How To Build An Aviary
Having an outdoor aviary provides a larger area to enjoy your birds and gives them more space than indoor cages can provide. Plus, an outdoor aviary offers the added advantage of giving birds room to fly in a near natural habitat. Choosing the best location will take a little planning. The better choice will be away from street noise but visible from the house. Security for the aviary is also an important issue. The aviary needs to be safe from predators and rodents. Weather can also be an issue for outdoor aviaries. Plan on insulating or heating the aviary if fall and winters are harsh.
Here’s how to get started.
Choose Your Aviary Size
How large should the aviary be? A good starter size of 12-feet long by 4-feet wide by 6-feet high will accommodate 20 small to average sized birds. It is a good idea to build slightly larger than the present need to accommodate a growing bird population.
Construction lumber is sold in 2-foot increments, so plan the aviary in even foot increments too. For smaller aviaries 2 x 2-inch pine will work fine for framing walls and the roof. Larger aviaries should be built with 2 x 4-inch lumber so they remain structurally sound. If the new aviary can be attached or anchored to the house or garage that is one less wall that needs to be built.
Foundation & Walls
Concrete is a low maintenance solution for aviary floors. It is easy to clean, vermin proof and will last for decades. Sand and pea gravel are lower cost solutions that drain well and prevent bacterial growth when properly maintained. Sand should have a layer of steel hardware cloth embedded below the surface to prevent predators from tunneling into the aviary.
Foundations can be made from poured concrete or cement blocks. One course of blocks will work to keep the wood framed walls off the ground and away from termites. Build in “J” hooks into every third block to anchor the wall bottom plate to the foundation.
Smaller aviaries can be framed out of 2 x 2-inch lumber and either framed in 4-foot modular sections or running walls. It may be necessary to add corner braces to strengthen the 2 x 2 aviary walls. Larger aviaries should be framed out of 2 x 4-inch lumber with studs every two to three feet. It is much easier to paint the wall studs and plates before covering with hardware cloth. Be certain to use non-toxic paint for the aviary.
There are several types of doorways to consider. Some people will opt to build a single doorway. Another option is to build a half door, like a Dutch door, where the bottom half opens for entry. The better aviaries will feature double doors, an inside door and an outside door, to prevent birds from escaping. Whichever door is chosen, add interior springs so the doors are self-closing. Adding a padlock to the outside door will prevent children and uninvited guests from entering the aviary.
Covering The Walls & Roof
Most aviary walls can be covered with ¼-inch welded galvanized hardware cloth. This is a fine mesh that will keep birds in and pests out. If the aviary is for parrots, it will need stronger material. Thoroughly wet the hardware cloth with a solution of 4-parts vinegar and 1-part water to remove any chemical residue. Cover the walls and paint the hardware cloth black, with a non-toxic paint, which will make it nearly invisible from across the yard. Use a flat-finish paint and paint rollers. A friend can help this go faster by rolling both sides at the same time. One person rolls the outside and the other rolls the inside at the same time.
Cover at least half the aviary roof to provide shade and shelter from rain, wind, and snow. Covering the entire roof will protect the birds from wild bird droppings and diseases. Roofing materials can be tarpaper, asphalt shingles, tile, or corrugated plastic panels. If using plastic panels, it is a good idea to add hardware screen under the roofing in case it is damaged in a storm. Even a simple layer of shade cloth over the roof can lower the interior temperature several degrees in hot weather.
The Final Touches
Now that the aviary is up and enclosed, it’s time to add the finishing touches. Natural branches from hardwood or fruit trees make an ideal perch. Add artificial plastic leaves to the branches for a back-to-nature interior look. Landscape the interior space with a combination of real and artificial plants. For the artificial plants, choose plastic not silk, which can fray and entangle the birds.
Don’t forget the bird feeders and water. Shallow pans are best for water, making it easier to change the water daily. In warmer climates misters will provide much needed water for plants and birds. They also help clean dropping off the plants and perches.
Consider plastic or bamboo roll down shades for shelter from rain, wind and summer heat.