How to...

How to... feed ducks, geese & waterfowl - the healthy way

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Bread is bad for me

What to feed ducks, geese and waterfowl

The most common items fed to ducks and waterfowl are also the least nutritious and most unhealthy - bread, crackers, popcorn and similar bread-type products and scraps.

Bread has little nutritional value and can harm ducklings' growth, pollute waterways and attract rodents and other pests.

Similarly, ducks should not be fed any products that are spoiled or mouldy - different types of mould can be fatal to waterfowl.

Fortunately, there are many other types of food that can be offered to ducks, geese and Swans as part of a healthy and nutritious diet.

As omnivorous birds, ducks will eat a great deal of different foods, and the best foods to offer ducks include:

  • Oats (uncooked, rolled or quick)
  • Rice (cooked) Easy!
  • Birdseed (any type or mix) Easy!
  • Peas or corn (defrosted, no need to cook) Easy!
  • Earthworms
  • Mealworms (fresh or dried)
  • Chopped lettuce or other greens or salad mixes Easy!
  • Vegetable trimmings or peels (chopped) Easy!
  • Duck feed pellets - these can be purchased from farming or agricultural supply stores

Other tips for feeding ducks, geese and Swans include:

  • Stop feeding if the birds appear uninterested or are leaving the food uneaten, and avoid feeding the birds if other visitors are already offering treats
  • No matter what foods you provide, only offer foods in bite-sized pieces the birds can easily consume without choking or struggling
  • Be wary of birds that approach closely and remember that they can still be aggressive, particularly larger waterfowl such as Swans and geese
  • Litter can hurt birds in many ways, so be sure to dispose of all trash properly, including bags, twist ties, bread ties and unsuitable scraps
  • Do not allow pets or children to chase or disturb the birds, particularly young birds or families that could become stressed or injured more easily

By knowing what to feed ducks as part of a nutritious and responsible diet, anyone can enjoy this activity without inadvertently harming their favourite waterfowl.

How to... attract wildlife into your garden

There are many ways of attracting wildlife into your garden other than by providing artificial foods.

Ideally, we should try to live in harmony with our native birds and animals and enjoy watching them foraging for food and ineracting with each other.

Here are a few ways you can provide natural foods, water and shelter for native animals in your garden.

  • Plant native flowering trees and shrubs to provide wildlife with a variety of natural food and shelter.
  • Place wooden nesting boxes in trees to encourage wildlife to sleep and breed in your garden.
  • Place birdbaths and ponds in your garden, adding beauty, supplying water and attracting insects.
  • Leave clumps of undisturbed vegetation in secluded areas in the garden away from noise and domestic pets.
  • Leave an outside light on at night for a few hours to attract an abundance of insects for nocturnal wildlife e.g. bats
  • Let the wildlife take care of the insects around your garden instead of using chemical deterrents.
  • If you have a lizard living in your garden it will eat the snails and other insects in your garden.

possum box

Here is a list of some common plants that will attract wildlife to your garden.

  • Bottle Brush
  • Hakea
  • Gum Trees
  • Grevillea
  • Honeysuckle
  • Roses
  • Plumbago
  • Melaleuca
  • Wattle
  • Fruit Trees

An excellent web site on this topic is Flora For Fauna:

flora for fauna logo

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How to... set up a breeding colony of mealworms

There are several stages of the mealworm cycle:

mealwormsMealworms are an easy, practical way to produce live food for wildlife in your care. There is a large range of wildlife coming into Fauna Rescue that will benefit from being fed mealworms of which include insect eating birds, lizards and bats.

They are good for encouraging birds to self feed. Seeing a wriggling worm in a container on the bottom of the cage will get them to show interest in live food.

To set up for breeding mealworms you can use a plastic container 35cm x24cmx6cm is a good size. Cut a square in the lid and cover with fly wire, something that can let air in but not the mealworms/beetles out.

You will then need to use a medium to breed them in. As we are feeding different species but all insect eaters I breed mine in a medium of equal parts Bran & Wombaroo Insectivore Mix, mixed thoroughly together. this way the mealworms eat through the Insectivore Mix thus passing it on to the wildlife you are feeding the mealworms to.

