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Sandhill cranes in divided pen. Click here for full-page view with caption. Pair of whooping cranes in a pen with a large pool. Click here for full-page view with caption. Digging a large pool in a crane pen. Click here for full-page view with caption. Measuring depth of a large poool in a crane pen. Click here for full-page view with caption. Adding soil to a large pool in a crane pen. Click here for full-page view with caption.  Crane enclsure with locked gate. Click here for full-page view with caption. Crane enclosure with standoff barrier. Click here for full-page view with caption. Large enclosure for cranes. Click here for full-page view with caption. Well-vegetated enclosure. Click here for full-page view with caption. Shade netting. Click here for full-page view with caption. Severe snow damageto flight netting. Click here for full-page view with caption.

Introduction and General Information

  • Accommodation for birds maintained in captivity should be designed to allow the birds to be maintained in good health, fulfil the 'five freedoms' as defined by the UK's Farm Animal Welfare Council, and to breed (if this is desired).
  • Accommodation should also enable general management procedures, including monitoring, feeding, catching, cleaning etc. to be carried out effectively and with minimum disturbance to the birds. 
    • This requires sufficient behind-the-scenes space for food preparation and storage, equipment storage, offices where records can be maintained, etc.
  • Consideration should be given to the aesthetic and educational nature of accommodation on public display.
  • Most birds are maintained in aviaries of various sizes. Some species, such as waterfowl, large wading birds (cranes, flamingos, storks) and large ratites (emus, rheas and ostrich) may be kept in large enclosures or paddocks which are open or (for flight-capable birds) covered with flight netting.
  • Many birds are kept in mixed-species exhibits with other birds and often other taxa. this can be advantageous in providing more space (e.g. pheasants mainly occupying the floor and small psittacines, columbiformes, passerines or other species utilising the upper parts of the aviary); this is particularly useful for birds on display in collections open to the public. Care is required to ensure than birds are compatible, with particular consideration for disease control and changes in compatibility during the breeding season.
  • Enclosures should of a sufficient size to hold the number of animals contained within them, or to look at the situation from the other direction, the number of animals placed within an enclosure should not exceed the carrying capacity of the enclosure: overstocking should be avoided, and thought given to expected population expansion. Carrying capacity will vary depending on the number and species of birds kept.
  • In addition to space for adult birds, whether on display or in off-display breeding facilities, consideration needs to be given to space and facilities for artificial incubators, chicks being hand-reared or foster reared, food preparation, quarantine, areas for sick or injured birds, food storage and preparation etc. (B438.8.w8)
  • Note: many birds preferentially swallow shiny objects. It is essential, when an aviary or bird enclosure is built, or maintenance carried out, that personnel are strongly advised about the need to pick up any dropped nails, bits of wire, etc. and that after construction the whole area is searched visually and using a metal detector/magnet, to remove potentially hazardous materials. See: Preventative Medicine for Birds (Bird Husbandry and Management)

N.B. Local climate and general conditions may vary widely and appropriate enclosure design may vary accordingly (B7, B438.8.w8).

Waterfowl Consideration

"There should be enough water and dry land at their disposal, with sufficient sunshine, shade, cover and windbreaks and, whenever possible, plenty of grass for grazing." (Delacour, B7).
  • Waterfowl are, as the name suggests, water birds and enclosures should be designed to give access to sufficient water for bathing and swimming, not just drinking; this is true particularly for the Seaducks, Mergansers and Diving Ducks.
  • Many waterfowl species are grazers and enclosures preferably should provide substantial grass areas for these birds.
  • Waterfowl are frequently maintained in spacious, open enclosures containing extensive water bodies. In most cases the birds kept in such enclosures will be flight-restrained in some way.
  • Whatever the size of the area in which waterfowl are maintained, every effort should be made to avoid adding "one more pair" of birds to a collection in which the number of waterfowl has already reached the capacity of the land and/or water area available, as overcrowding leads to erosion of ground, reduction in grazing area, decreased water quality and increased contamination of the enclosure with potential pathogens.
Crane Consideration Cranes are large, long-legged, long-necked, long-billed birds of wetlands and grasslands, having spectacular dancing displays and loud calls. They are omnivorous, generally hardy and adaptable, and best kept in spacious enclosures. Pairs are monogamous, often life-long, and territorial while breeding, although many species for flocks outside the breeding season. Northern-breeding species are migratory. (B31, B97)
  • Cranes can be kept in very large enclosures, alone or with other species, in smaller enclosures (one pair of cranes per enclosure) or even, for the smaller species, in large aviaries.
  • The type of enclosure will depend on the purpose for which the cranes are being kept, particularly whether they are primarily for display or for breeding.
  • For display, cranes are seen to best advantage in large naturalistic enclosures, although if these are heavily planted then the cranes may not always be visible.
  • Cranes have been kept in mixed-species exhibits with a variety of species including hoofstock and tortoises. (P1.1974.w5,  P1.2002.w7)
  • If it is desirable for the cranes to breed, then it is generally recommended that a pair of cranes should be kept in an enclosure without other occupants.
  • For information on accommodation for chick rearing see: Rearing of Birds

Published Guidelines linked in Wildpro

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Behavioural and Breeding Considerations

  • Enclosures should be designed to allow birds to carry out as many as possible of their natural behaviours (migration will necessarily be impossible). Depending on the species, large open areas for flying, ground cover for hiding, water for diving, plentiful perches or multiple objects for investigation may be of most importance. The size, shape, general layout, boundaries, construction materials, substrate, water, plants and other furnishings of an enclosure should reflect the needs of the particular species to be kept, including their social system (e.g. territorial versus colonial breeding).
  • Consideration must also be given to the provision of separate pens for aggressive birds, or for very shy and timid birds. With highly territorial birds, it may be necessary to ensure than pens are placed apart from the pens of conspecifics (for example with an unrelated species in the intervening pen) or to place visual barriers between the pens, to avoid excess time being spent in aggressive behaviour between birds and to reduce the risk of birds injuring themselves on the intervening fence.
  • For many species, breeding will not occur unless an appropriate nest site, building materials and/or environment are provided
  • The risk of hybridization if closely related species are maintained in the same enclosure must also be considered (see: Reproductive Management of Birds - Hybridisation).
  • In all enclosures with birds on public display, at least one side should be barred from access by the public to ensure that the birds are able to rest away from people and reduce stress..
  • A well-designed enclosure and its contents provides behavioural stimulation for the occupants as well as fulfilling their physical requirements.

N.B. The information below should be used in conjunction with the information on behaviour in the wild given in the section on behaviour on the individual species pages. Where adequate information on behaviour is not available for a species, data on similar species may be useful.

(B33.1.w1, B105.15.w2, D1 - [full text provided], V.w5)

Waterfowl Consideration

Flight and flight restraint
  • Waterfowl generally spend the majority of their time on water or on land, and are frequently maintained in a flightless condition, with their flight restricted temporarily by feather-clipping, or permanently e.g. by pinioning. This has the advantage of allowing the birds to be kept in very large open enclosures without concern that they will fly away.
  • Although flight restriction by pinioning of downies at a few days old has been common avicultural practice for many years, consideration should be given to alternative methods of flight restriction, and to enclosure designs which do not require flight restriction.
  • A number of species, particularly smaller perching species species, are considered particularly suitable for maintenance in traditional, fully-enclosed aviaries. Species which have been kept successfully in this way and for which this type of accommodation may be considered include Callonetta leucophrys - Ringed teal, Aix galericulata - Mandarin duck, Aix sponsa - Wood duck, sharp-winged teal (Anas flavirostris - Speckled teal), Anas castanea - Chestnut teal, Anas hottentota - Hottentot teal, and many perching species including the Whistling-ducks (Tree-ducks) Dendrocygna spp. Larger perching species such as Pteronetta hartlaubii - Hartlaub's duck, and also Tadorna radjah - Radjah shelduck have also been successfully maintained in aviaries.

Flight netting

  • Flight netting is an alternative method of flight restraint allowing birds to be maintained fully winged, which is being used increasingly for even quite sizeable enclosures. Soft, knot-less nylon mesh is preferred; this is durable and unlikely to cause trauma in the event of a bird flying into the mesh. A small mesh size reduces the risk of birds colliding with the netting becoming caught in it.
  • Flight netting also excludes wild waterfowl such as mallard, which may pursue female ducks in the breeding season and are also linked to outbreaks of Duck Plague, particularly in the UK, and excludes large aerial scavengers and predators such as seagulls, crows, magpies and owls, thus reducing feeding costs and predation.
  • Flight-netting is impractical for use on very large enclosures and may be brought down by heavy snowfalls and high winds. 

