Small pet birds and anything related by Pete Etheridge – aka – 'Stanton Birdman'

Archive for the ‘habitat’ Category

Keeping your birds warm in winter

I had an email today in response to my article on ‘Article Base’ enquiring about more information; here is the answer I gave:

In answer to your enquiry you’ll be pleased to know that it is not the cold that causes problems for your birds but wet and draughty conditions certainly will.

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 or
More info about bird keeping can be found on my website at
or any of my blog sites:
and also

To your success!
‘Stanton Birdman’


Cage or aviary – what is the best option?

This depends entirely on your own personal preference and what plans you have for your bird or birds.

I’ve recently sold some baby budgies and have been asked this question a few times and have always responded with the same answer.

If you want a companion bird, ie. one you can handle, tame and possibly train then go for a cage.  If on the other hand you would like your bird to live out as natural existence as possible then go for an aviary.  This is the basic jist of it but of course it does depend on your budget and the space you have available.

The majority of my birds live in a large outdoor mixed aviary at the bottom of the garden, but when I have babies to deal with I put them in a cage once they have flown the nest to try to keep them as tame as possible ready for sale.  This also makes them much easier to catch once new homes have been found for them.

A caged bird will become much tamer and more human-friendly because it will undoubtedly interact with people more often.  Whereas a bird in an aviary will live in a semi-wild state and will only be used to its main owner.

I do believe however that if an adult bird is taken from an aviary to be re-homed in a cage then this can have a psychological effect on it; after living semi-free in the aviary for so long this would be like a prison sentence to the poor bird.

On the other hand if a baby bird is first housed in a cage and has never known the relative freedom of an aviary then it will accept its existence as normal.  This will not then affect the bird psychologically in any way.  If the previously caged bird is then given the freedom of an aviary then initially it will wonder what’s gone off and will tend to stay put to start with.  After a day or so however it will then begin to explore its new environment and will soon get used to the change.

Unfortunately this wouldn’t work the other way and a previously free bird that is now caged will undoubtedly become depressed.

To summarise moving an adult caged bird to an aviary will generally be fine, but moving an adult aviary bird to cage is not a good idea.

The only exception to this rule is if the bird becomes ill it will and should have the solitude of a cage whilst it recovers from its illness, this also quarantines the bird so that if the illness is infectious then the risk of the other birds catching it will be dramatically reduced.

Hub about habitat damage

Wrote a hub a while ago and submitted it to HubPages

It’s about the habitat damage caused by human demand for pet birds please click on this link and read it!

Once you’ve read it please share it with everybody!


Pet birds – The impact of domestic demand on the natural habitats of exotic and foreign birds

Bird keeping is a very popular pass-time throughout the world. However the demand for exotic or foreign birds in the past and mankind’s increasing intrusion has had a dramatic effect on wild stocks and their natural habitats. Fortunately new laws are being introduced throughout the world in an attempt to maintain the ecosystem and put back what has been taken.

Some time ago many wild birds were captured from wild sources to be kept in captivity with the intention of breeding for the pet, zoo and show bird markets. This unfortunately led to many wild bird species being brought to near extinction. Fortunately nowadays this activity is carefully monitored and policed around the globe which has gone some way to restoring wild stocks. Unfortunately many species are still endangered – to a critical extent in some cases – so careful policing and monitoring methods will need to be ongoing for many decades yet to come – some possibly permanently. However mankind is now beginning to notice the damage done to wild animals, native plant life and natural habitats and is constantly striving to pay back what has been taken so, with optimism, things can only get better for our wildlife, however this will undoubtedly prove to be a very long task. Only with dedication and determination will this ever be achieved.

Many countries now ban the import of domestic livestock and many others impose a strict regime with regard to the matter. This is of course an absolutely necessary precaution to help achieve the desired results. This does of course mean that many previously easily available exotic or foreign pets now have to be bred in the country to meet the demand in the market. This coupled with inflation, has ultimately had an impact on the availability and cost associated with each species; They’re not as cheap as they used to be! However many exotic or foreign pet birds are readily available for the right price with the most popular breeds being the least costly.

Many people keep birds as pets and many new enthusiasts are appearing all the time so the market is by no means saturated and there is still much demand. This assures that breeding conditions are being improved continuously with new technology being incorporated to improve the chances of success. Also many private breeders are making use of the demand to help fund the cost of their bird keeping ventures. Mass breeding is still going on but fortunately new regimes are often being incorporated to improve the living conditions of birds in captivity, sometimes brought on by the influence of animal rights activity, but this is a good thing and can only help.

To summarise almost anyone with a desire to keep exotic or foreign birds for whatever reason can find many to choose from and some at little cost. Almost every pet shop in the civilised world will have a stock of pet bird related foods and equipment. Bird keeping is proving to be a desirable pass-time with a massive market to meet demand.

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Ay up mi duck!

Although I normally focus on small pet birds I was intrigued to find something yesterday, OK it’s about a duck but why not talk about it here, after all a duck is still a bird when all is said and done.

