I had an email today in response to my article on ‘Article Base’ enquiring about more information; here is the answer I gave:
To give you some idea of what I’m on about my birds have nothing more than a standard 6 x 4 shed as their night shelter, but I have made a few minor alterations for their comfort during the winter.
Firstly I lined the inside of the shed, between the supports, with old carpet underlay which I stuck on with ‘No Nails’ adhesive but any decent adhesive will do. You don’t have to use carpet underlay as I did but any old foam, old carpet or anything you have or can get hold of will do to act as insulation.
I then boarded out the whole of the inside with 6mm ply board, this was reasonably cheap and was easy to cut to shape with either a jigsaw or standard saw, I attached it with normal nails.
That’s basically the only alterations I made, the shed already had felt on the roof so this made it waterproof. I use no form of artificial heating whatsoever.
I noticed that you have finches and canaries; as small birds by comparison to the others these need to eat more often to build up their fat reserves to help their bodies stay warm so it is vitally important that you make sure their is always a plentiful supply of food, and of course fresh water, for them at all times, and the chances are they will eat considerably more than in the summer to help them to stay warm.
I also find it helps to provide some type of artificial lighting in the winter evenings; it gets dark by 5 pm and then does not start to lighten until 7 am the following morning, that’s a massive 14 hours without light and your birds will only eat if there is enough light for them to see what they are doing. As small birds like finches and canaries need to eat more often to ask them to go 14 hours without food can and often will cause problems.
Install the light in such a position so as to get light into the night shelter without your birds being able to make contact with the hot bulb and burn themselves; if you have a security area between your access point to the night shelter and the access point to the birds area then install it there, if the barrier is solid then remove some of it and replace it with aviary mesh or clear Perspex so the light will penetrate into the birds dorm. If not then install the bulb in the dorm but fence it off with some aviary mesh to stop them getting to it and of course make sure any power cables are out of their reach too, you know they are bound to chew such things if they can.
Allow your birds about 7 to 8 hours of darkness to let them sleep by switching the light on and off manually or fit a timer to do it automatically; this is what I do. I bought a cheap electronic timer (only cost me £3) and set it to switch the light on as it gets dark (about 4.30 pm in the height of winter) and off about 7 to 8 hours before dawn (about 11 pm to 12 midnight in the height of winter).
Of course you will need to get rid of the ice that should be their water and replace it with fresh water about 2 or 3 times a day, and keep checking the food supply. Also try and close off their access points to the outside once they are all in the night shelter if you can, this will help prevent draughts and keep them inside where it’s dry and draught free til you let them out in the morning.
To summarise in the clearest way; I’m sure you have noticed that even when it is bitterly cold if you have your winter gear on in still and dry conditions you’re quite comfortable, and it’s only when it’s windy or wet do you feel cold. It’s exactly the same for your birds.
The above things might seem like a lot of work but they’re not really, and are just a few basic and easily achieved precautions, and well worth that bit of extra effort for your birds’ sake.
Last winter we recorded some of the lowest winter temperatures on record, often below minus 10 degrees. With the added precautions above I had no winter casualties whatsoever, and I also have finches (plus budgies, cockatiels and Java sparrows) in my exposed outdoor aviary.
I know this has seemed quite exhaustive but I sincerely hope the information helps to ensure you have a casualty-free and successful winter of bird-keeping.
If you’d like a bit more information then please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or Pete@stantonbirdman.com
More info about bird keeping can be found on my website at http://www.stantonbirdman.com/
or any of my blog sites: http://www.StantonBirdman.wordpress.com/
and also http://www.stanton-birdman.blogspot.com/.
To your success!