There is no question that outdoor facilities where the flock is exposed to the natural sun and fresh air are the best settings for caged birds. But keeping a small flock of producing Amazon parrots in an in-house aviary can be a very rewarding experience if you practice a few guidelines. What I have tried to do is set up an aviary for the enjoyment of the birds and that will make their lives more comfortable. Too many owners of totally indoor breeding facilities have done little to enrich the physical environment of their expensive and intelligent birds. Small things can have a significant effect.
In my area, partly due to the cold winters, there are several indoor bird breeding facilities. Before elaborating on my own aviaries, I should like to highlight another well done indoor aviary belonging to Susan Bondelier. She houses her Amazons in her basement, a common practice of hobbyists. The birds have large suspended flights with an automatic showering system. Sue uses grapevines and willow branches to stimulate breeding activity. The advantage to this type of setting is the ease of cleaning--you can hose down the flights. And it is a great joy seeing those water-loving Amazons splashing and "Singing in the Rain." Shower curtains separate the flock during the breeding season. The lights in the aviary are set on three different timers. In the morning it takes approximately 20 minutes for all the lights to come on. The evening lights are set the same way-going out gradually to give the parents time to get that last snack before it turns dark. Parrots need visual stimulation and lots of toys and ropes or branches to swing and play on when they are confined in a small space. They need to work off that energy and aggression you so often see when breeding season is approaching.
In my own operation, I have held
back three generations for future breeding and in order to stay small I sell or breeder loan the second generation as they produce to fellow aviculturists who are interested in breeding domestics. I keep the third generation. We have a group of dedicated enthusiasts within the Amazona Society willing to trade offspring and keep meticulous records.
My flock of Amazons and Greatbilled Parrots were all pets at one time, so they are used to a home setting. The Aviary is on the third floor of our old Victorian home. The floor is carpeted in a soft green, the walls are also green. There are 18 vita-lites placed in the ceiling. Amazons love color and need lots of visual stimulation, so the walls are covered with puzzles and posters.
Cages are separated by leafy fake trees and hanging planted baskets, a few old office dividers made of wood and glass, and folding wicker-like screens. During non-breeding season the dividers are folded back so the birds can see each other. They have a color T.V. and a radio. All these items were bought at garage sales or discount stores. You don't have to spend a fortune. Amazons love cartoons and M.T V. I think they thrive on chaos. They sing and show off when the T.V. is on.
The birds are housed in Kings Aviary macaw cages 5 by 3 by 3 feet with an additional wire flight measuring 4 by 3 by 2 feet that is attached at the breeder door. This gives the birds the security of a cage filled with toys and food dishes, plus an area for some wing flapping and short flights. The nest boxes are attached to the end of the wire flights. They are put up in the spring and removed after breeding season. There is a small room with a sink where food dishes are washed and cleaning materials are kept which keeps the area self-contained. While this is not ideal, it is the best I can do with limited space. I vacuum twice a
day and keep the room dean and as bright and airy as I can with artificial lighting. The windows are small and do not provide much natural light. Our house has central air but it does not reach the third floor. We installed a large commercial fan that sucks the air in from outside creating an extremely well ventilated area. It was a more expensive venture than 1 had expected but it works well.
I tried to squeeze one more flight in this room and it resulted in infertile eggs and male aggression. My longtime pairs were fighting and biting each other. The minute I removed that pair, all went back to the way it had been. Birds are very sensitive to their environment-keep in mind that nest cavities are often limited in the wild and few species of parrots flock up to breed in the atmosphere of a crowded bird room. I am proud of the success of my domestic breeders but always recall the saying "you can take the bird out of the jungle, but you can't take the jungle out of the bird."
Remember to stay small, with the
cages well spaced, and look the other way when those deals come along if you don't have the room. This room houses Amazons of similar size. The flock is checked each fall by my avian vet. He takes cultures, does blood work, and weighs each bird. This way he is familiar with the flock. When I have a problem he knows the birds by name. We talk about improvements that can be made, and how the older birds are doing. Several of my wild caught pairs have been producing since 1980 to 1982. We estimate their ages to be 25 to 30 plus years. Nest boxes go up at the end of January, and the lighting is increased by half hour increments weekly from 12 to 14 hours. Predictable results are eggs the end of March to early May. Several pairs double clutch with eggs hatching August and September. Babies are pulled at ten days for hand feeding. While parents are fed soft foods daily year round. Lots of sprouts, beans and large nuts are added to stimulate breeding. Daily misting becomes "drenching."
I have several pictures of Panama and Yellow-fronted Amazons among my slides to point out the obvious differences between these species when viewed side by side. They are being hybridized by breeders who claim there is little difference. Panamas have lighter green feathers, horn colored beaks with variations of dark streaks that come and go, beige feet with white toenails, yellow from the nares up, and a totally different call. We must recognize these differences or the species will be lost.
My pairs of Mealies and Yellownapes are not with the other birds but are housed in a room off the kitchen which used to be a butlers pantry. One joy of living in a 120 year old house is the blessing of those 12 to 15 foot ceilings. The birds live in Kings Aviary breeder cages 3 by 4 by 6 and a half feet, separated by leafy trees (the high ceilings make small trees possible), a colorful bamboo screen and a partition that I decorated with flowers . The room has posters, hanging plants, and a radio. The birds can look out the door and see our kitchen activities.