Yesterday I found myself being the allocated driver for a trip to the hospital as my nephew had to go in for a minor operation.

The notice on the planter

Whilst we were outside the relevant department at The Queens Medical Centre Hospital (‘t’Queen’s med’ to the locals) I spotted a little note (see image) attached to a wooden planter  ‘A Duck has made a nest in here. Please leave her in peace, thank you!’  On closer inspection I saw mother duck laid in the planter, no doubt incubating her eggs.  I knew instinctively that what I saw was a female mallard.  So I took a photo of her (see image); sorry for the quality of the photos but all I had was the built-in camera on my rather old mobile phone.

Mrs. Duck on her eggs

This situation just goes to show how versatile our wildlife has become, constantly adapting to changes in habitat (the urban fox is another good example).

I decided on a quick ‘Google’ search for more stuff and found a few items:

Firstly a duck had returned to a store in the USA for a second year to build its nest in a rather unusual place.  Click this link for the story.

Here’s another mallard duck story for your reading pleasure, and another one here.

So as you can see, what I saw is not that unusual after all.

Find more mallard info here at ‘Wikipedia‘ or here at ‘RSPB‘.

Finally some mallard ‘YouTube’ videos for you to view:

Baby mallards in someones swimming pool, drake mallard mating display, house mallards, duck eggs hatch in parking lot, mallard mini-documentary, mallard family in someones garden, and another duck vid.

That’s enough about the common mallard to keep you going for now I think.

But I can’t do a piece about ducks without mentioning the most famous duck of all.  Take it away Donald!


More information can be found in my new pet bird keeping ebook available now.

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How to make sure you get the accommodation right for your new pet bird.

So you are thinking of getting a new pet bird. Before you do you need to be sure that you have the right home set up for your new bird before you take it home. Here are the basic housing requirements for all small pet birds.

Whether you are going for a budgie, cockatiel, lovebird, parakeet, finch or some other type of small pet bird the accommodation is basically the same and the only difference depends on the size of your new charge.

Cage or aviary.

This mainly depends on the space you have available and whether or not you want to keep just one pet bird or a number of them. All small pet birds will be happy in either, however you must be sure that your new friend has enough space to be given relative freedom. You wouldn’t want to live your entire life in the closet would you? Neither would your pet bird! Space is required to move about and not be cramped.

If going for a cage you need to go for the biggest one you can comfortably afford, but be sure it’s secure so your bird cannot escape, the cage bars need to be close enough together for the same reason. Go for metal, not wood, with a plastic base for easy cleaning.

Furnish your cage with perches of varying thickness and set some at an angle rather than perfectly horizontal, some horizontal, some angled, and even some almost upright would be perfect. The different thicknesses and angles will encourage your bird to exercise and possible save it from a foot cramp. If you can only have one of each of the above that will be fine but a few more is better, don’t overdo it though and leave room for your pet bird to move freely. On the subject of perches; natural wood is the best option, but be sure it is hygienically clean, give it a scrub if you need to.

As a general rule finches need company and parrot type species (budgie, cockatiel etc.) need toys, so incorporate this in your cage; keep finches in pairs or more, and parrot type in pairs or alone with plenty of toys.

Parrot type species love to chew so be certain to assure that anything in the cage is safe.

Your bird needs to have a minimum of enough space to fully spread its wings and height is better than width as most cage birds will climb rather than fly.

If however you have enough space for an aviary then this is by far a better choice as it is the closest your pet bird will get to its natural environment. Lots of room to fly, climb, rummage and explore; plus if kept with others then the opportunity to get away from the others when things get too much.

A group of birds, even of different species, can be kept together in an aviary with enough room for all, but be sure to check the compatibility with other species. As an example lovebirds aught to be kept with birds of their own species as they will become territorial and aggressive towards others. Budgies however can live happily with other birds of a similar size (except lovebirds) or finches, as long as they have room to get out of each others way if they choose.

If introducing your new bird to an aviary colony you must first keep it in quarantine for a few weeks before letting it loose in the aviary with the others, this is to ensure that any issues with your new bird can be addressed before release. A decent sized cage as mentioned above will be fine, or a small aviary separate from the others.

Aviaries, like cages come in many shapes and sizes; shop around for the best deal or better still, build your own (the essentials to building your own aviary will be covered in my next article).

Again make sure that the aviary is well furnished with safe branches, perches, shelter, toys (if required) etc. with no escape routes.

Your aviary can be indoors (in a shed or outbuilding, or in the home) or outdoors (on the garden for example), and don’t worry about the comfort and warmth of an outdoor aviary as most popular small pet birds are very hardy.

These and other bird keeping subjects are covered in my new ebook, out now. Email me to grab your copy or click on a link.

One of my zebra finches

For more bird keeping related issues please email me with your questions.

More information available in my new pet bird keeping ebook available now, click here to get your copy.

Follow me on Facebook!/pages/Stanton-Birdman/178059325577474

Pete Etheridge
Nottinghamshire, UK

Keeper and breeder of pet birds for 10 years.

Offering information and advice on all aspects of bird keeping.

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