You’re only 10 steps away from building your first bird aviary. This how-to guide will show you how to plan, measure, build and furnish your very own homemade aviary.
Table of Contents for the Article
- 1) Build an indoor or outdoor aviary?
- 2) Choose an aviary design
- 3) How to size an aviary
- 4) Where to place an aviary
- 5) Building the foundation
- 6) Building the frame
- 7) Constructing the door
- 8) Putting on the roof
- 9) List of aviary supplies, tools and building materials
- 10) Accessories for the inside of your aviary
1) Build an indoor or outdoor aviary?
First, you’ll need to decide whether you want to build an indoor or an outdoor aviary as each one comes with it’s own advantages…
Pros of an indoor aviary
- Sheltered from bad weather (such as storms and hurricanes)
- Protected against any intruders such as foxes, raccoons etc.
- Easier to play and socialise with your birds (since they’ll be in the house next to you)
- Birds are less likely to escape
- You don’t require as durable materials since inside there’s no bad weather
- Generally cheaper than an outdoor aviary
Pros of an outdoor aviary
- Healthier environment for your birds as they get more fresh air and sunlight
- You’re generally likely to have more space and be able to build things of a larger size, something that is also better for your birds.
- Takes up less space inside your home
- There’s less mess and bird odor in your house
- Usually an outdoor aviary is big enough to be a walkin aviary, so you can sit inside with your birds. This may not be the case with an indoor aviary.
Finally, there is the hybrid option where you create an outdoor aviary that is portable as it has wheels on the bottom of the aviary. However, this tends to greatly restrict the size of aviary that you can build and requires more daily effort for moving the aviary indoors and outdoor.
2) Choose an aviary design
You have 3 places from where you can choose an aviary design:
- A) Design blueprints and detailed plans from our step-by-step guide
- B) Design ideas from commercial bird aviary kits
- C) Design ideas from Pinterest
A) Design blueprints and detailed plans from our step-by-step guide:
If you’re looking for detailed aviary blueprints, designs and plans then check out our guide to building an aviary that is available here. Samples of what is included can be seen in the images below:
B) Design ideas from commercial bird aviary kits:
C) Bird aviary ideas from our Pinterest channel:
3) How to size an aviary
Before even beginning to build an aviary you first need to figure out the size that your species of bird requires.
You will have to alter the size, design and materials that your aviary uses depending upon the type of pet bird that you own. A large parrot has different sized requirements compared with a small finch. You can first figure out what size of bird you have using the table below:
Sizes of Bird Species
Extra Large Birds
|Budgie/parakeet||Cockatiel||African Grey||Cockatoo (large: Moluccan)|
|Canary||Conure||Amazon||Macaw (large: Hyacinth, Gold, Scarlet)|
|Finch||Parrotlet||Cockatoo (small to medium: Goffin, Umbrella)|
|Lovebird||Quaker||Macaw (small to medium: Noble, Mini)|
Minimum size for an aviary or bird cage
Now with the general size of your bird identified, you can match this up to how much space your bird needs. The size guide below is for the minimum amount of space needed, but to increase your birds happiness you should aim for larger cage or aviary sizes.
Small birds: Width: 20″, Depth: 24″, Height: 24″
Medium birds: Width: 25″, Depth: 32″, Height: 35″
Large birds: Width: 35″, Depth: 40″, Height: 50″
Extra large birds: Width: 40″, Depth: 50″, Height: 60″
But you also need to consider the number of birds that you own.
How many birds are there?
If you’re keeping more than one bird, you’ll need to increase the size of your cage or aviary. The general rule of thumb is to multiply the volume by 1.5 to 2 times the amount needed for a single bird.
