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....