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Aviary cages Outdoor aviary Aviary on porch

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Indoor Sunroom for doves

An aviary can be elaborate or simple. Keeping the aviary clean will be the most important criteria for a successful aviary. Here are some additional key points to include when constructing any aviary. 


The aviary should have a roof that protects the birds from weather and direct sunlight that might overheat the birds or the aviary. A little (small beam) sunlight that the doves can bask in is ok as long as the doves can get into the shade and the temperature in the aviary does not get too hot. 


Walls should be easily cleanable with a hose and provide a seal to protect the birds from predators and rats. Do not use lead based paint or paint that can peel. Always use a water based primer before applying the water based latex paint. 


Do not use pressure treated wood. It is treated with a poisonous cyanide. The best choices for outdoor wood is Smooth cedar or smooth redwood. Do not use rough woods which can harm the doves. Always set any wood in concrete or other concrete support. Wood to earth contact allows termites, wood rot and other problems. Wood can mildew so take care that it does not stay damp. So not use regular wire for aviary cage walls. Dogs and other animals can chew right through chicken wire and other types of wire. I have seen them do it. If using wire for doors or walls, the only safe cage wire is a very heavy fence wire called "Hardware cloth" can be purchased at any home improvement store. The smaller the wire squares, the better and safer it is for the birds. Doves should have no larger than 1/2 inch squares. The wire should be fully supported on a wooden frame with heavy staples (T-50) and completely sealed to prevent entry of rats and other creatures. Do not use any other type of wire. Dogs and predators and tear right through it. Also ensure that your aviary has some type of solid footing and flooring so animals, dogs and other predators cannot burrow under the walls. If you are using a dirt floor, a solid barrier around the perimeter 6-8 inches deep in the earth and raised above the earth where the wire and walls can be securely fastened to it to prevent predators from digging or squeezing under. They will do it. Do not wait for disaster to occur. Do it right the first time. There are predators you cannot imagine which will try to get into the aviary.

Weather proofing:

For cold weather, heavy plastic sheeting can be stapled over any openings to block drafts and thoroughly sealed with Duct tape, but it should completely protect against drafts. 


An electrical fluid type radiator as seen in the top center photo is the only type of portable heat source I recommend. These portable heaters are designed to look like old style radiators, except that it uses a permanently sealed fluid. They wont start any fires if  something comes into contact with the radiator and they have auto shut offs if the heater turns over, which is why it is the only safe type of heater to have around pets and children. It does not create carbon dioxide and has no exposed heat source. The birds can stand or poop on it and your cats and dogs can snuggle up against it without any fear of harm to the pet or the heater. These cost less than $40 and are available at any Wal Mart or Lowes. 


Any open heat source, red hot coils or flame type of heat will catch on fire and burn up your aviary or your house (The chances are 100% that these will cause a fire in an aviary full of feathers.) The red hot coils or flame type heaters will also burn up oxygen and kill the flock in an aviary or your other pets and human life in your house with carbon dioxide. I keep my aviary between 70 and 75 degrees all year and never allow it to get colder than 65 at the very lowest. I keep a large thermometer on the wall. It is not recommended to ever use an extension cord, but if you do use an extension cord, it must be rated to carry the correct electrical load or it will catch on fire. This will require a VERY heavy outdoor extension cord rated better than 1500 watts. Check the label, tags on the cord and instructions that come with the heater for the specific rating required. Yellow Jacket, heavy duty construction extension cords can be purchased at Lowes. Do not use more than one extension cord because the rating on it only applies to that specific length. A properly grounded and installed electrical outlet is a must. If the cord or plug gets warm or hot near the outlet, immediately turn it off until you can get the correct rated cord or proper sized amperage outlet. It will cause a fire if an overheated cord is not promptly disconnected. This is evidence that the heater is pulling more current than the cord or outlet can handle. Never force a breaker to stay on.


If you do not have central air, a window air conditioner can be used, but it would have to have the proper electrical connections and sizing plus proper support and would need frequent cleaning of the filter. Adequate ventilation and protection from the sun are important in hot weather. A place where the birds can bath in clean water should be available.


An overhead light would also be a nice addition if you have the wiring to install one. You will need to ensure that you have enough visibility when you are in the aviary and that the birds are not able to land on top of the light you select. Florescent light fixtures would be the best choice.

