Our aviary is built on our screened porch. Initially, we had a large over-wintering koi tank taking up half the porch, so we were restricted in the amount of space we could devote to the aviary.
Ease of cleaning and maintenance
It consists of four flights plus an enclosed access walkway in the back, with a self-contained roof section, rather than running all the way to the ceiling. Done this way, the lighting could be done entirely externally from the cages, for ease of bulb maintenance and cleaning. Four shop lights are suspended over the entire aviary as illustrated, with six full-spectrum daylight bulbs plus two black light bulbs. The lights are on timers and come on two at a time and go off two at a time, spaced about 15 min. a part. There are two photo-sensitive nightlights which come on when the big lights go off and stay on all night. Each flight has a heat lamp with a 150 watt bulb at one end. These are also on a timer and come on first thing in the morning and go off a couple hours later in hot weather but might stay on all day in cold weather – the timer is adjusted to the season of the year.
Key determinate of size
Given the restricted amount of floor space available, each flight was able to measure only 2½' wide, but each is 8' long and 6' high so I can walk in them. The entire structure is 10'x10'. The 6' height was chosen to optimize the use of 36" wide rolls of wire for the two 6'x10' outer panels. The 6'x 8' walls between each individual flight were made by using 48" wide wire, oriented vertically in 6' lengths. The five doors and the 2'x 6' walkway end panel (directly opposite the walkway door at the top of the drawing) were made by running 36" wire horizontally, with a 2x2 also running horizontally to provide extra rigidity to the panel and an anchorage point for the wire. The flight wall panels have a vertical 2x2 for the same reason. As the galvanized wire is the largest cost component, using the wire efficiently was a key determinant in the size of each panel.
Four separate flights were needed to keep the four different pairs of Gouldians, each a different color variety, from interbreeding.
Future reconfigure a consideration
We built the aviary out of 2x2's, which we made by sawing 2x4's in half because six and 10 foot 2x2's were unavailable. 10 and 12 foot 2x4's were used instead. In the configuration shown, 10 foot sections are needed for the outer walkway wall on the far left, the outer end at the far right in the drawing opposite the walkway, and the two 4'x10' roof sections. Although requiring an additional 10' 2x2, the separate roof panels are much more manageable than a single 8'x10' panel. The walkway has a 2'x10' roof section as well. We stapled ½" galvanized wire over the framework, while the panels are screwed together with 2½" drywall screws. The aviary is modular – each wall is self-contained – so in the future we can reconfigure the components to make larger flights when we have the room.
Overall plan invaluable
When planning an aviary project like this, it is invaluable to draw a plan of the overall goal, subdivide it as necessary to meet your needs, and then refine the component sizes to optimize the use of materials. Be aware that the wire, being unwound from rolls, will retain some curvature. This was not a problem in our design, except for the end panel, where the wire had to be tied to the vertical posts at the end of each flight. We discovered right away that a particularly gregarious Purple Grenadier would travel back and forth between flights! The same potential exists with the two top panels but in our experience the weight of the inverted panels closes any gaps. Needless to say, the top panels must be placed wire side down or a 2" gap would be created between flights. Hanging feeders and waterers from the top panel also helps keep any gaps closed.
Potential for mold in high humidity
We covered the cement porch floor with a sheet of heavy-duty 10-mil clear plastic and then assembled the components on top of it. We folded the plastic up over the outside edges and stapled it to the wood frame, thus sealing out any moisture that might accumulate on the cement floor. We bought a bale of timothy/alfalfa hay and covered the floors of the four flights with it. Although slightly dusty and a nightmare for allergy sufferers, the birds love the hay. They play around, searching for bugs and seed heads, and use it for nesting material. The hay also has the potential for mold in conditions of high humidity, and from the splashing of the bathing water. This is partially solved by placing the bathing dishes in plastic tubs raised off the floor on upturned cinder blocks.
Some birds, however, dislike the walls created by the tubs and try to bathe in their drinking water. We have subsequently replaced the hay with Aspen shavings, normally sold as bedding material for hamsters, etc. We were hoping it would be more resistant to mold, but it is proving to be much less interesting to the birds. They seem to regard it as the avian equivalent of indoor-outdoor carpeting!