I then feed the mealworms strips of carrot. Do not put too much vegetable matter in as it can turn the medium mouldy. I give mine fresh food every couple of days. Remove any left over food. To keep your worms constantly breeding they need to be kept in a warm room or at a temperature of between 22-28 degrees. Cold temperatures will result in slow breeding. In winter it is a good idea to keep your mealworms in the main room of the house that has heating.

It is best to have two or three mealworm farms on the go. The beetles lay the eggs so once the beetles turn from a brown to black it is best to remove the beetles into a new farm so they don’t start eating the newly laid eggs. Magpies do like to eat the beetles so can be used for feeding also.

Mealworms should never be fed as an animals total diet. They are a supplement food and a food to encourage an interest in live food which is most important if the wildlife in your care is to be released.

If you are feeding mealworms to smaller animals like bats and small birds it is best to remove the head of the mealworm before feeding as mealworms do bite and it can discourage the bat/bird to eat the mealworms.

bird mealworm

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How to... encourage sick/injured wildlife to show interest in life

A simple thing like encouragement is often overlooked when wildlife first comes into care, often it is all that is needed for a bird/animal to take interest in life again. It can be as simple as encouraging grooming by gently brushing the fur of a marsupial or lightly spraying the feathers of a bird with water to encourage preening.

Orphans flourish once they have developed a bond with their carer. Native birds/animals respond better when there is only one carer that attends to their needs. The special bond involved with looking after wildlife is not to be confused with spoiling or becoming to emotionally involved with the bird/animal.

Orphans especially need love and nurturing up to a point, but then they must be encouraged to become confident individuals in their own right.

Most birds/animals respond much better when they are raised with others of their own species. The bond they form provides the stimulation needed for their natural development. The social skills they learn from being together will be a great benefit to them once they are released back into the wild.

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How to... care for wildlife in hot weather

Now is the time of year that we must make sure any wildlife in our care is kept cool in the hot weather. Remember if we are feeling hot then so are the animals.They can over heat on a hot day very quickly. Even though we are sitting in our comfortable airconditioning remember most of the animals are outside in a hot aviary. Tin heats up and there is nowhere other than the floor for them to escape, once on the floor then the ants become a problem crawling all over them.

Here are some tips to help you keep your animals cool over summer:

  • Make sure water bowls are filled up fresh every day. Some days it is a good idea to refresh them several times a day as some birds with bathe in them leaving little drinking water after splashing around.
  • Build or position your aviaries permanently under the shade of trees.
  • Use ceramic bowls as they keep the water cooler for longer. Metal water bowls heat up the water very quickly.
  • Hose down the aviary late morning and mid afternoon. More times in heatwave if possible. Hose branches as well.
  • Cover the roof of the aviary with a layer of brush fencing. This can be hosed down and keeps the aviary cooler for longer.
  • Some birds love to be sprayed with water. Using a fine mist spray on the hose or a spray water bottle works well.
  • Move small or patio cages from under veranda's that are made or tin. The temperature under the veranda far exceeds the outside temperature. They can be bought into the house or placed under the shade of a tree.
  • Possums in nesting boxes can be bought into the house on very hot days as the possum is only going to sleep all day in the box. Make sure the possum is put back out in the aviary and the box reopened well before dark.
  • Hang sheets down the sides of the aviaries for shade and soak with water.
  • All kangaroo compounds should have at least one shady tree in the enclosure and a shed to shelter from the weather. Ensure large amounts of water are available as some kangaroos like to dip their paws in the water to cool themselves down.
  • Give reptiles a shallow bowl of water to sit in. Especially Bearded Dragons. They tend to sit in water for several hours on a hot day.
  • Remember to still keep baby or sick inside animals on heat if you have your airconditioning on in the house.

Never transport any wildlife in a hot car on a hot day. Transportation of animals should only be undertaken if it is an emergency such as urgent vet treatment needed.

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How to... make seed bells for your parrots

If you buy birdseed shapes for your birds you could inadvertently be poisoning them. Some shapes are made with glue not gelatine. The safest way is to make your own.

The ingredients are: birdseed, water and gelatine, using 75% seed to 20% water and 5% gelatine.

