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Member Aviaries

Sabra Scotton ~

My Backyard Aviary
by Sabra Scotton

* Before getting into the details of building my aviary I think I need to give you some history. First of all, everything you're about to read is my son's fault. Well, not really but, he's the reason birds first came into my life. When he was nine years old we took care of a friend's cockatiel. After that all he talked about was getting a bird! Finally, I told him that if he raised the money I would take him to buy a cockatiel (knowing full well that he wouldn't be ambitious enough to raise the money!). Well... I was wrong! Within just a few weeks he had enough money to buy his cockatiel. So off to a local pet store we went. That was in the Spring. In the Fall we went to this "bird mart" we heard about and came home with a beautiful cockatiel for my daughter. Soon after that my kids and I joined the NWBC... and the rest is history! That was seven years ago.

I know you're thinking... she needs an aviary for a couple cockatiels? After my kids got their birds I wanted a bird and another bird, and another bird... you get the picture. It was like being hooked on drugs... I wanted more!

Before building my backyard aviary, my "breeder" birds were in my garage. Before long I needed more space.... and so did the birds! That first cockatiel has multiplied into approximately 100 birds.

Let me first say that having an aviary takes a lot of work and money! Not only building it, but keeping it up afterwards. I'm always cleaning and feeding something! All of those birds have to eat. They can (and will) get sick. Then there's the electric bill to heat in the Winter and cool in the Summer... the list could go on and on.

*Now after all of that... onto building my "dream" aviary.
We already had a little 9ft. by 16ft. shed in our backyard. We used it to store things... mostly junk and a few garden tools. I measured and drew pictures and dreamed for months before beginning. Finally I was able to start my project. I was so excited! The shed had a dirt floor that my husband, son and I dug out. My husband and son then poured concrete for the inside floor and a 4ft by 8ft. slab for an outdoor flight. You might think... pouring concrete... that's no big deal! Well, normally it wouldn't be, but we were unable to get a concrete truck into our backyard. To "pump" the concrete would have cost over $1300.00.... so that was out of the question! I began looking for concrete mixers in the paper. We found one somewhere out in the boondocks. I just remember it took about an hour in the fog and rain to get there. After arriving, the man who had it for sale wasn't sure he even wanted to sell it! All the while I'm thinking, "please sell the darn thing so my husband won't kill me and bury me out in the backyard inside the shed!" We did buy the concrete mixer and carted it home. That afternoon my husband and son began hauling bags of concrete into the backyard. Over the next couple weekends they carried over 40 - 100lb. bags of concrete into our backyard, mixed it, poured it... you get the picture. It was not a fun or easy job! My husband began calling my soon to be aviary - the "chicken coop" in the back yard.

There was already a piece of wood we called a "door" going into the shed. I went to the local used building supply and bought an old door with a window. I came home and installed the door myself. I was so proud of myself! I thought... if I can install a door I certainly can install a couple windows. The shed did not have any windows, so I borrowed my neighbors Saws All. What an awesome tool that was! I measured and decided where I wanted the windows (one on each end of the aviary). I felt like the construction queen with that Saws All, it could cut through anything! After cutting the openings, I installed the windows myself. I also cut an opening for a small door into the outdoor flight. That comes in handy at night when that one bird doesn't come inside!

*The next task was to insulate the inside and put up the walls. The insulation went up fast. Then came the interior walls. I used plywood and then painted it white. I read that it was nice to paint the walls white to "show off" the birds more. I also had read to use plywood instead of sheet rock because it was easier to scrub and keep clean. I thought to myself, "Scrub, keep clean?" What did that mean? Well, I soon found out! Birds can poop in places & and at angles I didn't think were possible! Painting took longer than I expected because I had to use several coats. I took short breaks for a day or two to "rest" my aching shoulders. Every night my arms ached... and it became harder to lift them!

Next came the interior frames and wire for the actual bird enclosures. I decided to use half of the aviary for supplies, cages, etc. I also installed a cabinet to store bird "stuff". The other side I divided into two 8ft. x 4 1/2 ft. flights. I used 2"x2" wood for the frames and 1/4" wire (hardware cloth). I painted the hardware cloth black to make it easier to see the birds (something I learned after visiting a friend's aviary). You would think that the interior enclosures would have been a snap to build. Normally they would be, but whoever originally built my little shed must not have heard of or owned a t-square or level! Needless to say the interior took a lot longer than expected. By now my arms and shoulders ached so much I couldn't sleep at night! My shoulders felt like hot coals were burning into them. For weeks the only way I could even attempt to sleep was to take lots of Motrin and sit in our recliner with a heating pad on all night! Even with the heating pad and tons of Motrin I got very little sleep. But, I kept on working to finish the aviary. Soon I couldn't raise my left arm above my head. My right arm was getting harder to raise too. What a pain that was... literally! It made everything much harder to do.

My son and I painted the exterior and it was almost ready for the birds! (He painted the high part that I could no longer reach because of my aching arms). After making the 4' x 8' outdoor flight frame we attached a roof to it. I then installed perches, some silk greenery, nest boxes and my aviary was ready! I moved the birds into their new home and they loved it!

My project was finally finished! I worked most evenings after work and all day on weekends. The entire project took approximately six weeks and 4 bottles of Motrin to complete.

Oh, I forgot to mention that on one of my trips to the lumber yard I parked my pick-up and went to pick out the supplies I planned on purchasing. When I finished, I backed up the truck and ran right into a fork lift that had parked behind me! At that moment I was thinking 'now I know my husband is going to tear down that stupid chicken coop! Worse yet, he might make me do it myself!" The men at the lumber yard were really nice. They deserved a medal for not laughing hysterically until I drove away. Now I had to go home and face my husband! He didn't yell... but, I knew exactly what he was thinking! Thankfully I still have my aviary and we are still married (by the way, fixing the damage to the truck was not cheap!) That added some "cost" to the aviary project.

Now it was time to see a doctor about my aching shoulders! I soon learned that I had torn rotator cuffs in each shoulder. Three surgeries later (and a new fender for the truck) I added up the total "cost" for my new aviary.

*Costs for my aviary:
Wood................................$ 300.00
Wire..................................$ 150.00
Concrete...........................$ 400.00
Paint (inside/out)..............$ 100.00
Pick-up repairs.................$ 2,000.00
3 Rotator Cuff Repairs.....$ 99,000.00 (just the hospital bills...not the surgeon!)
Beer for my husband........$ 100.00
Grand Total Cost..........................$102,050.00 (give or take a few dollars)

The moral of this story is if you don't want to spend a lot of your hard earned cash, have a few aches, pains, and injuries don't go to someone's place to "see" their aviary... or you will be "hooked" on feathers too!

Was it all worth it? Yes! Would I do it again? Yes!

Note: Over the past seven years I have bred and hand fed cockatiels, love birds, bourkes, scarlet chested parakeets and even a few canaries (not by choice!). Currently, I breed Red Factor Canaries, Rosey Bourkes, Shaftail finches, Owl finches, Orange cheeked Waxbills, Gouldians, and Diamond Doves.



E-mail Sabra: Sabra@northwestbirdclub.org