By Katherine Roberts
I have had a lifelong love of birds. On my twelfth birthday, my parents bought four finches for me... a Society, a Green Singing finch and two Gouldians. I loved all of them but the Goulds were by far my favorites. As an adult, I have had finches for about twenty years now. Four years ago, I was finally able to build a walk-in aviary as a part of a major remodeling of our home.
We started with a hallway that was between the breakfast area of our kitchen and the backyard. The hallway was about 5' wide and there were double doors leading to it from the family room/ kitchen. To enclose the space, we built another door to the aviary (creating a keeping room) at one end and built a wall with a window at the other. Now we had a room that was about 10'w x5'd x10'h. We placed a huge picture window on the side facing the kitchen, and with window treatments on either side and a valance at the top, you can hardly tell the is glass there.
We began by covering the floor, walls and ceiling with tile. We placed 2 drains in the floor and a hose bib in the wall to attach a small coiled hose for cleaning. There is a small ventilating fan in the exterior wall to recirculate the air and a vent in the ceiling for heating and cooling. There are 3 halogen lights recessed in the ceiling which are on a dimmer switch. We don't use these very often (at full brightness) because there is natural light from the 2 exterior windows which allow the birds to wake up and go to sleep with the sunrise and sunset. The halogens are nice in the evening when we have company... they bring out the gorgeous colors of the birds. Then with the dimmer, they make a great nightlight.
We installed 5 wooden nest boxes on a wooden trellis, which stands against the wall. To accomplish this, we put screws in the trellis first, put picture wire on the back of each nest, and then hung the nests on the screws.
We splurged and bought a big wrought iron tree at Wild Birds Unlimited where we find many useful aviary supplies. We are able to hang lots of things on it... bird feeders, seed cups for treats and mealworms, nesting material, swings, water bottles, anything! We put in several faux trees, on which we hang straw nests and big bunches of millet. Since the room is all tile and glass we use suction cups to attach seed cups to the windows. We use aspen shavings on the floor as bedding. We put in a faux stone fountain which is on a timer so that it goes off at night and comes on in the morning.
It is amazing to me how quickly the birds learn their boundaries. The babies born in the aviary observe the other birds from day one and learn to fly within inches of the glass and never touch it. When we buy new birds, we put their cage in the aviary (after their quarantine, of course!) and let them observe for a few days. Then we open the door to the cage and let them venture out when they're ready, leaving the cage in there for a couple more days so that they can come and go as they please until they feel secure. With this process, there are virtually no accidents flying into the glass. Just for fun, we put a hummingbird feeder on the outside of the aviary using suction cups on the glass.
We have a wild bird feeder just outside the aviary as well, so we can be watching our finches, wild birds and hummingbirds all at the same time! The illusion is a kind of 3-D effect, which makes it fun trying to determine where the aviary ends and the outdoor birds begin.
We continue to delight in finding new ways to improve our aviary to make the best possible habitat for these beautiful birds. We will never tire of marveling at them... one of God's most magnificent creations.
© lady gouldian finch.com 2011