  • Heat water in a saucepan to approximately 60 degrees centigrade.
  • Slowly add gelatine and stir to a smooth consistency.
  • Allow to cool slightly.
  • Add birdseed to the gelatine mixture and gently blend. Allow to stand for 30 minutes to soak up excess moisture.
  • Press the mixture tightly into moulds, incorporating suitable wire hangers.
  • Make sure all the air bubbles have been pressed out.
  • Refrigerate overnight, then release from the mould.
  • Hang or stand the shapes in a warm dry place.
  • It's important to ensure the seed shapes are dried properly to avoid them becoming mouldy

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How to... try to save babies of wildlife killed on our roads

A number of animals become casualties on our roads. Many of these are marsupials, the most common being kangaroos, birds and possums. Some of the more unusual are Wombats, Echidnas, Koalas and Bandicoots which all have rear opening pouches that are set lower on the body than kangaroos and possums pouches.

Death on the side of the road for the mother does not always mean death for the joey. If you see a dead marsupial on the roadside these simple procedures may help save the life of a young one.

If the animal is still on the edge of the road move it off to the side, this may save other birds/animals from suffering the same fate as they will come down to the roadside to feed on the carcass. One example of birds which do this is birds of prey.

If you do not wish to handle the animal you can use a stick to push it away from the road.

Make sure you keep your own safety in mind first. BEWARE OF TRAFFIC

Check to see if the animal has a pouch, if it does use gloves or you can even wrap some cloth around your hand to check for a joey. If the animal is stiff and has a joey in her pouch it may be neccessary to force or cut the pouch open, because a stiff mother may still have a live joey in the pouch. A joey can survive for several days in the dead mothers pouch. If you can't access the joey in the pouch and the carcass is not too decomposed you can wrap the body in a blanket or towel leaving the joey in the pouch and transport the whole body to a wildlife carer or vet who is experienced in removing a joey from a stiff pouch.

If a joey is found gently remove it, remembering that a joey especially a small one will be very firmly attached to the teat and the mouth can be damaged very easily. Sometimes it is necessary to cut the teat to get the joey out. If this is to be done make sure you cut the teat at the base of the mother leaving as much as you can in the joeys mouth.

Once you have the joey out, wrap it in a cloth for both security and warmth. You will have to maintain the joeys temperature because young marsupials can not regulate their own body temperature. One way of doing this is by putting it inside your shirt against your skin.

If the pouch is empty but has an obvious suckled teat (reddish or swollen), check the area for a wandering baby, as the distressed joey may have wandered off.

Head to the nearest phone to seek immediate help. Native animals need special feed formulas and furless joeys may need feeding every couple of hours around the clock.


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How to... deal with possums in your roof

Noises in the roof can be caused by rodents, birds nesting or possums. Rats make light scampering and gnawing sounds compared with a possum's heavy thumping and gutteral hisses. Possums are nocturnal, usually you can hear them leaving the roof cavity when it is dark and when they return in the early hours of the morning.

Weaver and Poppy - 2 Brushtail Possums inhabiting a possum nesting boxSimply removing the possum from your roof will not solve the problem.  The law states that possums must be released within 50 metres of site of capture, and if you remove one possum, another will simply move into the roof to take its place.  The key is to block the roof once the possum is out to prevent re-entry, and to provide an alternative sleeping place for the possum.

Arrange a possum box in any tree large enough to take it, with a feeding platform nearby (which can be an enamel plate nailed securely to a branch), this will give the possum an alternative to living in your roof. Possums are territorial and will defend your garden from others. If one possum is removed there are others waiting to move in!

Use the feeding platform to put pieces of fruit  cut into small portions (apple, corn on cob, pear, rockmelon etc.), do this one to two  times a week, so they do not become reliant on having food provided.

The roof needs to be checked for points of entry. During the day check inside the roof for daylight showing through gaps and put a light in the roof cavity at night for at least 3 nights to discourage the possum (you may also be able to see where they enter by checking the outside for light showing through). Sprinkle camphor blocks or napthalene flakes around the inside of the roof (do not mix them as this will cause a chemical reaction), as possums do not like the smell or brightly lit areas.