(B7, B37.x.w1, B105.16.w3, P4.1992.w1, N1.94.w1, V.w5)

  • Waterfowl may also be kept fully-winged in open enclosures. Waterfowl to be kept in this manner may be feather-clipped in their first year, to encourage the birds to consider the enclosure as "home". N.B. not all species are equally likely to stay if kept fully winged. Aggressive species and those which tend to hybridise are not suitable for being kept free-flying (B7).
  • It is recommended that only species native to the local area are maintained in this way. There are both welfare and conservation considerations against allowing non-native species to be maintained free-flying in an open enclosure. Waterfowl which leave the enclosure and fail to return may not survive; the local habitat and climate may be completely unsuitable. If they do survive, they may hybridise and/or compete with native species. It may be an offence to allow waterfowl to escape: for example in the UK under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) it is an offence to release exotic (non-native) species into the wild.
  • Free-flying waterfowl may also have a greater chance of transmitting disease between a captive flock and native birds, in a similar manner to wild or feral birds which may "visit" a collection

Sociability, Aggression and Breeding

  • "On moderate-sized ponds, up to one acre, it has proved advantageous to keep only one pair of each species of ducks and teal, as territory fights occur in the spring, causing the harassment and sometimes the death of females. Only when ponds and lakes are extensive enough to ensure the privacy of several breeding pairs can they be associated." (Delacour, B7)
  • Many species of waterfowl may be maintained in large, same-species or mixed-species flocks. Many waterfowl species, including many geese, are sociable and would commonly be found in flocks for much of the year in the wild. However, most species tend to be territorial while breeding and some species are aggressive to other birds of their own species or other species, either all year around or particularly in the breeding season. Some species are also aggressive to people, which is of particular concern for collections open to the public.
  • Aggressive species may have to be maintained in separate enclosures. Aggression, particularly in the breeding season, is usually directed to a large extent at other birds of a similar size and colouration; it is sometimes possible for a pair of small ducks to share safely an enclosure in which a pair of large, aggressive swans are being kept. N.B. Individual birds vary in temperament. Guidelines on species which "should" be kept separate can never be absolute: particular individuals of "non-aggressive" species may be aggressive, while some pairs of "aggressive" species may be less aggressive than expected.
  • N.B. Authorities vary to some extent in their recommendations as to the species which should be kept apart because of their aggressive behaviour. The Aviculture section on the individual species pages, which includes information on aggressive tendencies, should be consulted before new waterfowl are acquired. The following categories are adapted from Richardson, 1999 (D1 [full]):
  1. Aggressive Birds (Category 1.) (D1)- Birds that are often aggressive to their own species, particularly during the breeding season and may need to be kept in separate pens or separated when breeding: Coscoroba, Black-necked swans, Orinoco, Blue-winged, ruddy-headed geese, Ruddy, Cape, Australian, Paradise, Radjah shelduck, Eastern greylag Anser anser rubrirostris, Emperor, Greater snow goose, Canada geese - moffitti, occidentalis, minima,  Patagonian crested duck, African black duck, pink-eared duck, comb duck, Hartlaub's duck. Magpie goose. (See Appendix from D1 for the species links)
  2. Aggressive Birds (Category 2.) (D1) - Birds that are often aggressive to their own species all year round and to a wide variety of other species during the breeding season. Should be kept separate as appropriate: Black, Mute, Whistling, Bewicks, Whooper swans; Egyptian, Ashy-headed, Magellan, Cereopsis geese; Branta canadensis canadensis; Falkland steamer duck, Bronze-winged duck.(See Appendix from D1 for the species links)
  3. Aggressive Birds (Category 3.) (D1) - Birds that are often aggressive to all species all year round, particularly during the breeding season: Trumpeter swan, Andean goose, Magellanic steamer duck, Black spur-winged goose. (See Appendix from D1 for the species links)
  • Apart from considerations of aggression, frequently breeding may be improved if pairs are kept in individual enclosures, particularly if the birds are to be given the opportunity to hatch and rear their own offspring. Separate enclosures allow greater control over feeding of both adults and their offspring, and also prevent hybridisation.

See: Incubation of Birds - Parent Incubation, Rearing of Birds - Parent Rearing, Reproductive Management of Birds - Hybridisation.

Crane Consideration

Sandhill cranes in divided pen. Click here for full-page view with caption.

Breeding cranes are territorial and can be very aggressive. Except in very large areas, usually only one pair of cranes is maintained in a given enclosure. (B115.12.w8, B521.19.2.w19b) Cranes are more likely to breed if they are isolated from neighbouring cranes by visual barriers (see below: Perimeter fences). (B115.2.w7, P1.1986.w4) For extremely aggressive cranes, in addition to a visual barrier, a gap of at least 1 m is needed between adjacent pens to prevent pacing or fence-pecking. (B115.12.w8) Alternatively (in a zoo rather than a specialist crane breeding facility), keep crane enclosures separate from one another. (P1.1986.w4)
  • For nervous cranes, breeding may be encouraged by providing a large enclosure with good visual barriers around the perimeter and screening vegetation inside the enclosure, giving the birds more privacy. (B115.12.w8)
  • For rows of crane enclosures, leave 5-10 m as a buffer zone between rows. (B115.12.w8)
  • In a zoo situation, cranes are more likely to breed successfully in their own enclosure rather than in a mixed enclosure with e.g. hoofstock (even though cranes have been seen to chase ruminants from their nests in the wild). Cranes have been observed successfully defending their nests against other species including geese and various other birds, and some cranes may breed in mixed-species an aviary or enclosure with other birds, however careful choice of species, and good observational skills are required so that any inter-species conflicts are noted early and controlled, if necessary by removing one of the species to a separate enclosure. (V.w5)
  • Breeding pairs should not be housed next to predators (e.g. wolves) as this may distract them from breeding. (P1.1986.w4)
  • A secluded area should be available for breeding. Breeding may be stimulated by the presence of a marshy area or a stream, and by vegetation to provide cover. (P1.1986.w4)
  • Note: Ideally, crane enclosures should be built so that cranes can be moved between two enclosures annually, with one left empty, to reduce pathogen loads (see Preventative Medicine for Birds). For a row of crane enclosures, this allows occupied enclosures to be separated by empty enclosures. When cranes are moved between the enclosures, all should be moved on the same day to maintain the empty pens between pairs. (B115.2.w7)
  • In a large park situation, sveeral pairs of cranes can be kept and will develop their own territories. (B521.19.2.w19b)


  • The presence of a pool, pond or stream is appreciated by cranes for drinking and bathing (B94, B479.w16, D437) and may encourage pairing and breeding.

Sprinkler systems

  • An overhead sprinkler, controlled by timers, can be used to simulate the rainy season and encourage breeding in Grus rubicunda - Brolga. (B115.12.w8)
    • A hose can be attached to overhead wires, and there can be several sprinkler heads to provide "showers" over a large area. (B115.12.w8)
    • Good drainage of the enclosure is important. (B115.12.w8)
    • If pipes are in reach of the cranes then they must be constructed from durable components, e.g. 16 mm polyvinylchloride. (B115.12.w8)

Extended photoperiod lights

  • For crane species which breed in the arctic or subarctic, and are being kept at lower latitudes, simulation of the long arctic summer days may stimulate breeding. (B115.12.w8)
  • It is recommended that artificial lights for this purpose should provide an average of 16 foot-candles at ground level, but lower light levels, down to as low as one foot-candle at ground level, can have some effect. (B115.12.w8)
  • Lighting may be provided by a single large bulb or several smaller bulbs. (B115.12.w8)
  • For a 200-300 m pen, adequate light can be provided by using:
    • Ten incandescent light bulbs, each 125 W, at 2.3 m (just below flight netting) around the periphery of the pen. OR
    • Two 400-1000 W metal halide bulbs (expensive, but requiring less electricity to run), raised to 8-10 m high, at opposite corners of the pen.
    • The lights can be controlled using timers.


Aggression within a pair of cranes

  • For cranes which are paired (as indicated by e.g. unison calling, the female laying eggs) but one crane is sometimes aggressive to the other (usually male aggressive to the female), it may be necessary to subdivide the enclosure into two parts, one used for each crane (with eggs fertilised by artificial insemination). (V.w5)
  • Alternatively, proving a large enclosure with landscaping and plantings allowing the subordinate bird to retreat out of sight of the dominant bird when it is too aggressive, may allow them to be kept together. (V.w5)

Group housing for subadults

  • Subadults can be kept in small groups. It is important not to place too many birds in a small enclosure. As a guide, 2-5 compatible subadult cranes may be kept in an enclosure suitable for a pair of breeding cranes, and up to 15 may be kept in an enclosure 30 x 60 m. (B115.12.w8)
  • At least two feeding stations and two water sources must be provided for a group of subadults. (B115.12.w8)

Cranes on public exhibit

  • Enclosures should be designed to allow visitors to view the cranes without the cranes being excessively disturbed. (B115.12.w8)
  • Elongated pens allow viewing while also providing relative seclusion for nesting at the back of the pen. (B115.12.w8)
  • Cranes may be encouraged to remain near to visitors by providing food and shade near the viewing area. (B115.12.w8)
  • Pens bounded by a moat or with a raised viewing platform provide good displays. (B115.12.w8)
    • Raised platforms make it less easy for the public to appreciate the size of cranes. (B115.12.w8)
  • Tall grasses and shrubs make the cranes feel more secure, and make the enclosure look more natural, but partially obscure the public's view. (B115.12.w8)
  • Water pools make enclosures look more natural and allow cranes to exhibit water-associated behaviours such as bathing, but they may increase the risk of some diseases. (B115.12.w8)
  • Note: Cranes can be kept in a mixed species enclosure with multiple other species, including mammals, (e.g. Balearica regulorum - Grey crowned-cranes with hoofstock in an "African plains" exhibit), but are much less likely to breed in this situation. (B438.25.w25, V.w5)
    • It may be more difficult to catch cranes in a mixed exhibit of this type. (B438.25.w25)

Facilities for behavioural observation

  • Basic observations of cranes should be made daily when they are cared for (feed renewed, shelters cleaned etc.).
  • Blinds can be used for more extensive, longer-term observations with minimal disturbance to the cranes, for example when pairs are being formed. It is important that blinds are located carefully, and designed (including using one-way glass if necessary) so that the observer cannot be seen by the crane. (B115.6.w9)
  • CCTV cameras may be set up to allow remote observation of pairing behaviour, egg laying etc. These can be set up in a corner of the pen and apparently are soon ignored by the cranes, although the birds do notice if the camera moves or makes a noise. (B115.6.w9)

Flight and flight restraint

  • A variety of methods may be used to prevent cranes from flying out of their enclosures. These include keeping cranes in fully enclosed aviaries or flight-netted pens, feather clipping and vane clipping, brailing and permanent surgical procedures. (B115.11E.w5, P91.1.w3)

