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 At the library ......

Turns out the smallest birds you can get are Nepalese Cut-throats, name comes from a red slash across their throats.  They’re small enough to get through the smallest chicken wire you can buy.
Second smallest birds are Zebra Finches, they’re too big to get through the smallest chicken wire.  The choice was made.

Zebra finches are native to Australia, semi desert livers.  Their main interests are socialising and nest building.  I could go with that. 

I set about building a cage down the painted wall, eighteen inches across and from the door to the window.  From my waist to the ceiling, about 6 feet.  Chicken wire with a wide door in it for maintenance.   Plywood floor with a long trapdoor in it for maintenance.  The floor covered with sand.  Two halves of a coconut shell to hold seed and water (the water seeped out, never realised that coconuts are permeable before.  Had to put some plastic under the sand to protect the plywood.).  I didn’t want them to have deep enough water to get into difficulty in.

Two shelves at each end.  The “window” end shelves had pot plants on them to give plenty of foliage (spider plants, later leafy semi cacti as I couldn’t keep up their speed at wrecking spider plants).  The “door” end, which I counted less draughty, shelves had a nesting box each to the design in the library books.

And I gave them some toys.    There was a grown cherry tree in our garden, indeed the garden was just tree sized, so I got some suitable sized sticks from it and put one of them to the left of the cage door, across from the wire to the wall so’s they’d have somewhere convenient and comfy to sit  (and I could try and get them to feed from my hand).  I made another into a swing, hanging in the centre of the cage so’s they could fly over, under, or land on it.

I cut a springy piece with little off-branches from the tree and nailed it to a length of wood as a base, so they’d have something springy to land on and hop about on not far from the ground.

Then I went out and bought a bag of foreign finch food and all was ready.

I went down to the Pet Shop with miss wonderful and we, kinda, selected our birds.  Obviously we were going to get a pair but it’s not that easy for the pet shop guy to grab one you point out from a cageful of panicking birds when he sticks his hand in there.  Finding a boy is not so difficult as some of them have the zebra stripes on their plumage but not all of them do so picking a girl can take a few hits.  Sexing them takes a bit of knowledge and the guy would blow against their feathers in the appropriate area to see if he could spot what was what.  They also happen to be tiny.

Having grabbed the two most likely, he then put them into, effectively, a match box to take them home.  He asked if we had a suitable cage for them and I assured him I thought we did.  I wasn’t at all sure about that match box though, looked more like a conjouring trick and I didn’t know what was going to come out of it.  I only hoped it was still flying.

In the event .....  we got home and I put the matchbox in the bottom of the cage and slid it open.  They were like two feathered sardines in there but blinking at being back in the light they shook themselves off and took to the air.

I hadn’t expected them to be much good as fliers at that point, having been cooped up so far in their lives, but they looked good and strong as they flew around their new home exploring it and acquainting themselves with each other.  Good fliers as they looked, they were as nothing at it compared to how they were in a couple of weeks !!

He was in traditional zebra finch boy colours, mainly grey with bright splashes of colour and zebra stripes at the back.  She was plumed a monotone kind of fawny grey.  They weren’t the kind of birds that sing or cheep, rather they went “meep” as they chattered to each other fluttering around, so they got their names in no time flat.  He was Mork  (after a character in a TV comedy) and she was Meep.

First thing I learned about living with birds is that they are always accompanied by noise, the high speed flapping of little wings.   “Brrrrrrrrr  .....”  birds in motion .

Next thing that I learned about the two little newcomers to my  room was that they were massive personalities.....    

The hours from then until bedtime were spent sat watching fascinated as they busied themselves assessing their situation.  They were the last two birds in the world and they were in a paradise.    Then it was time for us all to go to bed.  My reading up had prepared me for this being a procedural situation.  Most birds have no night vision and require time to get settled in anticipation of sleep.  I’d decided that this should be a deep end learning experience for them and so went to the cage and whistled the opening bars of Beethoven’s Fifth a few times so’s they’d have a sound to associate with the need to get their heads down.  Then I switched the light off.

All hell broke loose inside the cage with the sounds of flapping and crashing, so I turned the light back on and repeated the procedure.  Again all hell broke loose.  After a third performance, my nerves were as shattered as theirs.  The cage had a few loose feathers drifting around in it and a couple of breathless, neurotic birds meeping “aaaaaargh !!” to each other.  I canned my exercise at operant conditioning for the evening and adopted another strategy.

I opened the bedroom door so’s light from the landing could come in and turned off my light.  Then, by slowly closing the door over 10 mins I could simulate dusk to nightfall.  As the light reduced, they both got up onto the stick that ran from the cage front to the wall and found a spot to roost.   As soon as she’d found somewhere that felt comfy, he would come over and push her off it and try it for himself.  She’d hop somewhere else along the stick and make herself comfy there and he’d hop over and grab it for himself again.  They went through this a few times then she gave up and went to the end of the stick and sulked.  He went back to the first spot he’d tried and gave her a call, then she came over next to him and they settled down shoulder to shoulder to sleep for the night.

I shoulda learned something there.


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