Our garden with the aviaries

from left to right

fly-out aviary 4x1x2 m to be divided into two compartments
5 breeding boxes 2x1x2 m for European seed eaters
4 breeding cages 0.70x1x1 on the head side
Natural aviary for European insect eaters with plastic mesh divided into two compartments

Whatever some bird keepers may say, an aviary is an unnatural environment for birds. Perhaps if the aviary is very large, it can more or less imitate a natural environment. Normally, in our hobby, the available space is limited and important nutrients that grow in nature must now be replaced with commercially available seed mixes. This does not mean that captive birds have a bad life. On the contrary. Bird keepers are generally very responsible with their hobby and the health and condition of the birds is their first priority. When designing an aviary, we must try to offer an alternative to nature that is as acceptable as possible. For the well-being of our birds and for our own pleasure, but in this order.

Before we start designing and building an aviary, we need to have an idea of what kind of birds we are going to keep. A novice bird keeper will generally start with birds that are fully domestified, less susceptible to disease and no special nutritional requirements. In my first aviaries I had canaries, zebra finches, diamond doves and quails. I had these birds for a long time and enjoyed them a lot. It was also not difficult to breed with this. The species we want to keep also determines how we design and construct the aviary. Australian parakeets, for example, can ruin an entire aviary in a year if it is made of wood. We must also determine in advance what the function of the aviary will be. Is it the intention to give an extra dimension to the garden as part of the architecture .. Or is it perhaps the intention to breed seriously with birds.

When I built my first aviary, the intention was to fully integrate it into the architecture of the garden. I really only wanted to keep birds for their liveliness, color and song and had no intention of breeding. However, nature cannot be forced and soon the birds spontaneously started to nest and chicks were born. Then you realize how much fun that actually is and soon you start to think about growing purposefully. After some time I started building aviaries especially for breeding European Birds.

The first step is to find the right place. Usually the place is determined to some extent by the location and design of the garden. The aviary that I now describe was facing west-east. On the south side there were already tall conifers that would provide protection against rain and too much sunshine. An aviary always attracts pests (rats, mice) and many other birds from nature. This can become a source of annoyance and it also transmits diseases. When we make a design, we should strive to keep pests out as much as possible. This means that we have to make our aviary rodent-proof and also that we must prevent the excrement of wild birds from entering the aviary.

Preparation natural aviary
Before construction begins, a good drawing must be made how the aviary should look like. Now is the right time to start thinking about how to prevent pests. When a suitable site has been found, a layer of soil must be dug up and the site leveled. I apply a mesh with a diameter of 7 mm on this ground. In principle, mice can still (with difficulty) get through this, but will not easily do so. Moreover, they are very vulnerable if they try to get back into the soil thick from the seed. The ground is poured back onto the mesh and made further flat.
The foundation is now being laid where bricklaying is required. However, make sure that the surface is already well tamped or compacted. As a foundation I used 60x40 tiles. I buy (very cheap) tiles with pieces off at a garden center. After being completely leveled, a wall of approximately 7 layers will be built on this foundation. The eye wants something too. The stones I used are the same color as the house's. If you are not an experienced bricklayer, it makes sense to get some help. Bricklaying such a small wall is not difficult, but you have to take the time to do it and always keep an eye on the fact that the layers are still reasonably level.

The material we first think of when we are going to build an aviary is natural wood. Wood is easy to work and a layman can quickly get along with this. However, wood also has a considerable number of disadvantages. It requires regular maintenance and wood can also start to work, causing cracks and seams. This in turn can provide housing for parasites (eg red mites).

Nowadays many aviaries are built from aluminum. The big advantage is that aluminum requires almost no maintenance. Due to the strength of the material, the uprights can also be smaller, which greatly improves the view in the aviary. After having had wooden aviaries for years, I switched completely to aluminum. I now have nine breeding aviaries and a large aviary for young birds. There are a number of very professional companies that supply aluminum aviaries and if necessary build and place them. I bought my big fly-out flight from the Eurokooi company in Best, the Netherlands. Based on my wishes, a design was made and after I made the necessary preparations myself (including the pouring of a concrete floor and the laying of a parapet, a ready-made aviary was placed in one day. manufactured and installed. There are quite large price differences between the various supplier, so make a careful selection..

When one compares the costs, an aluminum aviary is of course, quite an investment. However, if you consider the lifespan and maintenance, an aluminum aviary pays itself back after a several years. There are several options when you choose aluminum. The cheapest is of course to construct the entire aviary yourself. necessary parts for self-construction are available. Ready-made elements can also be supplied must then be assembled on the spot. The most expensive option is of course to have the entire aviary installed.

