With so few daylight hours available during December our outdoor work is a bit limited. What we can get done is often also weather dependent. If conditions are icy it can take quite a while just to make sure the birds all have water available to them. We used to have automatic drinkers in some of the aviaries but there were too many problems with frost breaking seals and connections so we now rely on manual drinkers and troughs in all the pens. The aviaries can be looking rather on the forlorn side by now especially if we've experienced weeks of heavy rainfall, which is not as unusual as we'd like it to be in Southwest Scotland. So other than feeding and watering birds much of our work outside consists on keeping the birds living quarters in decent condition. Luckily by December the number of young poults we have is dropping substantially so we can create enough space to leave the most worn aviaries empty.
It's nice to get as many loose ends tied up as possible and out of the way this month so we have time to enjoy the festive season and the new year feels like a fresh start. As far as our birds and our business goes this means making up loads of boxes early in the month so we have plenty ready for any unexpected orders or collections during the month and throughout January.
We like to get as many remaining orders away before Christmas as we can to create more of the afore mentioned space, we are by now craving. At this time of year however the roads are not always safe to be travelling on. When birds have to get to new homes within 30 hours or so, to be sure their health doesn't suffer, deliveries sometimes have to be postponed until a better time. Once again the weather dictates to us what we can and cannot do regarding our end of the year plans. It does help to expect the unexpected and mostly our customers are understandable and patient when awaiting arrival of their birds as long as they know we are trying to do our best for both them and for the welfare of the birds. If we can get the birds away so much the better as roads in January can be even more treacherous than now.
Another indoor job to be done this month, is checking through our book for any orders we have been unable to fill during the present year. We have waiting lists, for some of our rarer birds, and sometimes customers can miss out if we don't breed enough of a species to provide everyone with all the birds they've asked for. These orders will now be carried through to our new book, for the following year, so our customers will be moved up our waiting list. It may well be by the time we have the birds available the customer will no longer be interested but I like to check with them first, when we have the birds, just in case. There are also often orders placed one year for birds the following one and these will be noted when the orders are first mentioned so again they are all added to the new book in chronological order.
If I actually have some spare time between seeing to birds, customers, bookwork and Christmas I will organize photos. Throughout the year from time to time I take snapshots of our birds. Sometimes this is for printing, sometimes for online pics or to show customers particular birds they wish to buy. At other times, it helps me to get a close look at birds without having to catch them, so I can see the number on a leg ring for id purposes for instance, or I might wish to look at a bird which could be ill, injured or something else which doesn't seem 100% right. I also sometimes wish to keep a log of birds which are among the best examples we have or what our aviaries look like at certain times to see what needs improving or what looks good. The photos when stored on the pc are kept in dated folders but, although I like to be able to see when the pictures were taken, it helps to have many of them sorted into other categories such as bird species or chick pictures or even aviary photos or problems. It's good to look back at photos from years before to see what improvements we've made. It can also be helpful, on occasion, if we have a "new" problem just to check it's not cropped up previously but went unnoticed.
All in all we want to be able to look back and feel pleased that we did our best. There will have been incidents and mishaps and disapointments no doubt, but there will have been great successes, beautiful birds, proud moments and happy customers too. At the end of the day and the end of the year we've done our job and hopefully we've done it well. Now we'll sit back (for a few minutes at least) and look forward to bringing in the new year. All the best everyone!