Once upon a time we decided to get into breeding birds. We were given a great opportunity to buy out another bird breeder’s stock of 28 parrots, which were added to our current collection of finches, parakeets, cockatiels and conures.
Prior to this, all of our birds were kept in our laundry room and scattered around our home. Adding a huge number of large cases was going to be impossible, so we needed to build a separate aviary. We didn’t have anyone to consult, so we just tossed it together as best we could. We decided to build another building on our property to house our aviary.
We made serious mistakes, and spent the next several years constantly upgrading our building to correct these errors. Once it was finished, we have a very efficient and easy to maintain setup.
So what follows is a VERY general idea of what you need to do if you want to put together a large, indoor bird aviary. I can’t possibly cover every situation in this short of space, but I will certainly give you important points that must be included into your designs. If you have any questions please post them in the comments section below.
You are going to find that you just can’t toss in a bunch of assorted birds into a single room and expect them to get along. Our first mistake was discovering that some birds don’t get along at all with other breeds, and unless you can put them into separate rooms you need to partition them off.
In one case, we had two pairs of Macaws in cages next to each other. The problem was the female in one cage was more interested in the Male of the other, and we couldn’t get them to breed. We had to move them far apart, causing us to redesign our whole aviary layout.
Later, we discovered that Electus Parrots do not breed well when there are Conures around. And we had a bunch of them! So more modifications were required to our floor plan.
Lesson learned: Know the different issues with your birds, and how other birds can effect their breeding habits.
Having a building filled with large parrots generates a lot of noise. If you live in a residential neighborhood be prepared to get a couple of complaints. Yes, we did get a few. But we had a lot more people who loved the jungle atmosphere we generated.
We put a lot of careful thought into this. We had a lot of smaller birds that required cages with breeder boxes attached to the side. The layout was not space efficient. So we built some custom breeding boxes that stacked on top of each other. The top box would be for the left side cage, the bottom box for the right side cage. This reduced the space needed and gave us room for another row of cages. It worked out great, and the birds did perfectly will in this setup.
But our Macaws were a different story! Breeding Macaws need a huge cage. We decided not to even use a cage, but built our breeding pairs their own room. It was closet sized (4’x6’x8’) and had a large breeding box inside, with lots of perches scattered around. The box was built for easy access so we could monitor them.
Some birds do not do well if they are close to the floor, and prefer as high up as possible. Other birds are social and don’t really care who their neighbors are…others are just plain picky! Constant experimentation was needed to resolve all these issues, but we finally have everyone situated and happy.
It is extremely important to monitor the lighting in the room. If your aviary is in an area with no windows, you need to supply them with artificial sunlight (full spectrum lighting). Our aviary had a few windows, so we supplemented with a lot of fluorescent fixtures, and in some cases cage-top fixtures. In an ideal situation, you would want them connected to timers to ensure about 12 hours of light a day. Too short of a period and the bird’s breeding instincts will shut down.
Regular lighting does not supply the birds with enough UV light, which is not healthy for breeding birds. Do not overlook this issue!
Keeping your aviary clean is a never ending chore. Every cage is cleaned daily. Every surface is cleaned and disinfected weekly. Failure to practice good cleaning could cost you the lost of your whole aviary if a disease infects your building. If you plan correctly, you can make this chore very simple.
Moving cages is dangerous for birds sitting on eggs, and any disturbances could end up with lost babies. But you need to be able to clean in and around the cage. We solved this by using a few different methods.
When possible, we used cage stands equipped with wheels. We could then move the stand away from walls for cleaning, and for sweeping underneath. If a single case was not filled with breeding birds, we could remove the cage for additional cleaning.
Many of our cages were on wire shelves. You can get these at most hardware stores. They come in lengths up to 12 feet, and are 20 inches wide. They are not expensive at all! By removing the cages from the shelf, you can clean the shelf and wall very easily. And since the bottom row is several inches above the floor, you can easily sweep and mop without disturbing them.