Flight netting and aviaries

  • Keeping cranes in fully enclosed aviaries or flight-netted pens allows them to be kept full-winged, without either a permanent surgical procedure to prevent flight or repeated catching for e.g. feather clipping. (P1.1977.w2). Keeping cranes full-winged may improve balance during copulation, particularly for males of larger species, and improve fertilisation. (P87.8.w1, P91.1.w3)
  • Details of flight netting are provided below in the section on Perimeter Fences

Temporary flight restraint

  • Feather clipping involves cutting with scissors a number of flight feathers on one wing. This unbalances the bird and generally prevents flight.
    • Cranes have a large wingspan. It is generally necessary to cut all the primary feathers and at least the three most distal (outermost) secondaries, but usually most or all of the secondaries; sometimes the three outermost primaries are left but the remaining primaries and all the secondaries are cut. (B115.11E.w5, P91.1.w3)
    • Note: It is important to record the date and note when feather clipping needs to be repeated to avoid cranes flying away; the primaries and secondaries are moulted every second year. (B521.19.2.w19b)
  • Vane trimming is a temporary measure carried out on flight feathers which are still growing and blood filled. (B115.11E.w5, P91.1.w3) The feather barbs are cut off on either side of the main vane; 1-2 inches of barbs are left intact at the tip of the feather. (V.w5)
  • Brailing can be carried out on one wing for temporary flight restraint or may be used on both wings during shipping. (P91.1.w3)
    • For flight restraint, brailing is applied to the wing for no more than two weeks. If flight restraint is still required at the end of this time, a brail is applied to the other wing. (P91.1.w3)
    • See: Brailing

Permanent flight restraint

  • Several surgical methods can be used for permanent flight restraint. (P91.1.w3) Methods of permanent flight restraint are sometimes performed to allow cranes to be kept and managed in large open-topped enclosures, without the need for repeated catching and feather clipping, and to remove the risk of feather clipping being left too late or forgotten, and the crane flying out of its enclosure. (N28.10.w1)
  • Tenectomy
    • This involves the use of a thermocautery device to sever the tendo longo of the musculus tensor propatagidalis and the tendinous attachment of the musculus extensor metacarpi radialis. The synovial capsule of the wrist (junctura carpi) is destroyed, resulting in permanent ankylosis. Prior to surgery, 2-3 mL 2% lidocaine hydrochloride is infiltrated into the area. Five minutes later, immediately prior to the procedure, the skin surface is frozen with ethyl chlorine spray. After the surgery, the wing is taped into a tightly folded position for six weeks to promote ankylosis of the joint.
    • Tenotomy provides a wing which does not extend sufficiently to allow the crane to fly, but is more aesthetically appealing than a pinioned wing.
    • If the crane does manage to fly/jump high enough to get over the fence of its enclosure, feather clipping of the primaries can be used.
  • (B115.11E.w5, P91.1.w3)
  • Patagiectomy
    • Patagiectomy involves removal of the patagial membrane, with apposition of the radius and humerus; the wing is left in a permanently-folded position (cannot be fully extended) but can otherwise be moved by the bird for preening etc. (J23.11.w5, J196.70.w1, P91.1.w3)
  • Amputation (Pinioning)
    • The wing tip is removed distal to the alula. (N28.10.w1)
    • If a crane is to be pinioned for management reasons this should be carried out during the first week (P2.1986.w4) when the chick is 3-4 days old. (N28.10.w1)
    • Note:
      • In the UK this is considered an act of veterinary surgery and should only be undertaken by a veterinary surgeon; this restriction has recently [2013] been clarified by RCVS. (W162.Apr13.w1).
      • In England, anaesthesia is required if pinioning is carried out on birds aged 10 days or older. (LUK35)
    • Note: Pinioned cranes may still be able to clear a six-foot or eight-foot high fence, particularly in gusting winds. (B438.25.w25, V.w5)
  • Feather follicle ablation by laser
    • Ablation of the individual primary (and sometimes some secondary) wing feather follicles using a surgical laser has been described. The procedure could only be carried out on fully grown feathers, not blood feathers). During a period of nine months after the surgery, regrowth of 9.5% of treated feathers was recorded. (P133.2012.w4)
Associated techniques linked from Wildpro

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Perimeter Fences and Netting

  • Perimeter fences and aviary walls and roofs need to be designed not just to keep birds in but to keep predators out.
    • When designing aviaries it is important to ensure that the strength of the roof is sufficient to prevent access by predators such as cats. 
  • Aviary or enclosure boundaries have to be constructed to contain both the smallest and the largest, strongest birds which will be kept in them.
    • For aviaries or enclosures housing species with precocial chicks it is important to provide either sufficiently small mesh on the bottom 30 cm (one foot) of the netting that chicks will not be able to get out, or to use a solid material on this bottom area.
  • N.B. A perimeter fence, of whatever construction, will not be sufficient to contain fully-flighted birds: Flight Netting or aviary-type construction is required for fully-flighted birds if they are to be prevented from leaving an enclosure.
  • A predator-proof fence, buried to e.g. two and a half feet, and electrified, may be constructed around a facility. (P1.1977.w2)
  • Fences need to be checked regularly. (P1.1977.w2)
  • For enclosures on public view, naturalistic roofing materials such as "invisible" nets are preferred. (B704.42.w42)
  • It is important to consider the risks of birds flying or climbing up and getting trapped in mesh, and taking measures to prevent this. (B704.42.w42)

Waterfowl Consideration

  • Waterfowl are frequently maintained in open (unroofed) enclosures, which may be very spacious.
  • Enclosures should be surrounded by a predator-proof perimeter fence, designed so as to prevent predators from coming through, climbing over, or digging under the fence.
  • The fence should also be constructed so as to prevent waterfowl, including the smallest newly-hatched individuals, from exiting through the fence or extending their heads out of the enclosure.
  • Consideration should be given, in designing a gate, to everyday requirements but also to the possible future need to be able to bring in machinery, for example for grass cutting or silt removal. A concrete sill may be useful to avoid erosion, rut formation and puddling in this area of heavy wear and to prevent predators digging under the gate.

(B7, B29, B40)

Crane Consideration Cranes may be kept in large aviaries (generally the smaller cranes, particularly demoiselles), enclosures covered with flight netting, or large open paddocks.
  • Cranes kept in open paddocks will need to be flight restricted, for example by wing-clipping (feather trimming). (V.w5)

Fence height 

  • It is recommended that fences should be 2.3-2.6 m high. (B115.12.w8)
  • Note: Even cranes which are pinioned or wing-clipped can sometimes jump over a 6 ft or 8 ft high fence if there is no flight netting, particularly if the wind is strong or gusting. The risk may be increased if the enclosure is built on a slope. (B438.25.w25, N1.98.w1,V.w5)
    • Cranes may also scale fences if sufficiently motivated, e.g. to attack a crane on the other side of the fence. (N1.80.w1)

Fence materials and construction

  • Perimeter fences have two functions: keeping the cranes in and keeping predators out. 
  • The materials and construction of the fence should minimise the risk of injury to the cranes; it should be smooth and there should not be any projections into the enclosure. (B115.2.w7)
  • Galvanised steel 5 cm 11 gauge chain link mesh is probably the most economical. Aluminium chain link is preferable, being smoother than steel and causing fewer injuries, but is much more expensive. (B115.12.w8)
  • When buying chain-link, specify "knuckled" to avoid getting rolls with twisted barbs at the top or bottom of the fence, as these can be hazardous. (B115.12.w8)
  • Another alternative is 16 gauge or thicker poultry wire. This is likely to result in more cuts to bills, wings and legs than is chain link. If poultry wire is to be used, then 2.5 cm mesh is preferable; it is stronger than 5 cm mesh, and causes fewer injuries. (B115.12.w8)
  • Alternative materials can be used, depending on availability.
  • Posts should be set at 5-8 m intervals, preferably on the outside of the enclosure on at least two sides. Steel posts or pressure treated, rot-resistant wooden posts, preferably set in concrete, can be used. Corner posts need to be stabilised, with support braces preferably placed outside the enclosure, and if they must be inside then lying against the fencing so that it is not possible for a crane to catch its head of a foot behind the braces. (B115.12.w8)
  • Perimeter fences need to be predator-proof, preventing access by both digging and climbing mammalian predators. (B115.12.w8) 
    • Requirements for predator protection will vary depend on the local predators. Suggestions include:
      • Bury perimeter fences 0.5 m, back-filling with 5 mm washed gravel. (B115.12.w8)
      • At the base, a 0.5 m wide horizontal skirt of 2 cm mesh is suggested on the outside of the fence to deter digging predators. (B115.12.w8)
      • Protection against climbing predators can be provided with electric wires on the outer side of the perimeter fence, supported on insulating posts or on insulators attached to support brackets. (B115.12.w8)

Visual barriers

  • Visual barriers preventing eye contact are important between adjacent pairs or even adjacent individual cranes. (N1.80.w1, P89.1.w1)
  • Visual barriers reduce disturbance from cranes in neighbouring pens. or from humans. Depending on the individual cranes, visual barriers may be needed on one or more sides of the pen. (B115.12.w8)
  • Visual barriers can be dual-purpose; as well isolating them from neighbouring cranes, they also can make the fence smoother, reducing the risk of injures, particularly when cranes are introduced into a new pen or are being captured. (B115.2.w7, B115.12.w8)
  • Appropriate materials for barriers include tennis netting or reed mats. The barrier material is clipped or tied to the external fencing. (B115.12.w8)
    • These materials are flexible, which helps to prevent traumatic injuries if a crane collides with the fence or tries to attack through the fence. (B115.12.w8)
    • Other materials which have been used to provide visual barriers include vines, canvas, plywood sheets, solid fencing panels, and rows of conifers planted along the fence. (J23.14.w5, V.w5)
    • Close-growing plants such as conifers can be used to provide shelter from bad weather as well as a visual barrier. (V.w5)

