Animals that live in captivity do not fully develop their instinct to cope with heat, which is why bird owners and breeders are the ultimate responsible for their safety, having to provide them with all they need in this respect.
Birds, as the majority of complex animals, are endothermic, that is to say that they maintain a stable body temperature regardless of their environment, producing heat when it is cold and shedding excess heat when it is hot. An extreme example of this would be penguins and camels. On the contrary, animals like reptiles are exothermic.
This thermoregulation system is more developed in mammals than in birds. For instance, as birds are not able to sweat to lose heat, they do it by panting.
Activity and Feeding
In winter, the physiological system is in charge of increasing activity, which will lead to a higher heat production. On the other hand, breeders will provide higher quantity of food as well as better quality food; this all will help birds to cope with cold temperatures.
Logically, in summer it will happen the other way around. Birds will instinctively reduce their activity and breeders should reduce the amount and “quality” of the food they give to them, this way birds will reduce their intake of fat. Their diet can be enriched with fruits and greens. The percentage of body fat affects the regulation of the body temperature.
Behaviors we need to encourage or avoid
In short, as thermal stress increases, birds will increase their water intake and reduce their food intake and activity. They will stay in shaded areas and avoid sunny ones. Breeders should not be an obstacle to their wellbeing; instead they should provide them or “deny” them all the necessary.
As we already said, the first thing we need to do is reducing the fat in their diet and, in general, the amount of food we give them; instead we should provide them with more fresh greens. Besides, they always need to have clean water at their disposal. We should avoid placing water containers where they are exposed to direct sunlight.
Talking about water, it is paramount that we do not confuse clean and fresh water with cold water. No animal should drink water that has been artificially cooled in a fridge or a cooler. Although water tubes can be kept in the cage, it is necessary to include baths that allow them to splash in the water.
It is crucial to take away all the things that invite them to breed. Once in May, we should take away all the nests and nesting material, otherwise our animals will be exposed to dangerous temperatures. If you do not know if your bird is a male or a female, the best way to now what they need is to sex it using a DNA sexing test.
When heat comes, more and more breeders change the nests for perches specially designed to avoid high temperatures and maintain pairs bonds.
These measures will not be enough in some geographic areas where heat can be deadly.
The majority of the deaths are closely linked to the quality of the roof of the aviary or cage. Canvas or metal or plastic plates with no thermal insulation properties tend to be very dangerous, they can even cause birds to die; above all in inland areas. The roof that will cover the aviary should be built using bricks and tiles or materials with thermal insulation layers. This will benefit them in summer and winter.
In extreme cases of suffocating heat we can use small sprinklers which mist the water during a certain period of time. We should take some precautions: water mist should not cover the entire cage, the animal should be able to choose if it feels like getting wet or not.
I personally do not recommend the use of hoses because if birds get damp, they are not able to fly causing them great stress until they get dry. Misting systems should not be used under direct sun because the water that will be left among bird’s feathers will quickly heat up making them feel hotter than before getting wet.
Hygiene of our birds
Heat is considered to be a way of destroying both bacteria and viruses, but it is not always the case. Notably, if high temperatures are combined with droppings, feather remains and humidity (caused by baths and water misting).
All that will be a potential source of virus and bacteria which can harm our pets during high temperature seasons. We should take extra hygiene precautions in hotter months.
During summer our feathered friends will go through a molting period, in many cases birds can have a hard molt.
In shops, we can find many supplements for molting periods consisting of vitamins and electrolytes. But, according to my experience, well fed and cared birds will never have problems with summer molting, so will not need extra vitamins.
The only thing that limits the liberty of an animal is death and us, humans. Do not limit the quality of life of your pets.
Juan A. García.
“Agapornis La Isla”
Filed in: Best Tips to breed birds