Outdoor Bird Aviary

Designing An Outdoor Parrot Flight or Aviary

Considerations for an Outdoor Flight or Aviary for your Companion Parrots

Let’s explore the features of designing an outdoor parrot flight that will provide comfort, security, discovery, enrichment and exercise.

Outdoor Flight HARI
Outdoor Flight Design – Soft Ground Aviary

Outdoor Cage Construction and Safety Considerations

Safety considerations pertaining to responsibly housing parrots outdoors are just as important as indoors (i.e lead-free paints and metals, desensitization prior to introducing new accessories, caution with flighted birds etc.). Here are some basic safety considerations when deciding to build an outdoor parrot flight.

  • Minimum size housing for species to provide comfort, enrichment and exercise.
  • Specific species design requirements ( ex.hanging baths for lories).
  • Durable and bird safe materials.
  • Cage design should simplify maintenance.
  • Wire material should be the right size and gauge and have the appropriate spacing for the size of bird and beak strength.
  • Construction design and materials should outlast the curiosity, determination, ingenious minds and dexterity of some species such as the Goffin cockatoos and green-winged macaws.
  • Regular inspection of the flight is necessary to ensure its integrity has not been compromised.
  • Consult with your electrician for advice regarding the electrical output that will be required should you be incorporating the various electrical elements (heated perches, basking light, full spectrum lights, water garden pump, exterior electrical fence, surveillance camera).
  • Two-door system spaced at least a couple feet apart to avoid being opened simultaneously (both doors should have their own lock).
  • If more than one aviary or flight, get locks that have a common key in case of emergency.
  • Flight constructions must be safe from all predators. Ideally two layers of wire of different gauge are used (species specific) with at least a 2-inch gap between the panels.
  • An electrical fence can be installed on the exterior of the flight to prevent predators from climbing onto the flight. These must be installed with professional advice to ensure no electricity comes in contact with the structural wire of the flight nor any other conductive material. Some devices are stronger and may require their own ground.
  • Flashing (metal sheeting approx. 3-ft height) is an alternative in preventing predators from climbing the walls of the flight.
  • Trim branches from overhanging trees that might give access to predators.

Types of Flooring for the Outdoor Aviary

Soft Ground Aviary
Different layers of gravel and sand or volcanic rock can be used as an under layer for drainage covered by larger pebbles or gravel for weeding and easier cleaning. The top layer should not have pebbles that are small enough to be ingested by your parrot. Wire mesh of very small spacing must be installed under the gravel layers, to prevent predators and birds from digging their way in or out. This under gravel mesh must be fastened to the exterior walls.

Cement Flooring Aviary
Cement Flooring Aviary – A smooth surface is easier for maintenance.

Cement Flooring Aviary
Makes structure of flight more stable, and if properly installed longer lasting, also prevents predators from entering flight from the ground. A smooth surface is easier for maintenance. Bacteria can grow easily in cracks of a rougher surface. Cement can be touched-up annually to maintain the surface.

Regardless of your choice of flooring, a footing of blocks, bricks or cement should be built under the support of the metal structure of the aviary.

Inquire about the municipal laws and abide by its rules

  • Permits may be required prior to the onset of construction. Inspectors may be required to ensure the foundations or structure will not damage, or be in proximity of a ground or air electrical or communications wire or cables, gas and water lines, neighbors’, pools, septic and water reservoirs, etc.
  • Should your design include an access to an indoor bird room, follow the building codes in your area.

Location of the Outdoor Flight is an Important Decision

  • Respectfully consider the proximity of your aviary to your neighbors. Not all neighbors will appreciate the vocal screams of your parrots. Be considerate in order to maintain good relationships with your neighbors. Shrubs can be planted in addition to your fence to increase the sound barrier effect. To reduce curiosity and possible theft of your cherished feathered companions, consider the ideal location of the aviary to ensure it remains secluded to outsiders.
  • The flight should not be located near exhaust vents (oil, gas, fire place).
  • The flight should not be in close proximity to startling, irritating noises such as thermal pumps, air condition systems, railroad tracks, etc.
  • If your parrots sleep in the outdoor aviary, take into consideration movement sensor lights can be disturbing, alarming and can compromise quality sleep.
  • If this flight serves to house more than one parrot, special considerations must be taken to ensure there is compatibility within the flock.
  • Blinders, supplemental feeding stations, and sufficient perching areas are required to ensure harmony in the flock.
  • A sheltered area should be designed to offer a retreat in case of harsh winds, burning sun, cold rain lightning, etc.
  • Should the aviary be completely covered, full-spectrum lighting can be installed for optimal health as well as sprinkler system as the parrots will not have access to natural basking and misting.
  • A basking lamp can be beneficial to offer a soothing warm source of heat. This can be appreciated after a rainfall or misting as well as in the cooler evenings and night.
  • A surveillance camera can also be helpful to discourage potential intruders, predators, and theft. This camera can also help you assess the behavior of your birds while in their aviary incase of neighbor complaints birds are screaming all day.
Outdoor Aviary lined with paper
Paper liner is ideal for an outdoor aviary. Remember to supply natural branches, safe non-toxic plants and other accessories to keep your bird entertained.

