In this article let’s examine what it is going to take to build your own bird aviary. If you are not wonderful with woodwork, it may help if you get yourself educated in this art a bit before you begin. There are lots of great online courses like this one called Teds Woodworking that you can learn from.
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This is a basic outline and some tips on how to build your own bird aviary, and if you are not experienced in woodwork, you may need to get a professional to help you.
Build Your Own Bird Aviary
In temperate zones, it is best to start building an aviary in the spring once the risk of frost has passed.
You will then be able to release the birds into their new home soon afterward and pairs may even breed in the same year.
To build your own bird aviary, it is best to use tanalized timber. That is wood that has been treated against rotting and has a long life expectancy.
This type of wood is normally safe to use with livestock, but always check with the supplier to make double sure.
If you are going to be treating the wood yourself, ensure that the preservative that you use will cause no harm to the birds if they happen to chew on it.
The process of treating the wood may take two to three weeks as you need to do several coats and wait for them to dry properly in between.
Your treated timber must be thoroughly dry before you start to assemble it into the frames required for your outdoor aviary.
Ask your supplier to cut the timber into the appropriate lengths at the outset to save yourself time and effort. It is better to screw and joint the timber for the framework, rather than nailing it together, as the frames are then less likely to twist, which could result in the netting staples that hold the meshing in place coming loose.
Build it well and your aviary should last you twenty years or more. Resist buying the cheapest materials. Rolls of aviary mesh may look similar, but the cheaper unbranded rolls are unlikely to prove as durable in the long term, as they will succumb more rapidly to rust which is harmful to parrots of all types.
When you attach the mesh to the frames, start by placing the frames on a level surface. Wear some gardening gloves when handling the mesh and be careful about cutting the band around the roll because it is likely to spring open and could catch your face.
Fix the cut end in place, level with the top edge of the flight frame and then unwind the roll, taking care to keep it level and running parallel with the sides of the frame.
It will help to have someone to help you with this job so that you can tap netting staples in while the mesh is being kept taut on the frame.
If the mesh runs across at a slight angle or is allowed to hang loose, this will detract from the appearance of the aviary once it is finally assembled.
At this preliminary stage, you can make slight adjustments to tighten it as necessary, once it is tacked in position.
You will need wire cutters to cut off the mesh from the roll. Take care to cut it so that the loose ends, on which birds could injure themselves, are cut right back to the nearest horizontal strand at the top and bottom of each panel.
Finally go around and put in all the necessary netting staples.
Hardwood battening that is fixed over the edges of the mesh, will to keep the netting staples buried.
Some birds are likely to whittle away at this, however, so check it regularly and be prepared to replace it every so often once the aviary is occupied.
Take a look at these books that can be purchased online for extra information on building your own aviary.
How to Build Your Own Aviary, Cages, Nestboxes, Etc. and $ave a Bundle: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide
The book above will help you build an aviary for pigeons or chickens, but not ideal for parrots. Nevertheless, some good tips included that will help with the process.
Build Your Own Aviary: A Birdkeeper’s Guide to Design and Construction by David W. Pierce (1990-03-23)
Prepping Your Site
Clear the site as far as possible and remove any turf that you may want to use in the aviary for landscaping purposes.
This can be cut out with a sharp spade, rolled up, and stored in a shady spot until needed.
It is worth clearing an additional area of turf from around the perimeter to be replaced later because the grass here will inevitably be damaged during the construction process.
The next stage is to mark out the dimensions of the aviary accurately so that you can prepare the footings on which the structure will rest. Secure foundations are not only important for stability, but they all prevent rodents from tunneling into the bird’s quarters.
A proper foundation will also prolong the life of a wooden structure because the wood will not be touching the ground which can cause it to rot prematurely.
Dig a trench of about 45cm using shuttering to support the sides. Next, pour a thick layer of concrete into the bottom of the trench and allow it to set hard. This will be your foundation for your blockwork walls.
As the blocks are laid, check that they are level using your spirit level.
Above the ground, you may use bricks which may be more attractive than blockwork. These should be laid in the traditional way so that they overlap from row to row, as this gives greater strength to the finished structure.
The wall should extend approximately 30cm above ground level.
Decide what your floor covering will be. There are severe options, depending on the type of birds you need to house.
Grass is often appealing, but a bit impractical as cleaning and drainage is a problem and often grass will turn to moss. If it does thrive it becomes overgrown and looks untidy, and cutting it during breeding season is not recommended as it disrupts the birds.