Block up all gaps with suitable building materials. This must be done at night when the possum has left. Make a one way flap to allow possums to leave the roof at night but not return. The flap can be metal or perspex with a hinge at the top. Cover the flap surrounds in metal to prevent claws from gripping.

Should any possum be left behind in the roof, use a possum trap to catch the marsupial and release it into your garden in the evening to live in the nesting box. If a trap is used it must be checked every morning and if a possum is caught, keep the trap covered in a quiet place until release. Do not release a trapped possum during the day – they are nocturnal and must be released at dusk or early evening.  If it is a very young possum then contact a wildlilfe carer in your area as mother possums often do not return for their babies once they have been disturbed.

Prune branches leading to the roof leaving a gap of at least 1.5m around the roof. Put collars around the trunks of trees that give access to the roof. Use a 60cm wide sheet metal or perspex and fit 60cm above ground. Contact electricity or telecommunication companies for advice on possum proofing transmission wires.

If any possum has missing fur and cracked, oozing skin, or is active during the day, use a trap to catch the animal and take it to your nearest vet, wildlife authority, as it probably has stress dermatitis.

Possums, like many other species of wildlife do live in the suburbs and should NOT be removed from their own area.

The law in South Australia requires a possum trapped in the roof to be released no more than 50meters from the capture site.  Usually, this requires release on the same property on which they were trapped. To trap and release a possum you are required to apply for a Trap and Release Permit from the Department of Environment and Heritage.  This permit needs to be obtained before the animal is trapped.

It is illegal and cruel to 'dump' them in another area where they will have little chance of survival.

When relocation of a healthy possum is unavoidable contact your local wildlife authority to see if there are any rehabilitation programmes that prepare a possum for another area. Possums released without this special preparation have very little chance of survival.

For more information about your legal obligations and options available go to the Department of Environment and Heritage website.

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How to... deal with possums eating your flowers

It is very difficult to deter possums from eating your roses and flowers once they get a taste for them, but here are a few suggestions.

Blossum a ring tail possumPut a spotlight or party lights to shine on the area for a few nights as possums, being nocturnal, do not like bright lights and learn how avoid that part of the garden.

Put sheet metal collars around the trunks of your fruit trees at least 600mm wide and 600mm off the ground (these will need changing for a larger size as the tree grows). The possums should then clean up your "windfalls" and leave the fruit on the tree for you.

Some sprays that can be used have a bitter taste and smell that conditions possums (and birds) by their common chemical sense. The negative taste and smell registers that the area is unsafe, and they move on. This chemical reaction disappears when they go to any unsprayed area - reinforcing the signal that the area they just left was unsuitable. This "learnt behavior" induced by memory or odour is often communicated to other members of the species, and so the sprayed area or plants remains untouched.

Try one of the proprietary brands of possum deterrents which are usually available from garden centers, hardware stores or fodder stores such as:

  • Scat made by Multicrop
  • D-Ter which is advertised safe for birds and animals
  • SkunkShot
  • Citronella Oil
  • Quassia Spray

To make your own Quassia Spray - boil a packet of Quassia Chips (from the chemist) in 10 litres of water for two hours. Strain, discarding the chips and reserving the liquid. Add a further 20 litres of water to the liquid. Spray the affected area for 5 consecutive days, and again after rain, until the problem is eliminated.

Quassia chips are a natural pesticide but are also a poison and may affect your domestic animals. The effect on possums is unknown, but the taste is so foul that they should not eat enough to do harm.

Unfortunately there is no foolproof way to stop the possums enjoying your choice plants, but if you put up a platform (such as an enamel plate nailed to a branch) with a selection of fruit and vegetables (no citrus) a couple of times a week, they would probably turn their attentions to that and you would have the pleasure of seeing them feeding and playing.

Fauna Rescue Of South Australia does not endorse any particular product or suggestion. The ideas listed here have been tried by people with varying success. We hope you find a solution that suits your situation.

 For more ideas go to: resources/Plants_Animals/Living_with_wildlife/Possums/Common_possum_problems

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How to ... use possum/cat traps

To trap and release a possum, you are required to apply for a Trap and Release Permit from the Department for Environment and Heritage. This permit needs to be obtained before the animal is trapped.

It is illegal to release a trapped possum into another area. You are required, by law, to release the possum AFTER DARK ON THE SAME PROPERTY WITHIN 24 HOURS AND WITHIN 50 METRES OF THE SITE OF CAPTURE. Usually, this requires release on the same property on which they were trapped.

Here are a few tips to help you ...

1. Whenever setting a trap in your roof, you should place it as near as possible to the manhole. It is best to place the trap over a ceiling beam, for support. Remember too, that if you go looking for a possum by climbing all over the ceiling, you may be putting yourself at risk. Frightened and panicked possums can scratch and bite - causing you harm, or even sending you falling through the ceiling.

2. There could be more than one possum living in your roof. The trap needs to be set for at least 7 continuous days to make sure all resident possums have been removed. Babies can easily get left behind.

3. When setting a possum trap, use a firm piece of fruit that will stay on the hook. Half an apple is usually best.

4. Replace the bait daily. A possum will not eat stale fruit. This can be done in the morning when you check your trap.

5. The most important thing to remember about setting any trap is to NEVER set and forget about it. You must ALWAYS REMEMBER IT IS THERE AND CHECK THE POSSUM TRAP DAILY. It must be checked EVERY MORNING. DO NOT LEAVE A POSSUM ALL DAY IN A HOT ROOF, which can reach temperatures of over 50 degrees.

6. After you have captured the possum, remove the trap from the ceiling and place it in a quiet, dark room and cover with a towel or blanket. You must remember these are wild animals and, can inflict injuries to prying fingers etc. Keep children and pets away from the trap!

7. Release the possum in your yard early in the evening by opening the trap door and letting the possum run up a suitable tree.

8. If you are going away for a any length of time, either remove the trap or close it. To do otherwise would certainly kill any trapped and forgotten animal.

9. You must ascertain how the possum got into your roof and seal the entry point. It may be a small gap between the roof and wall or even a loose or broken tile. Repair, or cover, the hole to stop any other possums from moving in.

10. It is also recommended that you provide alternative accommodation for possums. Encouraging them into a NESTING BOX installed in a backyard tree should help!

If you follow these guidelines you should not have any trouble. Although these animals can be a nuisance to the homeowner, they are our native animals and need to be treated with kindness and respect.

For more information please contact us or the Department for Environment and Heritage (DEH).

Articles on living with possums and some possum friendly ideas on offering alternative nesting sites, such as a possum box, and discouraging possums from eating your flowers, can be found on our website and the DEH website.

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How to... cope with magpies swooping and flying into windows


Magpies nest between August to December as a rule but may start or finish earlier or later depening on weather patterns. Nests are made up of whatever they can find, sticks, ropes, wood. I have even seen a wire coat hanger used. Females lay from 3 to 5 eggs.

It takes about 20 days for eggs to hatch and they spend approximately 4 weeks in the nest. The babies cannot fly at this stage. Parents take their young down to the ground and this is when they learn how to fly. This process usually takes about a week and baby magpies rely on the parent birds for protection and food.

To Rescue or Not???

MagpieIf you need to rescue a Magpie remember to put your safety first. Magpies do have sharp beaks and feet. To rescue a magpie place a towel over the bird and gently scoop it up and place it in a cardboard box in and keep it warm. Baby magpies especially need warmth. Then contact a wildlife carer for help.

As mentioned above if you see a baby Magpie on the ground it may just be learning how to fly. If the parent birds are there and attending to it then leave it be to learn to fly. A baby Magpie needs to be rescued if:
It is injured, droopy wing, broken leg, bleeding or should be flying but isn't.

If the Magpie only has very short tail feathers then it may have been blown out of the nest. Once again if the parent birds are still there and feeding it you can place the baby back in the nest. If the nest is too high, damaged or you can't find it, try placing the baby magpie in a hanging basket lined with coconut fibre and placing back up in the nearest tree as high as you can get it up. You can also use a plastic container. Line it with some type of bedding. Ensure to pierce drainage holes in the bottom to ensure water drainage in case of rain. Place in a sheltered part of the tree. Keep watch for a while to ensure the parents are still tending to the baby once up in the tree.