For example, let’s say you have a medium sized bird with a cage that is 25″ x 32″ x 35″. If you multiply all of these values together you can find the volume of the bird cage:
25″ x 32″ x 35″ = 28,000″ volume cubed
If you were to add an extra medium sized bird then you’re going to need to increase the size by 1.5, so…
28,000″ x 1.5 = 42,000″ volume cubed
So, if you play around using a calculator (by increasing the width, depth and height sizes) you could figure out that you need a bird cage that has the following size to fit the volume of 2 medium sized birds:
30″ x 35″ x 40″ = 42,000″ volume cubed
Plus don’t forgot that different sized bird species will need different sized bar spacing and wire diameter sizes (otherwise they’ll chew off the wire or escape):
Wire spacing and wire gauge (diameter) sizes
Extra Large Birds
5/8″ to 3/4″
3/4″ to 1″
1″ to 1-1/4″
Wire spacing is maximum recommended size and wire diameter is minimum recommended size.
Final notes on bird aviary and cage sizes
Keep in mind that all of the above tables are just a rough guide showing you how much space will be required for your bird. If in doubt, always go for the bigger sized space than what you think you need. Also, if you’re limited by budget then it is generally better to increase the length or width of an aviary as opposed to increasing it’s height.
Finally, don’t forget that some bird species work well together whereas others should not be put into the same cage.
4) Where to place an aviary
If you choose to build an indoor aviary, you need to consider:
- Which room is going to be your bird room inside your house
- If there is enough light and fresh air provided by the windows
- Where you will be locating the watering stations and feeding tray (so access is not blocked by walls)
- Whether you need to move existing furniture and items inside your home to make enough space
- How portable you want the aviary to be (i.e. are wheels required on the aviary feet)
- If stationary then what cover will be placed on the floor, or alternatively building a removable tray so waste can be easily removed.
If you choose to build an outdoor aviary, then you need to consider:
- Placing the birds away from your neighbours as they can be noisey. Noise barriers such as trees and bushes may be required.
- If the aviary is going to get enough shade (especially during sunset and sunrise as the birds may be exposed to too much direct sunlight)
- Positioning the aviary away from any noisey mechanical devices such as air vents and air conditioning units.
- Your local laws and housing association codes may affect how you can build an outdoor aviary.
- Disabling any night time lights and motion detectors that will disrupt the birds sleep.
Plus there are these additional considerations for outdoor aviaries
- Creating extra layers of protection to prevent predators and escapes (e.g. including the construction of an extra set of safety doors for a walk in aviary)
- The foundation upon which you will be building your aviary (see below)
- How you are going to protect your birds against local weather extremes (snow, extreme heat, wind)
- The strength and endurance of your aviary construction materials for these weather extremes
5) Building the foundation
If you’re constructing an outdoor aviary then it’s going to need a foundation. Without this, weather will erode the base and earth beneath the aviary and make the whole building unstable, plus birds that play around in the dirt have the possibility of picking up parasites. The 2 main types of outdoor aviary foundation are:
Soft aviary foundations
Typically with a soft aviary foundation you would install a wire mesh at the base of the aviary as this prevents predators such as foxes from digging into the aviary. Then on top of the wire mesh flooring you would place gravel. This gravel typically is the size of small stone pebbles because if the pebbles are too small then the birds will swallow the gravel. The main advantage of gravel is that water will be able to drain straight through and into the earth.
A soft aviary foundation such as gravel is cheaper, much easier to setup and can be quite easily removed to another location if you decide to change the location of your aviary. However, it is less stable and durable, plus requires an additional wire mesh.
Hard aviary foundations
This is when you build your foundation using materials such as concrete or by using flat bricks or paving stones. Because these materials are so strong they’ll prevent any predator from digging through to the aviary so a foundation wire mesh is not required. If this foundation has been built correctly then the aviary will also be much more stable – however, during construction you need to ensure the surface is flat by using a spirit level. If laying down a concrete foundation then you’ll also want to think about including one or two drainage holes or drainage grooves to stop water accumulating on the surface of the concrete. The same can be said for bricks or paving slabs that are stuck down on the foundation using cement – however, those placed down without using cement naturally allow the water to drain away. Additionally, some people include a layer of sand on top of the concrete once it has been laid down.
