Normally if I hear a bird crashing around in its cage after falling off a perch at night, I’m going to think of a few possible causes:
- Something has disturbed the bird.
- The bird is having a night fright.
- There is something medically wrong.
Well sometimes things just happen and something will disturb your birds at night. Personally, I minimize that risk by covering my birds’ aviaries at night. I’ve also confiscated my kitten’s ping-pong ball. (Problem kitten behavior: Let’s throw ping-pong balls at the bird room door at 2am.)
In terms of night frights, I don’t actually have any birds in my flock that are prone to them.
The third option – something could be medically wrong. I’m always in favor of a vet check when something is not quite right with your bird. An example in my flock was when Fid (my macaw) had issues with settling at night when he was suffering from psittacosis. In his case I found a heat lamp and the introduction of a sleeping platform helped.
Lately, I have been dealing with a fourth cause. I have welcomed a new bird into my flock. The new bird is understandably jumpy and on edge in a strange environment. There are some general things to keep in mind when you first bring a new bird home. My recent experience however, has highlighted that the complete darkness that I ensure my birds have at night, can be more than a little dangerous for a jumpy new bird.
Personally, I don’t like using night-lights. They can be fantastic, but I’ve found that if I use a night light with my flock – my birds simply will not shutup. One will ask “Where are the peanuts?” then another will start quacking the alphabet song and it goes on from there. They all join in and are more than happy to sing and talk to each other all night. A night-light might prevent my flock from getting spooked and flying into something in the dark, but it also leaves me dealing with tired and grumpy birds. I must admit, after listening to the alphabet being quacked full volume at 2am, I don’t become particularly friendly myself.
I’ve found a way around this. I’ve started using glow sticks. What are they? Thin plastic tubes, that you bend, something inside snaps and the next thing you know it’s fluorescent in colour and it glows in the dark. (Not a very technical description I know.) I bought mine at a $2 junk store. They came with connectors that allow you to make bracelets out of them. The little kid in me just wants to snap them all and make them all glow at the same time. They’re fun to play with and I suspect that’s what they’re really made for.
They’re not something that I would put within reach of your bird. They contain glass and the chemicals are likely to be toxic. It doesn’t take the average parrot much effort at all to bite through something like this – so don’t take that risk. That said, I find they work well if you set them off and drop them in the tray at the bottom of your bird’s cage. In other words, put it under the grill safely out of reach of your bird. (Make sure your bird’s cage is a design where this works.)
I cover my birds at night, so this means that the light emitted from the glow stick is only visible to the bird whose cage it is placed in. The glow stick emits a gentle glow that slowly fades throughout the night. I find it gives off just enough light to help the bird see around it if it is feeling scared. This means if it does spook and start to flap around it is less likely to hit items in the cage. It also means that the bird is less likely to spook in the first place because they can see well enough to know that swinging toy in the corner is just a toy and not a predator.
So that’s my tip for helping a bird settle at night in a new environment. On that note, I’d like to introduce Charlie – the newest member of my flock.
Charlie’s previous owner had asked me sometime ago if I would take Charlie if something ever happened to her. Considering how long parrots can live, it seems to be the sort of arrangement any responsible owner would plan for. The reason she asked me was because I’m already caring for an elderly galah. There is something to be said for keeping birds of the same species who are roughly the same age together. There aren’t that many really old galahs around. My galah, Cocky Boy turned 65 this year. Charlie is meant to turn 55 years old later this year.
So Charlie’s previous owner has had some issues that have led her to re-home him now. I hadn’t really planned on adding to my flock but I have had Charlie stay here before while his owner was away – so I know he fits. (He also fits in the filing box I keep my tax receipts – he’s an awesome shredder.)
He’s jumpier than any of my other birds and that’s not particularly surprising because he hasn’t had a great history. His previous owner was fine, but he came to her from a rescue and as we all know rescue birds can have some issues that can mean it takes a little longer to work on trust. So the little things like using a glow stick at night seem to be making a huge difference to helping him settle in.
You’d think going to the effort of making sure he’s comfortable at night would help with building trust. Charlie however, doesn’t seem so grateful about my thoughtfulness. He’s made his preferences clear. He’s madly in love with my mother. Meanwhile I’m in trouble with her for saying that it must mean that she’s old… After all it’s the two elderly birds that have chosen her as their favourite – it’s a logical reason. Yeah – I’m definitely in trouble for highlighting that.
Mel Vincent works as an animal rehabilitator out of Australia.