Mr. Salerno should build a safe enclosure for his outdoor birds and keep a parrot inside

To the Editor:

I have enjoyed poultry ownership for two decades here in Altamont. I have raised turkeys, ducks, geese, and chickens. I have owned the “plain Jane” varieties as well as some exotics, many of which were awarded ribbons at the Altamont Fair.

What I have learned from animal husbandry in those 20 years is that free-roaming birds are akin to a neon sign flashing “The buffet is now open!”

Fresh duck and chicken meat is a welcome snack to a ravenous critter on a cold night. Many of us two-legged critters feel the same as we order duck à l’orange and chicken Parmesan off the menu.

If you are going to raise animals, I believe it’s an owner’s responsibility to educate oneself on the needs of that animal. The first truth of raising domestic poultry is the need to understand their vulnerability if left unprotected.

Chickens and ducks don’t have teeth to bite and they can’t run or fly very quickly. Chickens can often fend for themselves slightly better than other birds because they can roost. If provided proper shelter, chickens will roost by flying up high to a perch at night. This way, they can at least be off the ground and avoid some predators, but not the climbing variety like possums and raccoons.

Ducks and geese cannot perch. They cannot run fast and most domestic geese cannot take flight off the ground. They are built to swim away from their predator. Without a large body of water, ducks and geese are completely exposed and prey to every carnivore roaming the area.

My suggestion to Mr. [Michele] Salerno, who claims that a local dog killed his bird, is that he build a safe enclosure for his birds. He needs kennel quality fencing with a complete top and bottom fortification.

The enclosure I constructed featured a tightly strung ceiling made of chicken wire attached to the kennel fencing to thwart the climbing critters. Chicken wire was then embedded into the ground under the kennel fencing to dissuade the critters that are happy to dig all night for a chance at fresh warm meat.

In proper due diligence, an inspection of the enclosure will need to be performed daily. And likely, weekly maintenance will be required. Some critters will make it a weeklong project to try to dig into the pen.  It takes a hole only the size of a golf ball to become a gateway for disaster.

The ongoing years of Mr. Salerno’s poultry losses force me to question the notion of his birds being “livestock.” He depends on them for income yet he isn’t willing to learn the precautions necessary to protect his investment.

If Mr. Salerno’s birds were properly protected, the unfortunate shooting of the collie could have been avoided as well as the ongoing litigation with other neighbors over the same issue.

The collie is gone, and nothing can change that. But a particularly disturbing back story leaves me unsettled.  After a discourse with Mr. Salerno, he stated to me that his macaw suffered a heart attack and died in his cage outdoors due to fright caused by another neighbor’s dog. That statement troubles me deeply.

My husband and I are exotic large bird owners; we happily share our house with two large umbrella cockatoos and a green-winged macaw as well as a blue and gold macaw. We have an aviary in our house that allows free range for our birds. We have taken the time and energy to research the needs of these highly intelligent birds. We are members of the local Capital District Parrot Society and enjoy networking with other bird owners to share bird tips.

The needs of these birds are complex. They are said to have the intelligence of a 5-year-old human and the emotional maturity of a 2-year-old. Most parrot owners allow their birds free range indoors. Caged macaws are not happy macaws.

Every parrot book we have read states that they need to interact with humans for several hours each day. They need to be supplied with a variety of toys and activities to prevent boredom that can result in manic feather plucking. Their proper dietary needs are an entirely different and complex issue.

However, the most rudimentary need of a macaw is a temperature- and moisture-controlled environment. In other words, unless you live in Costa Rica, a macaw should never, ever, be kept outside. It is considered cruel and inhumane to expose them to the elements of this area. Many Florida nights are deemed too cold for them. They are a wild animal that is a privilege to live with, not a “backyard” bird that could live caged in a coop. 

Therefore, I suspect that hypothermia was the killer of Mr. Salerno’s macaw, not a heart attack.

Elisa Fasulo

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