The design of your aviary will depend on several factors – the number of birds you want to keep, the outdoor area available, the amount you are able to spend on it, and the views of your family (and neighbours!). You will also need to bear in mind the weather, and ensure that your budgies have the heat and shelter they need to cope with cold winters.
You will need to check local by-laws or contracts to make sure there are no issues around aviary noise or planning permissions. In the UK, no planning permission is required for a structure built on your own land under 2.5 metres high.
Building an Aviary
If building from scratch, a cement or rubble foundation is best, with a concrete floor on top. This can be hosed down easily, and will not be the muddy, disease-ridden quagmire that an earth floor can transform into. The concrete will also prevent mice and rats from burrowing under the aviary.
If you leave holes in the concrete you’ll be able to plant some shrubs or small trees in the aviary. Gravel or sawdust can be spread on the floor, but remember that you will have to clean the space out.
The frame of the aviary can be stone, metal (non-rusting) or plastic. The walls and roof should be made from an appropriate galvanised wire mesh. The wire should be no thinner than 16-gauge for budgies; but bear in mind that a larger parrot such as a cockatiel may be able to chew through something that thin. Thinner wire is also fragile – if anything falls against it, holes can easily open up at the sides.
Budgie perched on the side of an outdoor aviary
The door of an aviary can be the most challenging part of the design. A ready-made one is a handy short-cut, and a sliding structure saves on space. Some sort of porch area, to accommodate an inner and outer door, will prevent birds from escaping.
You will need to build a covered space in the aviary, to enable the birds to escape the ravages of the weather. This should take up at least a third of the space. Use corrugated plastic panels or untreated hardwood to make a roof and at least two walls. The area does not have to be closed off completely – it’s a wind and sun shade, not a place to hide. Additional, removeable wall sections (with holes for entry and exit) and a bit of insulation are handy for the colder months.
Having said that, if your aviary is a big one, a permanent indoor space is a good option – somewhere for the birds to escape the outdoors completely if they want to, and to nest. (See Keeping Budgies Warm in Winter, below).
Budgie Aviary Size
The size of your aviary will dictate the maximum number of birds you can accommodate. As a rule of thumb, you need at least 13cm aviary length per budgie, with a width measuring at least half the length. So, in a cage measuring 130x130x65cm you can house 10 budgies. Scaling up, an aviary of 650x650x325cm will accommodate 50 budgies.
Budgies perched outdoors
Budgie aviary accessories
An aviary will need kitting out like a cage, only on a larger scale. Make sure there is more than one feeding and drinking area, and plenty of perches and swings, etc, to keep all the inmates happy and comfortable.
Keeping budgies warm outdoors
If your birds are kept in an outdoor aviary, you should heat it in the colder months. There are several things you can do to make sure it’s as warm as possible, though, even without the added heaters. The covered, interior section of the aviary should be completely weatherproof, and you can insulate the interior too. Following the same basic principle as house insulation, construct walls with a gap between the interior and exterior. This cavity can be lined or filled with polystyrene, bubblewrap or a similar insulating material. Polystyrene sheets covered with plywood work a treat.
Budgies do not like draughts, so even in the warmer months they need a place to escape the whims of the weather. Lots of cosy nesting boxes and ledges in the enclosed area of your aviary will help the birds keep warm.
In a mild British winter you can get away with these precautions and nothing else; but in a colder snap, only the addition of extra heating will guarantee the survival of your birds.
Budgies crowding together on an aviary perch
To keep the budgies safe as well as warm, you need to make sure the heat supply is non-hazardous:
- Never use an open fire (in a garden brazier or barbecue pan, for example). The smoke and fumes from these can kill budgies (something to bear in mind if you’re using said items in the garden and the wind is blowing in the direction of the aviary).
- Don’t use a house heater, whether gas or electric. These are not just fire hazards, they also release fumes which are toxic to the birds.
- Camping stoves are no good either – toxic fumes are the problem once again.
- If there’s no electricity in the aviary, seriously consider supplying it. Otherwise you might struggle. One option is to put hot water bottles in the covered section of the cage. These will lose heat overnight, but should be enough to make the budgies comfortable. Always cover the bottles to prevent the roosting birds getting scorched.
- If you have an electricity supply in the aviary, a powerful bulb or two (120 watts is good) or a ceramic heat lamp (up to 250 watts) will do the job. These will need heat-proof covers to prevent the birds burning themselves.
- You can buy purpose-made aviary tube-lamp heaters, or wall-mounted heaters, of suitable size too. Some of these come with thermostats, which is ideal – when it dips below a certain temperature the heater will kick in. 5C is a good setting: any higher and it will be kicking in all the time in the UK!
- Carry out regular checks on any appliance you use, to make sure it’s working as it should.