Flight netting

  • Flight netting is a form of flight restraint, in that it prevents cranes from flying out of their enclosure. (B115.11E.w5)
    • Birds in flight-netted pens can be left full-winged (B115.11E.w5, B521.19.2.w19b, P89.1.w1); this is thought to aid balance during copulation, therefore increasing the chance of natural reproduction without the need for artificial insemination. (B115.11E.w5)
  • It is recommended that crane pens should be covered with flight netting (B115.12.w8, B521.19.2.w19b), 5 cm mesh for larger species (e.g. Toprite XL nylon mesh), 2.5-3 cm mesh for smaller species. (B115.12.w8)
    • A maximum mesh size of 5.1 cm (two inches) is recommended. With this size mesh, occasionally a crane springing up passes its head through the mesh and is momentarily held suspended there, but pulls free under its own weight (sandhill cranes, usually also whooping cranes). Whooping cranes have occasionally remained suspended until a person has pulled them free, but no injuries have resulted. (B115.11E.w5)
    • Larger mesh sizes are not recommended. Occasionally, birds held under such nets have become snared and suspended by one or both wrists. (B115.11E.w5)
    • Smaller mesh sizes can be used. (B115.11E.w5)
  • A recommended height for flight netting is 2.5 m; this is a compromise between providing height so that cranes can fly and dance, and the increased risk of injury if more space allows them to reach higher speeds. (B115.12.w8)
  • Flight netting is attached to the perimeter barriers of the enclosure at intervals of 5-10 cm, and is supported by guy wires across the enclosure at intervals of 405 m; more guy wires per unit area are needed for larger enclosures than for small enclosures. Guy wires need to cross the boundary fences at the fence posts. (B115.12.w8)
    • The 5.1 cm woven-nylon mesh is supported using 1 cm diameter (0.375 inch) plastic-coated steel cables at intervals of about 6.1 m (20 feet) across the enclosure. (B115.11E.w5)
  • It is important to ensure that flight netting is strung tightly, not sagging, and that there are no gaps along the fence or the guy wires. (B115.12.w8)
  • Plastic clips or stainless steel hog rings can be used to attach flight netting to the tops of external fences. (B115.12.w8)
    • If it is anticipated that the flight netting will need to be removed, then it can be attached simply by being hooked over the cut end of the chain-link fencing. (B115.12.w8)
  • In areas where aerial predators do not constitute a significant risk, pens can be left open (no flight-netting) if the cranes are flight-restricted. (B115.12.w8)
  • Note: In addition to keeping the cranes in and aerial predators out, flight netting also restricts access to the enclosure by other birds (except for very small species), which may be advantageous to reduce loss of food to scavengers and to reduce the risks of disease transmission from wild birds. (V.w5)
  • Flight netting prevents individuals from jumping over or otherwise scaling fences; cranes have been known to get over qquite high fences e.g. to attack another crane. (N1.80.w1)
  • Snow/ice and netting
    • In areas with heavy snow fall or ice storms, flight netting may collapse under snow and ice, unless heavily braced. Permanent interior support posts are needed in such geographical areas, or a large workforce and enough temporary support posts. (B115.11E.w5)


  • The service gate should be wide enough to allow basic maintenance equipment such as a mower into the pen. (B115.12.w8)
  • Avoid any obstruction, such as a sill, which would impede a caretaker when exiting rapidly away from an aggressive crane. (B115.12.w8)
  • Sliding doors to the house, operated from outside the pen, are useful for locking cranes in or out of the house for maintenance etc. (B115.12.w8)

Stand-off barriers

  • For cranes on public display, particularly the larger species, it is important to provide a stand-off barrier outside the fence, preventing people from approaching too close. (B521.19.2.w19b)
    • This is required in the UK. (D15 - full text provided)
  • Warning notices e.g. "Warning: these birds may bite" are advisable also. 
    • In the UK, "An adequate number of clearly visible safety signs, providing warning by means of a symbol, words, or a combination of symbol and words, should be displayed at each enclosure containing any species of hazardous animal which is likely to cause injury." (D15 - full text provided)

(B521.19.2.w19b, D15, V.w5)

For chicks

  • If parent-rearing of chicks is intended, it is important that the netting, at least low down, is of sufficiently small construction (0.5 - 2.5 cm) that chicks cannot exit through it or stick their head through it, or is covered on the inside with a solid material to prevent this from happening. (B115.12.w8, N1.80.w1, V.w5)
    • The smaller mesh should extend below ground for at least 10 cm to ensure the adults do not dig under it. (B115.12.w8)
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Internal Divisions and Enclosure Size

Within a perimeter fence, an enclosure can be subdivided to allow various groups of birds to be managed separately, for example due to behavioural incompatibilities (e.g. separating aggressive species) or for breeding purposes (including preventing hybridisation). 
  • Internal barriers for in general do not to be as robust as perimeter fences, since they do not also need to withstand predators.
  • Internal barriers for non-flying birds may not need to be as tall as perimeter fences.
  • Where internal barriers separate breeding birds with altricial young, it is important to ensure that at least the bottom portion of the barrier is solid or of small enough mesh size to prevent young chicks from squeezing through.
  • Where internal barriers separate aggressive, territorial birds, the barrier has to be sufficient to prevent fighting through the barrier. Solid barriers or barriers providing visual separation may be needed.

Waterfowl Consideration

Enclosure size:
  • Waterfowl require a relatively large enclosure area to avoid erosion and poaching. The area required for a given type and number of waterfowl will vary for example with soil type: heavy clay soils with poor drainage tend to become poached and larger areas may be required if grass is to survive.
  • Mixed exhibits should have sufficient space to allow birds chased by more aggressive individuals to escape.
  • General guidelines for minimum enclosure size for a pair of waterfowl are: swans: 400m2, large geese: 300m2; small geese: 200m2; large ducks 100m2, small ducks 50m2. Most waterfowl require approximately 50% of this area to be water. A larger proportion (up to 80%) may be land for geese. Even the most aquatic species require some land as a loafing area (D1 [full]).
  • For a mixed-species group it is more difficult to give precise recommendations due to the wide variation in the size and requirements for land and water of the species involved. One suggested guide is: "Ten pairs of the smaller geese and forty pairs of ducks to an acre of water are a good proportion for enclosures." (Delacour, B7).

(B13.46.w1, B30).

Internal barriers for waterfowl:

  • Need only to be about three feet or one metre high. As with external fences, fences should be designed to prevent waterfowl, including the smallest newly-hatched individuals, from exiting through the fence or extending their heads out of the enclosure. Constructing or overlaying the bottom 8-12 inches (20-30cm) of fencing with either a solid material (e.g. boards) or small-gauge wire netting (e.g. 1 inch by 1/2 inch weldmesh, or 1/2 inch chicken wire will "proof" the pen against exit by even the smallest ducklings.
  • Planting bushes along fences both disguises the fences (for public display) and provides shelter for the birds. Additionally, such bushes provide a visual barrier between birds on either side of the dividing fence; such a barrier may be necessary to control aggressive interactions.
  • Where internal fences also act to separate the birds from members of the public, bushes may also be used on the outside (visitor-side) of external fences as stand-off barriers.
  • N.B. As with external fences, regular inspection is required to ensure fences are in good repair.

(B7, B29, B30, B40, V.w5)

Crane Consideration Enclosures should give cranes enough space for locomotion and dancing, and for foraging.
  • Cranes can be kept in enclosures which vary from quite small up to very large enclosures (several acres). (P89.1.w1)
  • Enclosures for cranes should be sufficiently large to prevent build-up of parasites/micro-organisms in the soil or within shelters. (B115.2.w7)
  • Fences between pairs of cranes should be opaque. (N1.80.w1)

Crane pairs

  • For a breeding pair of cranes, the minimum size of enclosure should be 150 m for smaller species, 200-300 m for larger species. (B115.12.w8)
    • While breeding has occured in enclosures of 150 m2, 400 m2 or larger is recommended. (B521.19.2.w19b)
    • The total allotted area for each pair of cranes should be twice the minimum area, each pair having two enclosures, used in alternate years, for parasite/pathogen control. See: Preventative Medicine for Birds
    • Larger enclosures are preferable for some crane pairs. (B115.12.w8)
    • Relatively small enclosures are recommended for full-winged cranes which often fly, to reduce the risk of injury. (B115.12.w8)
    • Note: A 1980 survey in the UK found that the smallest enclosure size in which fertile eggs were produced by cranes was 33.5 square metres. (N4.8.w1)
    • Note: If crane pens are placed in series, with a pen left empty between each pen containing a pair, then the phsychological territorial space for each pair is much increased by the empty pen on either side. Annual movement between such pens (one year housing a pair, one year empty) also reduces soil compaction and parasite loads. (P92.1.w6)
  • A full-height internal fence may be used to divide an enclosure into two parts either temporarily, to allow introduction of a pair of cranes, or permanently for an enclosure to house cranes which are paired (as indicated by unison calling, egg laying by the female) but in which one crane is aggressive to the other (usually male aggressive to female). (V.w5)
  • Internal fences for introduction of new pairs should include a gate allowing cranes to be moved easily from one half of the pen into the other half. The door(s) between the pens should open a full 180 degrees to lie back against the fence line. (B115.12.w8)
    • This allows handlers to move birds between the pen halves without touching them, and allows a nervous crane to retreat back into its own pen. (B115.12.w8)
    • If there is a single, divided, shelter, it is useful to have a door allowing access between the two halves of the shelter. (B115.12.w8)

Group enclosures

  • Subadult cranes can be kept in group pens, with up to 15 birds in a 30 by 60 m enclosure. (B115.12.w8)
  • A smaller enclosure, suitable for a breeding pair of cranes, can be used to house 2-5 compatible subadults. (B115.12.w8)
  • If cranes are kept in a flock, it is important that the enclosure is large. (J23.17.w5)
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Water Source & Drainage

