General Aviary Construction
If financially possible, I would recommend aviaries built of brick (foundation) with galvanised piping for framework. Add a solid concrete floor and you will have a durable and hygienic aviary. Use galvanised iron piping of 1/2 to 3/8 inch (15-20 mm) diameter, wire mesh 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) square, thin 19 G gauge, or one grade heavier 16 G for rosellas and similar birds that seem to derive pleasure from biting the wire! The night shelter can be made from brick, cement board, or timber. Do not put a layer of gravel on the aviary floor. It will promote worm infestations that will be difficult to get rid of. Gravel will harbour feathers, food waste, seed husks, and droppings and form a breeding ground for other dangerous organisms. Most Australian parakeets forage for food on the ground. Fanciers with a small budget can, of course, use cheaper materials as long as they are gnaw-proof. Waste timber can be used for the frame, and the walls of the night shelter can be made of plasticized board of 3/32 inch (10 mm) thickness. The roof can be made of planks and covered with roofing felt. Some fanciers cover the top of the flight with fiber glass or PVC sheeting--both are excellent material to protect against dampness and drafts. Ensure the foundation is rodent- (and other vermin) proof by extending it 18 inches (50 cm) below ground level. Alternatively, bury the aviary mesh well into the ground and bend it outwards to stop rats and mice burrowing in. If you add mesh (or even lengths of scrap iron or old bicycle frames) to a solid concrete floor during pouring, it will strengthen and help prevent cracking. All roofs or covers should extend over the aviary walls to prevent dampness and/or flooding. If aggressive birds are to be kept in adjacent flights, it is best to have double mesh between the flights; this will stop birds clambering on the wire, going for each other's toes, and so on. Do not use lead-based paints on any parts of the aviary. To be safe, only use paint that is classified as child safe. Never introduce birds to a cage or aviary until paint is thoroughly dry. Do not use whitewash as it contains harmful lime.
Wire Mesh Sizes
Guidelines for choosing wire mesh.
Wire gauge Mesh Size Suitability ---------- --------- ----------- 19g 12.2x12.5mm (1/2"x1/2") Waxbills, Small Softbills (Finch) & Canaries 19g 12.5x25mm (1/2"x1") Budgerigars, Grass parakeets & Pigeons 16g 12.5x12.5mm (1/2"x1/2") Lovebirds & Conures 16g 12.5x25mm (1/2"x1") Alexandrines & Magpies 14g 25x25mm (1"x1") Amazons, Macaws & Grey Parrots 12g 50x50mm (2"x1") Large Macaws & CockatoosThis information, it is hoped, will serve as a guideline to the beginner and give a general description of adequate housing for parakeets and necessary equipment for their comfort and good health. There are, of course, many acceptable methods of setting up an aviary for housing parakeets and other birds. An unused room in the home may even be converted into an aviary if desired. Most essential to the welfare of the parakeets is a maximum amount of flight room. These birds are strong flyers and must have room to exercise or they will not come into good breeding condition. Several factors should be considered when constructing an aviary. The size and design depends on the location, the amount of money and time one desires to spend on this hobby and the number of parakeets or other types of birds to be housed. A structure of the dimensions below will accommodate 12 pairs of parakeets comfortably. The building is 10 feet wide by 12 feet long and is 8 feet high at the front and 7 feet high at the rear. It can be divided into three pens, or one flight and a main room. The flight can be 3 feet wide by 10 feet long. The other part of the room will be 9 feet by 10 feet to hold the supplies and breeding cages and a small cage for the babies which should be about 3 feet square. It is a good idea to build a double door entrance preventing the escape of valuable birds. Aviaries built on a concrete slab are desirable for the purpose of cleanliness and to prevent the entrance of snakes, mice and other unwanted pests. The ideal location for the aviary is a shady spot with a southern exposure if at all possible. Windows may then be located on south, east and west to insure proper ventilation and the solid north wall will provide protection against cold, wintry weather. Window openings may be covered with aviary netting and shutters covered with heavy clear plastic can be hung to be raised or lowered as desired. The building ideally should he sealed and insulated whether it is a concrete ,brick or wooden post construction. The insulation will keep the cold out in the winter and keep the humid hot air out in the summer.
