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by: Debbie Myers

My aviary setup is designed for breeding and housing juveniles until they are ready to sell. I live in Arizona and in previous years I have bred my birds outside. For many reasons I decided to build a bird room, including: complying with city zoning laws, cats, bad weather, mice, snakes and poisonous mushrooms that kept popping up when in rained. The most convenient thing to do was to enclose our carport into a garage and use that as the bird room. We hired a contractor to build the garage and install electric and plumbing. It took only six weeks for them to build the garage.

There is no heating or cooling inside the garage. I had R32 insulation put in the ceilings, R19 in the walls and ordered an insulated garage door. In previous years outside my birds have handled temperatures as low as freezing and as high as 116 degrees so I am not worried about the temperatures for the birds in the garage. I have a little space heater for thin-blooded me in the winter though!

I had the contractor install electrical for 2 light fixtures on the ceiling and additional sockets on the walls. They installed timers on the wall switches for the lighting. The fixtures are T8 fixtures with electronic ballasts. I used four T8 super bright Ott-lites in the fixtures which will need to be changed every couple of years and provide full spectrum lighting. I installed one 48" black light along the wall facing the breeding cages. There are also 60 watt, 40 watt and 15 watt incandescent lights in the room. All lights are on timers and the lighting increases and then decreases throughout the day to mimic outdoor conditions. The garage door faces west and can be opened in the afternoon to let in natural sunlight and fresh air.

The floor was stained with concrete stains using a stencil to make it look like stone. It was sealed with an acrylic sealer, which makes it easy to keep clean. I added good carpet runners in the areas I would be walking on a lot. I also purchased two bakers racks to use for storing items and for drying the bird dishes.

We installed a deep laundry tub and a hose bib to use for water for the aviaries. My husband ran PVC from the hose bib to poultry waterers suspended in the aviaries. They are automatically filled by gravity so I don't have to worry about them running out of water. To keep seed off the floor I use the Bird-Zerk feeders. The eggshell and spray millet is put into a small cage inside each aviary, which keeps the spray millet hulls off the floor. There is a string holding the door to the cage open. The birds get used to going in and out of these small cages to get their treats. When I want to catch one I just go "fishing" and wait until the bird I want is in the cage and then shut the door. I decorated 5 gallon food grade buckets to use for storing seed, cuttlebone and nesting materials. A bay laurel plant in the room keeps seed moths away effectively.

Kathy Miller painted me the most wonderful mural in the room that makes it looks so cozy in there. I had to give up some gouldians for it but it was well worth it. The mural is like looking through a window in a stone wall. There are gouldians painted here and there on the wall and sitting on the window ledge at a feeder. She even used pictures of my own birds as models to personalize it. I purchased a comfortable futon so that I could have a place to sit and enjoy the best part of the hobby watching the birds!

Three aviaries were built side by side that are 12' X 3' 8" X 6'. One for cocks on the left, one for hens on the right and one for unsexed babies in the middle. On the sidewall of the third aviary 18 breeding cages are installed, each 1' X 1' X 4' long. The aviaries and breeding cages take up a space 12' X 12'. The garage is 18' X 18'. The floors of the aviaries are covered with a couple of inches of aspen shavings. There is a door leading from each aviary to the next. When I want to totally clean an aviary I can just open a door and chase them all into the next aviary. I use a combination of manzanita, ribbonwood, cement, wood dowels, sisal rope and grape vine in all different sizes for perches. I decorated the front and outside of the aviaries with silk plants and all the bird related items my friends and family have given me.

The adult males are kept in the left aviary. The hens are kept in the right aviary against the breeding cages. So four feet always separate the adult males and females. The middle aviary holds uncolored juveniles or is empty. When most of the hen's beaks are all black then I am ready to set up pairs for breeding. I take a male in breeding condition from the left aviary and put him into one of the breeding cages where he is just wire away from the hens. Interested hens will hang on the sidewall by the cage with the singing male in it. I watch them for several days and note which hens seem to hang around the cage with the male in it and quiver their tail. If the females are all in breeding condition usually several hens will be very interested in the male. From those that are interested I choose the one I would like to pair up with the male and put her into the breeding cage with the male. Many times the pair get right down to business. This is how I did it when the birds were outside and I usually didn't have any problems with the pairs I put together not getting along using this system. I repeat this process until all the pairs are set up and the aviaries are mostly empty.

As the babies are independent I put them into the middle aviary. Later when they start to color up I move males to the left and females to the right aviaries. Towards the end of the breeding season I start to move the birds I want to sell outside. There are two large aviaries outside where birds that are to be sold are moved to acclimate them to outdoor conditions before selling them. In the past I have bred them October through March. Now that they are inside I might try to spread out the breeding over the whole year.

I originally purchased canary breeding cages (2' X 1' X 1') which I soon realized were too small for a pair of gouldians and up to six fledglings. So I took the ends off of them and put two together to make breeding cages 4' X 1' X 1'. I use the plastic nest boxes and hang them on the outside. I use birdbaths for water and food. The seed stays in the bird bath and I can change the water and seed without reaching into the cages and disturbing the birds. The inside of the cage is not cluttered up with dishes either.

It will be interesting to see what changes I observe now that they are inside instead of outside. The birds seem to like the extra length of the aviaries to fly around in. Outside my old aviaries were only six feet long. It was such a joy when I moved them inside, you could tell they liked the extra space. I only wish I could provide even larger aviaries. Being able to sit in there and observe the birds is the best part. I never really spent as much time as I wanted watching them when they were outside. Now I can go in the bird room and read the paper, fold laundry, study or whatever I need to do all while watching my birds. I love my new bird room and needless to say you always know where I can be found!

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