For most bird species, which require only a small about of water for drinking and perhaps for bathing, water may be provided easily from the normal mains water supply, and as easily drained into the normal drains. If waterbirds such as waterfowl, flamingoes or penguins are to be kept, provision will have to be made for the supply and disposal of large quantities of water, and/or sufficient recirculation/filtration systems.
  • It is important to ensure, when facilities are designed, that water pressure is adequate for filling pools and for cleaning. (B438.8.w8)
  • Drains for pools must be sufficiently large for the pool to be drained in a reasonable length of time, and be sited correctly (i.e. at the lowest point of a pool). (B438.8.w8)
  • The general drainage of an aviary or enclosure must be considered also, taking into account the local weather conditions and soil type, with appropriate substrate type, slope and/or drainage holes provided as required. (V.w5)

Waterfowl Consideration

Water Supply:
  • Waterfowl require more water than most other bird groups and high water quality is particularly important. A constant flow of water is ideal. Water may be taken from a stream running through the area, diverted from a stream or river, taken from an underground source (e.g. by sinking a well) or mains water may be used. Pipes or a narrow connecting channel may be used to transport water from the source to ponds in different enclosures. Generally, mains water will be suitable as a supply only for relatively small ponds.
  • Water pressure should be sufficient to facilitate rapid cleaning and refilling of ponds.
  • In all systems, high water turnover rates assist in keeping water clear and reducing build up of waste products and disease agents such as bacteria and parasites. It may be possible to keep a greater number of waterfowl on a given area of running water than on a similar area of stagnant ponds.
  • Where continuously-running water cannot be provided, ponds should be emptied and cleaned regularly. Small ponds need to be cleaned more frequently than large ponds, and in general cleaning is required more often in summer than in winter; e.g. weekly cleaning in winter and twice weekly in summer may be required. A practical alternative to complete drainage and refilling for large ponds is to partially drain and refill. This may be more effective for water exchange than continual water input with overflow drainage. Removal of half the water followed by rapid refilling is also effective in reducing algal blooms (B23.37.w1).
  • Permission is required from the riparian owner before water may be abstracted from a stream or river. In the UK this will usually be the Environment Agency. A licence for water abstraction may depend on reaching stringent conditions of cleanliness prior to returning the water to the source. Water may be cleaned by using reedbeds (Phragmites australis)(see: Reedbeds for Water Cleaning) or sedimentation pools.
  • If a stream runs through the pens, it is important to know minimum and maximum water heights for siting of nests and nest boxes.
  • If water is used to fill a series of ponds, parallel or serial filling and drainage may be used.
  1. Parallel filling involves water running separately into each pond from the water source and leaving each pond directly into a drainage system. This system tends to use more water, but is preferred due to the reduced risk of transmission of water-borne diseases between pens.
  2. Serial filling involves water running into one pond and then, generally by gravity, using connecting streams or pipes, from one to another of a series of ponds, before leaving the final pond for the drainage system. This system may require less total water output, which is advantageous particularly where water is scarce. However, the system produces a considerable potential for transmission of  water-borne diseases between pens.
  • Pipes connecting ponds to one another or to source/drainage systems should be constructed in such a way as to ensure that waterfowl cannot become caught in them, or pass through them. Outlets should be inspected daily to clear debris which may block them.
  • Where water is scarce, a recycling system may be used. This is frequently used in combination with serial filling, but could also be used with parallel filling. Incorporation of a filtration system (e.g. sand filtration) is advisable to reduce both silting and transmission of potential pathogens, and the water may also be aerated.

Filtration Mechanisms:

  • Mechanical, chemical or biological filtration systems may be used.


  • Bubblers are effective at oxygenating water and also provide some degree of turbulence and therefore water mixing. Compressed air is pumped to a diffuser on the bottom of the lake or pond, from which air bubbles rise to the surface. Fountain-type spray systems may produce some degree of aeration although this is likely to be significant only on small ponds. Mechanical aerators paddlewheel aerators create turbulence and thereby both aerate the water and promote water circulation.


  • Small ponds may be constructed on a mound,or on naturally sloping ground allowing drainage by a simple siphon.
  • Alternatively, a permanent drain pipe with plug may be built into the bottom of the pond at the time of construction. 
  • Drains should be of sufficient diameter to allow a reasonable speed of drainage and to reduce the risk of blockage.
  • Used water may be led away to a soakaway (see: Soakaway for Water Drainage), ditch or main drain.

(B7, B10.26.w1, B11.33.w1, B23.37.w1, B29, B37.x.w1, B94, B95, B97, B105.16.w3, D1)

Crane Consideration Drinking water
  • Fresh drinking water should be available at all times. (B115.2.w7, P88.1.w1)
  • For drinking water, hygiene is greatest with a continuous run-through system in elevated watering cups (as used at Patuxent); automatically-filling water troughs operated by a float system can be used also. 
    • The functioning of these systems should be checked daily and the cup or trough cleaned weekly using a stiff brush. (B115.2.w7, P1.1977.w2)
    • Buckets need to be available to use if the automatic watering system fails for any reason. (B115.2.w7)
  • An alternative is to use heavy-duty rubber buckets (nine litre), in a secure position. (B115.2.w7)
    • These are less easy to keep clean and need to be emptied and scrubbed daily and disinfected once or twice a month. (B115.2.w7)
  • Note: In cold climates, drinking water may freeze unless a heating system is provided, such as a built-in heater or a pole-type water heater. (B115.2.w7)


  • To maintain hygienic conditions in a pool, either there should be a continuous slow through-flow of water, or the pool should be cleaned at least every 3-5 days - more frequently for an enclosure with a chick in it. (B115.2.w7)
    • Unless the flow of water is sufficient to prevent stagnation, then a drain system is required such that the pool can be drained and cleaned every few days. (B115.12.w8)
  • Disease hazards:
    • Pools may contain a variety of parasites and bacterial pathogens due to faecal contamination from the cranes, wild birds, and rodents. (B115.2.w7)
    • Pools which are allowed to stagnate may contain pathogens such as Clostridium botulinum.
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Pond / Lake / Watercourse Design, Structure and Maintenance

  • Waterbodies and/or watercourses provided for birds should be designed with consideration for the needs of the bird species to be maintained. Depending on the species, water may be required for drinking, bathing, swimming, feeding and mating.
  • Some birds such as waterfowl, flamingoes and penguins require much more water than do non-aquatic birds.
  • Water depth and pond design needs to be appropriate for the species being kept. 
    • For many non-aquatic species only shallow water should be provided, even for bathing. This will reduce the chance of birds drowning if, for example, they are startled during the night and are crashing about the aviary. 
    • Conversely, water more than one metre deep may be needed to assist flamingos when mating.
    • Gradual rather than steep slopes should be provided at pool edges, even for deep pools.

(B438.8.w8, V.w5)

Waterfowl Consideration

General Design Considerations:
  • The area and depth of water required will vary considerably with the species of waterfowl kept as well as with the number of birds. For most species, except in very large enclosures, it is suggested that approximately 50% of the total area of the enclosure should be water, for enclosures of size: - swans, 400m2; large geese, 300m2; small geese, 200m2; large ducks, 100m2, small ducks, 50m2. With geese, this may be reduced to only 20% of the area, although more should be provided if enclosure size permits.
  • For dabbling ducks, large areas of shallow water are preferred, while diving ducks require at least 50% of their water area at least 60cm (two feet) deep and preferable 90-120cm (three to four feet) deep, with a maximum depth of two metres or more; neck-deep is preferred for swans.
  • Ponds intended to house mixed species should vary in depth to fulfil the requirements of different waterfowl species. Ideally, still and running water and large and small water areas should be provided within an enclosure to suit their varied preferences.

N.B. Overcrowding should be avoided, as this leads to fouling and build up of potentially-pathogenic micro-organisms.

(B29, B37.x.w1, B97, D1).


  • Banks need to be sufficiently shallow (30 degrees preferably, and no more than 45 degrees) to allow birds to exit the water easily, with particular regard to the requirements of species which are clumsy on land, downy young, and individuals being chased. Ramps may be used on areas of steep bank to avoid birds becoming trapped on the water, but these are not suitable for diving ducks. Ducklings which cannot exit the water and become wet may quickly drown (see: Drowning)
  • Banks are also subject to considerable wear. Banks of streams and lakes are subject to wear from water movement (flow, waves). Banks of all waterbodies and waterways used for waterfowl also are liable to damage from the waterfowl themselves probing and dabbling. In general, some form of protection will be required to reduce erosion, extending out from the water for a full neck's-length of the waterfowl species kept. Erosion at the junction between a surround and the soil may produce a muddy area in which bacteria such as Mycobacterium avium (Mycobacterium avium-intracellulare complex) may build up.
  • Concrete may be used to reduce bank erosion; this requires an initial outlay in time and materials, and tends to be rather obtrusive but is relatively long-lasting. Concrete may be made less obtrusive by matching the colour to the soil. It is important to ensure that the concrete is smooth to reduce the risk of chronic trauma which may lead to bumblefoot. 
  • Stone flagging, crazy-paving or natural rocks placed along the banks provide a more aesthetically-pleasing alternative to reduce wear on banks, and also form a loafing area on which waterfowl may sunbathe.
  • Netting laid on the ground may also be used to reduce erosion. This should be securely pegged down and extend well below (1 ft or 30cm) the water level. Grass or other vegetation growing through it will soon hide the wire. Netting used in this way is less durable than concrete or flagging, but may be cheaper and take less time to put down.
  • A wider surrounding area of gravel, cement, paving stones, bricks or shingle may be used to reduce the amount of soil carried into the water on the feet of the birds.

