MY BIRD KEEPING STORY… INSPIRING THE NEXT GENERATION


WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY TRENT WEST
My hobby, or more to the point, my ‘obsession’ with birds began nearly eight years ago when I was 13.  My parents say it’s in my genes and I inherited it from my grandfather and great-grandfather who were both avid bird breeders. But unfortunately I never knew either of them.

To me, bird breeding is something that is just inside your heart and soul and I don’t think that it will ever truly leave me.  At 13 I begged mum and dad for an outside aviary for my birthday.  So there it began. My first tiny backyard aviary contained Bourke’s Parrots, Red-rumps, Zebra Finches and Masked Doves. When we moved onto acreage there was no holding me back and that was when my hobby became an obsession.

The funny thing is that I couldn’t stand to read a book at school and yet when it came to breeding birds I just couldn’t get enough of bird books that gave me information. This included the purchase of many books from ABK Publications. I am also lucky to have the books my grandfather owned which were passed onto me.  I also joined the local Gold Coast Aviary Bird Association at age 15 which turned out to be one of the best things I could have done.  Being a young bird keeper the older club members went out of their way to help me gain more knowledge and expertise in the hobby that I craved and loved.

I would encourage any young person who breeds or keeps birds to seek out their local bird keeping club and join. You will soon discover that within these local clubs there is an untold wealth and sometimes untapped source of experience and knowledge to be gained from the members who want to encourage the next generation.

When we moved to the new acreage my original tiny backyard aviary was adapted and modified to make four new cages and I started to keep finches, Neophema grass parrots and quail. I awoke one night to hear someone’s dog chasing my beloved birds and to find the corner of the wire lifted off and all the birds gone. I replaced the lost birds with Elegant, Bourke’s and Turquoisine Parrots, Star Finches and Red-billed Firefinches because they were easy to keep and breed. They all started breeding and it was then I started attending local bird sales.

As more birds bred I needed more cages to keep them in, so along with the help of my dad the backyard soon became dotted with cages. That was until he started to complain that he couldn’t even get the mower around the yard together with the fact that I had a few escapees from cages when opening the doors to feed which was proving far too expensive.
Problem solved. We moved everything down to the back of the block and readapted all the cages again. We added new ones, turned them into suspended cages and then enclosed the whole area and included a walkway. No more escapees! A closed walkway is a must for anyone keeping birds. The aviary also contains six wall mounted holding cages, a sprinkler system, storage area for seed, medicines, nestboxes and a double bowl stainless steel sink for washing of feed bowls. The overall enclosed aviary measures approximately 12 x 8 metres.

I started to move away from my previous choice of birds as my addiction grew, to include small lorikeets—Little, Varied and Purple-crowned.  I purchased a young pair of Eclectus, which I handreared with a plan to breed with them. However, the neighbour wasn’t a fan of their noisy parties when it rained in the middle of the night, so they had to go. That was probably my most heartbreaking moment in bird keeping.

Blue Quaker

I researched more books, the internet and visited aviaries and I decided to purchase two pairs of Quaker Parrots which I then bred, handreared the young and sold them as pets. I now own five breeding pairs of Quakers and bred 20 chicks last season. At last count I had amassed 35 aviaries and 40 birds.

I have already drawn up new plans to totally dismantle the existing aviary and rebuild new ones—bigger and better. It just never seems to end because there is always something I see in my designs that I can improve on. Work will begin as soon as breeding finishes this year.
New bird breeding aviaries under construction

My ultimate goal is to purchase a large acreage where I can eventually have everything that tweets, quacks, woofs and bleats! My parents have apparently known this would eventuate since I was three-years-old.

I have attended as many bird sales and local club meetings as I can and have been able to build up a reputable name as a quality bird breeder. I am also currently in the process of preparing a presentation on lories and lorikeets for the local club as a guest speaker for the first time. Hopefully it goes well as I would like to try more.

I also undertook the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary Aussie Wildlife Rescue Course in 2005. I attended the AVES International Parrot Conference in 2009 which was a blast and can’t wait to go again. It was well worth the experience to meet so many avid bird breeders from far and wide and hear international speakers. I recently returned from Bali where I visited the Bali Bird Park and had a photo of myself taken with a Scarlet Macaw and hold a Palm Cockatoo and saw a Hyacinth Macaw at Bali Zoo. To say I was in my element is an understatement.

For anyone starting out and wanting to catch the ‘Bird Bug’ it doesn’t have to be BIG, just ENJOYABLE. The most important things that I can personally recommend through my own experience are the following:
• Join your local bird club
• Subscribe to Australian BirdKeeper. Always first on my Christmas request list from family
• Meet as many people as you can who already breed birds
• Visit as many aviaries as you can
• Buy your birds from reputable breeders so you know what you are getting
• Use as many other people’s ideas as possible to keep improving your aviaries and birds

Good luck and I hope that by reading this article another young person will become inspired to give bird keeping a go.

Many thanks to everyone involved in helping me get where I am today with my birds, including my fellow members at the Gold Coast Aviary Bird Club, my master aviary builder, dad and to mum─my backup feeder and handrearing assistant.

ABOUT TRENT WEST

Trent is an apprentice plumber on the Gold Coast and is 20 years of age

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