A dove aviary can be elaborate or plain — it is up to the dove enthusiast. However, successful aviaries of all kinds share some fundamental similarities.
Doves are creatures that love sunshine. They thrive in an aviary that is dry, draught free and sunny. Maximum exposure to the sunshine is paramount. Southern or southeastern facing aviaries take advantage of the beneficial and healthy rays of the sun. Skylights are an excellent addition to an aviary because they provide lots of sunlight and enhance the interior.
Our aviaries are all facing south. During the summer, shade cloth provides relief for doves that need to get out of the direct sun. Our experience has been that most species are comfortable even on triple digit days! During the hottest part of the day, we never enter the aviaries and frighten the doves. They will succumb to heat stroke if they fly around. In hot temperatures, we feed and water our doves either in early morning or evening, when it is cooler. At all times, provide doves with clean, fresh water.
Flooring For Dove Aviaries
The pros and cons of what to use for flooring in dove aviaries are endless. I've tried many different floors with varying degrees of success. Our largest aviary has cleaned sand at a depth of 30 inches. This aviary is easy to rake clean and has excellent drainage. Sand can be dusty, so ventilation is essential. Potted plants sunk into the sand provide an attractive natural environment. Doves will not destroy the plants. Placing plants in areas that are free of perches will prevent droppings on the plants. Nothing looks so awful as a poor "whitewashed" plant struggling to survive.
Wood floors are easy to maintain. A dry litter such as ground corncobs, crushed walnut shells or any absorbent material will do well. Kitty litter contains chemicals and can be too dusty for an aviary.
Dirt floors are a poor choice. Dirt floors that are damp harbor parasite eggs and are breeding grounds for disease.
Wire bottoms are easy to clean, sanitary and attractive, but doves do not do well on wire bottoms. They develop "bumble-feet" (large sores on their feet) and will cease to breed. Fly pens with very small mesh wire flooring may work. Lots of perches will eliminate the doves staying on wire for long periods of time.
Safety Porches In Your Dove Aviary
Doves are excellent escape artists. A small safety porch, whether inside or out, will protect your valuable doves from escaping when you open the door to feed and water your birds. If a safety porch is not practical, make the outside door 4 feet high. Doves fly upwards and will not get out. Another suggestion is to hang an old sheet or piece of material over the door. When the door is open, the material will prevent birds from exiting.
Special Aviaries For Special Dove Species
Obviously, the aviary that houses your doves needs to be tailored to the needs of the species you keep. Small doves require less space than larger species. Aviaries that are spacious and clean are conducive to good health. Dark, dank, overcrowded aviaries are a ticking timebomb for disease and stress.
Dove Aviary Size
The size of an aviary is relative to the number of doves you plan to maintain. Check with county zoning regulations before you build. Visit dove fanciers and take notes on their aviaries. Incorporate the best ideas in your aviary.
Aviaries can be constructed inexpensively with used materials. Painted, they can be very attractive. A handy person with proper tools can build a nice aviary. Having an aviary built by a contractor and purchasing new material can be expensive, depending on its size and location.
We recently had a new aviary built by a contractor. Permits were needed, materials purchased and finally construction was started. Fortunately our contractor had experience building aviaries. A contractor that has not built an aviary before will need detailed blueprints drawn by a draftsman. Install electricity and running water in the aviary. The conveniences of both electricity and water will outweigh the initial costs to have them installed.
Wire Mesh For Dove Aviaries
Wire that is a quarter inch is best suited for doves. Larger wire affords predators easy access to dismember a dove by reaching in and snatching a sleeping or frightened bird. All wire painted with a flat black metal paint will enhance the aviary. The lack of a reflection from shiny silver wire will give the aviary a natural appearance. The doves appear as if they are not enclosed at all!
How Much Space Per Dove?
For small species, I suggest at least 3 square feet per dove. For larger, pigeon-sized doves, a minimum of 5 square feet of space per individual is required. The more space the better. In the wild, some species have territories that are measured in square miles! Doves and pigeons are very territorial. Same species males will fight, often to the death, if they are crowded. Cover is important. A male can be aggressive toward its mate and kill her if she cannot find cover in bushes or shrubby.
Whether you're planning an aviary that is large or small, ornate or plain, expensive or not is immaterial. The needs of the doves are most important. The location, weatherizing for the climate you are in, and how conducive this environment will be for your birds are the main factors.
Our aviaries are located in an orchard. Although I cannot plant flowers and shrubs like we had at our old residence (because of our sheep!), they still blend in beautifully.
What a joy it is to see a beautiful, clean and well-taken care of aviary. I'm sure the doves appreciate it, as well as the neighbors!