It's not only a thrill having my parrots fly in my yard, it's also great exercise for them!
Rather than a small free standing aviary, my entire yard is enclosed so that I could be there together with my parrots. This allows me full use of the yard space with or without the birds and it gives the birds a lot of space to fly.
Flying is by far the best form of exercise for a parrot. It not only works their wing muscles, but their entire body! They need to tuck their feet in, steer with their tail, adjust their feathers, user their mind, and of course breath and move blood quickly! It is only during flight that the parrots entire body is working up to its capacity.
However, don't expect that just because you put your parrot in a large enclosure that it will just fly. Parrots are generally pretty lazy and won't fly unless they really want to or there is danger. Of course in the wild, necessity is what gets parrots to fly many miles in search of food sources. At home, flight training using positive reinforcement will be the closest simulation to their natural ways while also building a bond with you.
Parrot Wizard Training Perches are the best way to get a parrot trained and accustomed to flying at home. Not only is it necessary to teach the parrot how to fly in a home environment but it is also essential to provide the physical therapy to get their muscles and systems strong enough to be able to fly effortlessly.
Then, the commands and methods used to train the parrot to fly indoors can be extended to large indoor spaces such as a gym or outdoors. However, it is imperative to have a back up safety measure when flying a parrot outdoors. When spooked, even well-trained parrots can fly away. So make sure that you do any outdoor flight in an aviary or with the use of an Aviator Harness as a safety net.
Although it may look effortless in the video, it is actually quite difficult to teach parrots to fly on command (especially outdoors). It takes weeks of consistent, and sometimes frustrating, training to get the parrots not only mentally in shape to fly but also physically. After a long winter restricted to indoor flying, it takes a bit of exercise before they can be good at flying longer distances again.
In this video, you can see how well Kili, Truman, and Rachel fly their daily exercise routines in my enclosed back yard flying area:
Kili and Rachel have been enjoying the fall weather flying in my backyard flight area. They have been building strong flight muscles, breathing fresh air, and getting natural sunlight all at the same time.
I'll share details about the enclosure at a different time but simply put it's a netting enclosed area that is safe for supervised time but not for leaving the birds unattended.
Truman has been left out of the flight activities lately because of his own issues. He hasn't been too eager to flight recall and on the other hand, he's been randomly flying into stuff. He will need some separate one on one attention to get him on the right track. But since Kili and Rachel are already doing the right stuff, I've been focused on getting them flying.
Kili, the trained Senegal Parrot that used to freefly outdoors, had no trouble adjusting to flying in the enclosed yard at all. She immediately knew what to do and did not try to fly away. Kili recalls with great reliability and is definitely my go-to bird.
The way I got Rachel to start flight training outside was to bring her out every day to watch Kili reliably flight training. On one hand, Rachel got to see Kili earning treats and showing what to do. But on the other, Rachel was getting accustomed to the sights and sounds of being out in the yard. It took some time for this to all sink in because Rachel was cautiously reluctant to leave the safety of her Training Perch.
Eventually Rachel started to make sure flights, then slightly longer ones. With time and practice, reliability started to improve. It was a combination of building confidence, security, practice, and exercise to improve muscle strength. Now, Rachel makes 10-20ft flight recalls with ease. As the autumn temperatures continue to drop, our chances for further training are quickly diminishing. Over the winter we will continue training other skills indoors and pick up where we left off with the outdoor training in the spring.
Here is a 360 degree video of Kili and Rachel flight training in the yard. You can move the image 360 degrees by dragging with your mouse or tilting your phone to get a feeling of what it's like having these parrots flying around you.
I visited the Gabriel Foundation outside of Denver recently. This is a spectacular parrot rescue that should serve as a role model not only for other rescues but even stores and private owners as well!
The Gabriel Foundation was started by Julie Weiss Murad over twenty years ago. The foundation is more than just a rescue. It is a parrot welfare center. They take in relinquished birds, they find homes and adopt out birds, they rescue abused birds in emergency need, and the provide lifelong sanctuary to birds that cannot be adopted to homes. But their efforts extend beyond the birds. They offer educational programs, assistance, and volunteer opportunities to people so that they could become better connected with their parrots.
I found several things extremely impressive during my brief two day visit to the Gabriel Foundation. The most noticeable thing is how incredibly clean everything is! The cages there are cleaner than those at any bird store, rescue, or even most private homes I have ever visited. And I know parrots well enough to tell you that it's not because the parrots aren't making a mess. It's the endless cleaning efforts of the staff that make this happen.
Every cage is filled with a multitude of perches and toys suitable to the parrot enclosed. Again, a better and more suitable effort than even many parrot owners in their home. The same holds for the feeding routine. They feed an extensive variety of foods on a twice daily schedule with proper portion sizing.
Perhaps the most impressive thing of all is that none of the parrots have their wings clipped! You cannot find a store or almost any other rescue where the birds don't have their mobility hindered for the convenience of the care takers. Yet, at the Gabriel Foundation, the birds are given the chance to be birds! Off the bat this ends up solving many of the problems that the birds may have been relinquished to the rescue for in the first place. Most parrot behavioral problems come as a side effect of wing clipping and the owner's misunderstanding of how to properly keep a bird.
One more thing that the birds at the Gabriel Foundation get that most other rescue, store, and even home pet birds don't is outside time with access to direct natural sunlight. This is as important for the birds' mental well-being as it is to their physical health. I am so impressed to encounter such a large scale organization that really gets it. The Grabriel Foundation is doing things right. They are not taking any shortcuts. They are providing the birds in their care with the kind of care the bird's should really be receiving in a home. Things are almost too good to be true and begs the question, why even adopt a parrot from the Gabriel Foundation if they have it so good there?
