CARE OF SPLENDIDS

Accommodation is so important for Splendids

 
Large open Aviaries help to keep birds fit


Splendid without doubt are the most delicate of all the grass parrakeet to house successfully. For some degree of success in keeping Splendid, housing must have no drafts, no damp, and good lighting, preferably natural. Artificial lighting is difficult to use with Splendid, especially during the darker days of winter. It is difficult to get the right balance between giving extra lights to allow them to feed a couple of extra hour during those dreary days, and stimulating breeding activity. If too much artificial light is given, the hens will start to produce eggs, but the percentage of clear eggs is very high as it seems that the cock birds do not react in the same way as the hens.

Although heat is not entirely necessary it is of great benefit to Splendid, especially if housed in accommodation that does not offer good flying space. During cold spells birds need to fly to keep up their blood flow, if they cannot, they become chilled. I heat my bird room during the winter to only about 45 degs. But when breeding starts in early March, I raise the heat to a min of 55 degs. This is only as a precaution as in my part of the UK sometimes we have very cold nights just when the birds are about to lay, and by raising the minimum heat level this make life easier particularly for the young hens. Although this may sound expensive on electricity; it actually only comes on a very few times early in the mornings.

Another aspect of housing is at the other end of the scale - it is not allowing the birdroom to become too hot in summer. Good ventilation without drafts is sometimes difficult to obtain in a small birdroom. But with the modern self opening greenhouse vents, a thermostat and a fan it is possible. What is ideally required is housing that is warm in winter and cool in summer. The ideal way is to have a heated birdroom with completely open aviaries outside with only ½ the roof covered, therefore giving the birds the choice. This also allows them direct sunlight and rain.

WITH THE OLD FLIGHTS 30 YEARS OLD. A FLIGHT REBUILD I FELT WAS WHAT WAS CALLED FOR.
My range of grass Parrakeet aviaries that I built thirty years ago  were in need of some restoration so I decided to completely rebuild them this time with full height doors to make access easy for cleaning, as bending down to enter the 900mm high doors had become more difficult with passing time. I discovered that the aluminium. 20mm square box and the fittings elbows, tee piece’s etc. so commonly used in Europe to build aviaries is not available in the UK, therefore no alternative but to make trips to Belgium and bring it home on the roof rack of the car. I must admit I did get some strange looks each time I returned home with aluminium sticking out front and back of the car from the staff of Euro Star as I navigated my way into train.


    aviary b
Making sure everthing was in line                  With full height doors I fitted a safety walkway

The panels needed to be 3mts long X 1.8mts high, so I made a large table with a jig in the Garage to form the panels to ensure they were all exactly square and the same size.  Also to make building the panels easy; I wanted to use 1.8mts. wide wire. After a long trawl on the internet the only place that stocked 1.8mt wire is company that supplies wire to the thatching industry their prices and service is very good. Their website www.hillsofdeven.co.uk
Aluminium is easy to work with, it cuts easy with a chop saw and also easy to drill holes for the pop rivets that holds on the wire. Making 3mt panels made the task much quicker than if I had made the normal 900mm wide and joined them together also much neater and ridged.

I re-concreted the floor area and inserted plastic strips to sit the panels on and left a hole in the concrete to set Grass in so that it would give extra interest for the birds. My intention was to leave as much of the roof open as possible to allow maximum sunlight to the birds.  I covered 900mm at the building end and only 300mm over the perch end, fixing a nylon net 200mm about the wire roof thinking it sufficient to deter the sparrow hawks, Unfortunately this did not work so have now covered a larger area with translucent sheets rather than clear so the birds are not visible from above, only leaving a section immediately over the grass open. This fortunately has seemed to work.


grass floor
A grass floor area give interest


Feeding

Another important factor is to make feeding and changing the bird’s water as easy as possible as this needs to be attended to daily. In view of this, anything that makes this task less irksome is most beneficial, allowing more time for the pleasant things like viewing the birds.