(B7, B10.26.w1, B11.33.w1, B29, B30, B37.x.w1, B41, B94, B97, B105.16.w3, D1, V.w5)

Pond linings may be used for waterfowl:

  • Natural: Natural, mature lakes or ponds with sufficient depth, water input and natural aquatic flora and fauna are usually of great benefit. Shallow natural water bodies with low natural water input, or which have been neglected, may require considerable work in restoration and maintenance.
  • Premoulded plastic ponds are expensive for their size and are rather small. They should be considered suitable only for e.g. one or at most two pairs of small ducks (e.g. mandarins (Aix galericulata - Mandarin duck) or wood ducks (Aix sponsa - Wood duck )), or for domestic waterfowl. They are simple to construct, requiring only the excavation of a suitable hole to allow the pond to be sunk to ground level. Such ponds quickly become fouled and required emptying, cleaning and refilling frequently - perhaps even daily, particularly in warm weather.
  • Concrete ponds: have been used for many years and may be constructed in a variety of shapes (see: Pond Construction (Concrete)). More recently there has been increasing use of various synthetic liners (see: Pond Construction (Synthetic Liner)).
  • Clay: clay soils may allow the construction of ponds without any lining other than the clay. The clay must however be well compacted (puddled) if it is to hold water reliably. Clays with fine particle size have better water-impermeability. Clay may also be applied to a dug out area of other soils in a layer at least 30cm (12inches) thick, and compacted well. Specialist equipment such as rollers or a hydraulic excavator may be required for puddling clay for large areas. Leaks may develop if the clay is allowed to dry out (e.g. if water levels fluctuate) or if deep-rooted plants grow through it (B93 - [full text provided - see Chapter 7].

Islands or floating islets:

  • Should be constructed in ponds where possible. Most waterfowl species feel secure on islands and prefer to rest and/or nest on islands. These also provide a degree of protection from predators. Simple rafts may be constructed from inch-thick (2.5cm thick) planks fastened together with battens. Plastic containers, partially filled with water and fixed to the underside may be used to provide buoyancy and the raft may be anchored to a weight or to the bank (B108).

N.B. General Maintenance is required:

  • A portion of each pond should be shaded (either naturally or by artificial means).
  • Large-leafed underwater vegetation assists in maintaining oxygenation and water-life but are unlikely to be maintained in a small pond.
  • Sturdy marginal species may be established at the edges of even small ponds. These improve the aesthetic appearance and provide cover. (See: Marginal / Emergent Planting of Waterbodies).
  • Shallow water bodies, including natural water bodies, may require periodic dredging to remove sediment.
  • Leaves falling into ponds from overhanging trees should be removed to reduce sedimentation and blockage of drains.
  • In freezing weather in winter, birds may be able to keep an area of water open themselves. If water does freeze totally, on small ponds it may be possible to break the ice and remove it. Alternatively, water should be provided in bowls, refilled several times daily (B11.33.w1, B41, V.w5).

(B7, B13.46.w1, B23.37.w1, B29, B40, B41, B93 [full text provided] B95, B97, B105.16.w3, B108)

Crane Consideration
  • Cranes like to bathe and should be provided with sufficient water to do so comfortable. (B94)
  • Crane breeding may be encouraged if the cranes have a marshy area in their pen (P1.1986.w4) or a pool in their pen in which they can wade, rather than just drinking water. (B115.2.w7, B115.12.w8)
    • Pools with natural vegetation are more likely to stimulate reproductive behaviour than are pools without such vegetation. (B115.12.w8)
    • A stream with a central island may be chosen as a nesting site, if available. (P1.1986.w4)
  • A concrete or plastic pool can be used. (B115.12.w8)
  • A gradual slope to a depth of 20-60 cm is suggested. (B115.12.w8)
  • Most crane species nest close to or surrounded by water in the wild and many crane pairs in captivity will build their nest close to water if there is a pond or stream in their enclosure. Examples:
    • At Jersey Zoo, a pair of Grus vipio - White-naped cranes build their nest each year, usually on a favoured site in the middle of the stream running through their enclosure. (N1.98.w1)
  • If available, a stream or pond will be used for drinking, bathing and foraging as well as nesting. (N1.98.w1)
  • Given the opportunity (sufficiently deep water) in captivity, adult cranes of most species will swim. (B479.w16)
  • Misters or sprinklers can be provided. (N19.12.w)
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The substrate is the general ground covering for the accommodation. Factors to be considered include wear and abrasion of the birds' feet, the role of ground-covering plants as feed (e.g. grass for grazing species), the local weather (amount and type of precipitation) and drainage characteristics of the area (e.g. sandy versus clay soils, flat land, slopes etc.), the wear or damage that the occupants may produce, and pathogen control.

Waterfowl Consideration

In choosing substrates for a waterfowl enclosure it must be remembered that waterfowl are prone to puddling and eroding the ground. Puddling is particularly likely to occur on clay soils and in wet weather.


  • Being hardwearing, concrete is commonly used as a substrate in areas which are subject to considerable wear, for example at gateways and around food troughs and the banks of ponds. However, the use of concrete should be minimized as it may lead to the development of callus, foot abrasions and Bumblefoot particularly if it has a rough, abrasive finish.


  • Grass is important for geese, swans and some duck species (e.g. wigeon) for grazing. It is difficult to provide sufficient grazing for winter, when supplementation may be required. Stocking density should be sufficiently low to allow grass to become re-established each spring (see: Food and Feeding for Birds).
  • Well-managed grazing areas may provide much of the total nutritional requirements of grazing species, while overgrazing may lead to poaching of the ground, the encroachment of coarse, unpalatable grasses and other plant species such as nettles and thistles or loss of ground vegetation. On the other hand, grasses which are undergrazed and allowed to become too long increase the risk of the development of gastro-intestinal impactions (see: Impaction).
  • The ideal sward length varies depending on the bill length of the waterfowl grazing it: shorter grass is better for species with shorter bills, longer grass for those with longer bills.
  • As well as providing food, grass should act as a protective covering for the soil, reducing erosion, particularly in wet periods and under the puddling attention of waterfowl feet and bills. As with other vegetation, it is advisable to allow grass to become established before waterfowl are introduced to an area.
  • Annual or biennial (every second year) cultivation, resting and reseeding has been recommended to minimize contamination by pathogens by increasing desiccation and exposure to sunlight. Re-sowing and resting for at least 12 months is required before an area may be considered "clean" of parasites such as Cyathostoma (See Gapeworm Infection).
  • Unpalatable grasses have sometimes been used to provide a ground covering for aesthetic purposes. If such grasses are used it then an alternative supply of green food must be provided for grazing species.

Temporary substrate:

  • In cold winter weather, depending on the climate, the ground may become covered with snow and ice. In such conditions, straw may be provided as a temporary substrate to give an alternative surface for the waterfowl to stand and sit on. This provides some protection against Frostbite.

(J23.16.w3, B10.26.w1, B11.33.w1, B29, B30, B37.x.w1, B40, B95, B105.16.w3, B139, D1)

Crane Consideration Substrates both inside and outside should be soft for maintenance of good foot health.
  • Outside, natural substrates such as grass are recommended. (B115.2.w7,B704.42.w42 )
    • Naturally short grasses can be used as substrate; mowing may then not be needed, or may be minimised. (B115.12.w8)
    • Note: If grass grows too long and it is necessary to mow, this should be carried out after, not during, the breeding season. (B115.12.w8)
  • Soft wet and/or dry soil areas should be available in which the cranes can probe.
  • For Grus leucogeranus - Siberian crane in particular, which are the most aquatic of the cranes, providing soft substrate (ponds with mud bottoms) for at least part of the year may be beneficial to reduce the development of Hock Osteoarthritis in Siberian Cranes. (P1.1999.w3)
  • Inside, wood shavings are appropriate. (B115.2.w7)

Natural ground-covering vegetation is beneficial.

  • Particularly if allowed to grow long, vegetation provides cranes with opportunities for foraging, both e.g. of seed heads and on invertebrates and even small vertebrates associated with the vegetation. (N1.80.w1, N1.83.w1)
  • Long vegetation enables cranes to conceal their nest, providing them with a sense of security. (N1.80.w1, P108.9.w2)
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Furnishings / Plantings / Shelter

Trees, shrubs and other plants in enclosures serve a variety of functions for the inhabitants, including provision of shade and shelter, nesting sites, perches and visual barriers between individual birds. Low overhanging shrubs also provide a degree of protection from aerial predators. In addition, a well-planted enclosure has increased aesthetic appeal.
  • Protection from cold: furnishings may also be required to provide protection from extremes of temperature and precipitation. Heated night enclosures/sheds, bedding material over snow, windbreaks and water kept unfrozen by artificial means may improve the ability of some species to withstand cold.
  • Protection from heat and sunlight: for species in which sensitivity to high ambient temperatures is problematic, advantage should be taken of natural microclimates, such as the existence of shade trees. Valleys may provide reduced exposure to sunlight and exposed locations tend to have cooling breezes. Shade netting should be provided where natural plantings do not provide sufficient protection from the sun.
  • Note: it is important to consider the behaviour of the species in providing plantings. For example, for ostrich and rheas a few trees (vertical objects) may be useful, but care must be taken to avoid horizontal objects which running ratites are likely to trip over, leading to serious injuries.

(B33.4.w2, B96, B105.16.w3, V.w5).

