by Linda Greeson

We have been breeding birds for the past ten years, and building aviaries for them has certainly been a learning experience. We started by reading every book and article we could find on the subject. We visited as many local breeders as we could cajole into allowing us an inspection tour of their premises. We made a sincere effort to design and build the "perfect " aviary without having to mortgage the house to do it!

The books we read did not offer too much practical information. They leaned towards construction designed to protect the birds from snow and ice. This is definitely not a problem in South Florida! Our objective is to let Mother Nature in, not keep our beautiful weather boarded out!

The breeders we visited were most generous in sharing their experiences. Only now do I realize just how generous they were in giving us their time and advise. None of them were really satisfied with the setup they had created. Each one told us what experience had showed to be wrong with their original plans. No one professed to have a really good way to solve all the problems.

We put all of our new found ideas together and built what we thought to be the perfect aviary - then we changed it a little - then we changed it a lot! We built an addition with a totally different plan and added a little more with yet another plan.

Ten years and ten additions later I finally had my chance to design and build an aviary from scratch without having to consider the pre existing structures. My Mother, who lives next door and has a huge yard devoted entirely to lawn, trees, and flowers finally succumbed to "bird fever" and decided to breed cockatiels. An empty cement slab, 17 feet by 16 feet, was just the perfect location and size for an aviary. With the benefit of all my years of mistakes behind me, I was thrilled to work on her design.

In Ft.Lauderdale we have warm, sunny weather almost every day of the year. Our average temperature is 82 to 85 degrees with a nice gentle breeze from the ocean. Shade from the sun is most important in the summer months, and access to that same sun very beneficial in the winter. Air circulation is all important to keep the birds comfortable and to help prevent the growth of mold and fungi. Our frequent little tropical rain showers are one of our outdoor birds greatest pleasures.

The peaked aviary roof, eight feet high at the center, was constructed of corrugated fiberglass sheets, fastened to two by twos at three foot intervals. This material blocks out most of the sun's heat but allows for bright light. It is attractive, relatively inexpensive, and easy to work with.

The last twelve inches of the roof were left uncovered except by wire to allow the birds to enjoy the rain at that end of their cages, or to retreat towards the center if they want to stay dry.

The sides were completely covered with one half inch by one inch wire, framed simply by the four by four posts that support the roof. The wire was fastened securely to the cement base to protect against rodents. A ready made screen door was modified with the same wire. The door being the pre- hung type was installed without difficulty.

Breeding cages were lined up on each side on racks thirty six inches from the floor. Droppings are simply hosed off from the floor each day and washed from the wire bottoms of the cages at the same time water dishes are rinsed and refilled.

The birds seem to love the sound of the water and try to bathe in the spray. All nestboxes and feeding doors face the center aisle, staying dry and easily serviced. Food and miscellaneous equipment are stored in covered plastic cans lined up in the center. With this plan the aviary stays neat and clean with remarkably little effort.

We had space for fourteen breeding cages, each 18 inches wide, 24 inches high, and 48 inches deep. Across the back of the aviary are two walk in flight cages, 36 inches wide, 72 inches deep, and 72 inches high. An adequate  service area separates these two flights.

We had electrical service installed to provide a dim night light and also to make provision for the occasional "cold" nights when the temperature can briefly drop down to the 40's. A shop light, the round metal type with a clamp, equipped with a sixty watt bulb, placed over each cage provides sufficient heat for our coldest weather.

There is plenty of room to move around, making the daily chore of birdkeeping really a pleasure. A planter bed around the cement slab was a beneficial addition. Frequent watering from the hosing of the floor makes for luxuriant growth. A hand full of sunflower seeds has produced plants higher than the roof with sunflowers the size of dinner plates. The blooming hibiscus and waving palms provide not only cool shade but a natural atmosphere. The cockatiels are very happy! They seem to enjoy the flowers as much as we do!

Now that my Mother's aviary is complete and her birds are thriving and breeding, we have decided to demolish our own ten year old very imperfect aviary and start anew. Possibly a few little changes ... a few more new ideas .. but perfection still our goal!!



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