To keep your breeding birds’ feet healthy, you’ll need to choose appropriate perches. In general, all birds’ need access to several perches, all of varying materials (natural, rope, rock, hard and soft, etc.) and shapes/diameters. For an ideal fit, a bird should be able to grasp three-quarters of the way around the perch. If you have ever seen a parrot in the wild, however, you’ll notice that they frequently land on skinny branches that sway back and forth under the bird’s weight. A wild bird might also need to hang upside or climb vertically to reach a piece of fruit, seed or other food item. This variation tests a bird’s balance and athleticism. We should try to create similar opportunities for our captive-bred birds.
Breeding birds also use their perches during copulation, making your perch choices even more important. Without a secure perch, a female might not be able to steady herself during the act. Also, although all parrots seem to love chewing, during breeding season this desire increases. At least several of the perches you give your pairs should be soft enough for your birds to destroy. Yes, you’ll need to be prepared to replace perches during breeding season.
Below are examples of appropriate perch choices for some popular bird bred in the United States.
Amazons: “In our aviaries we use a variety of natural wooden perches,” said Ric Flowers of R&B Aviaries, a bird breeder from Louisiana with more than a decade of experience breeding birds, including some rare species such as the Tucuman and Hispaniolan Amazons. “These natural perches vary in diameter and provide our Amazon pairs a steady supply of wood for them to chew and destroy.” Flowers also provides each pair with an untreated 2 by 4 to further satisfy the birds’ innate need to chew.
He has also taken into consideration the species’ specific needs. “Amazons are stocky birds, and to make the act of copulation easier, we always include natural branches that are forked so the female can steady herself during copulation,” he said. “Here at R&B Aviaries, we construct a wire platform across one end of each breeding flight, just in front of the nesting box.”
Lories: “I prefer natural limbs as perches, and I use different diameter as well,” said Dick Schroeder of Cuttlebone Plus in California, a bird breeder for 30-plus years who specializes in lories and softbills. “Lories have extremely strong feet and can grasp perches at all angles so I don’t make them all horizontal; some are placed on an angle or even vertical.”
Lovebirds: “Perches should be no more than ¾ to 1½ inches in diameter,” said Joanne Cormier of Tiny Rascals aviary in Canada, a bird breeder of lovebirds and several other African parrot species as well as mini macaws and lineolated parakeets. “I alternate between booda, a natural wood – dragon wood, Manzanita, apple, willow – cholla and cactus. Sandy perches will keep the toenails as well as the beaks in condition.”
Quakers: Joy Thompson of Wings of Joy Aviary in Oregon prefers pine and Manzanita perches for her breeding birds. It offers them both a soft and hard wood. Thompson has been breeding quakers and other parrot species for more than two decades.
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