Ornamental birds are a real pleasure for bird lovers. The installation of an outdoor aviary allows to give them the space and the environment which increase their well-being. The aviary should be chosen according to the type of birds you want to keep. Indeed, small birds such as mandarins or canaries do not require the same space or the same configuration as parrots or turtledoves! Also, it is more reasonable not to mix “hooked beak” species (psittacines: parakeets, parrots, lovebirds…) with “straight beak” birds, such as doves or canaries, because the behaviors are quite different and hooked beaks could injure straight beaks more easily. However, some budgies are able to cohabit with canaries or doves without any problem.
What is the ideal location for an aviary?
It is important to avoid extremes of temperature for the well-being of our birds. Thus, a northern exposure should be avoided, as well as a southern exposure. Birds like the sun but must have access to the shade. In case of very high heat, do not hesitate to spray water (with a hose in low position for example) directly on the birds, you will see their satisfaction!
It is also important to avoid any draught either by choosing a place sheltered from the wind or by installing a shelter inside the aviary. Draughts are a frequent cause of respiratory problems.
In any case, it is best to install your aviary during the good weather (spring, summer) so that the birds can adapt properly and be prepared to face the colder temperatures.
The structure of the aviary
For birds with “hooked beaks”, their beaks are physiologically adapted to nibble on all kinds of materials (wood, vegetation, …) in order to wear out their beaks, play, communicate, etc. Aviaries made mainly of wood will therefore wear out more quickly with this type of bird. A possible solution is to fix an interior grill which will have for function to protect the birds but also the wood of the birds themselves! So, if you place vegetation inside, you must be able to renew it frequently. Be careful to choose plants that are not toxic for your birds.
A possible alternative is to use a metal structure for the whole aviary (mainly steel). Be careful not to use corrugated sheets for the roof, as this type of material is not insulating and will turn the interior into a furnace. Also, keep in mind that the roof must be sloped to avoid water or snow accumulation that could damage your birds’ habitat.
The mesh should be strong enough to withstand the wear and tear caused by “hooks” and the weather. The mesh size of the screen should be about 2 cm by 2 cm for large birds such as parrots and less than 1 cm for smaller species. For “straight beaks”, the wear will be slower because their beaks are less powerful. To avoid problems with predators and pests, it is advisable to use a double mesh for extra protection, even if part of the mesh is damaged.
As far as the bottom of the aviary is concerned, it is also necessary to be careful with pests. Indeed, some of them dig galleries and penetrate the floor inside the aviary and can then attack your birds. The radical solution is to concrete the floor, then add a bedding of sand, shavings, earth…: this has the advantage that it can be cleaned regularly.
If you decide to keep a natural soil made of earth, you will have to dig and position a solid grid with tight meshes to prevent any unwanted introduction of pests. The depth should be at least 20 cm.
Finally, for the safety of the birds and to avoid runaways, the installation of an airlock at the entrance with a double door is judicious.
The layout of the aviary
- Water point: As far as water points are concerned, the use of small dispensers or waterers that can be fixed at the top is recommended. For small birds, it is even possible to place small bathtubs in height. It is also a good idea to have a larger watering hole on the ground, such as a large basin, so that the birds can bathe in it completely if they wish, but be careful about the depth.
In any case, the water should be changed very regularly, once a day being preferable.
- Feeding: The food is also preferably put in height, protected from possible rodents. When cold temperatures arrive, it is advisable to supplement the ration with more energetic food such as sunflower seeds or oats for the “hooked beaks” and nets containing fat balls for the “straight beaks”.
Water and food containers must be placed in places that protect them from bad weather and bird droppings and must not lead to aggression between fellow birds. It is therefore preferable to multiply the water and food points.
- Nest box : If you hope for a reproduction between your birds, do not forget the essential nesting box. It should be placed high and hidden, in sufficient number (more than the number of pairs of birds present) and of a size adapted to the species of birds present.
- Perch : Perches are essential: the diameter must be sufficient for the legs of the bird. Therefore, prefer a large diameter. Perches can be made of metal, plastic, wood or tree branches. Here again, “hooked beaks” will deteriorate them faster than other birds.
- Toys: Don’t forget the toys: swing, perches of various shapes, ladders, ropes…that will delight and occupy your birds in a fun way!
- Shelter: Birds must have access to a shelter against bad weather, for the night or when they want to rest. The shelter must be made of solid materials to protect them. You can use an old garden shed or any other type of shed of the same type. The more insulating the materials are, the more your birds will be protected, especially during the cold season. There are heated perches that you can install in this shelter and that will help the birds to fight against the cold during this season. If the aviary is mostly made of wire mesh, with no solid sides and no shelters, it is a good idea to add plexiglass or polystyrene sheets (on the outside to prevent the birds from eating them) to protect them.