Utopia by Jennifer Phillips

Written By: B.D. Butler - Dec• 10•12

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Phillips

My goal as a parrot owner is to create new and exciting spaces, toys, perches, etc. for my birds.  While I can’t entirely recreate their quality of life in the wild, I strive to give them a stimulating and enriching environment.  Having an outdoor space to soak up the sunshine, fly and play is one of the ways I promote their well-being.  

The original aviary was designed for my Green Aracaris.  Aracaris, unlike hookbills, do not chew, so I was able to use golf course netting to enclose the frame.  The aviary is built atop the patio outside the bird room.  It’s convenient to be able to open the back door or window and allow them to fly out to the aviary.  I have a concrete slab patio, so it was easy to build upon:  a simple wooden frame bolted to the concrete, and wooden beams attached to the existing patio overhang.  The frame at the bottom has half-inch cutouts every 12 inches to allow for drainage.  Large amounts of rain simply overflow. 

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Phillips

The golf netting was amazing; lightweight and very organic looking, but it had major flaws.  Squirrels constantly chewed through the net to get bits of food left behind, no matter how much I tried to keep it spotless.  In the original design, I left a space for a door but did not frame it.  My idea was to keep it totally enclosed to avoid any escapes.  However, it became too difficult to move large perches in and out of the aviary for cleaning, so I built a simple door from 1 X 1 inch wood.  I use sliding bolt locks on both sides of the door so if I am in the yard, I can lock the birds inside and vice versa

When the parrots joined the flock, I decided to extend the aviary to allow more room for flight.  In addition, because the birds like to climb on the sides of the aviary, and possibly chew, the netting was swapped out for 16 gauge wire.   The wire is stainless steel and does not rust, is bacteria resistant and does not contain zinc.  There are cheaper wires, such as galvanized (which resists corrosion), but it does contain zinc.  I felt, in the long term, the expense was worth it – and better to stay on the side of caution if the birds chew on the wire.  In fact, they sometimes do!

Click here for Aviary Wire Mesh.

The wire, like the netting was very easy to install.  I found it easier to use the entire roll rather than cutting it to fit the frame.  Also, I think it looks neater when rolled over the frame and attached with staples.  I used a compressor and staple gun and the job was finished in about an hour.  It’s also extremely helpful to have a good pair of tin snips to cut off the sharp edges.   Any connecting or exposed areas of wire are easily remedied with clasps.

The parrot aviary was extended to cover the entire patio.  It measures 20 feet long, 8 feet wide and 12 feet at its highest point.  Wood bars are staggered across the top to add strength to the structure, and are perfect for hanging toys. 

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Phillips

The wire was huge improvement over the netting, although I prefer the more organic look of the net.  Next spring I plan on installing a misting system.  I currently have a small mister set up with a garden hose, but last summer was brutally hot and I need a system that covers a larger area and cools everything down.  Plus, it’s a great way for the birds to keep their feathers clean to play in the mist! 

All the perches inside the aviary are handmade from branches collected around the city.  Most are from elm trees which are safe for the birds to play on, chew, etc.  Also, I filled the space with hanging boings, orbs, edible flowers, rope and more for the birds to enjoy.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Phillips

Because the aracaris and parrots cannot be left unattended, I’m considering sectioning it off down the middle. I’m still trying to come up with a good concept (rolling panel?) that allows me to open and close the space so that flight across the entire aviary is permitted, as well as closing off the space so all five birds can be outside together. 

The aviary looks impressive, but it’s actually a simple project.  If you don’t have a large space, enclosing a balcony or small patio is a great idea.   Natural sunlight is so important to birds, as is playtime, bathing and foraging.  The aviary fulfills all these pertinent requirements.

Plus, picture this:  A warm, clear summer evening.  The sun is setting, the crickets are humming.  The parrots are contentedly grinding their beaks after a day of swinging from boings and munching on fresh dandelions.  It’s a privilege and honor to join them in their reverie. 

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Phillips

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  1. Doyle Hugh McNelly says:

    Wonderful person!! The birds are very, very lucky. Doyle H. McNelly

  2. Bic says:

    I love this design! Thanks for the idea! You are a fabulous parrot owner.

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