Designing the Breeding Flight
© Howard Voren
A flight intended to house pairs of Psittacines for the purpose of breeding should incorporate design elements that will enhance its usefulness to that end. Experimentation over the years has led us to settle on a particular design that can be used with most types of Psittacines. This flight also incorporates several design methods that enhance its functionality, add to its serviceability and do not limit movement opportunity.
Construction of the Flight
It must first be considered that the majority of Psittacines are more appreciative of length in their "flight cage" than height or width. The next most appreciated dimension is width. This of course leaves height as the dimension that is appreciated the least. That is not to say that parrots do not like to be as high up as possible; they certainly do. However, when you elevate the flight cage 3' to 5' above the ground or floor, the importance of height within the flight plummets to a minimum.
An example of this point is that a medium sized parrot will be infinitely more happy in a cage that is 2' wide, 2' high and 6' long than in something that is 2' wide, 6' high and 2' long. This translates into the fact that the most desirable configuration for the body of a flight cage is rectangular. I realize that in most indoor aviaries the opportunities that present themselves are exactly the opposite. Space for flight length is at the greatest premium, width being almost as precious and height being the easiest to be generous with. This is a reality that indoor aviculturists must cope with.
The flight should be constructed of galvanized welded wire material that is of a thick enough gauge to allow the cage to maintain structural integrity without the use of framing material. This will eliminate the problem of fecal and food materials accumulating on the framing.
Any gauge wire between 16 and 12 will be heavy enough to maintain structural integrity without framing. Only large macaws will need the heavy 12 gauge wire. Most other Psittacines will do fine in 14 or 16 gage. The use of stainless steel ferrel or J clips to fasten the cage parts together is recommended.
The size of the spaces between the wire will be determined by the size of the birds that will be housed in the cage. The larger the gaps between the wire, the more the cages will be "self cleaning" because the majority of refuse will fall through to the floor. Generally, wire material with 1" x 1" square "holes" tends to be dangerous with many sizes of parrots. Birds with cockatiel sized heads can squeeze their heads through, but not easily pull their heads out. This can lead to injury if the bird is startled while it has its head pushed through the holes.
Proper perch placement in the flight is an important consideration. There should be a high perch in the rear of the flight as well as one in the front. These front and rear "high" perches should not be placed so high as to discourage flight. Birds usually like to push off with a bit of an upward movement when they take off. If the perches are placed too high, this upward push will be inhibited. A low perch should also be placed down near the floor of the flight about midway between the two high perches. This can be used to fly from, in both an upward and downward path, to or from either of the two high perches. The addition of more perches in the flight, unless very cleverly placed, will usually serve to inhibit flight. The birds may have difficulty maneuvering around them if they wish to fly the full length of the cage.
The "Feeding Cage"
The construction of an extension "feeding cage" serves many purposes. This extension should be just high enough to give the bird head clearance when it sits upright and should be attached to the bottom portion of the face of the cage.
The "feeding cage" allows for a "neutral" area that is not directly within the territory of the birds' flight. Servicing this neutral area is much less intrusive to their territorial integrity. The extension allows the birds full use of the length of the flight for its intended purpose and eliminates food and water contamination from perches within the flight area. Without the "feeding cage," the front high perch must be set in almost 12" so droppings don't fall into the food.
Placement of a board or a piece of sheet metal on the top of this feeding cage extension will also keep the birds droppings from falling into the dishes when they hang on the front of the flight area. In outdoor situations having this "roof" in such close proximity to the dishes will also help keep the feed from becoming rain soaked.
The Servicing Area
Water bowls should be enclosed in a wire basket and removable via a small door. This will accomplish three things. It will keep the birds from "walking off" with the water dish, it eliminates that necessity of putting your hand into the cage to remove or change the dish, and it reduces to almost zero the possibility of the bird escaping when the water dish is being removed.
Food dishes can also be "housed" in a similar surrounding "basket." We at the Institute, however, do not use the wire basket method of enclosing our food dishes. We have invented and patented a stainless steel food dish that can be taken in and out of the feeding area without the employment of any doors and needs no surrounding basket. It slides into and hooks down onto a 1" high opening in the front of the feeding area. These dishes have a relatively large floor area and minimal (less than 1") side walls. With such minimal depth, the birds soon learn that there is no dish to dig into to look for buried treats. They realize very quickly that what they see is what they get and no longer waste food by emptying the entire contents of the food dish onto the floor in search of their favorite foods.
Nest boxes should always be hung on the outside of the cage. The recommended placement is to hang them on the rear wall at the back of the flight. A second alternative is to hang them on the far rear area of the side wall. Having the nesting area as far away as possible from the area that is serviced or trafficked will give the birds a greater feeling of security. I realize that due to the limitations of many indoor situations, there is no choice but to hang them on the front of the flights. Most pairs will learn to live with this type of situation.
Flight Size Details
Some of the flight dimensions that we have continually used with success are as follows:
- For small to medium conures: 2'W x 2'H x 4'L with a feeding extension that is 10"H x 10"D and runs across the 2' width of the front of the flight.
- For large conures, pionus and caiques: 2.5'W x 2.5'H x 5'L with a feeding extension that is the same as above and the width of the flight.
- For large birds such as Amazons the flights are 3'W x 3'H x 6'L with a feeding extension that is 12"H x 12"D and runs across the 3' width of the front of the flight.
- Extra large birds such as the large macaws are housed in flights that are 6'W x 4'H x 10'L with a feeding extension that is 2'H x 2'D and runs across the width of the front of the flight.
The above birds have been observed for extended periods of time in the mentioned flight sizes. These sizes allowed them the freedom to engage in all of their natural movements. It is interesting to note that, even though no mathematical formula was followed in the determination of length in relation to height and width, a mathematical continuity is apparent. The length should be at least the sum of the height plus the width of the flight cage.