Outside Aviaries.. Southern Style

We’ve been raising birds for 10 years, and constructing aviaries for them has been an eye-opening experience. We began by reading every book and article on the topic that we could locate. We went to as many local breeders as we could persuade to let us see their facilities. We worked hard to design and create the “ideal” aviary without having to mortgage the home!

The books we read did not provide a lot of useful information. They favored building structures to shelter the birds from snow and ice. This is certainly not an issue in South Florida! Our goal is to allow Mother Nature in, not to keep our gorgeous weather out!

The breeders we met were quite helpful in sharing their knowledge. I’m just now realizing how gracious they were with their time and advice. None of them were very pleased with the arrangement they had devised. Each of them informed us what their initial ideas had shown to be incorrect. Nobody claimed to have a perfect solution to every situation.

We combined all of our newfound ideas and constructed what we believed was the ideal aviary – then we altered it a bit – then we changed it a lot! We constructed an extension using a completely other blueprint and then added some more using yet another plan.

After 10 years and ten extensions, I finally got the opportunity to design and construct an aviary from the ground up, without regard for pre-existing buildings. My Mother, who lives next door and has a sprawling lawn, trees, and flowers, ultimately succumbed to “bird fever” and decided to produce cockatiels. An empty cement slab measuring 17 feet by 16 feet was the ideal location and size for an aviary. I was excited to begin on her design with the advantage of all my years of blunders behind me.

We get nice, bright weather practically every day of the year in Fort Lauderdale. Our typical temperature ranges from 82 to 85 degrees, with a pleasant sea wind. In the summer, shade from the sun is essential, yet access to that same sun is quite useful in the winter. Air circulation is critical for keeping the birds happy and preventing mold and fungal development. One of our outside birds’ favorite pastimes is the regular small tropical rain showers.

The peaked aviary roof was made of corrugated fiberglass sheets that were connected to two by twos at three foot intervals. This material provides for strong light while blocking off the majority of the sun’s heat. It is appealing, reasonably priced, and simple to operate with.

The final twelve inches of the roof were left open except for wire to enable the birds to enjoy the rain at that end of their cages or to withdraw to the center if they wanted to keep dry.

The sides were fully covered in one-half-inch-by-one-inch wire, with just the four-by-four poles that hold the roof visible. To keep rats out, the wire was tightly connected to the cement foundation. The same wire was used to modify a pre-made screen door. The door was easily installed since it was pre-hung.

Breeding cages were lined up on racks 36 inches from the floor on either side. Each day, droppings are simply hosed off the floor and scrubbed off the wire bottoms of the cages while the water dishes are cleansed and replaced.

The birds seem to like the sound of the water and attempt to bathe in it. All nestboxes and feeding entrances face the central aisle, keeping them dry and accessible. Food and other items are kept in covered plastic cans lined up in the middle. With this strategy, the aviary is kept nice and clean with very little effort.

We had enough room for fourteen breeding cages, each measuring 18 inches wide, 24 inches tall, and 48 inches deep. Two walk-in flying cages, 36 inches wide, 72 inches deep, and 72 inches high, run across the rear of the aviary. These two flights are separated by a sufficient service area.

We had electricity service connected to offer a low night light as well as for the odd “cold” night when the temperature drops into the 40’s. A circular metal shop light with a clamp and a sixty watt bulb put above each cage offers enough heat for our coldest winters.

There is plenty of space to walk about, making birdkeeping a delight on a regular basis. A planting bed surrounding the cement slab was a nice touch. The frequent watering from the floor hosing promotes lush growth. A handful of sunflower seeds resulted in plants taller than the ceiling and sunflowers the size of dinner plates. The flowering hibiscus and swaying palms not only offer cool shade but provide a natural environment. The cockatiels are overjoyed! They seem to like the flowers as much as we do!

Now that my Mother’s aviary is finished and her birds are prospering and reproducing, we’ve chosen to dismantle our own ten-year-old, shoddy aviary and start again. Perhaps a few minor modifications… a few fresh ideas… but excellence remains our objective!!

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