RICHARD MILLER looks at purpose-built birdroom layouts and discusses his dream aviary
I AM very envious of anyone who has the opportunity to build a new bird room from scratch or overhaul what they already have. If only my father and I had known what we do now when our aviary was first built.
My first real aviary was purpose-built by my father once he realised that my interest in budgerigars was more than just a fad. The aviary measured 4.8m x 2.4m (16ft x 8ft) and was of a breeze block construction with a fully insulated roof. Twenty-four breeding cages were installed down the right hand-side of the aviary with two indoor flights on the left and an outside flight on the end. This set-up worked very well to start with, but it soon became clear that we needed more space for holding extra birds and additional breeding cages.
The aviary was extended by a further 3m (10ft), which provided an additional indoor flight, and the breeding cages were replaced with new blocks so that there was capacity for 48 breeding pairs. As part of the extension, the outdoor flight was sacrificed. While my father and I appreciated that the birds enjoyed being in the outside flight, we were convinced that the dangers of disease posed by the many wild birds in our surrounding area were too great.
The revised set-up worked well. However, when we started to enjoy some major successes on the show bench, we began to be approached by clubs throughout the country who wanted to come on aviary visits. While our aviary at the time was more than comfortable for the birds and for a few people to be in there at the same time, it was not suitable for aviary visits with 20 or so members wanting to come at any one time.
In addition, we always wanted to have an area in the birdroom where we could dedicate two flights and some rearing cages to our young stock. The thinking was that if we had additional flight space, we could keep our young stock for longer – in order to allow them to develop to their full potential before we sorted out our surplus stock. It would also mean that we could achieve this without putting our youngsters under potential distress by mixing them with older birds in the flights.
Taking everything into account, an additional extension was constructed to the rear of the aviary, which provided two further large indoor flights, a full-time display wall and another wall that could be used as a display area during the summer months and for breeding cages/young stock rearing cages during the breeding season. The extension also provided an area for visitors to stand while I give presentations about the birds next to the display area. (See Figure 1.)
A = Sink and sanitation area
B = Display area and seed storage
There are a number of key features to our aviary, which we feel could be adopted by other fanciers and be beneficial to them and their birds:
We have two extractor fans on the north side of our aviary, which help alleviate the inevitable problem of feather dust when you keep a large number of birds.
Punch bar aviary panels
All of our flights are now fitted with punch bar aviary panels, which we acquired from Basil Thomas of Wales. The panels stop the birds from clinging to the wire for long periods of time thus reducing the risk of feather damage.
Plastic melamine breeding cages
These cages can be easily cleaned during the breeding season and removed from the aviary on an annual basis to be steam cleaned and disinfected thoroughly. The main block of 48 cages is mounted on wall brackets and split into three sections.
Box-in-a-box nest boxes
The internal box slides along white plastic runners at the bottom. This enables us to look inside the nest boxes with minimal disturbance to the hen during breeding time.
Short perches on the back wall of all flights
This simple idea helps to train the birds to sit on a small perch (identical to the size they are expected to sit on in a show cage). It is also a great aid for looking at your birds while they are in the flight, without having to catch them and place them in a show cage.
Show cage training wall
Another accessory acquired from Basil Thomas. This does away with the need for a lot of show cages in the aviary, which collect dust. The training wall also helps to train birds in groups and to look at a family of birds or a number of families all at once by simply removing the slats between each divided area.
Clear plastic cage dividers
Frank Silva was a great advocate of this idea. The thinking is that budgerigars are naturally colony breeders and therefore, it is beneficial for birds to see other pairs during the breeding season as opposed to been stuck in a cage on their own for six months of the year. This feature also aids the flow of light throughout the aviary.
It is a sad fact that birdkeepers need to consider keeping their aviaries secure. All of our windows are protected by welded steel internal security frames. The door to the aviary and the ventilation vents are protected in a similar manner. The birdroom is also protected by 24-hour CCTV and full alarm-system, protecting all possible means of entry.
We have tiled the majority of the walls of the aviary this year and intend to do the remainder very shortly. This feature makes the flights easier to clean and removes the opportunity for any nooks or crevices for disease to fester. The white tiles that we have installed, also help with the flow of light in the birdroom.
Natural heat is supplied from radiators throughout the aviary, which are served by an oil-heated system. This also takes care of my father’s cherished plants in the nearby greenhouse.
Despite our aviary working exceptionally well for our birds, whereby we produce in the region of 300 youngsters per year, my father and I both agree that we would relish the opportunity to build a new aviary from scratch. This would not be convenient in our present circumstances but not something we are ruling out for the future. In the meantime, we agree on what our dream aviary would look like. (See Figure 2.)
For those who are embarking on creating a new birdroom, my advice is not to rush into it. Set-up something simple and low-cost to start with, and then take your time to visit as many aviaries as you can in order to have the opportunity of incorporating all of the ideas that you like. That way you can create the best possible environment for you and your birds. After all, you’re going to be spending an awful lot of your spare time in there.
Key features of the Millers’ dream aviary
■ Six central flights placed back to back
■ 60 breeding cages in five blocks of 12 around the perimeter of the aviary
■ An anteroom for aviary hygiene and incorporating a quarantine area for new birds coming into the aviary
■ Clear roof panels to aid natural light
■ Four dust extractors in the ceiling of the aviary, as well as four further extractors on the four perimeter walls of the aviary
■ Automatic water system
Richard Miller works as a solicitor in Cumbria, and exhibits in partnership with his father Michael.