Ants in the Nest

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Q: How do I keep ants from devouring my canary nestlings that are still in the nest and have not fledged onto the perch? Can insecticides be used around birds?

A: Most species of ants will not attack healthy chicks. It is often assumed that ants are responsible for the death of nestlings because of the discovery of ant-covered bodies in the nest. What has happened in most cases is that the chicks were dying, and the death of the first chick caused the ants to swarm the nest.

The first thing that I would do is have the parent birds vet-checked to see if they are carrying anything bad that could have been passed on to the chicks. If all checks out well and you are convinced that the ants are the initiators of the problem, then there are several things you can do.

The use of solid insecticides is not a problem, as long as the birds cannot get to them and they will not be dragged into the cage by the pests. There are several companies that manufacture ant and roach bait that is confined to a small plastic container that the ants have to walk inside. These can be placed in strategic areas. The two best areas would be where the ants are coming into the bird area or room, and along the path that they take to enter your cages.

In outdoor situations, extermination can be quite a bit more difficult. If, however, your cages are on legs, then you can easily block the ants’ path. Coating a portion of the legs with heavy axle grease will send the ants elsewhere to find a meal. Heavy grease will not have its effectiveness altered by an occasional spray of water and is stable in most temperatures. You can scrape it off with a putty knife and replace it with fresh grease as needed. This will become necessary when the grease becomes so matted with dust, feathers and debris that the ants can walk over it.

If you have an occasional rat or mouse problem, it’s best to start the grease only about an inch above the ground and go up only an inch from there. This allows the rat or mouse to jump over the grease when climbing up the cage. You wouldn’t want a rodent spreading grease all over the cage.