The simplest is to opt for a concrete base. Although this adds to the work and cost involved, in the long term the aviary will be easier to clean and it can be disinfected easily. It is a good idea to incorporate drainage holes that are not so large as to allow pests into the cage, but large enough to let water and rain run out.
The other option is to use paving slabs for the floor. Make sure that they are sloped for drainage and these are easy to move along with the aviary if ever you need to.
The third option is to spread coarse gravel of about 25cm thick on the floor of the aviary. Paving slabs can be set into the gravel beneath the perches where the vast majority of droppings will accumulate and these can then be easily scraped off with a small shovel and disinfected.
As an added precaution against rodents entering the aviary if it has a gravel base is to cover the floor with mesh and attach this to the blockwork before tipping the gravel on top and setting the paving slabs in place.
By providing a good depth of gravel, not only will rain wash any dirt down between the stones, but there should be no risk of the birds having access to stale water before it drains away into the ground.
A small drainage hole leading out of the flight at low level may be helpful as a further precaution.
Assembling Your Aviary
When you build your own bird aviary it helps to have two people for this task and to have all the sections identified with chalk so you can see how they fit together.
Do not be tempted to fit the aviary doors at this preliminary stage. These should only be hung when the structure is in place otherwise they will just get in the way.
You will need bolts of the appropriate length to hold the wooden panels together, while frame-fixers can be used to anchor the frames down onto the base.
Start by fixing the end and one neighboring side in place. The frames will be easier to support while you are working on them by being at right angles in this way.
Stand them on a bed of concrete on top of the supporting wall for more anchorage.
Remember to oil the nuts and washers, as this will make it easier to dismantle the aviary if you need to move it. Oil them every four to is months to prevent them from rusting and fusing onto the bolts.
Add the other side and then the front of the shelter, which should be set on a coarse of bricks at the appropriate height. Fix on the sides of the shelter before finally adding the back.
Fix the roof sections in place onto the assembled panels.
Ensure the roof of the flight is securely fixed to the sides.
The roof of the aviary can be built to form an apex, but it will be much simpler to have a roof section that slopes down away from the flight.
Cover it with two layers of a good quality roofing felt. Tuck these firmly down the sides to lessen the risk of the felt being torn off in strong winds.
The interior needs to be well lit in order to attract the birds into this part of the aviary, so it is a good idea to have an opaque glass window. Avoid clear glass, as the birds may fly into it and injure themselves.
Fit the door of the shelter last. Select robust hinges. It will save you time and money, in the long run, to spend a little more at this stage, as it is a nuisance to be faced with a door that sticks because the hinges have started to rust within a few months of setting up your aviary.
Keep your hardware well oiled, however much you spend. This applies equally to door locks which should if possible be an integral part of the structure to offer more security. Stolen birds are rarely recovered, unfortunately.
Finishing Off Your Bird Aviary
Sometimes even if you buy a completed aviary, instead of taking the time to build your own bird aviary, you may still need to buy some corrugated plastic sheeting and guttering.
The sheeting should be fitted on the flight roof the nearest to the shelter, using the special fitments available for this purpose.
It will provide protection for the birds when they are in the flight and should be extended down the sides.
Use a wooden framework to slope the plastic sheeting away from the shelter, and fix guttering at the lower edge to prevent rainwater from running into the flight itself.
Guttering will also be needed at the lowest edge of the shelter roof. The downpipe can be connected to a water shute which can provide water for your garden.
Perches in the aviary should always be arranged across the flight, but do not clutter so that the birds can benefit from having lots of flying space.
Have two main perches at either end of the flight with one undercover. Make sure that this one does not block the connecting door leading from the shelter to the flight.
Allow sufficient space for the birds to move freely on the perches, with no risk of rubbing their tails on the mesh at the far end.
It is not a good idea to force the perches up against the wire mesh because after a while with the constant fraction caused by the birds moving on and off the perch, the mesh will be weakened and the perch could collapse.
It is better to arrange the perches so that they can be supported by the wooden uprights in the flight.
You could also try setting the perches in a container and a crown of branches is especially good for this purpose.
For larger parrots who need stronger perches, it may be better to fix these on a length of timber approximately 5cm square, which can be set into a pre-formed hole in the aviary floor.
Birds like finches benefit from having growing plants. These not only provide cover for nesting purposes but also attract insects, which will help to supplement their diets.
It is important to landscape the aviary into your garden once building work is done. You may decide to have a flower bed around the base or you can soften the outline of the cage by growing a climbing plant up the sides.
This article on how to build your own bird aviary was referenced from The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Caged and Aviary Birds by David Alderton.