Walk-in Bird Aviary

Picture of Walk-in Bird Aviary

I want to show you how to make a large, walk-in, bird aviary for a fraction of what a similar one would cost in the marketplace. It is constructed in a modular fashion so you can make it as small as 4ft wide x 4ft long x 8ft tall or as large as your available space allows. The example that I give here is 4ft wide x 12ft long x 8ft tall.

However, before we get started, I beg your indulgence to let me explain what inspired me to build an aviary in the first place -- i.e. what sparked my interest in birds. (If you don't care, just skip ahead to step 1)

Throughout my life I had never given birds much of a second thought. I had no interest in hunting them, no interest in bird watching, and no interest in learning even the most rudimentary facts about them. Not that I was actively avoiding them or anything, I just never noticed them at all.

All that changed one 4th of July afternoon.

I went fishing, with a friend of mine, to a small Lake near the town I live. The reason we went fishing is because there were thousands of people in town for a big 4th of July parade and neither of us are that big on being around thousands of people. I brought my little expandable fishing pole and a single red and white hook. The expandable pole is nice because you can carry it around in your pocket until you need it, then telescope it out and fish!

So my buddy and I were walking around the lake on a bike/walking trail and we stopped part way along to fish. I caught two Pike one after the other almost immediately. The first one was a nice one (I threw it back anyway) and the second one was too small -- but he had swallowed the hook all the way down. Luckily I had removed the barbs from my hook and so with some delicate oral surgery I was able to remove the hook without damaging the fish and it happily swam away.

Anyway, we finished up the fishing and started walking back down the trail to the truck when I spotted a tiny little baby bird on the trail. I was not sure what kind of bird it was at the time since it was extremely young and I don't know jack squat about birds. It was also unclear whether it was male or female -- something I have since come to realize is not at all easy to determine. At first it looked dead, but upon closer inspection I saw the little chest heaving slightly. There was no nest or mother anywhere in sight. It looked like the bird must have hopped, or tumbled, a long way down the hill to the trail. I knew that if I left the bird where it was it would be dead within an hour or two at most, so I picked it up and took it with us. When we got to the truck, my buddy lined the drink cup holder with grass and I placed the little baby bird in there and covered it with my hat. By the time we got to town the bird was chirping like crazy. I'm no expert, but it sounded like hunger. It turns out (internet search) that birds that age need to eat every 15 minutes! So we quickly got over to a pet store and picked up a small cage and a jar of baby bird food (since it is unlikely I would be able to round up enough masticated worms to keep the little guy fed).

I spent the entire afternoon feeding the bird until it fell asleep at around 8:00pm and I was finally able to run to the fireworks store and grab a bunch of fireworks so I could go to a friends place and light them off all night (just like everyone else does here on the 4th of July.) The entire sky is lit with them for miles around for 4 or 5 solid hours and almost every backyard has fireworks going up (which is a nice aspect of living in the west).

After going to bed very late that night (actually the following morning if you want to know the truth) I woke up at 5:45am because the little bird needed feeding... and every 15 minutes thereafter... which continued until dark again that night..... I have sooo much respect now for mommy and daddy birds. They are kept running all day every day on continual trips back and forth getting food for all those hungry gaping mouths.

I named the little girl/guy Aristarchus.

You need to use a syringe to feed him/her. You approach his mouth until he begins to gape, then you stick the syringe down his throat and squeeze some food in there. You continue until he stops gaping (See the photographs and mpeg video, sorry about the video quality).

Actually the goal is to fill up the bird's crop which is a little storage area for food on the way to the stomach (see the anatomical diagram).

As he got bigger I became fairly convinced that little Aristarchus is a White-throated Sparrow, although I am still not totally sure. Also I have found a perfect mixture for food which is a lot cheaper than using the stuff from the pet store. Take dry cat food (high protein and fat content) and soak it in water over night so that it is mush. Then mix it in with the bird formula that I discussed above until the resulting consistency is close to that of yogurt or oatmeal. The little guy/gal loves it and his/her excrement is darker and less watery. Anyway, the bird is happy and healthy and you don't have to keep buying so much bird formula.

