By Eric Davis
When you are considering building an Aviary it is a very wise move to visit as many aviaries as you can, to get a general understanding of all the various types of Aviary that can be built. It is also recommended that you try and get a copy of the Aviculture Code of Practice which is available on the Qld Environmental Protection Agency website at http://www.epa.qld.gov.au. This Code will prove very helpful in determining many aspects of your final aviary design. When you have some sort of concept of the type of Aviary you would like to build, you need to take the following steps.
- Contact your local Council and find out the Regulations pertaining to Aviaries in your local Government area.
- List the features you would like your Aviary to have from the point of view of – beautification, bird viewing, type of materials, type of birds, number of birds.
- Read up as much as you can about these bird types and list the features your selected bird types require to breed successfully and live healthily.
When you compare these lists you may find that you have to compromise between what you would like and what is best for the birds.
In general, aviaries can be all shapes and sizes and built from various materials. However, no matter what shape, size, materials etc you use, there are some features that are an absolute must, namely –
- Your Aviary must be vermin proof both above and below the ground (snakes, mice, rats etc).
- Your feed station must be well protected from rain and dampness and the drinking water must be spotlessly clean at all times
- Your floor area must be well drained to prevent bacteria forming due to dampness and heat or surface water that lies around and becomes fouled by droppings.
Positioning: Whenever possible your aviary should be positioned so that your flight area faces away from the direction from which storms and strong cold winds usually blow. In most of Australia, your preferred direction would be to face the aviaries towards the north east. This allows your birds maximum protection from the elements whilst giving access to sunlight and warmth during the cooler months.
Foundations: This is an important section of your design so take particular care to get it right. There are two basic types of foundations and no matter which one you use items such as conduit for power and lighting, pipe work for water supply and drainage, pipe work for stand alone feed station etc, need to be located and installed before concrete is poured or gravel backfilled.
Type 1 – Concrete Slab: This is a common type of foundation but does have to be designed correctly. A slab thickness of 75 mm or 100 mm will be generally adequate, however, to avoid cracking, very large slabs may require several contraction joints and reinforcing fabric of sufficient size to suit your slab sizes and the type of material on which the slab is to be laid. The concrete floor must be properly drained to ensure there are no puddles that can be fouled with bird droppings etc. All pipe work and conduits must be positioned before slab is poured. You must also take care that your drain inlet and outlet are properly protected to prevent vermin access to your aviary. In general, concrete floors are not good for your birds feet and due to its porosity it can harbour disease if it remains damp and not kept scrupulously clean. However, if you coat your concrete with a water proof epoxy paint many of these problems can be greatly reduced, or you can cover the concrete with sand, gravel or some other water absorbing material.
Type 2 – Earth Floors: When using an earth floor care must be taken to ensure that your aviary is vermin proof. For large aviaries this can best be accomplished by using a ratwall foundation. Rat walls should be at least 600 mm deep and are usually constructed of concrete. Other products such as galvanised iron, other non rusting metal sheeting, or exterior fibro sheeting can be used.
Small aviaries may not need a rat wall if you use a low concrete or brick wall (around the perimeter) on a concrete foundation and line the floor area with 1/4 inch galvanised wire sheeting. All earth floor aviaries, large and small, need a drainage system to rapidly remove excess water. Slotted PVC Flexible piping laid in trenches and back filled with gravel is an ideal product to ensure your floor has good drainage, but take care you don’t let vermin into your aviary through your drainage pipes. Also, if you are using 1/4 inch galvanised wire mesh to vermin proof your aviary all drainage work, water supply piping, electrical requirements, conduits, stand alone feed station pipe work, need to be positioned before the wire sheeting is laid. All earth floor aviaries will drain better if they have a layer of crusher dust or gravel as a bottom layer with a layer of coarse sand above. A top layer of topsoil, turf, pine bark or wood chip can also be used, but care is required to ensure the top layer of your aviary does not become too damp and harbour disease.
You could, of course, have a combination of concrete floored shelters and earthen floored flights.