My first aviary was 4.50 x 1.80x 2.00m. and made of wooden parts (5.0 x 7.6 cm). Before the framework is put together, the posts must first be properly stained. Once the aviary is in place, it is difficult to do a lot of major maintenance unless the birds are removed. Wood in contact with stone will rot quickly because the stones retain moisture for a long time. Before the horizontal parts were applied, plastic strips were applied (0.7 cm) so that there is no contact between the wood and stone and wood rot is prevented.

When the construction is made, it is very important to seal the wood joints where gaps have formed in order to eliminate as much as possible places where parasites (eg red mites) can hide. The material on the bottom must be able to dry quickly. For my natural aviary, this is about 8 inches (20 cm) of wood chips. In the spring, when pruning is done in the park near our house, there are large piles here, from which I have "borrowed" many wheelbarrows. Every week I remove the chips from under the resting places and replace them with fresh ones. Sometimes I use the water hose to spray the rest.

For a mixed aviary it is nice to plant it, but never under the areas where but rest, because the excrement is difficult to remove. I mainly have boxwood and elderberry. Elderberry is not evergreen and a real attack is made on the buds in the spring. However, there is enough left to run out again. Buxus is better left alone, although some birds do take out the young growth points. For the planting it is necessary to inform you whether the plants are not poisonous to the birds. If a plant is poisonous, such as ivy and yew, they are usually left alone, but you never know. If the plants are well established, good pruning should be done in the spring to maintain sufficient space to fly.

Mice that have gained access to the aviary can become a real pest. 12 mm mesh will not stop a young field mouse. When they can dig into the bottom of the aviary, within a few months there are large numbers. contaminating the food with their excrement, passing through the nests and introducing diseases. I placed an rim of 40 cm persplex around my aviary. The smooth surface prevents the mice from climbing up to get into the aviary through the mesh. For years I have been mouse-free this way. Until the summer of 2012. In the winter a persplex strip had been blown out between the sponing and I had neglected to replace it quickly. Apparently the mice had been waiting for this, because in the spring of 2012 I noticed that there were mouse droppings on the food shelf. In the center of the aviary was a large pampus grass bush and I saw a mouse going in and out every now and then. By now I had nesting bluethroats and blackcaps in the same pampus bush, so I couldn't do much about it. However, I decided to shield the feeding shelf completely with persplex strips, so that they could no longer reach the feed. This was a mistake, because the next day they had eaten all the eggs of the bluethroat and blackheads because they couldn't get to the food anymore. After catching the birds I removed the pampus grass bush and filled all the corridors with water with a garden hose. After a while I was able to whack 7 soaking wet mice to death. Mice may also have drowned in the ground. After this the problem was solved and the tuition fee paid. Strips of persplex around the aviary are very effective against mice, but you have to make sure that all plates remain in place.

Different requirements apply for a breeding aviary. The bottom material does not consist of sand, soil or wood chips, but special absorption granules, which are also used in pigeon lofts. If breeding aviaries are built side by side, the separation must be opaque when keeping birds of the same species. I use Trespa plates for this. This is a considerable investment, but the plates do not absorb moisture at all, so do not rot and are easy to clean.

First of all, we must ensure that no places are created in the aviary that remain moist. We must always protect the aviary from the rain. If you want to keep it natural, putting dense shrubs on the outside of the aviary can make a big difference. Applying polycarbonate plates (perspex) in places where the wind and rain often come from is also very effective. An aviary for European seed eaters MUST have a roof and this roof must be watertight and well drained. When only insect eaters are kept, part of the aviary can remain uncovered. Make sure there are enough places with shelter from wind and rain. Since most European seed eaters are sensitive to parasites (coccidiosis and atoxoplasmosis), there should be no areas in the bird enclosure that are moist and remain moist for long. Said parasites go through a cycle of multiplication outside the bird's body and this happens in a moist environment. Here, too, it is recommended to choose a good absorbent material as a floor covering. It is ideal to place the entire aviary on a concrete slab. The concrete is poured on a moisture-resistant tarpaulin, so that the groundwater cannot rise. Rats, mice and insects can also transmit many diseases. Rodents also disturb the birds when they are at rest. Many a bird breeder has lost nests because mice made the aviary unsafe at night and walked over the perches and nests. There are a number of things that are very important to prevent pests and diseases in the aviary. I have listed the most important ones.

Avoid cracks and seams when constructing. These cannot be cleaned properly and are therefore a great hiding place for parasites (red mites).

Construct the aviary in such a way that cleaning can be done quickly and efficiently. If you want plants in the aviary, place it in containers for easy spraying of the plants outside the aviary.

Avoid spilling of food in and outside the aviary. Position the feeding board so that no seed can fall or blow outside the aviary. This is to prevent other birds and rodents from being attracted to this.