Eventually, I decided that the tiny little cage that I had originally bought from the pet store was not going to work. I needed something that would allow Aristarchus to learn how to fly so that I could eventually release him back into the wild before it is time to migrate.

So I decided to build Aristarchus an aviary....

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drarick2 months ago
Amazing! Thanks for sharing.
I can't wait, I am going to build a backyard aviary for a cockatoo, and a new coop for my flock!

This would be great for the Parakeets that I raise. I have two sets of breaders and at this time one pair has 4 babies in the nest box.

herskine5 months ago

This is awesome! My husband and I are looking forward to trying this one out. Did you make all of the bird toys as well? That vertical ladder with the thick rope is great!

dta515 months ago

This looks awesome & is just what I'm looking for! I've been trying to save the $2600.00 for one that is pre-built but that will take a while longer & my orange winged amazon loves being outside in the yard-just not in a cage. I take him for long walks & spend time with him in our yard wearing his harness but this aviary would be perfect! I will have to make this by myself & I'm wondering what to use as a cover for maybe half the top so he can have sun or shade when he wants it. Any ideas for what I can use for that? Thank you so much!

1o_o7 (author)  dta515 months ago

I used a tarp on top when I had one outside.

1o_o7 (author) 7 months ago
I should mention that I have recently discovered a very easy method of lining the bottom of the cage to make it almost trivial to clean. Just get one of these:

It is 1200 feet long and 4 feet wide. perfect for the cage. For an aviary like mine which is 8 feet long and 4 feet wide you can clean it once a week and this one roll will last for 150 weeks. That is almost 3 years.
vlillybeth9 months ago
What a beautiful story of how a fishing trip changed your whole perspective of birds. Thanks for posting this my husband and I want to build one for our 3 canaries. This one is beautiful.
beschete11 months ago
You have been a lifesaver for instructions for an aviary! I have all the materials, but I haven't started building because I'm stumped about what to do about the floor. I live in the South, so the weather is temperate enough for me to build this on my screened in porch which is constructed on a concrete slab. I want to be able to easily clean the floor without stressing the birds I put in the aviary. The best I can come up with is to make several fitted lined trays of some sort that can lift out. I've thought about just using the covers from those large plastic storage bins sold everywhere. How do you handle cleaning and what safe products can I use? Any ideas?
1o_o7 (author)  beschete11 months ago
I just bought a roll of linoleum a bit bigger than the cage and just plopped the cage on top of it. Then i just lay down some newspapers and every once in a while change the newspapers a vacuum inside the cage. It is a huge cage, so it only needs cleaning once every 2 or 3 weeks. That is another nice thing about a large aviary, it takes them longer to mess it up. If you are worried about the ink in the newsprint you could buy rolls of packing paper and use that. I will do that as well once I run out of old newspapers (since I don't get newspapers anymore).
Anyway, linoleum and cheap packing paper is the way to go.
beschete 1o_o710 months ago
Thank you! That does sound easy and affordable. Much appreciated. I will have to build bigger and better aviaries soon, as I am a wildlife rehabilitator in Louisiana. I have found my passion. I will never tire of seeing Screech Owls, Red-tail Hawks, Great Horned Owls and all our other native birds. My most exotic rescue of late was a Magnificent Frigate brought in by a kind pilot from a rig in the Gulf. He had gotten water - logged and just needed to dry out. Again, many thanks as I had searched the web over and your instructions are the best for my current needs! :)
Bugmebaby1 year ago
Wow you are an amazing man! That bird was lucky you were there, I too love birds, my husband and I have 4 altogether, 2 cockatiels and one green cheek and a cinnamon cheek conure , very loveable birds. We would have a dozen more if my husband had his way! Lol but I had to put my foot down and say no more , we have a wedding to go to in Sept and no one to baby sit our birds and because we can't leave them all out in the one room due to one doesn't get along with the others too well, we saw your aviary on line and now my husband is going to build one on either side of the room my birds currently occupy ( my dining room) this way they can have lots of room to roam and they will never be locked in their cages which seem so small compared to this! Can't wait till my husband is done, uhope they like it, have a feeling it may scare them at first, but we will see next week when is all done, can't wait to decorate it with toys and more toys for them lol. Thanks again for posting!
1o_o7 (author)  Bugmebaby11 months ago
Thank you so much for the kind words! I actually have a large aviary inside and a smaller one outside now. I like to take the birds outside during the summer and let them enjoy the weather and all of the action out there. They love it!
jlavaroni1 year ago
This is great! I would like an 8 x 4 x 6 version for outside to keep some parakeets. How would you modify your design for outdoors....just add a solid roof and a shelter?