Adding Features and Accessorizing the Aviary

Planted Aviaries

Water Features

  • A water feature can be an exciting addition if it is properly designed to allow easy maintenance. Proper circulation and filtration of the water is essential to insure an antiquate water quality, as it can be drank and bathed in by the parrots. The level of the water should be kept at a safe depth to prevent drowning. Stagnant water is undesirable as it can be harmful to the birds and become a breeding ground for mosquito larvae.
  • Filtration system should be protected to ensure birds do not have access to electrical wires (ideally placed deep under the gravel/cement protected in a PVC pipe), and furthermore rocks can be placed surrounding the pump inside the basin to prevent birds from being accidentally aspirated.
  • Safe water conditioners and bird bath cleaner should be used.

A perch made from non-toxic natural branch The Right Perches for the Outdoor Flight

  • Perches can be made of bird safe non-toxic natural branches, wooden dowel or plastic for a variety of size and texture. If any of the metal structures inside of the flights are exposed and allow the birds to perch on, these should be covered with plastic piping or other safe non-thermal conductive materials to prevent arthritis, pododermatitis or other medical conditions due to temperature and humidity fluctuations. Covering the potential metallic perching areas with non-conductive materials also reduces the chances of fatality in case the flight is hit by lightning.
  • Small sections of PVC pipes can be fastened to the walls of your aviary to allow insertion of natural branches.
  • Cement heated perches can be included in your aviary to provide warmth in cooler temperatures. These also promote vascular circulation when birds are perched onto them. These can be a preferred sleeping perch if placed higher in the flight. Heated perches can be considered for flights in warm climates where temperatures can drop considerably at night.
  • Rope perches, toys and accessories should be monitored for sun or rain damage. Toys containing corncobs should not be exposed to humid environment.

Feeding and Watering Within the Aviary

Feeding Stations

  • Feeding stations (feed and water bowls) should be secure to prevent birds from flipping them onto the ground.
  • Feeding stations should be protected from the rain or sun. Food spoils quickly in the hot sun and bacteria will grow quickly especially in soft sugary enrichment foods.
  • Extruded and pelleted diets will not retain their optimal nutritional value if they are exposed to extreme heat or direct sun rays for an extended period of time. Powder and crumble residues from the eaten granules should be cleaned out regularly as these rich nutrients are a cherished breeding ground for bacteria and mold.

    Parrot with pellets outside
    Secure feeding stations such as this one will prevent birds from flipping bowls of food to the ground.
  • Red ants can also be a nuisance and so be creative and ensure you are attracting them elsewhere, far from your birds feeding stations.
  • Food contaminated by vermin (ie. mice, rat, opossum, raccoon, squirrel, chipmunks, bats) excrement and urine can be harmful for your birds if ingested.

Caution: soiled spoiling fruits and seeds attract vermin, ants, bees and wasps, and can harbor bacteria and fungus. A retaining bin below the feeding stations will ensure all the spoiled food can be easily contained and removed frequently from the aviary for hygienic considerations and to reduce the attraction of undesirably intruders.

Water Dishes and Automatic Watering Systems

  • Water dishes exposed to warm temperatures and sun are an excellent environment for bacteria to grow and thrive. Ideally, to minimize these potentially harmful bacteria from growing, water dishes should be stainless steel, or ceramic. Plastic dishes can easily scratch allowing bacteria to harbor in its cracks, making these very difficult to thoroughly clean.
  • Bowls should be changed daily and water replenished at least twice a day to ensure your birds are drinking fresh and clean water.
  • If regrettably, no other method of supplementing your birds diet with vitamins other than in water has been explored or possible, extra caution must be used to ensure water hygiene is maintained as some supplements contain sugar, therefore increasing the likelihood of bacterial growth.
  • Automatic water systems to provide drinking water of the aviary are often considered in the design to ensure availability of water at all times. If these are used to supply drinking water, birds must be trained to drink from these prior to the removal of supplemental water dishes.
  • An automatic misting system is quite convenient to install. It can provide environmental enrichment and relief from warm climate.
  • Despite the practical aspect of these modern systems, hygienic considerations are the most challenging when ensuring proper maintenance of these systems, as they can be difficult to clean.
  • Daily the system should be flushed thoroughly to ensure the water has circulated throughout the system and water dispensed at the spout is fresh. Each spout should be monitored daily to ensure it is not blocked and functioning properly.
  • The whole system must be drained and thoroughly disinfected periodically to ensure no bacteria is forming inside the tubes ( i.e. PVC ).
  • Birds are more likely to engage in exercise and preening activities when they are offered the possibility to mist or bathe.

    Double yellow head amazon being misted
    Misting is an important occupational therapy for birds in captivity.
  • Birds should have the possibility to shy away from the mist.
  • Feeding dishes should not be exposed to the mist. The same hygienic considerations must be respected as for the automatic water systems for drinking as the water misted onto the birds will most probably be ingested while they are bathing and preening.
  • Misting systems also contribute to the maintenance of the aviary. Cleaning an aviary after a misting session is muct easier to accomplish!

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Hagen Avicultural Research Institute