 
Feed Trays


Some years ago I developed a system of pull out drawers that allows me to go through the whole birdhouse changing the waters first and then going through with the feed trolley and still not allowing the birds to escape. The drawers are the width of the enclosure and deep enough just to hold the dishes necessary for the bird needs. The back bar of the tray is the same height as the front rail so when the draws are open the bird cannot escape.

Every birdkeeper will have a different idea about the correct diet for their birds. Personally, I think it needs to be an interesting diet that keeps the birds feeding but doesn’t make then fat. The smaller the accommodation, the more difficult it is to get just right. Splendid have a very soft bite so the seeds offered must be easy to crack. Oil seeds should only be given at very low levels. I never feed sunflower in the dry state, and for many years I sprouted small sunflowers and fed them in with my soft food mix. But now I do not use sunflowers in any form, as I found that the parent birds were feeding the sprouted sunflower to very young chicks in too larger bits for them to easily digest.


Inside the Aviary at feeding time, easy management is so important

The Seed mix that I have now used for some years and am completely satisfied with, is made from: 26% Plain canary - 20% White millet - 20% Panicum millet - 10% Red millet - 8% Japanese millet - 5% Hemp - 5% Niger seed - 4% Linseed - 2% Naked/Peeled oats. This is fed adlib in open dishes throughout the year and I do not change this staple diet at any time. These dishes are sieved every day and the husk blown off the top. I do not believe in winnowing machines, it would be a difficult to winnow each dish separately, and if the seed is collected from all the pens and winnowed together; there is the possibility of spreading disease throughout the entire flock.

50% of the bird diet is made up of soft food. This is fed daily and it is of the utmost importance to keep these dishes clean. I vary the content as much as possible to keep the birds interested in eating. The base mix is made up of 50% sprouted seed. The mix must be made up of seeds that take the same time to germinate. I obtain mine from a company called ‘Country Wide’ who attend the Stafford Bird Events.

To soak my seed I use microwave rice dishes from the shop Lakeland. These are ideal. During the warmer weather it is possible to sprout seed in three day to what I consider the perfect state, but it needs four days in the cooler times. It is important that the sprouted seed is in good condition and smells sweet. I fill the dish only to about 1/3 full, as the seed more than doubles in size as is soaks. Leave to soak for 1 hour (about the time it take me to feed!), then wash under running water and refill the container a second time. This time add a few drops of AviClean (a Bird Care Company product.) to the water. Thoroughly wash the seed through the next day, cover the container and leave for two days in the summer or three days in the winter. The seed will sprout by just the right amount to use, and I do not wash the seed anymore. If done correctly it will smell fresh

To this sprouted mix I add different things different days to give the birds variety in the diet Such as grated carrot, broccoli, celery, chopped chickweed if I am able to find an a clean source, grated fresh beetroot is very much enjoyed but it does stain the feeding dishes. 10% Couscous ( this is cheap and the birds like it) And about 15% egg food. I just buy the one that is on offer, but care must be taken if a moist one is used, that it does not go off before it is used up. Another thing to watch for; is that the egg food does not contain too much dust as no splendid will eat this.

Supplements is a area again the all birdkeeper either believe in or not. For some year now I have used the Birdcare Company’s Essentials 3 and Proboost. Also a few drops of calcivet is added to the softfood. Putting anything in the drinking water for Splendid is a complete waste of time because they drink such small amounts. It is very important not to use too much supplement, a little is better then too much. I truly believe that if given too much, hens will lay like chickens but if they produce more then 6 eggs in a clutch, they cannot usually brood them correctly, and some of the eggs get pushed to the outside and fail to hatch. If a hen is successful in hatching a large number of chicks, it is almost inevitable that some will be lost during rearing and the hen will have lost all her energy before she starts her second round.


  
Left - A bright eyed hen with healthy chicks. Centre - Five healthy chicks at 10 days. Right - The same chicks at 20 days



Nest Boxes

Nest boxes also need to be of easy access for nest inspection. After I fit the nest boxes early March I check them every day, this is most important as it get the hens used to this routine so are not upset when they have very young chick that you need to inspect. A nest box is best if you are able to look in to the box at nest level the hen then does not feel trapped on inspection for years I used a peat in my nest but no longer I now use a product fine grade chipsee the it is better than sawdust and is always available at one of the major show/sale days. This very granules of wood and does not make dust that gets into the young birds eyes or lungs.

