Sunday, November 21, 2010

For the Birds

Hey guys!

Just in case you do not know, it is not just butterflies that I'm into, but birds as well! There's nothing quite as wonderful as the sound of a bird singing or chirping on a sunny morning or even the sight of birds as they take wing! A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of becoming a bird owner myself, the untimely  arrival of four budgies (with an interval of a couple of months in between each budgie) to my Garden right before a particularly violent thunderstorm though still unexplained, marked the beginning of my love with budgerigars and small parakeets! Budgies make some of the best pet birds out there, they are small, friendly, easy to handle, pleasant to look at and they make the most pleasant of noises (something in between a chirp and a warble). However because I have never really had the time to do anything about it before, my first four budgies have been living in medium sized cages for the better part of two years which, is really quite a shame because there really is not much room in those cages for the birds to stretch their wings and fly!

As such, in my current state of post-graduation/unemployment/waiting for Honours offer, I decided to make myself useful around the house and build a medium-sized aviary, or flight cage for my budgies! Now, i think there's nothing really that quite adds the same ammount of charm and natural-vibe to a Garden than a beautifully home-constructed aviary. Now, if you're a bird-enthusiast or a gardener yourself, you might find my following step-by-step guide rather useful.

1. Location
Of course, to build an aviary you must first have a house with enough land/garden space to do it in. Of course, depending on where you live, and the size of your aviary, you might have to get a permit as well. It is really important to plan these things (especially if your aviary is going to be large) as you do not want to upset the neighborus or infringe any property laws with your little hobby. Once, you've gotten that out of the way, you must consider the location of your aviary. Ideally, it should be someplace that is sheltered from direct rain and sunlight and, depending on what kind of birds you are rearing, free of draught as well.

2. MaterialsMost of the materials to build an aviary you can find at most hardware stores. Here's a list of the items I used and their prices

8x 2m Wood ~ RM54.40
8m Wire Netting ~ RM38.00
Nails ~ RM5.40
Wire Cutter ~ RM40.00
Hammer and Saw ~ *borrowed*

Which means that I have spent, in total, about RM137.80 on this aviary (excluding petty expenses) which, all in all is still cheaper than buying a flight cage of this size from a pet store (I checked it to be about RM400++).

3. Let's get to building!Okay, so once you've got all the materials you need, its time to build yourself an aviary! First things first measurements! Its really important that you measure everything and cut them beforehand, number one, because things are just less messy that way and number two, it really helps you keep with the plan you had in the first place. For me my aviary measures about 1meter by 0.5meters surface area with an 1.8 meter height.

After measuring the wood and cutting them up, I nailed them together to make the two main frames of the aviary leaving a little bit of extra wood at each corner to later build the width wall of the aviary

The two main frames of the aviary
Once you've got the two frames up and ready you can place them next to each other to see if they are of the same size. If they are not, carefully knock one of the pieces of wood in the opposite direction until the nail comes loose and you can start all over again. Its important to do  this because you won't want to have started building in the supporting frame of the aviary only to find out that one corner is lower/higher than the other. 

The finished "skeleton of the aviary"

When you're sure that they are of the same size, place them one in front of the other, with the space in between them being the desired width of your aviary. Get your measured and pre-cut piece of wood and nail it between the frames, in the space between the two slots of extra wood from earlier. The end product should look something like the one above. When this is done, you can begin measuring and nailing the wire netting into the empty spaces. Be careful! Wire netting has a horrible tendency to flip unexpectadly causing grievious scratch wounds and injuries!
When nailing in the wire mesh, I find it best to start at one end and make your way to the other, slowly straightening and nailing down the wire netting to avoid injury and unsightly bulges and bends in the netting. This, I find is a more reliable method than nailing first, the four corners of netting onto your aviary frame as with the previous way, any excess of netting can quite easily be clipped off from the main frame.

Netting that is "just right" for budgies!

When choosing the netting for your aviary, it is extremely important that you get the right one and of the right size. Not any netting you do! Ideally, netting should allow you the best visibility of your birds (what's the point of keeping them there if you can't even see them?) but also be safe for them! It all depends on what species you're planning to keep in there. Just remember, if the bird can put its head through the holes in the netting, it is NOT SAFE and should not be used. When you are done with the walls, you may begin adding whatever fixtures you want into your aviary. Fix in the roof when you are done and then hang the bird-swings from the roof of the cage.
HELP!!! I'm Trapped!
When you're satisfied with the fixtures, nail in the floor of the aviary. I nailed in two layers of wire netting here, one layer lower than the other so that I may place newspapers underneath it to collect the birds'...leavings. When that is done, you may begin constructing the door to your aviary. Many people may wonder why I left the door to last and the answer is that because this was my first time building an aviary I never really thought about it and felt that leaving the door to last would allow me to measure and cut off as much netting as I needed from the walls to construct it. The door I made ended up to be a swing-type door with makeshift hinges and a wooden frame to hold it in shape. I secure the aviary whenever I'm not around with padlocks (I'm sure you can get these most places). Finally you are ready to put in the birds!

When keeping budgies in an aviary its important not to overcrowd! (too many birds and they won't have much space to fly in anyway!) but it is also important not to keep to little of them. Budgies, I find, tend to get very territorial when there are too few of them around, the ideal number of birds is 6. So on my way purchasing cuttlebone (good fo calcium) and water bowls, I also brought back two more additions to the family. Cumulus and Nimbus!

Cumulus, the new female to the flock

Nimbus, the albino male.

True enough after I put these two in, I put the other four as well and flocking behaviour began almost instantaneously. Even Tweety, who is the gangster out of my four birds (extremely territorial and what not) took to the flock immediately even going as far as sharing food with the rest (something which he almost never does, except with his mate). Safety in numbers and what not I suppose.

Family photo: (from left to right) Angel, Sparkle, Tweety, Polly, Cumulus and Nimbus

Now, many people may find the idea of a flight-cage rather hypocritical. Some might even say, "if you like birds to fly so much, why don't you just release them into the wild?" Well, that is a very dangerous assumption to make. Pet birds are very much like any other pet out there. They are used to human comforts, being taken care of, being served their food and even - to an extent - imprinting psychologically and emotionally upon their human caretakers. To release these birds into the wild would be as irresponsible as throwing your unwanted pets out onto the streets! What's more, because these birds are not native to our ecosystem, on the off-chance that they actually survive the wild and establish feral populations, there is simply no telling what effect these populations will have on local animals and wildlife.

Personally I believe that keeping birds as pets can be as rewarding as any other pet, be it hamster, rabbit, dog or cat but as with any other animal, a bird is a living thing and not just a pretty ornament for your home. Treat them well and with love and more importantly (for those of you who keep exotic species of animals) make sure you obtain them legally and from a licensed breeder. Happy holidays!!!

Well he's got all the money in the world but there's just one thing he cannot buy... a dinosaur!

1 comment:

ken said...

the net scratches.. ouch :/
but overall, a comfy home for the birds :)