Speaking of walls…bird poop and wall paint do not like each other! Look for wall coverings that will be easy to clean and disinfect. Yes, it’s going to cost you more, but the convenience will be worth it.
Get a couple of laundry sinks installed (if possible). In our aviary, we also equipped it with a long hose that could be used for filling up bird baths and dishes. The sinks were large, making it very easy to clean cages up to 24” in size.
Without a sink, you will find it very difficult to keep your aviary clean.
Keeping the air clean of dander is probably our biggest oversight. And it nearly cost us our birds. One cold winter the furnace shut off. Fortunately, we had equipped our aviary with burglar alarms and a temperature alarm to warn us if the temperature got too high or low. We got a call from the alarm company about the temperature, and discovered our furnace had shut down. It was due to the filter being totally clogged with dander!
After some thought, we put together a home made filter that consisted of an old furnace fan, a wood box, and several air filters. The fan simply pulled air into the box, through the filters and then out of the bottom to be reticulated through the aviary. Their worked, but we supplemented it by taking an inexpensive box fan and attaching a filter to the back. This helped to circulate the air plus filter it at the same time (for summer months). We used a cleanable filter and vacuumed it out twice a week, as it would become totally clogged in a short time.
It is a sad fact that when you have animals in a building with open food and water containers, you will also attract unwanted guests. Mice is a common problem, so you must make some preparations for this.
If you have a lot of seed in our aviary, you will develop bug problems. Seed is not cleaned very well, and the eggs and larva will develop and infest your aviary. Develop a storage system for all of your food. We were fortunate enough to find a huge source of 5 gallon pails with lids, and we kept most of our food sealed inside. In cold months the larva would be killed off, but in warm months we had to pay very close attention, and not have too large of a food supply on hand.
This area included a counter for working on our birds, such as giving medical attention, clipping wings and toes, or hand feeding babies. It housed our brooders and hospitalization units, and our supplies. We also had a hand cart that we loaded with all of different types of foods and supplies we would need for our daily feedings. Each bird had different diets. Some on pellets, others seeds. We needed to have containers of fruits and vegi’s to pass out, cuttlebones, vitamins and other assorted treats. Having everything on one care proved to be very convenient.
WHISTLES AND BELLS
We also equipped our aviary with a television (mounted on a shelf high in a corner), and stereo with surround speakers. Then we got high-tech and added wireless headphones (so we could actually hear the radio in a room full of very noisy parrots!). It was just one more oversight that we didn’t think about while putting together our aviary.
I had wiring installed that would allow us to put in closed circuit cameras, so we could monitor our birds from inside the house…but we never got that far. I also had an idea of a Web-Cam being installed to share our experiences with the rest of the world. That was another idea that never got off the ground. But at least the wiring was there just in case!
At the time we built our aviary, we didn’t have the money for a skylight. On retrospect, we wish we had done that. The additional lighting would have been great, and it would have helped with some of our utility bills.
No, we didn’t forget our birds either. There was a location for a small popcorn machine (one of those small air-popper types). We would make a pail of popcorn to pass around to the birds (who loved it).
HOME MADE CAGES
During this time, we experimented with a number of home made cage and stand ideas. It started out using PVC pipes and wire fabric. The advantage was they were lightweight and easy to move around. They were inexpensive to make, as PVC pipes are cheap to buy. But we had difficulty finding a good source for half inch fabric, as most fencing stores and hardware stores do not carry it unless the wire gauge is very small (not good for medium size birds). This style of case proved to be a little difficult to clean.
We were then told about a company that sold plastic inserts so you could use square aluminum poles, similar to those used in construction porch awnings. This worked very well but got to be very costly.
We finally just decided to get commercial cages and developed a wire shelf system. It was much easier to clean, not too expensive, and easy to customize for our aviary.
By now you can plainly see that we are not the normal bird owners…we are very dedicated to our birds and our hobby. But we were also very successful breeders, and by putting the time, money, and effort into our aviary it made our work very enjoyable, and our birds very safe and healthy. I hope I gave you some ideas on building your own aviary.
[tags]home aviary, build an aviary[/tags]
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