 
Nest Box

This photo of the nest box is a design that I developed some years ago and is now used by many breeders was designed specifically for Splendid but is suitable for all Grass Parrakeets. This design is to allow the young birds once starting to move around to have more freedom in the nest as they climb the slop and sit on the shelf just inside the entrance hole. It gives easy access to the parent birds and the hens are not able to drop down on the eggs or chicks. The slid allows easy inspection at nest level giving the hens the chance to leave the nest gently if they wish too. However long before the eggs hatch the hens become used to this intrusion and they have to be gently lifted up with the end of the inspection torch.


Easy access at a convenient level is so important

Fitting nest boxes must be an easy task. These boxes fit in a side and at the end of the season the nest is slid out and a black plate is fitted. Easy access at a convenient level is so important.


Bird Management

I have always given a lot of thought to the management of my flock of Splendid. At the end of each breeding season I split up all the breeding pairs, and look through the records to see what they have bred in the season. I can then select the birds that I will need to breed with the next year. I always breed with at least 50% young birds every year and sell birds that I have used after a maximum of two breeding seasons. The reason for this is so that the birds I sell on have at least two good years breeding left in them and it ensures that I maintain a young flock. I rarely pair the same two bird together for the second year of their breeding, as all that can be expected is the same quality young that the pair produced the previous year. Also better results can often be acheived by using a young bird paired to a proven bird.


   
Ringing the birds in the nest is a must - Grass parrakeets are the easyest

By splitting up the pairs that I have been breeding with in late August, and placing cocks in one aviary and hen in another, this allows the birds to recover and moult. The aviaries I use are 1m wide with an inside length of 2.4m and an outside flight of 3m. Only 1/3 of the roof is covered and I run about 12 birds per flight. There is also a benefit to me as in two aviaries throughout the winter I will have 12 pairs, so cutting down the number of aviaries I have to feed. It is most important not to run too many birds per aviary as they need plenty of perch space and a large enough feeding station so the birds do not have to push to feed otherwise the birds will look stressed and scruffy.


Large flight cages are ideal for holding young birds when first removed form the breeding aviaries

Once the young birds are old enough to be removed from their parents (for first round chicks this is before the second round young hatch), they are placed in large cages. This has two purposes; it allows me to check that they are feeding well and also gives me the chance to carefully select the young birds that I will keep to breed with the following year. After about one month they are transferred to the large outside aviaries to enjoy the open air and mature and moult their first juvenile moult. I do not allow them out into the outside flight for at least a week so that they get used to the sleeping area and know where the feeding station is.

Moulting young birds in cages can be a very slow business. Two years ago for the first time while I was rebuilding some of the aviaries, I had to keep my young birds in indoor flights. They seemed to take for ever to come through the moult whereas last year, back to flying the young outside again, they went through the moult without even showing it.

 
Inside flights are ideal to use when selecting breeding birds or for displaying birds that are for sale

Indoor flights can be of use when it is time to pair birds in mid February because at this time of the year the invariably the weather is far from clement. So by bringing the birds inside, it makes the job of selecting the breeding pairs a much more pleasant task. Also it displays the birds well that are on offer for sale. It is much better to see them in a large enclosure where they can be seen fully rather than in the aviaries. All my aviaries and pen have the pullout draw system I outlined above in thefeeding section. It make life so mush easier when feeding up.

Artificial lights are fitted throughout my entire birdhouse but these are hardly ever used. I found to my cost many years ago that if you gave Splendid extra light it encouraged the hens to lay eggs.

 
I only use Artificial Light when it snows

These lights are fitted to dimmers so the only time that they come into use is when my birdroom’s main light through the polycarbonate roof is blocked by snow. I do have night lights which are set at a continual low level. These lights are increased before bonfire night to a reasonably high level so that if the birds are disturbed by the flashes and bangs, they can see their way back to the roost. I also close the bob hole to keep the birds in the inside enclosure during this time. This is the only time that the bob holes are closed.