by Bryan MacCarthy
Like most of us newbie bird keepers, most of us are returning to the hobby after having either kept birds at an earlier time in our lives or had friends or relatives whom introduced us to this infectious hobby.
For myself I am returning to a hobby which too many years ago was when earning a living was not a high priority and school was an obstacle which got in the way of my birds and aviary. During my absence from aviculture as much as some things had changed, some stayed the same such as useful aviary furniture.
Like all those years ago, fitting out your aviary still follows the same basic rules and the same challenges still exist in acquiring aviary furniture suited to your aviary. Like most of us many of our aviary furniture we either build or purchase then adapt to our needs.
The following are my experiences in finding aviary furniture and building/adapting keeping the basic rules keeping our feathered friends healthy and happy.
To start with the basic rules. (These were given to me by a very good friend and aviculturist many years ago but remain the same today):
- Follow the Kiss principal Keep It Simple Stupid
- Keep the seed and foods dry and clean:
- Water supply to be clean and changed regularly: Water Supply
- Housing, floors, roosting areas to be dry and draft proof:Lighting and Nesting
- Don’t use circular timber dowel for perches:Perches
- Aviary’s are built not just to keep ours birds but designed to keep vermin, predators and unwelcome visitors out: The Electric Fence
We all know the above is simple to follow and common knowledge to all aviculturists. However, like most of us, every aviary and location is different. Either if you have purchased a prefabricated aviary or a purpose design to fit into the ever decreasing household block by the back yard handyman, we still need to fit out our aviary. And once we have competed building our masterpiece our attention turns to how to we best fit out our new pride and joy for our birds? A little hint; before you start building and at the design stage, give a lot of thought to the position of the aviary and how you are going to service the aviary.
Unfortunately, there is no Ikea for bird aviaries. Nevertheless many of the Pet and Produce Stores carry a large range of bits and pieces. However I could at times never purchase what best fitted my aviary. Although aviary furniture has come a long way in the last 25 years… Often we are purchasing something and adapting it to suit an application in our aviary, (thankyou for the person who invented Bunnings).
Keeping Seed and Food Dry and Clean.
There are a few challenges in keeping food dry, clean and away from vermin and yet there is no absolute answer for keeping the perfect environment, but there if a lot we can do to minimise the impact from all the nasties.
The key here is to ensure the birds droppings can not end up in the dry seed and the seed is kept dry and out of the weather. I found that many commercial seeders were ok, but didn’t suit my aviary or held enough seed for two months and then I had problems with weevils etc. The best solution here is to understand the consumption rate of dry seed, which your aviary occupants will need per week and where the seed husks will go!
Then either purchase a seed hopper to best suit your application, in my case, my aviaries are 4meters x 1meter x 2.2meters and the occupants normally use 300 g of dry seed per week amongst our supplements. From this point I used a commercial seed hopper, however once modified with a plastic chicken feeder tray (to catch the seed husks) I have the perfect seed hopper which collects the seed husks and keeps my aviary floors clean of rubbish from the hopper and can be fitted to the side of the aviary away from the weather.
For food supplements such as vegetables, rock salts, charcoal, meal worms, white ants and practically any thing we feed our birds, many of us have various methods. However once again we need to keep these dry and away from ants and vermin. In most applications simple food trays or plastic pot saucers work well. These are easily cleaned and supplements can be segregated then these can be hung away from the ground to avoid ants.
Water supply to be clean and changed regularly.
Water Supply and feeders:
These days many of us work full time and with keeping a regular clean water supply to our birds, cleaning out water feeders is time consuming, specially in the warmer months when all sorts of nasties like growing in water bowls.
Many of us aviculturist use water bottles, tanks, dishes and trays of some description which are readily available from many commercial outlets. Nevertheless cleanliness of the water supply is always principal factor. Keeping in mind that our feathered friends love a bath and don’t worry about keeping their droppings out of the water, we adapt our water supplies to be best kept clean and easily maintained.
There are many designs and the Society has had numerous discussion nights with members sharing their designs. So keeping this in mind the design I currently use is a compilation of some of club member’s great ideas. The system I use changes water three times a day in hot weather with the waste water watering the plants in the aviary. All the bits and pieces used to build my watering system came from the hardware store and was easily built in a weekend with the water timer itself being the expensive part at $65.
See photos three and four.
Housing, floors, roosting areas to be dry and draft proof.
Keeping our aviary’s roosting areas dry and draft proof is a challenge at the best of times along with contending with what ever happens at night inside the aviary.
