Friday, August 8, 2014

Kookaburras feeding on the mouse plague.

Like many people who breed birds in aviaries, we have an ongoing problem with mice.  They dig tunnels under the aviaries and come up inside to feed on the spilt seed and husks and whatever else is there.  They won't harm the birds physically, but they leave their droppings, which pollute the floor for the birds which sometimes leave their perches to feed on the ground/floor of the aviary.  In some cases, people concrete the entire floor of their aviaries, but we aren't in a position to do that, so the structure is mounted on concrete pavers which are all around it, so foxes and rats can't get inside, but the mice can and do.

Some people set poison baits to kill the mice, but the chances are a bird might pick it up as well.  Or if the mice live long enough to go back into their tunnels and outside into the yard, predators would pick  them up and die from eating the poisoned mice.  So we set a particular type of trap which entices the mouse inside, but they can't get out again.  I use mostly peanut butter to entice them, but sometimes use cheese.  When we find the mice in the traps (there could be just one, but most times there are several, up to 8 at one time!), we take the trap out into the yard and decide what to do with the mice.  My husband used to immerse the whole trap in  a bucket of boiling water, but when he told me about this, I begged him not to do that any more, as I said you could hear them squealing.  He said he didn't, but I didn't want to know about it, so now he leaves it up to me to dispose of them.

We have kookaburras visit us from time to time, and they must keep an eye on our yard from vantage points, as whenever there is a mouse in a trap, there will be one or more kookaburras waiting on the fence for me to bring the trap out .  When I do, I put it on a garden table nearby, and the birds swoop down to inspect the mice.  As soon as I open the trap, the kookaburras swoop, and the mice are gone.  Ken says this is cruel, but it is a lot quicker than boiling them alive, and after all it is nature's way for the kookaburras to keep the vermin population under control.  On the occasions when they aren't around, I just let the cats out of the house, and set the mice free for them to play with.  Now that really upsets Ken as he says the cats torment the mice before eating them, and that is cruel too!

So here are some of our feathered friends waiting for their hot meal:

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Lots happening in the aviaries this year.

It's been a few months since I last posted anything but that doesn't mean life has come to a standstill in our aviaries.  Far from it in fact!   We haven't let the hens hatch any more chickens, although with the rooster in firm control of his six girls, there would have been lots of chickens!  But we take all the eggs from them the same day as they are laid, so there is no chance of them hatching.  Seven chooks are enough at the moment while we don't have a proper chicken coop for them.  The finch aviary is very safe and weatherproof, and fine at night while they are roosting, or sitting on eggs in the nest boxes, but during the day we let them out to free range over the back yard, even though they make a mess.  They are much happier out there than being cooped up in the aviary all day.

The canaries have had only one baby grow to maturity in spite of several lots of eggs.  The Gouldian finches haven't stopped breeding all year round; in fact Ken removes the eggs from the nest boxes now and then, just to give the females a break from sitting and looking after young ones.  For a time, many of the finches didn't seem to be recovering from their moult - the feathers on and around their head and neck weren't growing at all, and Ken finally took one to a specialist bird vet in Scoresby, a few miles from us.  The vet examined the finch thoroughly and said he was perfectly healthy, and his feathers would grow back eventually.  He sold Ken some vitamin mix to put in the finches' drinking water, which he did as soon as he got home, and within a month, all the finches had fully developed coloured feathers and they are all looking stunningly beautiful.

The Quails have also been busy, one mother in particular is a very good mother indeed.  She and her mate are very protective of their babies as soon as they hatch, and most of her broods live to maturity, whereas the quail hens in the other aviaries aren't quite so maternal, so they usually lose most of their brood after a few weeks, because they die of hunger or cold.  These baby silver quail hatched today and are just perfect!
In the first pic below, they all went under Mum as soon as I stepped into the aviary to take photos.

Mum got scared though, and hopped over the divider, leaving her chicks to follow.
Which they did.  Even at 24 hours old, they can jump up over this divider, although we have some brick pieces  at the other end, where the chickens ended up going, as it was easier for them to clamber over the bricks than jump over the divider.