An outdoor bird aviary is a wonderful addition to any garden, and can provide much pleasure for all members of the family. It also provides a semi-natural environment to house your birds, and allows them free flight and access to sunshine, which are conducive to healthy, happy birds. However, when building outdoor bird aviaries, a certain amount of planning is necessary to avoid common pitfalls.
Planning an Outdoor Bird Aviary
Firstly, you need to determine how big you want your aviary to be. The main purpose of building a large outdoor bird aviary is to give your birds the freedom to fly around and enjoy themselves in as close to a natural environment as possible. To get the most out of your aviary you should try to provide your birds with as much space as you can afford.
The species of birds you plan to house will largely influence the size of the aviary that you will need to build in order to accommodate them. Large parrots require a much larger flight cage than finches and budgies for example. The size of your outdoor bird aviary will not only effect the overall cost of the project, but will also effect where you are able to position it in your garden, depending on the space available. Alternatively, the size of the area available may restrict you in terms of the size of bird aviary you are able to erect, and hence will limit the size and number of birds that you can comfortably house within it.
Where possible, try and position your bird aviary so that it is within view of your house. This will allow you to enjoy your birds whilst you are working or relaxing around the house, and you will be more aware of predators upsetting your birds if they are situated nearby.
Try to avoid building your bird aviary under a tree. This not only limits sunshine, resulting in a dark damp aviary, which is not healthy for your birds, but a tree also provides easy access for predators, such as rats, cats, and snakes, to access the upper part of your aviary, which is mostly where your birds will roost. If wild birds roost in the overhanging branches above your aviary, their droppings will fall into the aviary, and may contaminate food and water bowls. Disease could easily be transmitted from wild bird populations to the birds in your aviary in this manner.
As birds are quite sensitive to wind chill, and to both cold and heat stress, you need to take prevailing winds and sunlight intensity into consideration when planning the position of outdoor bird aviaries. You will need to provide a protected area for them to shelter away from sun, rain and wind, and as the wind must not drive into this sheltered area, positioning is critical.
At least one third to half of an outdoor bird aviary should have a roof covering, and should be enclosed on one or two sides, depending on the prevailing wind direction. If you live in an area where daily temperatures can soar, then you need to take care that your aviary is not positioned in an area of the garden that gets excessively hot. This can occur in an unshaded area that is surrounded by walls, such as a courtyard, where there is little or no air circulation to cool things down. Try to plan your aviary so that it gets the morning sun for your birds to enjoy. To achieve this, your aviary should be facing in a south, south-easterly or easterly direction if you are in the Northern Hemisphere, or north, north-east, or easterly direction if you are in the southern hemisphere.
Substrate, Soil type & Drainage
If you are planning on building your outdoor bird aviary directly onto the ground, you should choose an area that has good drainage if you are wanting to keep a natural soil floor. Loose sandy soils will be fine, however clay soils have poor drainage, and will retain water resulting in a damp floor, which could lead to bacterial build up and health problems in the birds housed in your aviary.
A safe option, is to lay a sterilized sand-floor by covering the ground with a four inch layer of pre-sterilized play sand suitable for children’s sandboxes. Alternatively, use builders sand mixed with a bit of agricultural lime to prevent bacteria and absorb odors. You can disinfect the sand by rinsing with a mixture of bleach; dilute one teaspoon of bleach for every gallon of water used, before laying. The floor can be regularly disinfected in this manner to keep bacteria at bay, and can be sifted from time to time, to remove accumulated food and droppings, and completely replaced every couple of years, or when necessary for optimum hygiene. A natural sand or gravel floor should have chicken wire laid on the base underneath, to prevent vermin such as rats and mice from burrowing into the aviary.
Concrete floors are recommended for flight cages for parakeets and other hooked beaked birds (parrots, conures, budgies, cockatiels and love birds) to facilitate easy cleaning by simply hosing the area down. When laying a concrete floor, it is best to have a slight slope to allow water to drain away easily. Another option is concrete paving slabs placed over a layer of gravel and sand to allow good drainage.
So don’t just dash out and buy the materials to construct an outdoor bird aviary, rather take some time to plan your aviary first. Decide where is the best place in your garden to position it; what substrate you are going to opt for; how many birds, and what type of birds you plan to house in it; before you rush headlong into your project and make decisions that you may regret later.
Featured Image: Canaries_in_Aviary_-_2_Prospect_Place_-_geograph.org.uk_-_408627