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Don’t worry about bird’s sleep cycle

Q: My boyfriend bought me a baby sun conure for Valentine’s Day and we are quite pleased with him. However, we read that a bird needs 10-12 hours of sleep every night so we try to cover him at 7 p.m. or so. The cage is in our living room and we are up late watching TV. I can hear him messing around in the cage playing with his toys even though the cover we have on the cage is very dark. Should we move the cage to another room so that he can get more sleep? We only have a small apartment so it will be hard to do that but we will if you think that we should.

A: The only place on Earth where the nights are always 12 hours long is around the equator. Some parrots do live there, but a great many more live north or south of it. The sun comes up and goes down at a different time every day in those areas. So birds in the wild do not get the exact same hours of sleep every night and there should be no difference for a pet bird. If you are up late at night and keep the bird up, then he will just nap during the day when you are not home. The only real reason to cover a bird’s cage at night is to keep him quiet in the morning. If the cover is dark enough then most birds as a rule will not make a peep until they are uncovered, and this is helpful for those bird keepers whose living conditions require a quiet household in the early morning. Otherwise do not concern yourself about how many hours of sleep he is getting.

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Q: I just saw that a pair of mourning doves has built a nest in an evergreen bush right outside my living room window and it has two eggs in it. However, it was very cold out this morning. Isn’t it a bit early for birds to be breeding now?

A: Animals know that spring is coming by the increase in daylight hours rather then the rising temperature, so the cold is not an issue with their biological clocks. Mourning doves are one of the first birds to start breeding as they only feed their babies regurgitated seeds rather then insects.

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Q: We just got a sheltie puppy from a breeder, and the first night all she did was wail at the top of her lungs. We did everything – the ticking clock, hot water bottle – all the old-time remedies. We talked to the breeder the next day and she told us to just let the dog cry itself out and it will give up. So that was night two and it did not work. We have had many puppies, but this is the first time we ever met one that cries with such intensity. She is fine during the day – she sleeps soundly all by herself in her crate that is in our family room with the same blanket and toys that are in there during the night. We live in a co-op with paper-thin walls and our neighbors are giving us dirty looks now. Can you help?

A: There is nothing wrong with your puppy. Every dog is different; some are secure, some are not, some are vocal and others are quiet. You have an insecure puppy that is very vocal as most shelties are. First of all, when a puppy takes naps all day long it cannot always be expected to sleep the night through, and the puppy’s waking hours at night are times of desolation and utter boredom surrounded by darkness, gloom and silence. You cannot do much about the desolation and boredom apart from putting toys in the crate, but the darkness, gloom and silence are easy to fix. You say the puppy is happy to sleep soundly in her crate during the day in the family room, so that means that the lights are on and most likely the TV is going as well. If you just re-create that scenario at night by leaving the lights on so the room is as bright as it is during the day and put the TV on softly then she does not know the difference between night and day. Of course the breeder is correct as well: If you let the puppy just cry herself out then she will learn to deal with it, but this is not always practical in a condo situation with close neighbors. As she gets older and more secure in her new home, then you can shut off the lights and TV at night.

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