to his normal self again now. He still has stains on his tail but I should imagine that these will remain for quite some time, most likely until he moults the feathers out in the next few months.
(The video below is just a couple of clips from the aviary recently…. Beaky having his fuss and my attempts at engaging in a conversation with Rocky!)