No matter what some bird keepers may try to let you believe, an aviary is not a natural environment for birds, unless it is very large. The available space for the birds is normally limited and important nutrients that are freely available in nature must be substituted by less natural alternatives. This does not mean that birds in captivity have a miserable life. On the contrary, avia-culturist are normally responsible people and the health and wholesomeness of the birds is their number one priority. If we want to build an aviary it must be done in such a way to make it an acceptable alternative to nature. For the well being of our birds and for our pleasure (in this order)
Before we start it is important to know on beforehand what kind of birds we will keep. If you do not have a lot of experience it is strongly recommended to start with birds that are fully domesticated, less sensitive for diseases and have no special difficult nutritional requirements. In my first aviary I had canaries, tropical finches, tropical pigeons and quails. Many years I kept these birds and had a lot of pleasure. The species we will keep will determine how we design and build our aviary. Some of the larger Australian parrots can completely ruin an aviary when it has been built out of wood. Also we must know what the function of the aviary will be. Is it intended to give an extra dimension to the garden as part of the whole architecture or must it just be functional because breeding of birds will be the most important target?
When I started to build my Aviary my starting point was to fully integrate the aviary in the architecture of the garden. I wanted to keep birds just for fun, for their beauty, their singing etc. I had no intention what so ever to breed birds. But many times this happened in a natural way. Lateron I have added special aviaries for breeding European Bull finches. At this page I will describe how I have built my standard aviary and will also highlight some of the aspects for building breeding aviaries for European birds.
Construction of one of my aviaries
The first step is selecting an appropriate place for the aviary. Most of the time this is already determined by the siting and design of the garden. The aviary I decribe in detail is riented in east-west direction. At the south side there were already conifers which protect the avaiary against too much subshine and rain. An aviary may attrack pests (rats, mice) and also a lot of birds. Pests can become a nightmare and a lot of diseases can be transmitted in this way. When we design an aviary, already at this stage we must ensure that pests are prevented. This means that an aviary must be rodent-proof. We also must prevent that dropping of birds outside the aviary can come inside. Also this will avoid transfer of all kinds of diseases
Before we start with the actual construction of the aviary a detailed drawing would be very helpfull. This is also the right moment to think about pests-prevention and cleanability. When an appropriate place is selected, a layer of soil needs to be removed and the area leveled. I then apply mesh with a width of 7 mm. This size in principle cannot entirely stop mice, but they will have a hard job to get through and even harder to get back (at least in one piece if spotted). The soil is put back leveled further.
Before the base of the aviary is put in place, the soil needs to be flattened completely and compressed. As a base to lay the bricks on, I use 60x40 cm tiles. I buy damaged tiles at a garden centre for a reduced price. After the tiles have been leveled very well, a small wall of about 5-7 layers is laid. For people who are not experienced brick-layers it is probably useful to get some help to avoid problems lateron when the rest of the aviary is built
3. Choice of material
3.1 The aluminium aviary
The best option here of course is to use material that does not deteriorate
in time. The first material that would come into ones mind would probably
be wood. Wood is quite easy to use and manipulate. Wood has also a number
of disadvantages. Regularly it will require maintenance and because it
is a "living" material it will not be easy to seal of crevices to prevent
parasites (e.g. bloodsucking mites). The big advantage of aluminium is
that virtually no maintenance needs to be done. Because the aviary can
be built with standard element it is easy to build. Because of the strength,
the supports and posts can be smaller, providing an optimal view.
3.2 The construction of one of my wooden aviaries
Before I started to build I completely sketched out the aviary and tried to design in control measures to prevent pests. When the appropriate place was selected, I removed to top layer of soil and covered the area with galvanised mesh (width 0.7 cm.). This was done to prevent access of rodents (mice, rats) via the bottom of the aviary. By putting the soil back after the building was finished I restored the natural look and I had created an effective barrier. For the base, I have used 60x40 garden tiles that were laid after the flattening the ground. The tiles were laid in such a way to avoid that gaps between the mesh and the tiles were created. On the tiles I built a 6 layer high cemented stone foundation. For the stones I used the same as were used to build our house to make it fit to the architecture of the garden. At the site facing the garden I also built an extension to put some plants to create a more natural look. If you are not an experienced bricklayer it is better to ask some help. The top layer of stones must be laid fully to level to avoid gaps between the brick wall and the structure, which may provide access points for rodents. The dimension of the Aviary is 4.50 x 1.80x 2.00m. and built up with a wooden structure (5.0 x 7.6 cm). Prior to assembly, the wood was painted 4 times with a synthetic mordant. Wood in contact with stone will deteriorate quickly because it will always remain wet. Therefore I have put plastic spacers (10 x 5 x 0.7 cm.) between the wooden structure and the brick foundation. At the head of the aviary I have made a small entrance (1.25 x 0.50m). It is better not to make it bigger. Birds that are disturbed will fly up and may escape over your head if the entrance door is all the way up to the roof. Above this entrance there is a small hatch and a table for feeding. A transparent persplex slide door, which opens vertically makes it possible to see if there are any birds on the feeding shelf before it is opened. The mesh is plastified and has a width of 9 mm. To avoid contamination from other birds by their droppings and to protect them from heavy rainfall, there is a transparent roof. At some spots where the resting rods are placed persplex shields are placed at the sides, again for protection. On the bottom of the aviary I have put a 20 cm layer of wood chips. This creates a fairly dry top layer and can be cleaned by means of a medium pressure water jet once in a fortnight. After finishing the building I have inspected the aviary thoroughly for gaps and pockets and filled them with paintable silicon kit. This is especially important to prevent infestation of parasites. To give a bit of a natural look I have planted Buxus, elders and blackberries. Every year in spring I prune quite drastically to create sufficient space for flying. After construction of this aviary, a year later I built three others especially for breeding European birds, Bull finches and Gold finches. These types of birds normally do not breed in an aviary with a mixed population and have to be kept as separate couples for good results. As These birds are far more sensitive to diseases, I did not use wood chips to cover the bottom, but a special granulated material with a high absorption capacity. I also made sure that these aviaries were effectively protected against rain. Wherever possible I used Trespa, a material impervious to water and a concrete floor was laid on a plastic sheet to form the bottom of the aviary. The plastic sheet was used to prevent migration of moisture through the concrete layer. Please refer to Hygiene and Housekeeping for additional information.