Waterfowl Consideration

  • Plants for waterfowl enclosures should be chosen with the needs of the birds in mind. Additional considerations are aesthetics and ease of management. Native plants should be used if possible, and non-native plants which are known to be invasive should be avoided.
  • Trees may be used to camouflage fences and to provide shelter. Conifers are very useful for these purposes. Live hedges may play a dual role of hiding low fences (internal fences) and also provide shelter and seclusion for the birds. Trees and bushes may additionally provide roosting sites, shade, nesting sites, nesting material and habitat variety, as well as visual barriers which may assist in reducing aggressive interactions between birds.
  • For maximum aesthetic appeal, and to increase habitat variation, trees and shrubs may be planted in groups, with plenty of space in between. Suitable shrubs should be provided at the edges of the pond for species which prefer cover for sleeping; low, overhanging shrubs provide some protection from aerial predators.
  • Where natural plantings are inadequate to provide protection against wind and draughts, artificial wind-breaks may be provided, for example by the use of screens of wattle or osier hurdles, round the enclosure sides or on pool banks. Shade should be provided over part of the water area, by means of shade netting if necessary.
  • In general, waterfowl tend not to not use man-made shelters such as sheds. However an open-fronted shelter may be useful for feeding birds in bad weather, or in snow, and shelters with supplemental heating may be required for tropical species in winter.
  • Perches should be available for the Perching Ducks and the Whistling-ducks (Tree-ducks). Partially submerged logs and tree stumps will be used by a wide variety of species.


  • The amount and type of shelter required will vary depending on the local climate and on the waterfowl being kept. In some climates heated housing may be required for less winter-hardy species for the whole winter.
  • Dense cover, while being beneficial in terms of shelter for the waterfowl, may also produce damp shaded areas allowing survival and build-up of bacteria such as Mycobacterium avium (B37.x.w1).
  • Densely growing tall grasses, reeds, bamboo etc., while excellent in providing cover and nesting sites for waterfowl, may also provide shelter for pests such as rats.
  • The edges of ponds and lakes should be planted with emergent and marginal plant species as well as larger shrubs to provide cover and nesting sites. (See: Marginal / Emergent Planting of Waterbodies.
  • Consideration should be given in the siting of deciduous trees to the problem of leaves covering ponds and clogging their outlets.


  • Domestic waterfowl are commonly kept in enclosures which are not predator proof, and housed at night. Houses should be predator-proof and of a size sufficient for the number of birds to be kept (3 square feet per duck - B16.19.w1). The floor should be covered with bedding, such as wood shavings, and these must be cleaned out and renewed regularly.
  • Domestic waterfowl quickly learn to be driven into their house at night by a single person. Patience, perseverance and possibly an extra person may be required initially. The house should be sited along a fence and preferably in a corner, so that birds can be guided along the fence line into the house.

(B7, B29, B30, B37.x.w1, B40, B95, B96, B97, B105.16.w3, P4.1992.w1, V.w5)

Crane Consideration
  • Enclosures providing natural cover and shade are preferable for cranes. (B115.12.w8)
  • In open-topped enclosures, shade trees can provide natural shade. In flight-netted enclosures, shrubs can be planted and shade can be provided by attaching 10 m of tennis netting, reed mats or similar to the top of the flight netting during the summer months. (B115.12.w8)
  • Grus leucogeranus - Siberian crane are heat-sensitive; shade and access to water are important in the heat of the summer. (B479.w16)
  • Landscaping should be designed to minimise the development of standing water in places where pathogens are likely to multiply. (B115.12.w8)


  • Some trees/bushes may be useful to provide shade, shelter from the wind, and as visual barriers behind which cranes can retreat.
  • However, breeding cranes generally choose nesting sites with a clear view, therefore excessive shrubs etc. should be avoided. (N1.80.w1)


  • A house or shelter may be required for protection from the elements, and also provides a dry place for food to be offered. (B115.12.w8,.w5)
  • The type of shelter needed will depend on the species of crane and the local climate. 
  • A shelter which can be fully closed can be useful, since cranes can be shut into this during severe storms (e.g. snow storms or ice storms), while enclosure maintenance or repair is carried out, for veterinary care, or, briefly, during periods of excessive risk from nocturnal predators. (B115.12.w8)
  • Shelters should have a sloping roof and adequate drainage. (B115.12.w8)
  • If cranes are locked inside a house, good lighting and ventilation are important. (B115.2.w7)
    • Good ventilation is particularly important if cranes are to be shut into the shelter for days to weeks, as may occur during quarantine. (B115.12.w8)
    • There should be a non-breakable window allowing cranes to be observed from outside the shelter, and providing daylight to cranes inside the shelter. (B115.12.w8)
    • An overhead light in the shelter is needed to provide additional light for cranes if they are confined for prolonged periods, and may be needed for some husbandry activities. (B115.12.w8)
  • To control crane access to a fully enclosed shelter without entering the pen, a sliding guillotine door with ropes/wires allowing operation from outside the pen is useful. (B115.12.w8)
    • It should be possible to see the vicinity of the guillotine door while operating it, to ensure that it is closed at the correct time (with the crane inside or outside the shelter, as required) and to minimise the risk of injury to the crane. (V.w5)
  • If a floor is required, it should be long-lasting and easy to wash (e.g. concrete). (B115.12.w8)
    • The floor should slope slightly towards the main service door (external door for personnel), for drainage. (B115.12.w8)
    • Concrete floors need to be covered with 5 cm of sand or shavings; in very cold weather, 15 cm of shavings is required. (B115.12.w8)
    • In very cold climates a head pad may be buried in the concrete, providing underfloor heating. (B115.12.w8)
  • In temperate climates an insulated shelter may be required for subtropical crane species, with about 10 m of space for each crane which will be shut into the shelter. (B115.12.w8)
    • A heater may be required: for a 4 x 4 m insulated shelter, a 1,300-1,500 W heater hung from the ceiling is sufficient. (B115.12.w8)
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Nesting Facilities

When providing nesting sites for birds, consideration should be given to their natural nesting preferences in the wild, as well as factors such as competition within an enclosure or aviary. It should also always be remembered that birds do not read books, so may be found using sites which are not suggested for that species.

Waterfowl Consideration

Suitable preferred nesting sites should be provided for each species, including a variety of sites close to the water. Considerably more sites should be provided than birds which may use them, with a choice of at least two "suitable" sites in an enclosure for one pair of birds. Consideration should be given to how the nest sites will look to the waterfowl which are to use them, for example facing nest boxes towards the water. The weather should also be considered: wind direction, particularly for raised nest boxes to avoid draughts and rain being swept into boxes, and provision of shade to prevent boxes overheating in direct sunlight. Protection from predation is also important.

Nest Placement:

  • Many species of ducks and swans prefer to nest surrounded by water. On sufficiently large ponds, an island may be constructed built up from the pond bottom, or a floating island (raft) constructed, covered in turf and secured out in the water. On large islands, several well-spaced nest boxes may be provided, well concealed and placed well apart from one another.
  • Most species of waterfowl nest in cover of vegetation, for example in grass, weeds, reed beds, between rocks or tree roots, under bushes. Reeds and rushes should be planted around pond edges, clumps of sedges in more open areas and pampas grass and sand sedge may be used in dry soils.
  • Many ducks will nest only a short distance apart from one another if there is ample concealment available.
  • Natural cover may be supplemented by the use of clumps of branches, such as evergreens or broom stuck into the ground.

Nesting Material:

  • Suitable nesting materials such as grass, small branches, leaves etc. should be provided for species which build substantial nests (e.g. swans, some geese, whistling ducks). In general, nesting material will simply be pulled into the nest if it is in reach, not specifically carried to the site.
  • Nest sites such as boxes off the ground should have suitable nesting material provided inside, as the birds will not take nesting material (other than their own down) into the box.
  • Nests consisting of piles of vegetation may be provided partially build in suitable locations for swans, with a base of sticks topped with softer materials. If water depth may vary these nests should be sited above expected high water levels. Loose nest-building material should also be provided around the nest base for the swans to complete the nest for themselves.

Nest Structure:

  • Open-fronted nest boxes, without a floor (i.e. eggs rest on the earth) are often acceptable. These should be rectangular, and of a size allowing the intended user to turn around. Sizes may vary from 18 inches by nine inches (45 by 22.5cm) to 3ft by 1.5ft (60 by 45cm). Similar boxes with a hole just large enough for the intended user to gain entrance should also be offered. Boxes fixed on a pole just over the water are also used, and bottle-shaped woven baskets placed along banks. Hollow logs, old metal drums and old chimney pots may be used as nest boxes. All of these may be hidden in clumps of tall grass or under thick shrubs, or screened with cut branches if natural cover is not available. "Wigwams" may be constructed from straight branches or bamboo, with the bottom ends stuck into the ground and the tops tied together with string. Lawson Cypress plants may have the tops cut off and be trained to trail at low level, providing cover for nest boxes and even, once they reach the ground, nest sites beneath the plant itself. Old tyres with earth and dried grass inside may be used by geese; these provide cover but also allow the goose to observe its surroundings. Soil several inches thick should be provided in every structure which is not directly on the ground.
  • Artificial burrows for shelducks may be created by using a length of drainpipe for the entrance tunnel with a buried box forming a small nesting chamber at the end. The nesting chamber should have a removable lid of e.g. wood or slate to allow access to the nest for inspection or egg removal. 
  • Species which normally nest in tree holes above ground level require nest boxes or barrels raised several feet above the ground, e.g. on a post, or in a major fork of a tree if suitable low-growing trees are present in the enclosure. For flight-restricted birds, these require an access ramp or sturdy branch leading from the ground or water to just underneath the entrance hole. Suggested entrance hole sizes vary, e.g. about five inches diameter (Aix sponsa - Wood duck), or four inches (Aix galericulata - Mandarin duck) (B41) versus three and a half inches diameter suggested for mandarin-sized birds (B29). A sloping roof is suggested and the roof should overhang the entrance hole, shading it. Weldmesh or coarse hessian sacking attached to the inside under the entrance hole will provide footholds for exiting ducks. A hollow log may also be used for tree-nesting ducks, again with a ramp leading up to the entry hole at the top, and a wooden lid. Tall logs (e.g. four feet high), placed standing vertically, may be subdivided with a false "floor" half way down to form two chambers, and e.g. earth placed in the top chamber.
  • Elevated nest boxes, placed over water or land, are appreciated by most Dendrocygna spp., although pinioned birds will use ground-level boxes. A suggested size for these species is 30.5cm square, with a height of 56cm at the front sloping backwards to 51cm, an entrance hole of 13cm and a perch on front for pinioned birds. Such boxes may be constructed of plywood or pine, 1.3cm thick, and holes may be drilled into the bottom for drainage. A "climbing" ladder such as a strip of wire mesh attached to the wall leading up to the exit hole should be provided to assist ducklings in exiting (J23.13.w10).
  • Stifftails prefer a dark, protective rushy environment for nesting. Land-based nest boxes surrounded by vegetation on the shore may be used. An ideal site may be produced by constructing a floating or fixed raft. A fixed structure should be placed sufficiently far from the bank to allow waterfowl to swim behind it and to provide protection from predators and is constructed on top of four poles driven into the pond bed, with a wooden frame, about 5ft square, attached at a couple of inches (a few centimetres) above water level and floored in weldmesh or stiff wire netting, with a very shallow ramp leading into the water to allow for a decrease in water level. Floating rafts must be constructed with regard to buoyancy and should be tethered to the bank for (human) access. In either case the edges should be lined with rushes or junctus reed, with their roots reaching the water. Rushes should be used to construct a nest in the centre, with the whole structure hidden by pushing willow branches or bamboo into the pond bed on the sides, bending them over the raft and tying them together. N.B. easy access is important, remembering that stifftails are clumsy on land (B29).

