Let’s look at keeping aviary birds and how to care for them. In this article, I am mainly discussing outside aviary birds. The ideal aviary will have an outside section and a shelter that is out of the elements where you can place the food and water.
I think all of you have been in a situation where you’ve had to care for wild animals. Here, I’m talking about birds! What’s different between caring for them Indoors versus outdoors? Well, there are quite a few things that we’ll talk about today. For instance, when it comes to new birds they’re going to be spooked and on edge at first- but only until they feel safe again and settled into their surroundings with enough time passing by.
Australian parakeets and pigeons and doves will normally fly around quite wildly if disturbed unexpectedly, so it is a good idea to make sure that everything is in place before releasing the birds into their new home.
Try confining them to the aviary shelter first so that they become accustomed to finding their food and water without difficulty and have time to settle. If they have access to the flight, they may fly straight out there and stay there, refusing to return undercover, in which case you will need to catch them and return them to the shelter which will upset them.
When you are ready to release the birds into the flight, choose a day when the weather is good. If the birds, especially softbills are out in a downpour, they can become waterlogged and unable to fly, so will need to be caught and dried indoors.
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Keeping Aviary Birds
Everyone develops their own system for looking after and keeping aviary birds, but it is important that you find time each day to look at them (really look at them), and in this way, you will soon be able to recognize if something is amiss or one of the birds is sick.
Remember that birds are very adept at masking signs of injury until they are seriously ill.
A bird is normally less active in the early stages of ill health, perhaps flying from a perch momentarily later than a group of others.
If you notice an individual bird looking at you from one angle, for example, this may be an indication that its other eye is infected or swollen, impairing its vision.
Something like this is easy to miss if you are hurrying to feed and water your stock in the morning before heading off to work.
The risk of illness arising is most likely in the first few months of setting up the aviary, when the birds are adjusting to their surroundings and often to different food as well.
Once new birds are settled and providing they are housed in clean surroundings and are well fed, you are unlikely to encounter significant health problems.
This is especially true if the birds are housed in pairs rather than in a colony.
Feeding containers and water should always be provided in the aviary shelter rather than in the flight, as the food will remain dry. Damp seed can quickly go moldy and this presents a threat to the birds’ health.
Hoppers like the one below are great for budgerigars or other small parakeets because they will keep their seed free from droppings and the floor stays a bit cleaner too as the husks fall into the tray.
You can purchase one like this online. Simply click on the picture to find out more.
Hook on plastic food containers are also great for finches and softbills, but not so much for parrots, because parrots will dislodge them and scatter the contents onto the floor. Plastic is also not robust enough to withstand the bills of the larger parrot species.
With hook on containers, you will need to position them close to a perch so the birds have easy access to their food.
Parrots will need heavy-duty metal dishes with hooks to attach them to the sides of the aviary.
Alternatively, heavy earthenware trays or pots can also be used that can be supported on a feeding tray or bird table. The top must be easy to wipe clean with no nooks or crannies.
More than one type of feeding site is always advantageous, especially during the breeding season, as the cock may be chasing the hen to the extent that she cannot eat at the main feeding site without being persecuted.
This type of tray is great for pheasants, quails, and other ground dwellers. Hoppers may also be used close to the floor, but just make sure that the flow of food does not become obstructed at any stage.
If the birds eat off the ground, make sure the floor of the aviary is kept clean, especially around their food dishes to avoid the birds picking up infections.
Birds must always have access to fresh drinking water, and water should be placed in the shelter out of direct sunlight.
An aviary needs a good clean every week. If you use newspaper on the floor, simply fold up the old sheets and discard them. Replace them with fresh sheets and if necessary stick down the overlaying sections using adhesive tape, so they cannot be disturbed by the birds or the wind.
Around the perimeter of the aviary, make sure the grass is cut short. Long grass provides camouflage for rodents, especially rats. Rats are hazardous because they can spread diseases and may also harm the birds directly, particularly if they are breeding.
Sound footings and mesh around the aviary are the best defenses against rats. Cementing the bottom of the cage will prevent rats from tunneling through. It is vital to get rid of rodents at the first sign of them, or you will soon be overrun.
Rats tend to burrow in while mice can squeeze through any gaps.
If you intend to poison the offenders, which isn’t really recommended, you will need to move the birds out for a while. Traps are normally the best option placed strategically where they can’t be accessed by the birds.
How To Catch And Handle Aviary Birds
At some point, you will need to catch birds in your aviary. Carry this out with care to avoid unnecessary stress and injuries.
Do not catch birds in hot weather, rather wait until cool or in the morning or evening.
Take the perches that restrict your ability to move around the aviary down.
It is easier to catch a bird in the shelter so go into the flight and encourage the bird to go into the flight. Once the bird you want is in the flight, close him in. If you are trying to catch a parrot, beware as they can inflict a painful bite, so wear protective gloves.
Bird nets are available in different sizes and if you decide to use a bird net it can be helpful with smaller birds such as finches. Make sure that the rim is well padded, but still be very careful not to injure the bird as you catch it. The net should also be a good depth so that once the bird is caught you can grip the material at the top below the rim to stop it from flying out again.
Don’t try to catch a bird in flight with a bird net, rather wait until it is on the mesh or on the ground. Have a well-ventilated box with a secure lid in reach so you can put the bird into it quickly. Don’t let the bird go into a big cage or he will flap around and maybe injure itself. Invert the net gently above the carrying box and use your free hand to feel your way down the net to the bird’s head.
Put your first and second fingers gently around the sides of its neck, and wrap your other fingers around its body.
With its wings no secured in your palm, the bird will cease to struggle and you can lift it out. This movement will cause the bird to tighten its grip on the net using its claws, so as long as the bird is restrained, you can lay the net on the ground and use your free hand to prise the claws free.
Always catch birds individually, even if they are small as this will reduce the risk of injury.
Escapes will happen from time to time, but having a safety porch attached to your aviary reduces the likelihood of any birds slipping past you and out of the aviary.
If a bird does fly into the safety porch as you enter the aviary, it can be encouraged to fly back into the aviary without difficulty.
Problems can arise as a result of damage to the aviary for example storms, high winds, and other unpredictable weather conditions. Ensure that the aviary is carefully sited and solidly anchored to its foundations.
Always keep your aviary padlocked to protect from thieves and vandals.
If a bird does escape keep watch in the vicinity of the aviary to see if it returns of its own accord. This is very likely with species that possess good homing instincts like doves.
Unless the bird is exhausted it will take some skill to catch it with a net. Move very slowly so as not to frighten it. Let your neighbors, local bird clubs, and animal welfare organizations know you are looking for a bird in case someone has seen or catches your bird.
The length of time that an escapee can survive depends on the species and the individual bird. It also depends on the time of the year, as food is more readily available in summer than in winter.
Aviaries To Order Online
In most cases, aviaries are custom built to customer specifications, but there are some ready-made aviaries that can be purchased online.
You could also make your own, which could be very rewarding.
Here are a few examples of what is available out there to order.
If you have any questions regarding keeping an aviary outdoors, please comment below and I will do my best to come back to you.