Building an Aviary
Having an aviary in your backyard can be a wonderful experience as it is a sanctuary for birds as well as somewhere to unwind after a stressful day. An easy-to-build aviary can be constructed from treated pine logs and wire for under $500. This style of aviary can house finches, parrots, chooks or peacocks and it looks good in the backyard.
Before ordering any materials draw up a plan to scale showing the aviary in relation to existing structures and boundaries. Mark in the dimensions and the position of the supporting poles.
Hint: It is advisable to include a vestibule area (like an airlock) with a second door leading from the vestibule into the aviary proper. With this system in place if birds escape from the main section they simply fly into another enclosed area, rather than into the wild.
Consult your local council to find out about necessary building planning approvals and restrictions on keeping fowl.
Materials and equipment
The aviary we constructed was made with upright treated pine poles linked top and bottom by horizontal pieces (also of treated timber). The structure was strengthened by diagonally placed wire across the roof. The entire structure was clad with mesh and one section finished with a Colorbond roof (for shelter). For a sketch of the aviary see diagram 1.
To build an aviary 3.6m x 3.6m square x 2m high (approximately 12x12x7') you will need the following materials. If your aviary is a different size, modify the number of poles and the amount of wire to suit your plan.
- nine 100mm x 3.6m (4" x 12') round treated pine logs
- (for the top and bottom plus one for roof slope)
- five 100mm x 2.4m (4"x8') round treated pine logs
- (uprights plus one for gate)
- one 50m (16') roll of 1200mm (4') wide 21 Gauge (0.8 gauge) wire mesh (hole size is 12.5 x 12.5mm or 1/2x1/2")
- galvanised nails and galvanised staples
- metal frame gate to suit the size of the opening you need
- straining wire for the roof
- two sheets of corrugated Colorbond roofing 1800 x 600mm (6x2') for a weather-proof roof
- two pad bolts and two hinges (for the gate)
- one packet netting fasteners and netting fastener tool
- one packet twist ties and tie zip tool
- tin snips for cutting wire
Step 1: Measuring
Order the timber (treated pine logs) according to the measurements on your plan.
Hint: When ordering timber remember to stipulate that you want it straight.
Measure the area and erect string lines before beginning construction. The string lines set up the outside perimeter of the aviary and mark the points for the upright poles to go in.
Step 2: Putting in poles
Dig holes for the upright treated pine poles. To make the task of removing the dirt easier we used a double handled or pincer shovel which can pick up dirt. (These shovels retail for around $80 each and are available from hardware stores and building suppliers.)
- Place the poles into the holes. Use a spirit level to check that the poles are straight and level.
- Fill the holes at the base of each pole with soil then tamp down around the poles with a crow bar. As there is only a small area of Colorbond roof and the rest of the aviary is a light, airy wire construction the poles should not need to be set in concrete for additional support.
Step 3: Joining poles
- To make the framework link the upright poles with horizontally placed pieces top and bottom.
- Joining the horizontal pieces to make the top of the frame needs only a simple notch cut and some galvanised nails.
- Cut notches at the ends of the horizontal pieces and from the top of the upright poles where the two join.
- Cut and then use a chisel to remove the timber. (See diagram 2A)
- To fix the lower lengths to form the base of the frame, dig a shallow trench, no more than 50mm (2") deep. Lay the logs level in the trench. (See diagram 2B). There is no need to chisel out the ends of the lower logs, just butt them together and nail.
Hint: Use a saw to square off the ends of the horizontal pieces before attaching them to the upright poles.
Step 4: Straining wire supports
- To provide extra support for the structure straining or fencing wire is run between the tops of each diagonally opposite upright pole. This creates a cross of wire where the roofing wire will be fixed.
- Using wire to strengthen the structure makes it is possible to use long lengths of timber in each span and so to reduce the amount of timber and the construction cost. The diagonal wires also hold the wire mesh in place and prevent it from sagging.
- To fix the wires tie one end around an upright pole take the wire diagonally across to the top of the opposite pole then loop back to the starting point, creating a double strand. Strain the wire (see step below) then run a second strand of wire from the other corner pole to the one opposite to make a criss-cross. Tension the second wire.