Check the aviary for areas where rodents can enter. Keep in mind that mice can crawl through very narrow openings. A strip of 20 cm perspex around the aviary ensures that young mice cannot crawl through the mesh in the aviary. Also apply perspex plates to the outside of the aviary at the location of the feeding shelf. This prevents wild birds from hanging from the mesh all day long to take a piece of the pie. They can then infect the aviary with the excrement.

Clean the aviary regularly. If you apply absorbent granules under the perches, that saves a lot of work and the manure dries out quickly.

Clean food bowls and drinking bottles daily. It is best to have everything double. Food bowls and drinking bottles can be washed in the dishwasher.

Do not leave bathing containers in the aviary for more than half an hour.

Perches must be placed in such a way that contamination of drinking and feeding troughs is not possible. Regular cleaning of these perches must also be possible. The preference is therefore for sticks that are easy to detach, so that they can be replaced weekly with clean ones.

Apply electric fence to keep cats at a distance. This is not cruel. Cats that have been affected by this once, do not return. A bird keeper who is furious because a nest has been lost or birds have flown to death against the wire mesh at night, is many times more dangerous to cats than electric fence wire.

Breeding cage 1x0.6m

Breeding aviaries 2x1 m

Natural aviary e.g. for mixed population


There is a lot to say and a lot to discuss about the breeding of European birds. Each grower has developed his/her own method after many good and bad experiences. It is good to listen to experienced breeders, but never simply copy everything. Also, don't combine all the "good" that everyone has told you into your system. A number of things are important for the successful breeding of European birds. I have listed them again below. The various topics are discussed in more detail in other places on my website HYGIENE If you hate cleaning, don't start raising European birds. Most are more susceptible to disease than other birds. Bird enclosures must therefore be cleaned frequently and preferably afterwards treated with a disinfectant (eg Halamide). Still, this should not be exaggerated. It is a misconception to think that European birds should be kept under strict sterile conditions. But accumulated manure and damp spots in the bird enclosure can lead to infection. Problems can be prevented by applying absorbent granules under the perches and replacing the top layer every week.


It is ideal to purchase the birds on the spot from a breeder. Trading birds generally lead to great disappointment and are bad for the wallet. It is better to be able to see how the birds are kept on the spot. Is the housing correct, are the cages clean and hygienic? The purchase of birds must be done after moulting. Birds moved during moulting are much more susceptible to illness and stress. If you are going to purchase birds, it is best to use the following procedure.Observe the birds for some time with some distance from the cage

  • The birds should look clear from their eyes and sit tight in the feathers.They should make a vivid impression.They should not be shy or stressed.Toes and nails must be complete with no lumps or damage.Legs must be smooth. Presence of white-yellow spots can indicate lime leg mite.Then take the bird in your hand and inflate the breast feathersThere should be no visible liver spot or swollen intestinal loops.The sternum must not be sharp.No faeces on the buttocks or legs.Feathers of the wings should fit snugly and look tight and not frayedBring the bird to the ear and listen for its breathingIt must not be audible.

Here are the keywords "balance in nutrients" and "avoidance of excess". The basis is a good seed mixture and EGG FOOD. In winter egg food in moderation (1 or 2 times a week) and as the breeding season approaches, more and more until the egg food is provided daily. If there are 100 breeders, there are also 100 different types of egg food. The protein content is important. Too skimpy causes problems in rearing the young. Too much protein leads to overactivity (usually in the male), which also results in unsuccessful breeding rounds.

This seems like an exaggeration, but I am increasingly convinced that active birds breed better. Certainly birds such as crossbills, but also others have a strong need for "occupational therapy". Branches to gnaw on, bunches of hung weeds (if fresh and harvested from an untreated plot), millet spray, bath water (also essential for care).

In April it will itch for most enthusiasts. There may have been some very nice days already. The birds sing loudly and then there is a tendency to mate too early and / or to provide the nesting material. I myself have become wise through damage and disgrace and start mating my bullfinches in mid-April and give nesting opportunity at the end of April. The rearing of birds that have been in a large aviary all year round is strongly discouraged. If breeding cages (100x70x70) are used, transfer the birds here well before the breeding season.

Appropriate nesting opportunity
Provide nesting boxes in different places in the aviary so that the birds must be able to make a choice. Also provide different types of nesting material.

With a few exceptions, the young need animal protein in the first phase of their life. This is provided by means of egg food supplemented with insects and germ seed. Feeding lots of small portions is better than giving large portions a few times a day. The rearing food must always be fresh and "something new" in the food bowl encourages the parents to feed.

These are a few rules of thumb and are discussed in more detail in several places on the website. Every novice grower pays tuition fees and has disappointments. Try to develop your own system. Listen to everyone, but remain critical. Start with an easy bird and join an association. In the case of European birds in the Netherlands, this is the SEC. There are regular meetings where many experiences are exchanged and contacts can also be made to get good breeding birds.