South East Queensland Zebra 
Finch Society Inc.

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When You Fly The Coop

Posted on May 20, 2013 at 12:50 AM

With the holiday season approaching, our thoughts are directed towards the trip away we promised ourselves. Having animals to care for must be our prime concern at this time, as our feathered friends are entitled to a consistent feeding regime every day of the year. For some of us our brain goes into “holiday mode” and just getting the suitcase packed seems a brain drain for us.


Our birds are OUR responsibility. We choose to keep them in captivity, so their welfare is paramount. Having a good holiday not only rests our body and mind, but also helps to put our life into perspective, and gives us the opportunity to get enthusiastic about life, and plan for the following year or future for that matter.


Recently, I took an extended holiday for 5 weeks and I stressed about leaving my birds. I knew I needed a break (first in 7 years), but resting would not come easily if I was worrying about what I had left behind. To tear me away from my backyard is not easy, just ask my husband!!


Weeks before my departure I planned my escape with the minimum of stress on the birds being my goal. I have a collection of finches, quail and small parrots (total of 250-300), so firstly I set about selling a few to lessen the numbers for my daughter to care for. That was successful, so less to worry about. Secondly, I separated breeding pairs that had had a few nests in order to spell them. That alleviated the breeding cabinets and the extra work involved in their upkeep.


I serve seed in separate containers, so I set about to name each container with the seed required. This took me ages, about 3 hours, but the satisfaction I achieved, and reducing my stress level made it worthwhile. I left instructions that where you see a clothes peg, put the greens, and where you see a block of wood with a nail, put corn, apple and cucumber (in that order). Water dishes were self explanatory, with my instructions to keep an eye on cuttlefish and egg shells supplies in each aviary as well. I also needed my birds to be fed at the same time (as practicable as possible) each day, as birds are creatures of habit and need consistency.


My last request was that the dead birds be placed in a plastic bag provided and the aviary number written on it. This was then placed in the freezer, and on my return it was easy to ascertain which birds needed to be replaced in which aviary.


Having peace of mind that my birds would be experiencing a similar routine during my absence, it certainly made for a better stress free holiday for me. My advice to you all would be to document your instructions as well, and try to be as precise as possible. Problems will arise which you will not anticipate, and you simply have to chalk that up to experience for next time.


I have heard sad stories from breeders who thought they had covered all bases and left friends to care for their birds.


One gentleman left his wife in charge, and found she made this mistake. Some of his water dishes had a stone in them to prevent young finches and quail drowning themselves. Seeing one dish without a stone, she quickly found a large rock and placed it in the dish. On his return, he discovered the big shiny stone she had placed in the dish, was in fact, 2kg of rock salt!! Luckily for the man, none of his birds were pickled when he returned.


Another bird breeder had a disastrous return from his holiday to find some of his birds had disappeared completely. Having complete trust in his carer friend, he went in search of the reason. It didn’t take him long to discover a curled up python in a nest box. His advice to us, is to advise your carers of approximately how many birds are in each aviary before you leave. If he had done this, he may have saved a few of his precious birds, assuming his friend was not snake phobic.


Another common accident is when birds slip through to the next aviary while you are going from one aviary to the adjoining one or escaping to the safety or service area. They slip past so quickly it is hard to realize it. This can have fatal consequences. Birds that slip into the adjoining aviary are then often separated from their partners and/or nests with eggs or chicks. Birds that slip into the service area usually die from lack of food and both of these scenarios are totally preventable with care.


Nobody will “do” your birds as well as you, this is a fact. I have even heard of bird breeders insisting on their carers wearing certain coloured clothing, in order to keep more consistency going. With all care and no responsibility, your carers should not feel too pressured to help you out.


For those of you who have cared for other birds (as I have), you know how important it is to do a good job. Otherwise, you will have deaths on your hands that can be prevented, and no one wants that. The latter will definitely spoil your day.


In conclusion, be organized, be prepared, choose your carer carefully, and don’t forget to reward them for their services, either by reciprocal caring or gifts. A little kindness goes a long way, especially if you have had a stress free holiday thanks to them.


Jenny Stolberg

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