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Member Aviaries

Juli Vaughn ~


Building my "Dream Aviary"
or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb...

by Juli Vaughn
Juli's Aviary

I had been waiting years to build an outdoor aviary. I had grown up with pigeons and continued to raise them when our son was growing up. My husband and I had built many simple and easy pigeon pens in the past, with minimal conflict. But after I changed from pigeons to finches and canaries, I had this picture in my head of a beautiful aviary with ferns and trees, a beautiful fountain and bird bath and my beautiful birds flying around amongst the flora and fauna, singing and splashing happily in their bath and playing in their fountain...

My plan was to have an indoor area and an outdoor flight area. My birds could have plenty of space inside; could come in and go out as they pleased. I would have plenty of room for nesting boxes and baskets and to keep all my bird supplies. I would have a "catch door" area so that I could come in, close a door behind me and then open another door to enter into the "indoor area". The flight area would be large enough to plant lots of plants, have my gurgling fountain and bird bath and everything would be just perfect.

Okay, did I mention that I was in full blown menopause and that both my husband and I had just quit smoking a couple weeks before and that it was 110 degrees out and that I also had a picture in my head of us, hitting the road on a Harley and cruising around the country like in the movie "Easy Rider"? Well, that’s another story for another time...

The first thing I should point out is, that my husband worked in strict commercial construction for about 30 years, which means that according to his laws of nature, everything must be squared and measured out exactly to the last inch. Whereas I learned construction from my Dad, who taught me that, if you can’t buy it, make it yourself or go down the street to the junk store and buy the stuff to make it with and if you’re not sure if it’s straight, than just eyeball it.

So because we were not building this off the side of a "square" building, it was to be a "free standing" thing, there was no "square corner" to start with. My husband, for some strange reason, could not grasp my concept that you can just pick up a piece of wood and attach another piece of wood and so on and so on… and eventually you would end up with a square building. So after spending a ridiculous amount of time debating all aspects and definitions of the word "square", we finally began to build my dream aviary.

One thing we did before we began is, to visit some other bird people’s aviaries to get some ideas. I quickly learned that my birds would eat any and all plants that I planted, so I made a quick adjustment in my head to use plastic or silk plants. They wouldn't eat them and I could just hose them off... this has actually worked out well, although I have cut down on the quantity just because it’s easier and quicker to keep clean.

You should also be aware that wood costs way more than you think and the quality of the wood that you buy will vary from barely acceptable to what we decided to call "warp speed" (or, how fast you will go back to the store to exchange it). Your aviary will undoubtedly cost more than you think, quite possibly way more than you think (as in our case).

*After about a week out there, sweating in the intense heat, pounding our hearts out and our fingers off, with every day revealing a new challenge that we would have to debate for hours until one of us won out by shear exhaustion. Just about every spot on my body was covered with band-aids and I was so sore that I could hardly move. We also had an ongoing competition to see whose>This was about the time a friend of mine told me that she had never seen a piece of plywood thrown like a Frisbee until she asked her husband to help build her bird aviary...

(She ended up building her pen with her dad – hat’s off to Dad’s everywhere!)

So, after about 2 weeks, the first thought in my head when I woke up was, how could I make it look like an accident… and then… crap, we have no life insurance...

By this time though, it was starting to look like a halfway decent aviary, even though neither one of us would admit it. We of course spent a lot of time having to come up with ways to ingeniously cover up our screw ups... we hadn't killed each other yet, so it was coming along just swimmingly...

I learned some valuable lessons and gathered some really good information from other bird people... Paint the wire black so you can see the birds better. This is a really good tip. It might take you longer and your finger might fall off or stay bent permanently, but it’s worth it. Use small ¼ inch wire so that mice and snakes can’t get in (they call it hardware cloth for those of you who want to call around and get prices and if you’re rich, you can buy it already black on the internet). This is also a very good tip. I have a friend, well, okay same friend, who said she had to tear out all her original wire and replace it with the ¼ inch because mice were getting in and eating her babies (not her babies, her bird’s babies).

I also learned that apparently, birds are so dumb that they will fly into a deep fountain or bird bath and drown themselves... I personally haven't tested this out yet, but I’ve been told this. So I did put in a shallow bird bath, just in case.

I learned to not put "indoor" doors that you got for a really good deal at a bargain center on the outside of your aviary, because they will swell up when the weather changes and you will have to keep taking them off and sanding them or cutting them down so they will quit sticking… I also learned what a "sciatic nerve" was...

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All in all, after we had finished it, and I had decorated it with some nice silk plants & a tree and some rocks and some other cool things. I put my birds in, and as I stood there and watched them happily splashing around in their bird bath and flying around with the cutest smiles on their faces, (and I swear they did have smiles on their faces!) I loved my bird aviary...

I had to stand back and say that, yes, it was all worth it...

My husband still won't say these words out loud yet,
but I'm working on it...

Things I would do differently?

I would build it with my Dad…
and I would build it bigger!

E-mail Juli: jd@jeweldesigns.com



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