Predators, insects and rats:

Prevent the wood from coming in direct contact with the earth or it will provide a harbor and attraction for termites and other pests. Flashing, concrete, or fitted masonry pillars can be used to prevent this. It is important that nothing can dig under or climb into the aviary so a barrier of something like concrete or wire should go at least a foot deep into the soil. Dirt floors do not provide protection against invasion so the whether you use a wire grid or some other flooring that seals out the possibility of intruding creatures such as rats, dogs, snakes, cats, moles and other such creatures that may endanger the lives of the birds, is the important issue to consider first. Keeping the floor clean and dry is the second issue to consider. Whether you plan to rake, vacuum or mop the floor, you will need to be able to keep the floor clean of seeds and droppings. My aviary has deck flooring which I keep covered with heavy vinyl runners (also available at home improvement centers). The flooring is protected and easily cleanable. Remember that seeds will attract rats so it is an important responsibility to consider when planning to build an aviary.


Be sure that the aviary is sealed from intruding creatures top to bottom, including where the roof meets the walls and the doors and windows.


Double dooring is important to avoid accidental escape of birds. This is much like a small entrance area where you have to enter through a second set of doors to get into the aviary. If a bird gets out through the first door, it will be stopped by the second door. Plastic sheeting can be hung across the door as an extra barrier if the second door is not available.


Doors should be latched with a spring type hook or locking type mechanism that cannot be pried open by a smart animal. Raccoons are quit intelligent. Don't use a simple hook that can be opened without a latching mechanism. Don't use a padlock because you will not be able to get into the aviary quickly enough if there is an emergency such as fire, predator or injury. Twist type locking hasps are good but only work on the outside and you would need a second latch to keep the door securely closed while you are inside the aviary.


In addition to sealing the aviary against predators, it is important to ensure that the doves cannot get their feet or head caught or trapped on anything in the aviary. Also ensure that birds outside of the aviary cannot poop or stick their heads into the aviary where they could infect your flock. Make sure that there are no sharp items that would injure your birds

Perches, nests & cages:

If there is any chance of a snake or mouse entering the aviary, then the type of rabbit cage wiring I  use in my fully sealed aviary will not protect the birds. There is a heavy wiring  called hardware cloth with variable  spaced crisscross grid spacing as small as 1/8 with to keep out predators. Available at Lowe's and  other home or farm supplies  in the rolled fencing wire sections.   It can either be used for aviary enclosures or to build cages. While this is ok  to use this on cages for doves with soft bills because they cannot bite, do not use this  to make cages for hard beak birds which can bite the wire because it may contain lead or other toxins.  However,  some pet & farm supplies have a coated wire similar to hardware cloth wire or store bought bird cage bars. If it is a baked enamel type of protective coating like used on the bars of a pet store bird cage, then it will be ok to use. However, if it is a soft coating, vinyl, paint or other material which the bird can scrape off or ingest, then it could poison the bird if you use it for cage wiring. Be sure to investigate the wire carefully for spacing and  toxins and safe coatings. There is also a behavioral difference between the tendency to bite cage wire than the wire on the wall of an aviary. Keep in mind that the minimum wage employee at the pet store or farm  or home supply is NOT an expert on metals, birds, wiring or toxins. People have a tendency to give assurances they have no qualifications to make. Don't take anyone's word for something. Not even mine. I could make an error as well. So always check out anything you buy for safety and toxins. Keeping in mind that birds are sensitive to the slightest thing which other species are not. This is why they use birds in coal mines to check for gas. They die.


The aviary should be large enough for the doves to fly. They will need  1/2" to 3/4" perches. Branches or wooden dowels can be used. Flat areas are nice where the doves can walk around. Don't stack the perches so they are pooping down on the birds below. Also consider the poop they will produce in nesting or perch areas. Doves constantly eat and constantly poop. However, at least it is not runny poop like geese. Use a paint or spackling spatula to remove it from surfaces. 


Do not allow open roofs so wild birds can poop bacteria and disease into your aviary or cages. Not to mention the fact, if something gets on top of your aviary like a cat or squirrel or even worse, a hawk... your doves and other birds will try to kill themselves in a frenzy to escape. I had this very situation occur when a red tail hawk was on the roof of my house 20 ft from the aviary... where they could not see it nor did it make any noise except for the flapping of its large wings and the shadow it cast... but they knew it was there and every bird went insane in a wild frenzy. I had 2 deaths from doves which jammed themselves behind the cages to hide and babies that were killed by trampling and thrown from the nest. Doves aren't very smart... except for pieds. Most other doves will walk on their babies and have no interest in what became of a baby even though it is only an inch outside the nest. They will also walk on hot surfaces or allow poop to cake up on their feet walking through it, completely oblivious that they even have feet or are walking on something they shouldn't. I get the impression they have very little feeling in their feet.


