« PoprzedniaDalej »
I feel some hesitation in writing on this subject, because I have no personal experience of any of the plans proposed for Aviaries; and so many of the ornamental buildings for which designs are given are constructed after a fashion which is extremely picturesque, but not in the least adapted to the wants and comforts of the birds within them. Making the latter the chief consideration, I should suggest that an outdoor aviary built of wood must necessarily be hot in summer and cold in winter, and that it would be preferable built of brick, stone, or rubble, and with an open roof thatched; in fact, a little thatched cottage, whitewashed within and painted or plastered without. This might be either circular, with the front wired and glazed, about fourteen feet in diameter; or a more perfect one might be obtained by making the building eighteen feet by twelve, and twelve feet high, with a bay window occupying the front, looking south, the panes of which should be made to open outwards, to allow of the galvanized iron wire netting, with which the glass must be lined throughout. Either concrete, brick, or tile flooring would be needed to keep out vermin, and this should be covered three or four inches thick with sand and gravel mixed with a little old mortar. The roof should be thickly thatched, and the open rafters will form most comfortable roosting-places for the birds. On one side of the aviary should be a deep porch with a double door, the outer one of wood and the inner one of wire. If this porch were furnished with seats, the birds could be observed with the utmost ease. A fountain playing in the centre of the aviary, with a shallow basin round it for the birds to drink at and bathe in, would add to the beauty of the scene and to the birds' pleasure. If plants were not admitted into it, there must be upright poles with perches nailed on to them in the four corners of the room; but a better plan would be to have evergreens in pots all round the room, which should be removed and replaced by others when defaced by the birds. A couple of orange and myrtle trees in tubs placed in it during the summer would delight them; fir trees are the best evergreens. Any shrubs that would be injurious to them must of course be avoided. Boxes of mignionette, chickweed, and groundsel placed on the window-sill would be a great acquisition to the birds ; but a constant succession of these plants would be necessary, as they very soon strip them of every flower and leaf. Seed-hoppers and pans for food and glasses for water should be hung up round the room, and hanging baskets and swings might be introduced. The windows should be furnished with blinds and shutters, to be drawn down and put up as the weather demanded. If this aviary could be warmed during the winter, the warblers and other delicate birds might be its inmates throughout the year; if not, only the hardy seed-eating birds could remain in it; the others must be removed to a winter cage or aviary in the house, kept at a certain temperature. Stoves placed in the aviary would be injurious to the birds: the heated pipes give out so much carbon as to affect their delicate lungs; but it might perhaps be warmed by the apparatus used for conservatories.
A conservatory devoted to birds would be a very delightful abode for them; but of course it must be wired within the glass, and means must be taken to shade the birds from the fierce summer sunshine. A portion of a conservatory opening into the house is sometimes wired off, and this forms a very pretty aviary, and the birds look exceedingly well with flowers all about them. I have seen a small room between two well-warmed sitting-rooms used as an indoor aviary; this was only about twelve feet by eight, with a French window, or rather door, opening outwards, and a wire grating within it, a fountain in the centre, and the walls were boarded and furnished with shelves one above the other, on which were placed the seed and water-glasses, and boxes for nests. There were double doors to this room; I think one was of wire and the other glass, so that the birds could be seen in passing from room to room. The fires in each of these sufficiently warmed this aviary in winter; Canaries, Goldfinches, and Linnets only lived in it. Very few young birds were reared in it, and breeding in aviaries is always very doubtful. The idle birds are apt to pull the nests of the industrious birds to pieces, and to eat their eggs and peck the young ones. Then there arise jealousies between the cocks and hens, and a good deal of quarrelling and fighting go on, so that it is by no means a happy family: the only chance of success is by putting the several couples in separate cages till they are ready to build, and then turning them into the aviary, putting no single birds in at the same time to interrupt their proceedings. However, some of these couples may be faithless, and the hens are apt to quarrel over the nesting-places, so that it is not a plan to be recommended, and it would be best to keep no hens in the aviary. Experience proves that when there are no ladies to excite jealousies amongst the gentlemen, matters are conducted much more harmoniously: they might be safely admitted during the winter, perhaps, but as early as February they must be taken away.
Canaries, Siskins, Goldfinches, Linnets, and Redpoles, Twites, Chaffinches, perhaps American Goldfinches, and Java Sparrows, would do well together; Bullfinches and Greenfinches are sometimes spiteful ; Yellow Ammers might agree with the other birds; and in the summer a Nightingale, Blackcaps, Whitethroats, Redstarts, Babillards, and other warblers might be admitted, and perhaps a Thrush and Woodlark; but of course all these birds would require a supply of their especial food, given fresh daily, and placed in pans of glass or earthenware. Most birds like bread crumbs, egg, mealworms, ants' eggs, oats, barley
meal, fruit, and berries, and green food occasionally. Various recipes are given for universal pastes, which are to afford food equally to granivorous and insectivorous birds; but it is just as easy to give the food that suits the hard-billed and soft-billed birds respectively, as to make them all eat of the same dish; a plan which, of course, involves a great deal of fighting over the food, and is very likely to cause the starvation of the more timid inmates of the aviary.
In selecting the birds that are to be placed together, their several dispositions and natural habits should be well considered, and none likely to tyrannize over the others should be admitted. As a rule, birds of the same size and class should be placed together; a great deal of suffering would be caused by confining combative birds in a small space, and by giving them opportunities of worrying and tormenting their weakly and delicate companions. Robins, Titmice, House Sparrows, etc., are often quarrelsome and murderous, and persecute the other birds exceedingly.
Tropical birds, of course, require a very different temperature from that needed by the natives of colder regions, and this must also be taken into account.
For myself, I should not care to keep English birds in an aviary. I infinitely prefer putting baskets and warm nesting-places into a sheltered outhouse, where the birds may find food during the frost and snow of winter, and can enjoy their liberty at the same time, allowing them to come and go at their pleasure. It is a mistake to expect any birds to live happily in a very open aviary, unsheltered from the extreme heat of summer and cold of winter. When at liberty they can find protection from both in their native coverts, and although they may possibly exist through the winter exposed to a chilling east wind, they suffer extremely from it, and will often mope in corners, ruffle up their feathers, and refuse to sing till a gleam of sunshine comes to revive them. The glare of a noontide
in the height of summer, is exceedingly painful to birds who are exposed to its fierce rays without the means of finding shade. Many of the tropical birds sleep during the extreme heat of mid-day, and continue the custom for some time after they are brought to England: doubtless they resort to the deep recesses of their magnificent forests, and find shelter in their luxuriant foliage, when the sun is at its meridian in their native lands.
An aviary constructed of two compartments, one within a warmed room and one without, communicating by a sliding panel or swing door, might answer well for Canaries and other semi-hardy birds, and give them fresh air, sunshine, and warmth; but of course the outdoor compartment must be protected by shutters in winter, and at night.
An unused attic, with wired windows, and a loose net before the door, to enable the floor to be swept out, and the room to be entered without allowing the birds to escape, would be the simplest and most inexpensive aviary; but under a slated or tiled roof the room would probably be very hot in summer and cold in winter. A thatched roof would not be open to the same objection. An oilcloth flooring kept constantly washed and sanded would answer well for this bird-room. Care must always be taken to keep the aviary clean and carefully.swept out, and sanded afresh either every day or every other day, according to the number of birds confined in it, and as little dust should be raised in this process as possible—it will sometimes affect the lungs of the delicate birds injuriously. Fresh air, sunshine in moderation, warmth, and cleanliness are indispensable for all birds kept in captivity.