(J23.13.w10, B7, B29, B41, B95, B97, P4.1992.w1).

Crane Consideration
  • Most cranes prefer to nest near or surrounded by water. (B107.w8)
  • Cranes will build nests from whatever materials are available, and may not construct much of a nest. However, if kept in large, naturalistic, heavily-planted or marsh-type enclosures, cranes may construct nests similar to those seen in the wild. (P89.1.w1)
  • Nesting and egg laying is more likely to occur if there is an area of the pen which is undisturbed, in which the cranes feel secure. (P87.7.w5)
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Temporary / Hospital Accommodation

Temporary and hospital accommodation are designed for the short-term care of individual animals or groups of animals, particularly during treatment and rehabilitation. Hospital accommodation is commonly constructed with hygiene and easy cleaning as the main considerations, but the specific needs of the patients, including behavioural needs, should also be considered.
  • Perches should be provided for most species of birds. The size of the perches should be appropriate for the species of birds being hospitalized, with more than one perch provided if possible, and with variable diameter and surface texture. Additionally, most birds prefer to be located high up, where they can look down on intruders.
  • Tail guards may be used to avoid damage to the tail feathers. This is particularly important for species such as raptors in which flying and precise control of flight are vital.
  • If possible, provision should be made for hospitalized social species to have contact with other individuals of their own species. Visual and/or auditory contact should be provided if physical contact is not possible or is contraindicated by other factors.
  • Hygiene requirements: The possibility of patient to patient spread of infection and the risk of zoonoses must be remembered and minimized. Good ventilation is essential. Rooms should be easily cleaned and dust-traps avoided. Cages should be constructed from impermeable materials (e.g. metal, plastic, fiberglass, sealed concrete) which can be easily cleaned and disinfected. Wire mesh cage doors should be avoided due to the risks of feather damage; doors constructed with vertical bars are safer. Perches should be placed away from food and water containers, to avoid contamination of food and water with droppings.
  • Substrate: Cage floors may be covered with disposable paper and/or constructed with a removable tray-type floor. For larger birds, consideration of appropriate substrate is very important. Floors should be non-slip, particularly for long-legged birds, non-abrasive and easily cleaned. A cage floor made of plastic-covered small-mesh netting may be used for water birds. The use of straw and hay should be avoided, due to the risk of Aspergillus spores.
  • Heat: Hospitalized birds frequently require additional heat and a heated hospital cage is very useful for small birds. Rooms used for larger birds should also be capable of being heated. Heat lamps, which mat be raised further from perches to lower the temperature, or fitted to a dimmer switch to control their output are useful in allowing birds some freedom to chose their preferred temperature, but must be used with caution if the bird is immobile and unable to move away from the heat. An ambient temperature of at least 26C may be useful to decrease the energy requirements of ill or injured birds, and an even higher temperature such as 38C may be useful initially (24-48 hours). Placing a bird inside a box or cage next to a hot radiator may be useful temporarily, or placing a hot water bottle, well wrapped in a towel, in the bottom of the box.
  • Ventilation: Good ventilation is important, but without draughts.
  • Lighting: A reduced lighting level is frequently useful for hospitalized birds. Hospital accommodation (rooms and/or cages, as appropriate) should be designed to provide a dark environment (e.g. for birds recovering from anaesthetic, or which have been stunned) and also subdued lighting but with sufficient light to allow feeding. If a cover such as a towel over the door is used to provide darkness it is important to ensure that the cage occupant is still observed regularly.
  • Water containers: water bowls should usually be provided above floor level and be sufficiently small to discourage the bird from trying to bathe in the bowl. A shallow bowl may be provided for bathing if required. Provision of deeper water may be important for some aquatic species. When swimming water is provided it must be kept clean, preferably by using a constant flow with surface skimming, or if this is not possible then the water should be changed frequently - e.g. two to three times daily.
  • Privacy: Wild birds, unless habituated to humans, are liable to be highly stressed by close proximity and sight/sound contact with humans and domestic species such as cats and dogs, while all "prey" species are likely to be stressed if in sight of predators. Such stressors should be reduced as much as possible. This is particularly important to consider when birds are being maintained in a hospital which is also used for other species. Provision of a sheltered area such as a box in or behind which the bird may hide may be advantageous, although a balance is required concerning the need for monitoring.
  • Enclosures used for longer-term accommodation of birds during convalescence and rehabilitation should have at least one side which is "out of bounds" to humans. It the area is visited by the public (as may be the case with some wildlife hospitals) it is particularly important to ensure that fencing and/or plantings enforce this restriction. [D1].
  • Monitoring: Wild birds will frequently attempt to hide their illness from an observer, making monitoring of their true condition difficult. Consideration should be given in designing hospital accommodation to enable the occupants to be observed without their being aware of the observer. This may involve one-way glass panels, a wide-angle lens viewer in the door or the use of close-circuit television.
  • Temporary accommodation, such as may be used in treatment of birds in the field (e.g. at the site of a botulism outbreak (Avian Botulism)) , should be constructed of materials sufficiently durable for the intended period of use. Consideration should be given to the requirements of the occupants for food, water, shelter from the elements (wind, precipitation, excess sunlight), perching etc. Netting which may not easily be visible to birds should be marked (e.g. with pieces of tape) or covered with opaque material to avoid collisions due to birds trying to fly through it.

(B11.4.w17, B11.14. B14, B36.6.w6, B105.16.w3, B117.w15).

Waterfowl Consideration

Although a dry, warm enclosure with non-slip flooring may be sufficient for brief hospitalization, hospital accommodation for waterfowl should take into account their particular needs, particularly in substrate and water provision.


  • Accommodation should be designed to allow maintenance at a higher ambient temperature if required, for example 35-40C for oiled birds before washing.
  • Social species should be housed in groups if possible, and within sight/sound of their conspecifics if this is not possible.
  • Maintenance on concrete for any length of time may lead to damage to the foot surface and the development of Bumblefoot. Butyl rubber matting or artificial turf are more suitable substrates. Net-bottomed cages may be used short-term for species which normally spend the majority of their time on water, for example prior to washing oiled birds (P14.5.w5).
  • Perches should be available for perching ducks and whistling-ducks (tree-ducks); flight-restricted individuals of these species will appreciate a low perch which they can step or hop onto.
  • Temporary pens, which may be used e.g. for waterfowl being treated for botulism, should be moveable (to prevent excessive contamination of substrate with droppings etc.) and/or built on an easily-cleaned and disinfected surface. Appropriate water and shade provision should be incorporated.


  • For waterfowl species which normally spend the majority of their time on water, it may be necessary to provide specialized accommodation which enables the birds to remain on water. This is particularly important for seaducks and stifftails. Foot and leg joint problems are common if such species are maintained in solid-floored accommodation and Keel Lesions may also develop. Net-bottomed cages may be used short-term, for example prior to washing oiled birds (P14.5.w5).
  • Water for bathing is essential unless absolutely contra-indicated by the treatment or state of health of the birds (e.g. waterfowl being treated for botulism and unable to hold their heads up reliably should not be given water they can drown in). Maintaining waterfowl without access to water may result in plumage problems including loss of waterproofing, foot problems and cloacal problems (see: Cloacitis (Vent Gleet)).
  • Provision of water for swimming is also particularly important in waterfowl recovering from leg injuries (B11.33.w1).

(B11.33.w1, B11.4.w17, B13.46.w1, B36.2.w2, V.w5)

Crane Consideration
  • Hospital housing for cranes should provide a small indoor treatment pen (about 3 x 2 m) with an outdoor pen (about 2 x 5 m) for each hospitalised crane. (B115.12.w8)
    • The pens should be designed for easy catching. (B115.12.w8)
    • Several such pens should be available for a facility with large numbers of cranes.
  • Hospital pens should have lights and heating available. (B115.12.w8)
  • If the indoor pen can be darkened and its floor is lined with indoor carpeting with a thick rubber matting, this can be used as a recovery room. Otherwise a recovery room with those specifications, and about 2 x 3 m in size, is needed. (B115.12.w8)
  • Hospital pen flooring must provide adequate traction; this can be achieved using hard rubber mats, which can easily be disinfected. (B704.42.w42)
  • Turf, sand and wood-chip can be used as alternatives to non-slip matting. (J311.21.w1)
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Authors & Referees

Authors Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)

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