While plywood may look like it makes great nest boxes, keep in mind the toxic fumes of glues in plywood or particle boards. Particle boards also warp when wet. Plus, wood is too porous to be able to keep clean and disinfected. I tried the wiring baskets but the straw kept falling through. So the best nests I have ever used are the plastic bowls which fasten to the wall of a cage with a wing nut and can be twisted off the base to remove and clean. These can also be fastened to the wall of an aviary but you will need to create an inner aviary partition if you aren't using cages because you need to place your hands on both sides of the wire at the same time to fasten it down. You can't do that on the aviary wiring unless a second person is outside to help. So a hinged partition you can lock down might be an idea if you are using these types of nests in the open aviary. I have washable  formica shelves lined with paper under each perch to keep the droppings from the floor. 


Nests should be large enough for the dove to sit in and keep clean. They will also need nesting materials such as hay, alfalfa and twigs about the thickness of an 8 penny nail 3 inches long which are free of mites and other pests. The doves will keep adding materials as long as the female continues to flick her wings. The males will get quite frustrated if they cannot find nest materials to deliver to the flicking female. Keep the nests about chest high if in an open aviary. Mating cages can give your doves privacy and prevent neighbors from moving in or starting a fight. They certainly keep the aviary cleaner. Free flight is great for some birds but doves rarely spend more than a moment in flight. They are sedentary birds. They spend most of their time perching, standing or walking. So they would spend all their time walking around on the floor being pooped on and walking in poop. The aviary is much cleaner with cages and the doves have no problem mating inside them. You can also control who is mating with whom much better than open flight. However, you can also let them out in the aviary for a while as you prefer and are prepared to clean. You should be VERY, VERY careful about loose doves in an aviary getting stepped on. They get on the floor and under feet while you are inside. If you are carrying water containers or seed bags you may not see them. My late spouse killed a couple of my doves by accidentally stepping on them. He loved the birds and spent a lot of time caring and cleaning for them while I was working. But accidents do happen. Sometimes he was much like the doves in respect to what was under his feet.


An aviary should have enough room to keep distance between the doves and their territories. Male doves do not like each other and may have to be separated. See the main page section on nests and cages for more information on options. Silkies do not fly so special care has to be taken to enable them to stay off of the ground and reach the food.

Food & water:

All birds need fresh clean water and food each day. They like to throw seed when they eat but that can be minimized by putting a shield around the sides of the food dish. They will also try to poop in the water so try to give them alternative higher perches to sit on and they will stay off of the water and food dishes in favor of the higher perches.

Decorating with Birds:

The Sunroom photo is an example of how a room can be decorated tastefully with bird cages. Since my late ex husband had asthma, the doves who live in the house must be kept in a separate room to isolate the dust (see allergy section for more information on dust control). Yes, he died from his asthma... but more than 5 years after he no longer had birds. Someone who has asthma should never smoke anything. 


This sunroom is actually a formal dining room that has glass windows on the wall adjoining the living room where I can enjoy countless hours watching the doves. The door is sealed with a sheet of plastic trimmed with velcro so I can go in and out of the room and reseal the dust barrier. The room also has an excellent ionizer from the Sharper Image. The decor has been done in black oriental style which accents the birds which is a common design on many oriental furnishings. The cost was relatively inexpensive. The room has a large window with adjustable shades for regulating sunlight and an extra electric heater like the one used in the aviary, so that the sunroom can be kept at 75 degrees which is warmer than the rest of the house. The only complaint I get from everyone is that they are disappointed that the sunroom is the nicest looking room in the house and is  designed just for the doves. Although I don't have the same type of decor in the other rooms, each room in the house has a unique theme in the decor to create its own personality and a pleasant blend of styles.


With the aviary through the windows on the north side of the living room and the sunroom on the south side of the living room, I can see all of my doves from one room.


My new aviary is being constructed on my back porch where the roof of the house extends over the porch area and three sides are bordered by the house, windows and doors. The outer wall will be three sliding glass doors. Central heating and cooling will be added along with a skylight.