Overall it is more difficult, expensive and requires more effort to construct a hard aviary foundation. However, it may be necessary for a large sized aviaries as it provides a much stronger, more durable and stable base.
Indoor aviary flooring
If you’re making an indoor aviary then it’s best to place it on a floor that is concrete or tiled and try to avoid wood floors and definitely avoid carpet flooring. Additionally, you’ll want to place down a lining to absorb the waste, for this you can use normal bird cage lining such as this one here. Also, if the aviary is small in size then you may want to create a removable tray that makes cleaning the aviary much easier.
6) Building the frame
The frame of an aviary is made up of bars/poles which are then combined with a wire mesh to create an aviary panel. Several of these aviary panels are formed together to create the frame of an aviary.
Should you use a wood or metal frame?
This frame can be made from either wood or metal (depending upon your budget and needs). A metal frame is stronger, more durable and won’t be chewed by your birds however it is also more expensive, harder to cut and work with, plus it may require extra rust protection.
On the other hand, wood is much cheaper and easier to cut but it won’t last as long, might be chewed by your birds, isn’t as strong and also needs to be treated to prevent rotting.
Metals and Woods that are ‘Bird Safe’
There are different types of both wood and metal that are safe for birds and also materials that are toxic:
Bird safe wood for aviaries
Woods that have been treated with any type of pesticides or herbicides will be classified as toxic so don’t use these. Because of this, it’s a risk using wood found on the side of the road or driftwood found on the beach. Also, if you have found a bird safe wood (and not bought it) then before building anything it’s a good idea to give it a wash.
A good place to start looking for wood for your aviary is here.
Bird safe metal for aviaries
There are a number of safe and non-safe metals available for birds. A normal good quality bird cage is usually made from steel or wrought iron and they often have a layer of powder coated paint applied. However, lower quality cages and aviaries may contain traces of harmful metals or solder containing lead. Hardware, such as screws or wiring may also be a source of toxic metals. So it’s a good idea to understand which metals are safe for your birds.
Most bird cages have some type of powder coating which stops the metal from rusting and prevents the birds from chewing the bars and wires. So this provides an extra layer of protection against unsafe metals, though it is always best to go with bird safe metals.
Start here if you’re looking for metal supplies for an aviary.
Galvanized metals. These contain a tiny amount of zinc which makes the metal rust resistant which is generally safe though there are issues as we shall see. The main issue is that there are 2 different types of galvanized metals (with one being more toxic than the other):
Galvanized before welding
During this approach, the metal is first coated with zinc, and then afterwards they are welded together. The problem with this approach is that during the welding process, the protective coating of zinc is burnt away. Because the protective coating is burnt away, these areas where the welding happened are now more likely to corrode. When the wire corrodes it will become toxic to birds.
Galvanized after welding
With this process, the entire item is first welded together and then afterwards it is coated with zinc. Because of this, no layer of zinc is removed during welding and so there are no sections that are vulnerable to rust. Therefore the wire doesn’t degrade and it is bird safe.
Hopefully, this will make you understand that metals galvanized AFTER welding are generally safe whereas metals galvanized BEFORE welding are not. Some bird owners insist that any type of galvanizing is toxic for their birds but many disagree. If you look at the bird cage market you’ll discover that a huge amount of bird cages are made using metal that is galvanized after welding.
If you decide to use galvanized metal then a common practice is to wash the metal with vinegar so that any loose bits of metal are removed.
Attaching the wire mesh to the aviary panel frame
Installing the aviary wire mesh to the frame is fairly straightforward. First, size out the wire mesh to the aviary panel. Anything over the size can be cut using a wire cutter. The mesh can then be joined to the panel with ‘u nails’ and a hammer. If the wire mesh is not big enough then two different pieces of it can be joined together using wire clips and a plier set. Also make sure that the wire mesh covers the top section of the frame so that they birds do not have access to the roofing. Don’t forget to use a wire mesh that has the correct spacing and wire size for your birds as shown here.