We placed live potted and hanging plants in the four flights. These provide a much more natural appearance to the aviary, as well as giving the birds hiding places and alternative locations for self-built nests. The differing sizes and textures of the branches provide needed variety in perching. Three-eighths inch wooden dowels and cement perches, for toenail control, provide resting and roosting choices.
We keep a pair of each kind in these combinations together in each flight:
A) Gouldian, Cordon Bleu, Owl, Canary
B) Gouldian, Strawberry, Star, Canary
C) Gouldian, Forbes Parrot Finch, Canary
D) Gouldian, Shafttail, Purple Grenadier, Canary
Flights completely furnished
Each flight has a hanging water dispenser, two different types of hanging seed dispensers and seed cups in various locations all around the walls of the flight. I keep cups with Rape Seed, Canary Grass Seed and dry egg food in three of the cups for the canaries, and the other finches enjoy it also.
Each flight has a large pottery saucer with clean rich composted dirt placed on the floor. The birds love to peck around in it, and find necessary nutrients and trace minerals.
Love their baths
Each flight has a cinder block set on end on which I kept a large pottery saucer with about 3/4" of water for bathing, changed once or twice a day. The birds love their baths and seem to take one every morning and again about 3:00 in the afternoon. In the humid summer months I had to place the saucer inside a plastic container with 10" sides to keep the bath water from wetting the floor bedding material so regularly that it cannot dry out. Some of the birds continued to bathe, but many were put off by the plastic container and instead tried to bathe in their hanging drinking water. I am still searching for a better solution.
Fresh food selection
Each flight has a second cinder block set on end with a food tray on it. The tray has a dish of seed, a dish of a mixture of baked crushed egg shell, grit and charcoal, a dish of moist egg food mixture (dry mix, hard boiled egg, finely grated broccoli and carrot, nutritional supplements) and meal worms, and a dish with a fruit and a vegetable such as cucumber, apple, orange, mango, etc. On the side of each flight is a rack in which I place a piece of dark green lettuce and soaked millet every morning and again in the afternoon. When available, I lay bunches of freshly-cut seeding grasses and/or chickweed on the floor of the flights for an extra treat. Broccoli from the garden, "gone-to-seed" and covered with yellow flowers, is a favorite.
Nests for every taste
Each flight has plenty of nest choices: two Gouldian nest boxes, two or three large woven nests, two or three small woven nests, and two or three open canary nests. I dust each nest lightly with 5% Sevin dust before I place it in the flight. I put a bed of dry grasses with a slight indentation in the middle in the bottom of the Gouldian nest boxes. I also provide lots of nesting material – Benelux Sharpi Coton, Bevo Premium Jute, Bevo Premium Sisal, short strands of burlap threads, and clean dryer lint – all stuffed into suet holders which I hang in the flights. I also found some small bales of cotton which I hang in each flight that the canaries love to use to line their nests. Clean feathers (from feather pillows) are a delight for some of the species like Purple Grenadier, Cordon Bleu, Strawberry, Shafttail, etc.
Siblings feeding along with parents
I have been leaving the offspring in the same flight with the parents up until 3-6 mo. of age. As soon as the chicks have fledged, I remove the nest box, clean it, and replace it. The parents generally start a new brood just a week or so later, one sitting on the newly-laid eggs and the other feeding the newly-fledged chicks. With Gouldians, as the chicks become independent they show a lot of interest in the nest and pop in and out all the time. When the eggs hatch, they often sit at the door and watch the feeding process. After the 2nd clutch has fledged, I have seen the older siblings feeding the young along with the parents. This has never seemed to bother the parents, and probably is good training.
Things I would do differently:
- Make each flight large enough so there were no perches over any plant!
- Have an end or corner of each flight set aside for bathing with no floor material to get wet.
- Cut holes in the screen wire for outside access to seed cups and nest boxes.
- Paint the wire black. We did this on a smaller aviary that we built previously, and the birds show up so much better without the reflective silver wire.
Nancy & Norm - Kennesaw, GA.
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