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Aviary / Cage



Aviary Set-up and Compatible Birds
Controlling Mice
Home Safety
Rainy Days
Setting up a Garden Aviary



Aviary Set up and Compatible Birds


Photos and text by Mike Ashton


Most cockatiel breeders in the hot climates are going for suspended aviaries. In Brisbane, Australia where we live, it is very hot and humid and suspended aviaries give the birds plenty of ventilation and help to disperse the heat of the day. Also the workload for maintenance is cut down to a minimum amount. As you see in the photo, we have a bank of suspended aviaries for breeding, and we only breed one pair per flight. The size of ours is 1800mm long, 900mm high and 750mm wide. [see photo ] If we were to make these again, I would make them 900mm wide.


Photo 1 - Suspended Aviary

By only breeding one pair per cage we have control over what colours we want to breed, and there is no stress on the birds, protecting their area around the nest box.


We leave the chicks with their parents until they are fully weaned, at least until they are 8 to10 weeks old. We then move them to a large holding aviary, where they can get lots of exercise and are allowed to develop and mix with other birds.


Photo 2 - Holding Aviary


The size of this aviary is 20ft long, 10ft wide and 7ft high. We designed this aviary also with the heat in mind. It allows maximum ventilation and with the rain forest garden behind this aviary, this provides not only a very attractive backdrop but also adds to the cooling effect. At the moment in our holding aviary we have with our cockatiels, king parrots and princess parrots.



King Parrot

These mix quite well, but not all birds are compatible. I would never put budgerigars or lovebirds in with cockatiels, I have seen cockatiels with toes missing as a result of putting these birds together. Other birds that we have successfully put together in a non-breeding aviary are Bourke parrots, scarlet-chested parrots, red-fronted yellow Turquoise neophemas  and Gouldian finches.


I'm sure there are a lot of other parrots that will mix well together, but I'm also just as sure that things change when you put in a nest box.


Visiting King Parrots



Having a large aviary with mixed birds also attracts wild birds to visit. We have a family of king parrots that comes most days for a chat.





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Controlling Mice


by Mike Anderson


Mice infestation represents a threat to your birds health and can be unsettling to birds at night. If you are serious about having healthy birds and getting good breeding results, you will need to take both preventative and controlling measures to limit these pests.

Three basic preventative measures can make the job of controlling mice much easier. They are:

1. Prevent or restrict entry to aviaries. Design new aviaries with this in mind and modify existing aviaries where practicable.

2. If you can't keep the mice out, limit their access to food. In walk-in aviaries this can be achieved by placing seed dishes on a platform, inaccessible to mice, e.g. a smooth pipe or drum with a large high sided seed catcher on top in which food dishes can be placed. The idea is to stop the mice from getting to the feed dishes and to prevent food from spilling to the floor with the use of a suitable catching tray.

3. Don't give mice anywhere to hide. Unless in plague proportions, mice are very timid creatures and do not like to venture into exposed areas. When moving about, mice dart from one hiding place to another and like to have the security of shelter near where they feed.

Ideally aviaries should be designed to prevent mice from living either inside ( in the case of some dirt floored aviaries ) or underneath in the case of concrete slabs without rat walls. As far as possible the aviary should be designed so it cannot be used to provide a home and permanent shelter for mice. If this can be achieved , the next step is to keep the aviary surrounds clear of shrubs and general clutter where mice can find shelter and feel protected. Once mice have to venture across open space to access food, they take a higher risk of falling prey to predators such as cats, hawks, butcher birds etc during the day and cats and owls at night.

Basically, the more you can restrict entry of mice to your aviaries, and limit their access to food and deny them shelter, the less mice you will have and the easier it will be to control those that persist.

If you are still troubled with mice after implementing what preventative measures you can, it is important to have a regular trapping and/or poisoning program to keep the numbers to a minimum. Mice breed extremely fast and if you neglect their control, the numbers can easily get out of hand.

Most of my own aviaries are of the free standing, suspended style and stand between 600-800mm off the ground. There is no shelter for mice to live inside these cages and whilst I don't doubt they could manage to run up the legs of the cages at night, they tend not to. I believe this is so because the grass underneath and around the cages is kept short ( well, most of the time !) and generally there is no close shelter to afford these pests a sense of security.

Let me give an example of how vulnerable they are to predators in open space:

Whilst doing some aviary construction, we left a wheelbarrow turned upside down on the lawn near the aviaries for several weeks. When we came to use it again, a mouse that had made it's home underneath, shot out and raced across the open spaces of yard to escape. He was in full flight and had covered about 15 metres before a butcher bird swooped and took him without even landing.

In summarising the main points, remember to:

1. Prevent or restrict entry to cages.

2. Limit access to food.

3. Limit areas around the cages where they can shelter and hide ; be persistent in eradicating mice and never give them an opportunity to build up their numbers.


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Home Safety for Pet Birds


by Robyn Ashton


No matter how careful we are there always seems to be something that is dangerous to our birds, especially if they have free run of the house. It is important to minimise the possibility of accidents as much as we can to ensure that our pet birds live long and happy lives.

