Scott and Dee Schmitz of Redmond, Oregon
One way for your bird to experience the great outdoors is to build her an aviary.
After spending so many long winter months cooped up indoors, your bird may be getting a little cabin fever. If you are thinking of building an aviary in the spring to give your bird the chance to spread her wings outside, these dark evenings inside might be the perfect time to do a little research into your local rules and restrictions.
Zoning ordinances are governed by your city and county and the full codes should be available on those websites. Your zoning and planning departments should have knowledgeable representatives who can help you and direct you to the information that you need. Zoning dictates the type of structure that can be built within a certain zone and what activities can be conducted there. Zoning regulations will tell you, for example, how many birds can be housed in a structure, how much square footage each bird must be allotted, how large the structure may be overall and how far it must be placed from the property line.
Remember, a lot of zoning restrictions have to do with how something is defined or described, so read carefully. There may be different rules for chicken coops, pigeon aviaries and caged birds.
Normally, the rule is that the legal size and permitted use of any structure will be regulated by how your property was zoned at the time you bought it. Property zoned as farmland will have a lot more flexibility with regard to outside structures for housing animals than property zoned as residential.
Joshua Rescue Foundation of Prineville, Oregon
Natural sunlight is essential to a bird's health, and one way to provide that is to let her live outside in an aviary.
The next question to consider is building codes. Sometimes local (city and county) governments will have their own codes, and they must also follow the rules the state sets out. Building codes dictate how structures must be built in order to protect human health and safety. Again, it will be important how your structure will be defined. Perhaps your building codes have a specific category for aviaries, coops or lofts, or perhaps your structure has to meet the criteria for some kind of storage shed in order not to need a special building permit. Be sure to read the relevant rules carefully and call the staff in the planning and zoning departments when you have questions.
Once you have figured out what type of structure you can build without incurring the costs and bureaucratic headaches of a requesting a building permit or zoning variance (unless you want to build the Palace of Versailles of all aviaries, in which case you may want to discuss your plans with an attorney specializing in land use issues before you start the application process), you should make sure you comply with all the relevant restrictions. So if you have determined you can only build a temporary structure without a permit, then you need to research whether a temporary structure is permitted to have electricity, heat, and what types of materials you can use. Better check if it can have a slab foundation before you pour that concrete, otherwise you’ll have to stick with timber or gravel flooring to maintain its "temporary” character.
Another issue to consider when planning your aviary are nuisance laws. There are legal restrictions on noise, smell and other nuisances, at the state and local levels in most communities. If you have a bad relationship with your neighbors, some exuberant early morning squawking and screeching might result in a fine or even a lawsuit, so research the rules relevant to your area. The police department and animal control will probably be able to direct you to some of this information, but your state and city will also post the laws they will enforce online for you to read before there is a problem.
Manager Candace Nonnenmacher of Joshua Rescue Foundation in Prineville, Oregon, which hosts a number of outdoor aviary flights, cautions bird owners to look at the issue from their bird’s point of view as well. Setting up your aviary behind your neighbor’s woodshop or next to the garage where he renovates classic cars, may not be the best plan. "Consider the surrounding noise,” Nonnemacher advised, "Birdies need their quiet time."
One possible pitfall the Internet and your local law enforcement professionals may not be able to help you avoid are the rules specific to your development or planned community. If your deed is subject to Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, often referred to in real estate parlance as CC&Rs, read over these carefully. As Katey Kelley, a Realtor in Bend, Oregon explained, "Some developments have very strict CC&Rs that even prevent you from storing your boat on the property for more than 24 hours. Sometimes there is flexibility with what you can do with your backyard if it isn’t seen from the street, but in developments where the backyards are very close together, there are usually pretty rigid rules."
If your development has detailed CC&Rs, they will more than likely contain provisions about structures that can be built on the property. There may also be noise restrictions, particularly in the morning or evening hours or on the weekends. "Also,” Kelley said, "CC&Rs sometimes limit what kind of animals you can have on the property, or how many."
Joshua Rescue Foundation of Prineville, Oregon
The legal size and permitted use of any structure (aviaries included) will be regulated by how your property was zoned at the time you bought it.
If you don’t know what CC&Rs are relevant to your property and you can’t find your deed, you can look up your property on the county assessor’s website or go into the assessor’s office. Kelley noted, "You might try calling a local title company and asking for your CC&Rs; many will provide them without charge."
Ignoring your CC&Rs can result in warnings and fines from your Homeowner’s Association (HOA), and even a lawsuit. If your heart is set on an aviary but building one would violate your CC&Rs, consider discussing the situation with a knowledgeable land use or real estate attorney in your area.
Kelley advised bird owners to take a practical approach when considering building an aviary if they’re also thinking about putting their house on the real estate market in the near future. "If you’re in a situation where you think you might want to sell your home within the next year or two, you should build an aviary structure that is as temporary and as multi-use as possible,” she cautioned. "You just can’t count on someone wanting to use it for the same purpose, and it could keep your house on the market for longer or reduce the value.”
She added, "If a client wanted to sell their home within the next year, I wouldn’t advise them to build an aviary with permanent features like concrete flooring.”
Remember, if you represent a nonprofit organization considering building an aviary for a large number of birds, you may need to do extensive groundwork and fundraising ahead of time to guard against setbacks and unexpected costs.
Joshua Rescue Foundation had to put plans for repairs and expansion of services on hold when unwelcome predators paid a visit. As Nonnenmacher explained, "We would love to expand. But this year we had a badger problem, so we had to pay hundreds of dollars to put wire underneath the outdoor flight to keep the birds safe."
Maureen Horton-Legere and Joyce Legere, co-founders of Gifted Wings Ministries, a nonprofit educational and bird-assisted therapy organization in Tulsa, Oklahoma began construction on a lofted structure to house their therapy birds and equipment. However, when Maureen was hospitalized for a time, a quantity of the steel for the aviary was stolen.
Making changes to your property like building an aviary can give your birds a chance to experience the benefits of the wild outdoors without all those nasty drawbacks like birds of prey swooping in from on high. But codes and covenants, zoning maps and municipal permitting bodies create a vast bureaucracy at once both as protective and confining as any aviary or bird cage. Careful research and planning this winter can help you avoid potential pitfalls and let your aviary project take wing!
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