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Move Up To An Aviary

The aviary includes plenty of hanging toys and swings.

By Chris E. Wiggins

"Say good-bye, birds. You're outta here." And that's how I broke the news to our menagerie that we were moving.

Photo: Chris Wiggins
Outside view of aviary.

After a series of deep breathing exercises to gain courage, and amid a bedlam of macaw squawks and loose feathers, my wife and I herded two blue-and-gold macaws, one greenwinged macaw and an African grey parrot into their totes. They were being moved to nicer digs — their very own special aviary.

The decision had already been made months earlier. My wife and I were at the midpoint of our lives. The kids had left the nest to be replaced by four avians, two dogs and three cats. "Funny," my wife said. "I thought we were supposed to have more room with the kids gone."

The solution was apparent — a new house and, of course, for our feathered noise-makers, a new, nonconfining space in which to live. With the able assistance of our builder, we designed and constructed an upscale aviary; one with some unique features that might be useful to other bird owners.

Where And What To Build
The first consideration was that because we had these large and beautiful birds, why not make them an integral part of the house. Our house plans already included a "Florida Room" — all windows and brick floor — perfect for growing and showcasing our many houseplants. From this indoor vantage point we would have a delightful view into the aviary.

Photo: Chris Wiggins
Carmen, the greenwinged macaw, enjoys the aviary. Note the floor drain and PVC pipe as a holder for the uprights.

To the Florida room we added an aluminum, macaw-proof door. (Incidentally, macaw-proof is like childproof, nonexistent. It just takes a macaw longer to chew a hole in aluminum than in nonmetallic structures.) The door opens onto a 13- by 18- by 11-feet high enclosure. Bent steel pipes comprise the skeleton of the structure, which is stiffened by 1-inch aluminum bar stock. To this framework 1 by 2-inch welded steel wire mesh was applied, then pop riveted in place. The structure is relatively rust-free and, being attached to the house on two sides, it is protected from the wind. Importantly, we did not add an exterior door to the aviary. Macaws are expensive and have wings. We did not want one inadvertently flying out and south for the winter. The lack of an exterior door also helps with security.

Another unique feature of the aviary is the floor. It is concrete, poured with a gentle slope leading to and then beyond a floor drain. The floor drain empties into an underground French drain. (A French drain is basically an underground pile of rocks that creates an absorption area.)

The slope of the floor makes for easy washing with a water hose, pushing solid debris into a flower bed situated just outside the aviary. With the natural bird-produced fertilizer and frequent watering the most luxurious ornamentals are grown there.

Incidentally, the favorite pastime of macaws is chewing water hoses; I have found they prefer the expensive green ones with the longitudinal white stripe. So,the hose in the aviary resides in a sturdy plastic container.

Photo: Chris Wiggins
The aviary includes plenty of hanging toys and swings.

Before the floor was poured, six 7-inch diameter PVC pipes were placed and set to project 1 foot above floor level. These function as a holder for uprights and, to this, horizontals are wired to form perches. We use driftwood, gathered locally, which makes for an interesting visual appearance, but standard lumberyard 2 by 4s or 2 by 6s (non-pressure treated) would do just as well. If no garden hoses are available, macaws will immediately begin chewing on the perches. In fact, in the native South American tongue, "macaw" means "giant feathery termite." With this method of construction, it takes only a minute to replace either the horizontal or vertical components as they succumb to the effects of constantly gnawing beaks.

Lately we have added a beer keg as a nesting box for our pair of blue and golds. The final structure, complete with driftwood, rope swings and large dangling bird toys, looks as much like a primate cage as an aviary. In fact, my wife says the effect is even more striking when I am in there.

Photo: Chris Wiggins
The "T-pole" is essential for coaxing the birds down from a high roost. The nesting box is at right and garden hose container on the floor.

We live on the Mississippi Coast with the Gulf of Mexico beach directly across from our front yard. The weather is pleasant much of the year, so we often leave the birds outside at night. We do have traditional cages in the Florida room and the birds are brought inside for inclement weather and to interact with the canines, felines and primates of the household.

Chris Wiggins is an orthopedic surgeon, and his wife is a teacher. They live in Mississippi with four parrots, four cats and two dogs.


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Move Up To An Aviary

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Reader Comments
picture links are broken
la, lala, FL
Posted: 6/21/2013 5:45:49 PM
I live in New Jersey and have a flock of 4. An eclectus, macaw, and cockatoo as well as a sun conure. My fiancee has gone bird nuts, and we have been thinking about an outside aviary for our girls and I liked the sound of yours but the pic's didnt post. Could you forward some pic's.
Raymond, Bellmawr, NJ
Posted: 12/31/2009 6:41:01 AM
This article was fantastic and thoughtful. Their aviary was well thought out and filled with enrichment. I also live along the Gulf Coast and have an avairy for my flock, but the four birds that I love are small: 2 Quakers, a Sun Conure and an Eastern Blue Bird. The only problem I had with the article was that I couldn't see any of the photos. I would have loved to see this avairy! Thanks, KIT, Birdy, Kilroy, Waldo-Pepper and B.B.Blue.
Posted: 8/22/2007 12:10:16 PM
Chris, would you please re-post the aviary pictures? I am sure they look beautiful and do wish to see them. They are not visible at this time. Thank you so much, and thanks for the article. I am sure the plants are beautiful as well with all that natural fertilizers. What a splendid idea.
Phyllis, Nashville, TN
Posted: 8/19/2007 2:45:46 AM
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