I am sure that over the years many pet birds have mysteriously died without the true cause ever being ascertained. I have compiled a list of some of the dangers that can befall pet birds. If anyone has any others to add to this list, I would be happy to include them in a future edition of the journal.



Let's get this one out of the way first. Although it seems an obvious thing to be careful with your bird when they are around cats, dogs or other more bizarre pets you may wish to keep, I think what often happens is that people become a bit complacent. It can only take just a split second for the unthinkable to happen, with either the bird being where it shouldn't be or the cat or dog turning up unexpectedly. The only way to ensure this doesn't occur is with set rules for all family members about supervision of all pets.



We, as breeders, all know about the dangers of heavy metal poisoning in an aviary situation, but pet owners can have just as much problem inside the house. In older-style houses the paint could still contain lead, and if the bird chews any flaking paint, lead poisoning will occur. Another very common source of lead poisoning in pet birds is from the lead weights in curtains. Leadlight windows are also a place in the home where an inquisitive little bird can come to grief. Fishing tackle not only contains dangerous hooks that could do harm, but lead sinkers are lethal. Every household is different. You need to have a good look around and check if your house contains anything likely to cause heavy metal poisoning.



Birds love to chew plants. This is an undeniable fact. The trouble is, many of our indoor plants are toxic to our pet birds. Check with your local nursery if you are not sure, but as a general rule anything with a milky sap can be dangerous not only to birds but to small children as well. If you can't bring yourself to remove all your plants, at least put them in a part of the house your bird doesn't have access to.



Now, I personally don't think a pet bird should ever be allowed to be in a kitchen whilst food is being cooked, ovens are on, hot water is in sinks, boiling water is on hotplates or any other activity where hot surfaces are exposed to your bird. Over the years I have lost count of how many horrifying stories I have been told of pet birds flying into hot fry pans or boiling water, only to suffer terrible burns. The best place for your bird while cooking is in progress is in a cage, safe and sound.



Chemicals & Sprays There are so many cleaning products and insect sprays on the market these days, containing goodness knows what, that can do harm to your pet birds. When you purchase these types of products read the label, and if it sounds too toxic, don't buy it. Instead, choose something that is made from natural products, e.g. fly sprays made from natural pyrethrum. If you do use any of the stronger, more dangerous preparations, keep them well away from where your bird may go. Never spray anything near your bird's food and water dishes. If in doubt, throw it out.



Fumes can be also harm your bird. Teflon pans can give off toxic fumes if left unattended on a hot stove. Strong paint fumes could be a problem if there is little ventilation. The best idea would be to move the bird to a different place until paint fumes have dispersed. Fumes from a welder can also be fatal.




Once again our intrepid little chewers will no doubt find something to chew that they shouldn't. Be aware of what they're up to if they have been behind the stereo or TV for too long. It's the old story if they are too quiet chances are they are up to mischief. I once had a pet Cockatoo who managed to reach out quite a distance from his cage and pull a lamp cord through the bars and start chewing on it. The first I knew of it was when I heard a very loud bang and I looked to see my Cockatoo sitting on his perch looking a bit stunned with black soot all over his face repeating to himself "Bad Boy, Bad Boy!"

Luckily that incident had a happy ending but it made me very aware of exactly where all the power cords were.




Just recently we have seen the nationwide recall of a generic brand of seed from one of the major supermarkets chains. Thankfully the pet bird owner is becoming more aware of the fact that all seed mixes are not alike, and of the need to provide their pet with a top quality seed mix if they want to have a happy and healthy pet bird for a long time. Our association with Bird Munchies to develop their "Cockatiel Blend Seed Mix" is going a long way toward educating pet owners, not only on the care of their pet Cockatiel but also on the benefits of a good clean seed mix with the right combinations of the suitable seeds especially for Cockatiels.




Small children and pet birds don't always go together. I am sure some "littlies" are just great but there are others who may hold on a bit too hard to a fragile little bird and cause quite a bit of damage. This can especially become a problem with visiting children who perhaps are not used to birds. Once again the best place for birdie to be at this time is safe and sound in a cage.


Platinum Cock


Many pet cockatiels suffer from night frights, although most of the time pet owners don't even realise it. I have had many calls where people have told me that their bird is mutilating itself. After further questioning I usually find out that they have never actually seen the bird hurting itself and, yes, when they noticed the bird bleeding it was first thing in the morning. 

The part of the birds' body that is injured usually confirms that a night fright has occurred. Most birds that have experienced a night fright will thrash around wildly in their cage, causing trauma to the front edges of their wings. If your pet bird does experience night frights, the best thing to do is to leave a low night light on so that when he does get a fright, he can see where he is and not do too much damage to himself. Our pet cockatiel, Nigel, sometimes has night frights, but I usually hear him and I get up and go and turn a light on for him.



If your pet bird was to fall into the toilet bowl, chances are he would not be able to get out and could drown if you did not realise where he was. There is an easy solution to this one. Keep the lid down!