Thank you for posting this and for saving Aristarchus...too often people would shrug their shoulders and pass by. You did a good thing!
1o_o7 (author)  jlavaroni1 year ago
Way ahead of you! I have a 4x4x8 on my porch that I bring them out to on nice days and they love it! happily watching the neighborhood and chirping away for hours at a time. Then I take them in to their 4x8x8 inside at night. My conures live in the same cage now and are great friends. Thanks for the kind words! Made my day
1o_o7 (author)  1o_o71 year ago
When I used it outside before I just put a piece of tarp on the top and staple the corners down so that the top was covered and it went down to about 4 or 5 inches around the edge. It seemed to work great.
trich591 year ago
This is exactly what I have been looking for for my cockatiels! Can't wait to build one. Loved hearing about the little bird that inspired you. Birds are truly amazing creatures!

1o_o7 (author) 1 year ago
I should mention that if you make an aviary for parrots (like my two conures) rather than purchasing a whole bunch of expensive bird toys you can make them (macaroni noodles on a leather string is great) and even use common household items that are boring for everyone except a conure. For example a cardboard box on the floor of the aviary. My conures spend countless hours fascinated by cardboard boxes. They play `hide and seek' in them, they rip them to shreds, etc. They love 'em.
spiderham1 year ago
When i was a kid my mom turned an entire room in our house into an aviary for her parakeets. She had double doors, like an airlock entry, with hair guard on the hinges to keep the birds from getting pinched. Oh, how I DON'T miss the chirping of 50+ birds day and night.
WOW! Amazing post.
the other day it was so fun watching the kitties' tails go crazy watching the birds outside their patio door.
watching birds.jpgwatching birds.jpg
1o_o7 (author)  katerlyn1 year ago
Hehe! Love it! Mine love watching them too.
1o_o7 (author)  spiderham1 year ago
Haha! Yes that is one thing I forgot to mention. They definitely know how to make noise. Especially Sun Conures. I can't even imagine the din of 50+ parakeets though. Your mom must be a patient lady with a great sense of humor and a kind heart.
Dr.Bill 1o_o71 year ago
Zebra Finches are really loud too.
Thank you for sharing your beautiful story, complete with all the fascinating irrelevant details about fishing, 4th of July...much more personable than just step by step. Yes birds are fascinating and beautiful creatures. I have chickens and who would have guessed you could feel so motherly towards these miniature feathered dinosaurs?!
1o_o7 (author)  sunny hobbes1 year ago
Funny thing is that I don't eat chicken much anymore. It is almost embarassing to admit, but whenever I raise that drumstick or hot wing to my mouth I see my bird's leg or wing... can't do it. The only chicken I can eat now is in the form of strips. I may eventually have to go vegetarian actually...
LynxSys 1o_o71 year ago
Not embarrassing at all! I knew a young wild turkey who used to hang around my back yard. He made friends with the whole family. We called him Leroy and he would come when called and accompany us walking our dog. This started around August, and come Thanksgiving, I just couldn't bear to eat a bird. It wasn't another month before I became vegetarian. I'm happier, more energetic and physically healthier because of it. There's certainly no shame in trying to unify your views and emotions with your behavior.