To strain or tension the wires take a long screwdriver about 600mm (2') long and put it between the two wire strands of one diagonal. Turn the screwdriver repeatedly in one direction. This will twist and tighten the wire. When the wire is tight, put the second wire in position and repeat the straining until this other diagonal strand is tight as well.
Note: Straining a wire in this way is dangerous so don't let go of the screwdriver while it is in use as it could come flying out of the wire and hit you or someone standing nearby.
Step 5: Attaching mesh fence
- Wire mesh keeps the birds in the aviary and also protects them from predators. To attach the mesh:
Cut it to the correct length according to your plan and the spacing and height of your poles. Depending on the width of the roll of wire mesh there will probably be two strips of wire mesh per wall or roof.
- Where there are two strips used to form one wall join the two strips together with galvanised netting fasteners and a netting fastener tool before attaching the mesh to the sides of the frame. Use a double row of fasteners.
- Next attach the mesh to the timber frame using galvanised staples, securing the mesh tightly down one side then the other. Attach the bottom strip loosely to the base of the frame.
Hint: The mesh fencing strip at the bottom needs to be cut long enough to be buried in a trench to stop foxes and other predators burrowing through to the aviary. To make an effective barrier needs at least 450mm (18") of extra wire. Take the wire down a further 150mm (6") below the base of the aviary into a shallow trench. Bend the wire at right angles, taking it out about 300mm (12"). With the wire buried in this way an animal digging to try to get into the aviary will just strike wire and will not be able to dig under the base of your wire wall.
Step 6: Putting in gate
Attach the frame of the gate to the upright pole to make a doorway. Use pad bolts and hinges. You can make your own gate to suit your dimensions or have one welded to suit you.
Tip: When designing your aviary allow for a wide door (at least 1m x 2m or 3x7') so wheelbarrows can fit into the aviary for cleaning purposes.
- Once the gate frame is secured, cover it with the same wire mesh used for the main structure. Attach the mesh to the frame with galvanised twist ties, using a tie zip tool which twists the wire ties around the mesh and frame.
Step 7: The roof
- A section of Colorbond roofing was attached to the roof to give a sheltered spot within the larger aviary.
First fix an extra treated pine log across one section of the frame above the mesh. This will give a little height so allowing the solid part of the roof to drain. (See Diagram 3)
- Attach the sheet of Colorbond to the extra log by drilling in wood screws.
Note: Using Colorbond allows you to choose whatever colour will suit your backyard. We used bronze olive colour.
Step 8 - Landscaping
- While the landscape you create inside your aviary will reflect the overall style of your garden there are a few hints to follow.
Landscape the aviary with plants, hollow logs and other features. Include seeding grasses for the birds to feed on.
- To maintain a garden in an aviary put in an irrigation system.
The materials for our aviary were purchased from the following suppliers. Similar businesses would exist in other states such as timber suppliers, landscape constructors, hardware stores and landscape suppliers, to supply the materials mentioned.
Timber purchased from
Midcoast Timber Centres,
18 Constitution Road, Meadowbank, NSW, 2114.
Phone: (02) 9809 0731.
Wire mesh fencing purchased from
Crystal Pet and Wire, 77 Rooty Hill Road, North Rooty Hill, NSW, 2766.
Phone: (02) 9625 9170.
Hardware supplies were purchased from
Mitre 10 Hardware, 7 Kenthurst Road, Dural, NSW, 2158. Phone: (02) 9651 1072.
Landscaping supplies were purchased from
Australian Native Landscapes at Terrey Hills, NSW. Phone: (02) 9450 1444.
Don was assisted in our aviary construction by a professional carpenter Matt Pettigrew of Mattason Landscape and Outdoor Carpentry NSW. Phone: (02) 4575 2058.
The aviary was designed by Don Burke in conjunction with Brad Baxter of Award Pools and Landscapes, Lot 4 Old Windsor Road, Kellyville, NSW, 2155. Phone: (02) 9629 3639.
Copyright CTC Productions 2006