Well, according to Julie, the parrots are better off in a home because of the greater human contact. These parrots were domestically bred and raised in homes with people. Although they might have a grand time in aviaries with other parrots of their species, ultimately, they are more comfortable in the human environment in which they were brought up. The Gabriel Foundation simply offers those birds the best possible interim solution until they can find the right home. This also frees up a space at the foundation so that another parrot in need could have the opportunity to make it through the system as well.
By setting the standards so high and so right at the Foundation, it makes it a bit challenging for adopters to meet those kind of standards. The good news is that they are not without help. The foundation goes through great lengths to educate and assist adopters as much as they require so that they could continue the wonderful legacy that the Foundation had started.
I have to say that most times I visit a parrot store or rescue, I end up leaving with a painful feeling in my gut. I get quite upset at the dark, dirty, insufficient perch, insufficient toy, clipped, and ignorant conditions that I come across. Frankly, I tend to avoid visiting stores and rescues to shield myself from the distress that they cause me over the treatment of the birds. Coming to the Gabriel, I had heard good things, but didn't really know what to expect. Incredibly, it was the exact opposite of the typical experience. I would like to encourage any parrot owners, bird store owner, breeder, or rescue staff/volunteer visiting the Denver area to pay the Gabriel Foundation a visit and learn about how good parrot care and parrots themselves can be.
Ginger's Parrots Rescue is following a similar model but on a smaller scale and specifically focused on Senegal Parrots and Cockatiels in the Phoenix area.
Here's a video tour of a portion of my visit to the Gabriel Foundation:
I try to keep my parrots outside in the aviary nearly every day from April till November. I found an acceptable temperature range to be from about 45F as the low till about 100F as the high. Anywhere from 60F-80F requires little concern. But the lower and higher temperatures require some special considerations. Here I will talk about some of the summer time things I apply to outdoor parrots.
First of all, my parrots sleep indoors at night. So they are not fully acclimatized aviary parrots. If they spent 24/7 outdoors, they would have been able to grow accustomed to the heat more gradually. The two key things to worry about in the summer are extreme heat (mainly over 90F) and shock changes in temperature (bringing parrots inside from 90F-70F). Since I don't want to make drastic changes in temperature for my parrots, I try to keep them outside all day rather than take them back inside when it gets too hot. This way it may be in the 70-80s when I take them outside and about the same when I bring them inside. This way when they switch from the hot outdoor temperatures to the cool indoor air conditioned temperatures, the change in temperature is less sudden. If I do take my parrots outside for a short time, I generally do it in the late afternoon when the temperature difference between inside and outside is less severe.
A few signs I look for overheating in my parrots are open beaks, drooped wings, and panting. It seems that this is the approximate order of severity of overheating as well. When the parrot sits with just open beak, it tells me that it is hot but nothing severe is going on. However, if the wings are drooped, overheating is imminent. And during panting overheating is already occurring. I don't let my parrots get to the panting stage when caged outdoors. However, I have seen them start panting after flying them outside in the summer which tells me to slow down a bit and give them time to cool off.
I take several precautions to keep Kili and Truman from overheating in their aviary. First of all the aviary came with a roof built into it. This keeps the sun off the birds and is a huge help. Second of all, I leave a bowl of cold water in the aviary whenever the birds are in there. If they get too hot, they always have the chance to go and drink or take a bath. Finally, on the hottest days I spray them down with a hose every few hours. This really helps them stay cool. I just continue monitoring them to make sure they are not getting too hot and when they are I just spray them down again.
The heat makes the birds more mellow so it is easier to trust them to spend all day in there together without fighting. Kili seems too hot to even bother trying to instigate Truman. And likewise Truman is too hot to go and get himself in Kili's way. I have not had a single bird fight on the very hot days but on subsequent cooler days I saw more signs that could lead to fighting (like one bird venturing into the other one's space but not yet starting to fight). So in a way I like these hot summer days for keeping the birds outside because it helps maintain the peace. They just sit there and enjoy some fresh air and sprinkle of water from time to time.
Please take extreme care not to overheat your bird outside in the summer and use suitable safety precautions. The temperature ranges I presented are what work for my parrots and may not work in other circumstances or species. Learn your parrots own tolerances by starting them outside on less hot days and continue observing them progressively as days get hotter and hotter. Here's a video of Kili and Truman in the aviary on a hot summer day:
Something is abuzz with Kili and Truman. My brother came by and flew a remote controlled helicopter past the parrots. They both started intently but held somewhat different intentions. Kili was being aggressive and defensive of her perch. She did not wish to have her space impeded by some buzzing black whirly bird. Truman on the other hand had completely different intentions. You could tell that he wanted nothing more than the opportunity to play with the toy. Nothing would please him more than to be able to shred that plastic helicopter into unrecognizable pieces.
The parrots definitely were not scared of the flying toy. They are both flighted and could fly away at any time. Instead they stood their ground and gazed with pinning eyes at their aerial competitor.
I bought some new toys and swings for the aviary and a large water bowl for the parrot's to take baths in. Truman dove right in and enjoyed a bath outside. Kili on the other hand preferred to explore the new swings. I added a circular rope swing to their extended collection of aviary perching places. While I have to put Truman on each toy individually, Kili hops fearlessly from toy to toy.