It may only be the last week in June, but we Portlanders are seeing unseasonably warm 90 degree days burst upon us! So, it's not too early to talk about hot weather dangers and how to "summerize" your companion birds.
When the mercury climbs into the 80's, 90's and above, we need to be concerned not only about heat itself, but also sun exposure, drafts, humidity, and increased bacteria in wet food. Parrots do best in homes kept between about 68 - 75 degrees, and when temperatures rise above, we need to make some adjustments in home environments. Always make sure cages aren't kept directly in front of windows; birds always need access to shade. Those of us living in the Northwest (humans and birds alike!) look forward to sunny weather with almost spiritual zeal!! (We see so little of it, after all!) When I lived in Arizona for 10 years, my birds and I swore if we never saw the sun again, it would be too soon - but after our first winter in Oregon, Amber and I greeted the final arrival of summer (in mid-July) with wild abandon, as we took our daily walks to the park. Sunshine provides health benefits to birds, as the Vitamin D aids feathers and vitality. The fresh air from open windows is also a boon, but keep up on wing trims and screen windows to avoid escapes!
By now, most folks are aware of the benefits of full spectrum lighting. Unfortunately, window glass filters out some of the beneficial rays, so an outdoor aviary or safe cage is great to utilize in summer.
When traveling, be sure not to leave birds closed in cars unattended, as suffocation can occur. If you live in a hot, dry climate and/or use air conditioners a lot, also use a humidifier to keep air from being too dry it's hard on skin and feathers. Be sure cages aren't getting drafts from air conditioner ducts. If temperatures cool down a lot at night, don't leave cages too close to open windows to also avoid drafts and chilling, and, of course, turn off ceiling fans when birds are out! One of the best things about summer is that birds can enjoy a daily bath or shower every morning, and be left to air dry throughout the warm summer months.
Although birds can adapt well to a wide variety of temperatures and climates, problems arise when temperatures fluctuate suddenly, instead of gradually increasing so that birds can adapt to the changes.
Be sure to offer plenty of fresh, pure water (change 1-2 times per day minimum). If birds are "soup" makers or "water-poopers," consider switching them to water bottles for health's sake. Remember too, birds don't know the difference between bowls of water intended for drinking and those intended for bathing!
Lastly, if you know me, you know I suggest 1⁄2 the diet be comprised of fresh veggies, cooked whole grains/legumes, and some fruit - and that you remove wet food after 3-4 hours, due to spoilage. In the summer, though, you may need to remove it after only 1-2 hours, as bacteria proliferates at higher temperatures. Dairy products and eggs, especially, should be removed after 1 hour. So, now that the sun is out, let your bird bask in the sunshine and fresh air, eat abundantly of nature's spring and summer harvest and enjoy the fun and benefits of daily baths.
Celebrate the season - before you know it, Fall's grey skies will be here again, and it'll be cuddle- up time for you and your birds.
By Marilu Anderson RIP