The Influential Effects of Artificial Lighting

The subject of artificial lighting has been in the news lately – mainly concerning the usage of specific forms of specialised lights, of which I have no personal experience. This article however concerns the timing and duration of whatever lighting you possess and has a related story behind it.

Second Birdroom Fails To Perform

The story was highly significant as the reader will quickly understand. It concerned a completely baffled fancier who had built a second birdroom alongside his highly successful existing structure.

The earlier birdroom had 16 cages and was breeding winners which were in high demand – hence the need to expand. The breeder decided to duplicate matters. The new structure also faced in the same direction. Some birds, upon completion of aviary number two, were transferred to the new room with a great deal of optimism.

After a few weeks it became obvious that breeding was poor and the question was “Why?”. The old birdroom was breeding at the same time and producing good numbers of chicks as usual. In the new room, infertility abounded and what chicks there were, were not being fed properly. Dead tiny chicks appeared regularly.

Possible Solutions

The situation was baffling. Heaps of thought went into determining the cause of the problem. Feeding was identical as were the night lights, heating and so on. There was also plenty of budgerigar noise so attention turned to the fitness of the stock in both birdrooms, but could a virus be affecting matters? Thoughts turned to a discussion with an Avian Veterinary Surgeon.

The vet pointed out that a new room would possess a colony of bacteria and viruses that would build up naturally after the “new” stock was transferred. However, it was feasible that a group of “bugs” had intervened and it was this factor that was the underlying cause of infertility and hatchability.

“Perhaps the aviary needs fumigating?”, was his suggestion.

It was at this point that I was approached. Our intrepid fancier called me. He went through the whole matter in great depth, with me, as I always do, making notes throughout.

He was thinking in terms of using a sulphur fumigation process, but I know this turns everything in sight a dirty yellow, as well as killing off most bacteria and fungi. (You cannot kill a virus!!)

I knew also, from experience, that because you are so committed to your problem, there will be blind spots that you miss, so you need to come at the problem from a different angle.

I rang down and thought about it for a few days. Everything was duplicated and I could not work it out which annoyed me.

We Saw The Light!

interior-lightingI rang him back.

We went through it all again, with me looking for a new clue in his chat with me. I then asked about his night lighting. His answer was fine – it wasn’t the night lighting.

Then he said, “the new birdroom main lights are on from 07.45 hours until 22.00 hours, non stop”. Suddenly I saw it. “Why are they on so long?” I asked. “Oh, it’s because the new room is in a darker area under some trees” was the reply. “And the old aviary lighting hours, what are they?”, I asked. “They are different because that aviary is unaffected by trees, so the lights come on at at 07.45 hours, off again at 10.30 hours until 16.00 hours, when they come on again until 22.00 hours and off for the night.”

There was his problem. His birds in the new birdroom were not getting any rest at all in daylight hours. They were hyperactive, but this did not mean that they were sufficiently rested to effect good breeding results.

All breeders of experience know that approaching midday, any aviary in standard timed lighting conditions as this breeder’s old aviary was timed, have a good two to four hours rest.

The aviary goes quiet for this period. Then once rested and the 16.00 hours lighting returns, the birds are active again. The hens come out of the boxes and excrete and are mated immediately.

Lessons Learned

all_day_lightingThere was the problem and in about 8 weeks both aviaries were churning out chicks as a result of this fancier’s good husbandry which was only spoilt by a small error.

Both of us had learned something in the process. It just illustrates how something small and innocent affects good breeding results.

Obviously I cannot guarantee this applies to sunnier climates – compared to those that we have in the UK, but the fact that birds have a requirement for rest periods should not be lost.

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About the Author: Gerald Binks began breeding budgerigars when he was 12 years old and is now arguably the most knowledgeable budgerigar fancier in the world. He has bred his fair share of Best in Show birds, judged in no less than 20 countries, founded the World Budgerigar Association, and has published two of the three classic books on the hobby. His stud in the UK attracts fanciers from near and far and is always high on the list for those wishing to purchase BA23 quality budgerigars.

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  1. Richard Rolloff says:

    Do you think the mid day rest period pertains to canaries?

    I raise Belgian Waterslagers, and have noted how the native birds disappear from the bird feeders during mid day.

  2. Dear Mr Rolloff,

    I would think it highly probable that any aviary birds, whatever species, take a daily rest period.

    Most birds are highly active as dawn breaks (irrespective of artificial lighting) and the hens will emerge, excrete and the cocks will mate – all before you even get up yourself!

    They are active all morning in the flights as well and you can easily check for yourself to see if my suggestion is correct.

    I have had no experiences with canaries at all – budgerigars are enough for one lifetime of bird breeding!

    Thank you for your question.

  3. Richard Scott says:

    Hi Gerald

    I am guessing in the original birdroom, there was plenty of natural light available.
    Since this can not be switched off like the artificial lighting, how do the birds rest in this instance?

  4. I accept that natural light continues when artificial light stops. Budgerigars, however, kept under artificial conditions do require rest (they go quiet) and the stopping of artificial light aids the rest process to the benefit of sucessful breeding in particular.

    Natural light does, of course, vary tremendously anyway as the weather changes. Certainly sustaining artificial light with no breaks for rest does have a deliterious effect on results, as the stud as a whole stays continually active which is not desirable.

    It is the duration of the total light available, both natural and artificial, with a rest period in between that gives the best overall results for good condition and breeding.

  5. Javed Khaanzada says:

    Hello Gerald,

    Your article reminds me of another article (your visit to Daniel Lutolf’s aviary), in which you described how he gives rest to his birds.

    Since then, I have also turned off the lights for one and half hours each evening, and there’s no doubt that, after the rest, all my birds seem to be very active and energetic.

    Thanks for the updates,
    Javed khaanzada
    Vice President – Budgerigar Society of Pakistan

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