A coda to Leroy's story: He left in the Fall and we worried about him for a while; wondering if hunting season had gotten the better of him. He came back just once more, in the Spring, to introduce us to the rafter of females that were following him around (and--we like to think--to let us know that he was doing ok).
I couldn't eat chicken for several months after taking a class in Anatomy & Physiology. I'm sure that a visit (in real life or online) to any type of meat processing facility would result in instantly becoming a vegetarian.

But that's a whole other topic!

Let's just all agree that birds are adorable.

Check out
sdhardie 1o_o71 year ago
I had a similar experience while cutting chicken, in preparation for dinner. My mind saw a human arm and the feeling of the knife slicing through someone's biceps make me want to vomit. :-/ I don't cook meat at home anymore, and very rarely eat it even when I go out. My brain definitely made the connection. Thanks for sharing your story!
kayakdiver1 year ago
Yours looks VERY much like one I made for my ex about 20 years ago. I used cheap angle-brackets and wood screws to fasten every joint of the structure together and a heavy-duty staple gun to fasten the wire mesh (non-galvanized) to the frame.

The big difference was, because ours was outdoors, I added a walk-in "air-lock" area so you could easily enter and exit without letting an excited parakeet, button quail, finch, etc., flitter out the door. The main aviary had a floor print of 6 X 8, and 8' high, and the "air-lock" area had a 6 X 2 footprint. The doors were spring-hinged as well as latchable, for security. I added shelves ovehead in the "air-lock" area for supplies and food.

In addition, I framed up some thin sheets of plexiglass in 1 X 2 frames and hinged them along the outside top edge to trap warm air in the upper region of the aviary for cool nights in the back-yard. During the day, or over warm nights, the plexiglass frames were latched in a raised position above head height.
This is one of the best Instructables I have read in a long time! We have a blue and gold macaw named Bonnie, (seen in photo, left) and a young double spangled english budgie named Luna. Bonnie used to have a separate aviary that she shared with her brothers (a few birds my gf's ex still has) but now they both have houses in the living room, where they are part of the life of our home. Truthfully, sometimes I wish she had a walk-in aviary, especially now that Bonnie will get down on the floor and walk around the house to find me. She's always stealthy, and scares the crap out of me when she grabs my pants leg and starts to climb, hehe. Sometimes, I make a point of eating chicken wings in front of her though, and I even share.