Another obvious one but often not realised until too late. For all the hazards around the home, there are a whole lot more once your pet bird flies off into the wild blue yonder. Once again, when visitors are in the house it can be (potentially) a very dangerous time. Normal routine tends to go out the window (as can your unclipped bird) when you have extra people in the house, so take extra care that if your bird is out of the cage, everyone in the house is aware of the fact and takes necessary precautions to ensure doors and windows are closed.



This is a biggie. In the battle of bird against ceiling fan, bird rarely wins. Never, never, never have a bird out of its cage when a ceiling fan is on anywhere in the house. One member of our club has a pet who was saved by the expertise of an avian veterinarian, but not until after delicate surgery, including a beak rebuild. "Billy" was lucky. Many often aren't.



I hope I haven't made pet ownership sound too exhausting, but it stands to reason that forewarned is forearmed. A little bit of good old common sense goes a long way, and don't wait until something goes wrong to think about possible hazards around the home. In the event that your pet bird does sustain an injury or appears unwell, don't delay in seeking advice from your avian vet.

Generally speaking, once a bird is showing signs of being unwell it is usually quite ill, as the bird's natural survival instinct will allow it to mask initial signs of illness in an effort to avoid becoming prey.


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Rainy Days and Mondays

by Robyn Ashton


Rainy weather brings with it a whole lot of different responsibilities you need to look at with your birds. It is especially difficult to get used to when there hasn't been much rain in your area for a while. But here in south-east Queensland we have just had the wettest summer for many years. I think most of us had forgotten what really heavy, constant rain was like. While it is great for the garden I think most bird keepers would rather see sunny skies any day.

Wet weather is when you really count your blessings if you have suspended aviaries. They alleviate a lot of work you might otherwise have, cleaning up wet floors. As long as your roof and walls don't let water in, the worst thing that can happen in a suspended aviary is that if the rain is blowing on a bit of an angle your seed may get wet. 

It is very important to check the seed whenever there has been rain. The seed bowl or feeder may not necessarily look like it has gotten wet, but it still could be. You really need to make sure by taking it out ,having a good look and putting your hand down to the bottom of the container to check for moisture. If the seed is damp or wet THROW IT OUT. Dry off the container and refill it with fresh seed. If you think more rain is around, don't fill the feeder up to full capacity, so that if it happens again you won't have as much waste. Obviously, in that case, you will have to top up more frequently than when you fill the feeder to capacity.

Conventional aviaries usually mean a bit more work unless you are lucky enough to have a super, duper drainage system that keeps your floors dry. If you aren't that lucky, you may find that after torrential rain there will be a soggy mess awaiting you in the back garden. The most important thing is to make sure the floor is as clean as possible, so that even though it is wet there is nothing down there like seed or greens or excess droppings that are likely to attract mould and disease. Once again, as with the suspendeds, check your seed supply to make sure it isn't damp or wet. If you have concrete floors, they could be washed down with a bleach solution to keep any nasties away. With dirt or sand floors, once any seed etc has been removed, a good raking will usually be required to freshen things up a bit.

Chicks in the nest can also need some extra attention in wet weather. Nesting material can become mouldy, so watch carefully to see when it needs to be replaced. Mites also seem to thrive in hot, wet weather, so a liberal dusting of the box with a carbaryl-based powder is always a good preventative measure. The main thing to remember is to check everything carefully and don't put off cleaning or changing wet seed.


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Setting up a Garden Aviary

by Howard Brown


With a combination of flora and fauna you can achieve a scene of beauty and ever-changing variety. This can apply to any garden area, no matter how large or small. All that's required is a little preplanning and imagination.

When constructing a garden aviary, its purpose is to bring pleasure and enjoyment to the beholder and its entirely up to you if you create a setting that's attractive to the eye, or stark, plain and a bit of an eyesore.

A complex can be softened by painting the wire dark green or black and adding a few well-chosen shrubs in surrounding rockeries and garden beds. The result is a natural and appealing setting that will add to the contentment of your collection of birds whilst also serving as a attraction to wild birds.

All too often, aviaries are built smack in the middle of a yard or backing onto a surrounding fence. I have proven that space is no problem as my home is located on a small allotment, approximately 27 perches, typical of many suburban gardens.

Visitors have never ceased to be amazed at the number of good sized aviaries that I have managed to blend among the trees and shrubs. In some instances I was able to locate the aviaries amongst existing shrubbery, however, with others I purchased appropriate shrubs and ground covers after they were built and did a little landscaping.

Like a lot of aviculturists, I started out with one aviary, then two and from then they just seemed to go on increasing in number. At one stage I was servicing up to 22 aviaries daily. Being a keen gardener, I started out to create an attractive garden but realised that it could become so much more appealing with the addition of a colourful collection of birds. If you haven't done so, why not try this combination.

I would suggest that you select shrubs that are safe for your birds, look good, supply a little shade during the summer months, act as windbreak and at the same time, attract wild birds to your garden.

Apart from anything else, the presentation of your aviaries can create a strong selling point for your birds. It was a real boost when one customer, while admiring the garden, made the following comment " This is the type of setting I always hope to see but rarely come across".

It's remarks like this that make you try a little harder to achieve an appeal that will impress potential buyers and add to the pleasure of keeping birds.


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