When we first establish our bird rooms, we rely on the experiences of our fellow fanciers, as related in books, magazines, or personal communications. For canaries, budgerigars, domestic pigeons, poultry, most pheasants, and waterfowl, the husbandry required for some modicum of success is fairly well established. Even for these birds, variations in management, perhaps even minor ones, can increase production substantially. I raised budgerigars, always attaching the nest box to the side of the cage. It was startling to hear Binks describe how nesting was dramatically increased by bolting the nest box to the front of the cage. On the front, the box was darker, more secure. The sitting hen was less disturbed by the coming and going of people. It is very important for fanciers of different types of birds to communicate. Things that are obvious to one sub-branch of aviculture may be unknown among others.
Once when visiting a local bird store, I noticed that all the parrots were acting in a nervous manner. They were fidgeting in their cages, peering out the window up into the sky. I looked up into the sky and saw nothing. The birds’ displeasure was plainly very real. I again looked up, no w squinting. This time I barely made out a hovering pin point, way up. The superior vision of the parrots enabled them to recognize a hunting bird of prey. Not understanding that the glass was a barrier for a hawk, how stressed must the parrots have been. To their perception they were “sitting ducks,” exposed to imminent attack.
Where do we keep our birds? Converted garages, porches, spare rooms, or even basements. Where do birds live in the wild? As high up as possible. Watch the overwhelming majority of birds in the wild. They only come to the ground when sorely tempted by food. Even then they are always on the alert, ready to fly at the slightest alarm, real or imagined. I have tried keeping birds in cages, in a location at ground level, in cages about eight feet from the ground. They seemed much more secure. I was never able to maintain these accommodations for long periods of time, due to devious neighbors or hostile landlords.
I believe that the best place to situate an aviary is on the roof, what pigeon fanciers describe as a loft. The loft itself would be a building or new level built on top of the existing structure. The higher the original building and location is, the better. Coming off from the loft would be a flight, built along the lines of a greenhouse. Screen or welded wire would not be used in order to stop the transfer of disease between the exotic birds and the native birds. The technology for such glassed in areas has reached a very high level and is used by most fast food establishments Ventilation and shade would have to be carefully thought out, and would vary from region to region. Here in the North-East, we would have to both be able to shade the flight in the Summer and to obtain as much light as possible in the Winter. Accordingly ventilation would be regulated.
The birds might spend most of the day in the larger flight. Nights, or when startled by birds of prey, they could retreat to the enclosed loft building. Nests could be placed both in the flight and the loft. The birds probably would find the loft a more secure place to raise a family.
It might not be necessary to heat the flight. Even in the Winter, the sunlight will raise the temperature considerably in an enclosed glass area. No matter what, the birds could warm up in the heated loft. At night, the fancier should make sure that the birds roosted in the heated area.
An aviary on the roof would help control vermin, both two legged and four. Rats and mice would find it more difficult, but not impossible, to infest such a structure than one at ground level. Thieves would either have to actually break and enter into the aviculturist’s residence and make their way to the roof, or they would have to scale the side of the building. Either prospect would be more challenging than simply cutting some screen or forcing open a porch door. Yes, thefts would still occur, but they would be very less frequent.
Another advantage is the easy access to sunlight. I at first thought that birds were best maintained under full-spectrum artificial illumination,. Years ago, I noticed that birds able to bask even in window sunlight, in addition to the fluorescent lights, are much more active and vigorous. These observations were made at ground level. Here the birds were also frightened by passing cars, cats, dogs, and gawking people. On the roof these stressful objects would not be a factor.