Thanks again! Knk
1o_o7 (author)  kurtnotkirk1 year ago
Hehe! I spit my drink when I read the part about the chicken wings. Ha! I love how they walk around. Both of my birds can fly, but one of them (the green-cheeked) refuses to unless forced. S/he prefers to walk everywhere. Also loves making forts out of newspapers or crawling under your shirt. They are extremely smart animals. My sun conure loved to dive bomb my cats and scare the hell out of them. Until one of the cats pounced and bit him. I had to rush the conure to the vet and get him on antibiotics for a couple of weeks and probiotics for another month after that (cat bites are very bad for birds). At least now he has learned not to dive bomb the cats anymore. Really amazing creatures.
Wow, what a scare! No cats here, but we are always on the watch with one of our dogs. Even though he is very laid back, our 3 yr old Newfoundland is still very much a puppy, and his instincts for chasing things can be pretty sharp. Our birds are clipped, and Bonnie has never flown, so when she deigns to walk on the ground, we are quick to get her back up to the top, or inside her house, just in case. Once recently however, I was in the room adjacent to our living room where Bonnie's house is, and I heard her muttering to herself, as she does when she is looking for me, or my gf... strangely, as I am writing this, she just walked into the room where I am sitting, illustrating the point I was writing about. She walked straight past both dogs, (the other, Mr. Snuffalufagas, a 6 yr old Newfie...) who seemed to ignore her. Once, we observed Bonnie and Coda (3 yr old) sitting nose to beak at her cage, silently staring at one another for several minutes... we believe that they were communicating on some level, and that they are secretly partners in crime, trying to figure out how to get the treats from the top of the refrigerator.
happy2bmom1 year ago
Fantastic! I love your cage design! I love how well you take care of your birds! And you are absolutely right about how great birds are! I miss my birds so much!
If space would allow it, I would love to build something similar for Fred, my medium sulfur crested cockatoo. Your set up is absolutely amazing, reminds me of the huge aviary we had in Florida when I was a kid, we kept all kinds of birds in it, not to mention a couple of rabbits in a separate section, it had been made out of one of those metal pole canopys that people often use for their cars or as temporary 'buildings' with wire mesh welded to it around the edges. I can't remember half of the bird breeds we had, I know we had cockateils, a couple of macaws (a green wing that I helped bottle feed, a severe, etc), amazons (Had a blue front named Popcorn, he had to be my favorite cause he always gave me kisses and was one of the sweetest birds we had lol), Indian ringnecks (my mom's favorites), doves (I couldn't sleep in my room at night because of those little rats, their coo reminded me of an owl or something and frightened me at night, I was 8 max) and so many others to even think of naming lol
j3xt3r1 year ago
I hate this instructable...
Foolishly I looked at it whilst my bird loving wife was looking over my shoulder and now I'm going to be nagged lmao
Great work.
1o_o7 (author)  j3xt3r1 year ago
Haha! Awesome. I am glad you like it. Thanks for the great compliment!
ma2rk1 year ago
I'm a bird lover as well and have several Zebra finches which we really enjoy. I'm currently building a flight cage with with water filter and the works. One thing I have always noticed is that all the information out there about bird building supplies (Wire)... is that Galvanized wire is fine for Finches and other Soft-bills, but is poisonous for Hook Bills like Parrots, because they use there beaks for climbing and getting around the cage. Might want to check it out.....looks like you have a few dollars invested in your birds.....Good Luck to you....Sincerely.
1o_o7 (author)  ma2rk1 year ago
Thanks! Actually, there are several sites that claim GAW hardware cloth and galvanized steel are terrible and that your birds will die of zinc poisoning, etc. This is an exaggeration. First, you simply brush the cage initially so that there are no little blobs of zinc hanging around that they are liable to eat. Secondly, use a gauge of wire that is thick enough that your particular size of bird can't break it off and swallow pieces of the wire. My parrots are small enough that 19 gauge is good enough. Larger birds like Hyacinth Macaws may even need to go to 12 gauge or so. Also, my aviary is quite large (as you can see) and also filled with things for the parrots to play with and chew on. Hence they aren't sitting around chewing on the wire. They constantly use their beaks on the wire mesh to climb, but this does not cause them to ingest zinc. This article discusses this issue and refers to hundreds of breeders that have used Galvanized After Welding (GAW) hardware cloth on their enclosures for 30 or 40 years with no problem at all with zinc poisoning in their birds and many of these cages were even outdoors and exposed to the elements (which mine is not). So I am not at all worried.
daphdaph1 year ago
Thank you for the story, video, and photos. I use to be scared of birds but admired them until almost 3 years ago. I found a young hummingbird that could not fly. I think he was pushed out of the nest because his development was not "normal". I learned so much from him and developed a love and respect for birds. He liked to go for drives and he loved music....especially swing like the squirrel nut zippers. He had a wonderful personality. I still miss him. I adopted a Green Cheek Conure after my little hummer passed away. I would have never, ever considered a pet bird if it was not for my hummingbird. I agree with Raven, is amazing how something so tiny can change your life.
This Aviary is a great idea!
1o_o7 (author)  daphdaph1 year ago
Thanks! Hummingbirds are awesome! I saw some slow motion video of them feeding and their wings simply flabbergast me. Unbelieveable!
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