Galvanised wire mesh of 1/2 inch size may be used to cover the front of flights. The wire size will be determined by the type of birds you keep. Use 1/2 inch wire for Finch, Canary, Budgies, Cockatiels and other Grass parakeets. The roof of the aviary should have a 12 inch overhang for further protection against the elements. I do not advocate the use of outdoor flights for cockatiels because these birds frighten very easily and the outdoor noises and sights cause uneasiness and distract them from nesting duties. Also, there is the nuisance of checking each evening to be sure the birds are all in their shelter at night. Perches for the parakeets should be situated only at the front and across the back of the pens so that maximum flying room is provided for necessary exercise. Natural tree branches make excellent perches and the parakeets prefer them. Limbs from fruit trees or nut trees oak or elm are good to use for perches. You can use willow branches and dogwood as the birds particularly enjoy chewing on them and I believe the bark is beneficial to them. It is most important that all perches be secured firmly because a sudden shift will harm breeding birds or cause infertile eggs. You can also use round and square dowel of sizes from 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch. It is a good idea to alternate the perches from round dowel to square every second one to keep the birds feet changing grip. The feed table should be centrally located in the room between the perches. A small strip of wood (6 inches high) or plexiglass attached all the way around the edge of the bottom of the flight will prevent needless waste of seeds. You can use open feeders such as shallow bowls or plates so that food is easily accessible to the birds, since they all usually eat at the same time. Aluminum cake pans or crock flower pot saucers are good for this purpose and easily cleaned. An automatic watering system in the aviary assures a constant supply of clean, fresh water and saves an endless amount of work for the owner. Plastic or glass waterers for use with mason jars can be purchased at most pet shops and supply stores. Metal waterers are not recommended because they rust quickly and are difficult to clean. A small shelf can be attached to the inside of the door opening into the flight about 4 feet up from the floor, and a jar of water placed here will be easily accessible to the birds and can be replaced or refilled as necessary from the flight door, with little or no disturbance to the birds. A drinker situated near the door assures a clean, fresh water supply for the birds since it is some distance from the feed area and also away from the floor. Having the waterer just inside the door is also convenient and time saving for the owner. Cuttlebone can be tied to the wire near a perch with a garbage bag wire tie or other piece of wire, but leave no sharp edges for the birds to cut themselves on. The best thing top place on the sides and back walls of the flight is hardboard panelling that looks like a bright white tile and comes in 4 feet by 8 feet sheets. This is very hard and smooth and is easy to clean. The floor of the main room should be either painted concrete or tile so it is easy to vacuum or sweep.
The Bird Room
This is really little more than an indoor aviary. It may consist of a room containing several separate flights, or the room itself is used as a whole aviary. Wire mesh can be placed over windows so that they can be opened for ventilation. A wire mesh safety porch is also a good idea. Fanciers who breed color mutations are very much in favour of a bird room. Also it is ideal for tropical and subtropical birds. A few of the rarer species can be kept together with some smaller parakeet species (i.e., cockatiels) providing they are all compatible. Some of the larger tropical softbills and other expensive birds, such as Australian grass finches, do well in such a facility. In many cases a bird room will be found to be more efficient and appropriate than an outside aviary, especially if you are lucky enogh to have a spare room in your home that you can use for your hobby. Prior consideration is required with a bird room as much as that required for an outdoor aviary so try and get everything right at the outset. The best kind of floor is one that is tiled (slate tiles of the type used on laundry floors are relatively inexpensive and ideal for this purpose). A thin layer of sand sprinkled over the floor will make it easy to sweep up droppings and to change it at regular intervals. Any plants in the bird room will of course, have to be kept in troughs or tubs. If you keep a spare set of plants, you can redistribute them at regular intervals so that they get regular periods of rest and recuperation.
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Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc.