[FONT=Book Antiqua]A few weeks ago there were several thread questions about options for keeping birds warm/alive in the untimely event of a power loss during the winter. All of us want to plan in advance for the possibility, but do not hope it will be an eventuality.
On Christmas Eve, an unplanned, unforecasted winter ice storm came to the mountain where I lived. That wasn't the problem as much as the 60+ mph winds that ushered it taking down trees and limbs everywhere. Our area had already received 15 inches of snow one week earlier, and some were still without electric from that storm.
Suffice to say, we were not expecting to see a utility truck or Christmas day, and given the pre-New year's fireworks, I was not expecting the electric to magically appear.
As I have written previously, I purposely acclimate my birds to lower temperatures. From all I have read and experienced, birds do better at tolerating temperatures below the norm than above. The average temperature in my bird room during the winter is 60 degrees. As I type it sits on 60 degrees, and I do my best to maintain that same temperature day and night.
In a moment of premonition, when the storm began I turned up the heat in the bird room slightly. When we lost power, it was 25 degrees outside. Christmas morning, the temperature in the birdroom was 54 degrees - that is only 6 degrees lower than normal for them.
However, we were without power for 3.5 days. Three long, cold nights. Temperatures in our home ranged from 35 to 45 degrees, while temperatures in the bird room fell to a low of 48 (12 degrees below the norm for them). The average birdroom temp was 50 degrees during the 3.5 days.
The birds never missed a beat. The budgies remained active and trilling; Coco continued to scream. Downy feathers have wonderful insulative qualities. However the most important thing is that they are not accustomed to living in 70 degree or more temperatures. Had that been the norm, to fall 20-30 degrees would have been a big deal and a big concern. They live in the one room in the home that is the best insulated of all. When we are experiencing a 10-12 degree drop in temperature, this is the same as if a bird that is used to 75 in the winter experiences 85-87 degree temperatures. It is not that significant - just something to watch and provide shade and air movement. A big part of preparation is slow acclimation.
When the power returned the Sunday after Christmas, I gradually increased the temperatures to the usual 60 degrees. I had several fall back plans should the temperature go below 45 degrees. 45 is the number that I would not my birds to experience even given their acclimation. Since it is not always feasible to get off the mountain, and we were snowed in for 4 days during the 15 inch snow storm (but with power), we have decided to invest in a generator. It will run the electric radiator heater for the birds, and my husband's x-box. While the birds did well, my husband escaped the ordeal by the skin of his teeth.... sometimes too much togetherness is too much!
This has already been the roughest winter we have experienced in 10 years of mountain living, and it has only begun. When we lose power we also lose water. And this time we also lost the land phone. We have 3 weeks of stored drinking and flushing water, 3-6 months of food stored and a propane camping stove. So we were able to have plenty of hot coffee and cooked food. Since we will not always have the option to leave the mountain, and since packing up the birds and leaving is a stress in and of itself, we have decided to invest in a reasonably priced generator and keep a small amount of gasoline on hand. It will make me feel better to have this additional option.
All this to say that unexpected weather and loss of power can and does happen. Acclimation is my number 1 mantra, in conjunction with preparation for the worse. I couldn't be more proud of how the birds never missed a beat. My dog was colder than them, and I am presently knitting him a sweater since he was quite chilled during the process and slept in the bed under the covers with me for the first time.
Have a plan, have two plans and even 3 plans. I have additional back up plans for producing heat even if the generator were to fail or the gasoline were to run out. We have a heater that can be powered by hooking it to a car battery. Plan, plan, plan - and stay warm everyone. Presently we sit at 10 degrees with a 15 mph wind... brrrr!
This is why I have only fans in the house where the birds are and a small heater for winter. I would really be worried about my birds in summer if they were used to air conditioning and we lost power. I also hear over here so often why has my bird died. In winter they have them inside in a lovely warm house and at night time they move them to the bathroom, laundry or garage and wonder why the poor birds have died. From a lovely warm house to one of the 3 coldest places in a house. My outside birds get a chance to acclimatize to the changes in weather slowly and not in a big rush.
That's a good plan if you live in the mountain. My plan if the power goes out is to close the bird room door to conserve heat in that room, and to cover the cage. But I live in St. John's which is pretty well equipped to deal with power outages, considering the potential for sudden gales or snow storms here. I've never known the power to go out for more than two or three hours, even in years when there have been record amounts of snowfall.
The bird room is also the only room in the house with a battery powered wall light (besides the flashlights we have lying around). We have candles too but obviously we can't use those near the birds.
My biggest concern is for my fish. My budgies I could probably keep warm with my body heat if it was absolutely necessary, but my poor Betta fish lives in a tank and would be without his underwater heater if the power went out for very long.
Thank you, Robin, yes, it's very informative and clear.
My birds are doing well outdoors (South Texas, with a heat lamp in the cage). My friends keep chastizing me, but the birds are proving they are fine. This week it's going to fall below freezing (down to 24*F), and I intend to keep them outdoors - with the heater, and covered with blankets to hold the heat in.
I agree with Robin - much has to do with acclimation. And, for outdoor birds, protection from wind and drafts.