There are four main choices of material you can use for framing – timber, galvanised channel or square hollow section, galvanised pipe or aluminium channel or hollow section. The aluminium materials are rust proof and generally easier to work. All the metals can be riveted, screwed, bolted or welded to suit your needs. All four materials do the job, however, if you choose timber be aware that it is unwise to use treated timber as the poisons have been known to leach out after rain and may kill your birds.
The spacing of your studs and noggin should be designed to suit your roof and wall lining materials. This will prevent unnecessary cutting and wastage of these materials.
SHELTERING AND HOUSING AREAS
A shelter area must be provided to ensure the birds have a warm (no drafts) dry area during storms and cold strong winds. It should also provide the birds with a safe hiding place as well as a protected nesting area.
There are many different opinions as to the size of the sheltered area, some aviaries have as little as one third of the aviary as shelter while others have the whole aviary under roof. This will be entirely your decision, however, I believe it does depend to some degree on the type of birds you propose to keep and on the climate you live in – areas which receive lots of rain might need more roofed area..
When lining and roofing your sheltered area, there is a large range of materials that are easy to use and do a good job. eg. Metal sheeting, fibre glass sheetings, fibro weatherboard etc. Scientific studies have shown that exposure to ultraviolet light is important to ensure your birds produce sufficient vitamin “D”, so when choosing your roofing materials check to see that they don’t block out this important light source, so necessary for your birds.
If you choose a material that can become brittle due to years of weathering, aviary movement or your children’s cricket ball, it is wise to line inside the roof and walls with wire. Some materials can generate a lot of heat, especially on hot summer days, or be very cold on a frosty winter’s night. Therefore, some thought should be given to insulation, ventilation and an air “flow through” path. Another aspect you need to consider is the light. If the area is too dark, the birds may not like going into this area. This problem can be overcome by simply painting with a light coloured paint or choosing your lining materials of a light colour.
Before attaching your roofing and wall cladding materials, be sure you have installed any electrical wiring and water supply pipes.
SAFETY DOORS OR LANE
An important feature of all aviary designs is the location and type of access door. Large aviaries are best suited to an access doorway and lane, which can also be used as a seed storage area, location of holding cages, refrigerators, washing sink etc. The lane is usually located at the housing end of your aviary and has access to all your aviaries. The lane can also be divided into sections by installing partitions and gates. This can also be very useful when catching your birds, as you can shepherd them into this smaller area for catching. A safety door is more suited to smaller aviaries as they don’t require as much space. If your aviary is not large enough to accommodate a safety door on the inside then you may be able to locate one on the outside. Failing this your last option will be to hang heavy plastic strips on the inside of your door opening, these will hopefully fill the space between you and the door opening and prevent any bird escaping while you are entering/exiting your aviary.
The location of your access door in relation to your feed station and nesting area is also important. The ideal layout is to have your access door as close to your feed station as possible, so that you don’t disturb your nesting birds each time you feed them.
FEED AND TRAPPING STATION
A well-designed feed station can also play an important role in the overall management of your aviary. It can be attached to the wall of your aviary or stand alone, and can also double as a trapping station which can make catching your birds somewhat easier.
Stand-alone stations supported on a single pipe stand are more easily ant proofed than other stands. This can be achieved by placing a layer of grease around the top of the support just under the tray of the stand, or building a moat type collar around the pipe, partly filled with water in place of the grease.
Feed Stations generally are a similar shape to a breeding cage, the main difference being part of the sides and walls incorporate a sliding wire section which can be removed or opened and shut by sliding these panels to suit.
BIRD NUMBER/AVIARY SIZE RATIO
The Code of Practice – Aviculture produced in Queensland under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 http://www.epa.qld.gov.au/publications/p00055aa.pdf/Aviculture.pdf indicates that for outdoor aviaries of minimum height 1.8 m and bird size approximately 100 mm in length, a minimum floor area of 0.370 square meters is required for a pair of birds. Each additional bird of this size requires an additional 0.18 square meters of floor space. The popular types of finch presently being bred range from 90 – 150 mm. Many finch keepers would use a “higher rule of thumb” of one square metre of floor space per pair of birds. Using these figures you can easily calculate the number of birds your aviary can hold, or the size you need to design your aviary to accommodate the number and type of birds you require.
SUMMARY: The above article attempts to give you all the important information required to enable you to design your dream aviary, so good luck.