The old wives tale that once a human has handled a baby bird the parents will reject it IS NOT TRUE. We have found that reuniting parent and baby birds is very succesful.

Swooping Magpies

Spring and summer means Swooping Magpies!!!! This is a real problem but can be handled. Try to remember that the parents are only swooping you to protect their babies. You can train the magpies to learn that you are their friend and not going to harm their babies.

Try carrying an umbrella with you to ward them off. Wear a wide brimmed hat & sunglasses to protect your head & eyes from attack. These are cheap items to purchase in order to give yourself some protection.

Better still try to befriend the birds by feeding them occasionally. Please don't feed them all the time as they will become dependant on you. We see many problems caused by people feeding the wrong things to magpies and other species of wildlife.

Feeding magpies does not necessarily stop the birds from attacking, so take care at all times. There is some evidence to say that it does help but is not a sure thing to completely solve the problem of swooping/attacking magpies.

Offer a small amount of food only once or twice a day. Leave them hungry enough to still forage for their own food.

Foods that can be offered are Soaked Pedigree Puppy Biscuits. These are rice based but do contain vitamins and minerals.   Lean mince meat which is preservative free lacks calcium but is OK if given in small quantaties..  Small amounts of  scrambled egg, grated cheese (for calcium) along with minced chicken frames is also acceptable.

Any magpie in permanent care needs a more detailed diet refer to our magpie diet for long term care.

Never feed a baby bird milk or bread. No native animal/bird should ever be given cows milk.

When magpies are swooping in a public place maybe a request to  your local council asking them to rope off that area for a few weeks is possible. We get many calls from people wanting the birds taken away. This is impossible, as we cannot catch the adults that can fly,  it is also illegal to remove a healthy native animal from its area without a permit from National Parks and Wildlife Service.

Shooting magpies is a very cruel option. If the adult magpies are shot, the babies are then left to starve to death in the nest. This is a very cruel alternative. The only reason a magpie should be shot by the police is if it is a rogue magpie that attacks constantly for no reason. Try to remember that it is only a few weeks of inconvenience for you. Once the babies can fly the magpies will move off and stop swooping.

Teach the magpies you are their friend not their enemy!!!

Magpies and Windows

Magpies and other birds flying into windows is a common problem. This is because they can see their reflection in the window and think it is another bird.

I have the perfect solution which works 100% for me. NEVER wash your windows!!!!! If they are dirty and have no shine the magpie will not see it's reflection.  I am happy for any excuse not to clean windows!!!

If you like clean windows and have a bird problem, try these ideas:

  • cover the window with a sheet
  • place large plants in front of the window
  • get or make a cut out of a hawk and place it in front of the window
  • hang noisy, shiny things in front of the window like old CD's, the silver bladder of wine casks blown up, a mobile made out of old cutlery that makes a noise when blown in the wind
  • balloons can be used too but tend to pop often and need replacing regularly

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How to... make a disposable temporary cage and heat box

Temporary cage

You need:

  • Card board box
  • Onion bag, mesh netting as used for packaging vegetables, fly wire or shade cloth
  • ilicone glue, adhesive plastic tape or thread (string or wool) and large a needle for stitching the netting to the box.
  • newspaper, paper towels and /or tissues.
  • stick for a perch if required (birds feet grip 2/3 around stick)

Bird box

An aviary using shade cloth for cover is very effective in reducing further damage to the wings of all birds and beaks of pelicans. It is also good for birds of prey as they can see the extent of the flight area. The shade cloth also reduces the extent of visual stress for the bird.

Heat box

Most sick, injured and orphaned birds require a heat source at some stage. Heat boxes are a great way to give the bird an all round warmth. Baby birds especially thrive well if reared using a heat box.

If you are lucky enough to know a handyman, here is a basic diagram on making a heat box to use.

Heat box

It is recommended to only use 25 watt coloured globes. You will need to monitor the box regularly to create the desired heat you need, depending on what bird you have in care. Keep a thermometer in the box so you don’t overheat the bird. The temperature should be around 30 degrees C.

A globe mounted inside a terracotta garden pot which is then placed on a fire proof base (such as 2 dinner plates) is effective in supplying heat without light.

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