Recommended wire meshes include:
To attach a wire mesh the following tools can be used:
- U nails – For fastening the wire mesh.
- Hammer – For hitting the u nails into the wood and wire mesh.
- Wire Cutter – Used to adjust the sizes of the aviary mesh.
- Wire Clips – When you need to join together 2 pieces of wire or more.
- Plier Set – For finishing off any other jobs.
Painting the aviary with bird safe paints
- Most paints that are now commercially sold do not contain lead, zinc or other toxic materials that are harmful to humans or birds.
- A good quality gloss paint will give you the best finish. Paints with thinner films are also better as they are harder to chew off.
- This is also why a spray paint job is better than a normal paint job because when spray painting the final layer of paint is generally much thinner.
- Typically, a primer paint is first applied to an aviary and left to dry. Afterwards, the second gloss coat is then applied.
- Leave it several days to a week before allowing the bird to enter a painted aviary.
- Make sure your birds are in a different rooms during the painting process.
The following are listed examples of paints, primers and sprays that could be used:
Making an aviary portable
To make an aviary portable, you’ll need to consider a design that is smaller in size and weight and is made of lighter materials – all these factors will make it easier to move. You’ll then need to buy some swivel wheels and place them on the bottom of the aviary.
Small access doors
Finally, when constructing the aviary frame you might want to include a small access door that will make it easier for you to top up the feeding and watering stations. To do this, during the planning simple include an extra small section of the frame to be squared off with metal or wood. Additionally, add hinges and a door latch to this part of the frame and then you’ll have a safe and secure small access door.
7) Constructing the door
- To ensure an extra layer of safety, many outdoor aviaries include 2 sets of doors with a small walk way between the doors. This prevents any birds from flying out when the door is opened.
- Of course the door will need a set of hinges so that it can swing open.
- Put a padlock and a door latch on the aviary as some smart predators such as raccoons open normal door latches. This will also prevent children or unwanted visitors from entering.
- If you’ve decided to go for a single door design then there are a few extra things you can do to prevent escapes:
- Create a self-closing door by attaching a spring to the sides or top of the door.
- Build a door that is half the size. This is because birds fly upwards and so will have a smaller chance of escaping in an outdoor aviary with a small door.
- Attaching beads or strings to the side of the door that the door doesn’t swing into. Birds don’t like flying into anything that is hanging.
8) Putting on the roof
- All outdoor aviaries should have a roof to provide shade during the height of the day. You should also consider placing a section of waterproof cloth on one or two sides sections of the aviary. This will provide the birds with shade during the hotter parts of the early morning and late afternoon when the sun enters the aviary at an angle.
- The steeper the angle of the aviary roof, the less likely it is for a predator such as a cat to sit on the roof and disturb your birds. Also, angled roofs drain water whereas flat top roofs do not.
- Ensure the roof is waterproof by sealing the top of it with materials such as felt or a sheet of corrugated roofing.
- Test out the roofs water resistance with a hose before placing it on top of the aviary.
9) List of aviary supplies, tools and building materials
Now that you know the basics of how to build an aviary, below is a compiled list of the tools and building materials that you may need to purchase:
- Designs, blueprints and plans
10) Accessories for the inside of your aviary
Finally, after the aviary has been constructed, you’ll still want to furnish the inside of the aviary so that it’s a nice place for your bird to live. Below are some items and ideas you might want to consider:
- Drinking trays
- Feeding trays
- Real plants
- Artificial plants
- DIY Bird Toys
- Nest boxes
- Breeding boxes
- Bathing pools
- Aviary lighting
- Misters (for hot climates)
Still need more info? Require detailed blueprints and plans? Then check out the How to Build An Aviary guide that is available here.