As a electrician, the best invention man has ever invented (besides the TV remote) is the 12 volt garden lighting systems now available for all good hardware stores. These are easily adapted to inside the aviary for night lights and in winter warming lamps for young birds which I will talk about further in this article. The best points with these 12 volt systems are that they are very effective lighting, can be easily installed by the back yard handy man and the best part – there is NO240 volts that can get wet inside the aviary to harm your birds let alone yourself or the family.
Most good hardware stores carry good ranges of lighting and fittings and the best I have found is a 15 watt step light which gives enough light at night for the birds to find their way if disturbed. Since installing these in each of my aviaries I have not had any injuries to birds crashing into wire through the night.
The added bonus and great entertainment is watching the Parrot finches chase moths around attracted by the light at night and along with the best location to set Gecko traps! Please see photo five.
Warming Lights or Warming Lamps.
There has been a lot of discussion amongst the society regarding the benefits to using these, especially during winter, and yes I agree, they are worth the effort. However being a typical electrician again… it’s easy enough to manufacture a 12 volt warming lamp or simply try some of the new reptile warming products coming onto the market as recently demonstrated at the January meeting night.
To fabricate a 12 volt warming light you will need a 200mm clay pot (the shallower the better), 1x 20 watt 12volt red lamp and lamp base (the red lamp will not blind the birds night vision at night), 20mm electrical conduit, jack chain, figure eight cable and some galvanised wire.
To build the warming lamp; simply suspend the clay pot from the electrical conduit using the jack chain, then through the drain hole of the pot fit the 12 volt lamp base and secure. Then fit your 12 volt lamp to the lamp base so the lamp face is just proud of the rim of the clay pot. Lastly then fix the electrical conduit to your aviary approximately 200mm from the floor. At this height the lamp will give you about 30 C° at 400mm diameter (hint if you warm the electrical conduit with a heat gun you will be able to end the conduit to enable you to bend the conduit to best suit hanging the warming light).
Please see photos six and seven.
Don’t use circular timber dowel for perches:
Another age old mistake for the newbie is utilising round timber dowel throughout aviaries for perches and yes even I am guiltly of this mistake. Therefore find the nearest bushland, where you are allowed by law to take some branches home. Simply cut them to size and fit as required. To fit these to the wire of your aviary there are many commercially made hangers, which are easily fitted. The best part with these commercially made hangers is your perches can be taken down or relocated easily without disturbing the occupants.
Nesting boxes and associated nesting apparel are readily everywhere with a member of the club manufacturing some of the best available at the right price for club members. From nesting tubes to the Hilton of nest boxes, they are all available both commercially and from the handyman.
However one of the problems I encountered is how does one fit the nest box to your aviary and again going back to my old friend and echoes of “if it’s a horizontal surface then the birds can crap on it and it will be a bugger to keep clean”….
Yes we all love scrubbing the top of nesting boxes during our maintenance routines in our aviaries. For that I have manufactured a simple aluminium bracket to hang nesting boxes directly to the back of the aviary. The best and easiest part is the nest box can be unhooked, inspected, then re hooked into place. The aluminium brackets easily interchangeable between nest boxes as required with relocating the entire nest box as simple as two screws to a new location. This saves building shelves and dangerous hooks inside the aviary.
Please see photo eight.
Aviary’s are built not just to keep ours birds but designed to keep vermin, predators and unwelcome visitors out
The Electric Fence
At this juncture I can say the 6mm bird wire is second best invention man has made. These days the old 10mm bird wire is problematic and easily torn apart by large predators. My first aviary was built using the old 10mm bird wire and since I have invested in an electric fence to keep the Butcher birds at bay when no one is around for a day or two.
Should you need to invest in an electric fence the majority of the components which you will require are readily available from most produce agencies and again there is a 12volt model available which is very effective.
Once you decide that you are going to install an electric fence to your aviary walls or roof areas there are a couple of safety hints to keep you out of trouble.
Firstly have a local point of isolation for the power supply to the HV unit (where you can see it) if someone turns it on whilst your working on the aviary it will hurt.
Secondly if you have a pet dog, have the bottom contact wire high enough so the dog can’t lift his leg on it, or it will hurt the dog and possibly you after the wife finds out!
Please see photos nine and ten
On conclusion aviary furniture commercially manufactured today is wide and diverse and of various qualities. What I have touched on in the above is only a small segment the different types of furniture needed for our aviary and what I have found effective for the small back yard aviary.
Nonetheless with keeping the basic rules to aviary furniture in mind and a little imagination, ingenuity and spare time the aviculturist can build and adapt just about anything to improve the quality of our aviaries for our birds.
Parts for hopper