How to Make An
Aviary by A. H.
One of the charms of having a good garden is the opportunity it affords
for keeping different pets, caged or at liberty; and those who are fond
of birds can find no easier way of watching their habits than by keeping
them in an out-door aviary, such as any bright boy with a love for
carpentering, and a few good tools, can build for himself.
There are certain rules and facts connected with carpentry to be borne
in mind and acted upon: Buy only the best tools, and keep them sharp;
keep your tools, when not in use, well out of the reach of little
children, who would be glad to use your chisels, if not to dig out
refractory tin tacks, at least as screw-drivers.
In doing any out-door work, such as a fern frame, dove's house, or what
not, never put together any part of it inside the shop until you have
ascertained that such portion will somehow get through the doorway. This
remark brings us back to the aviary, and its general size.
If it is to be about seven feet square, the frame of each side can be
set up in-doors; if larger than that, each piece of wood, when prepared,
will have to be taken out, and the various parts joined together near
where the aviary is to stand.
The materials we require consist merely of ordinary deal rafters, two
inches square, and a good number of deal boards, five-eighths of an inch
thick, planed on one side, with rebate and groove already cut—all of
which may be obtained of any timber-merchant.
First, the frame of one side, as before stated, is put together, A B C D
(Fig. 1), then that of the opposite side, E F G H, the various corners
being mortised into one another (Fig. 2). Then the remaining parts of
the frame having been got ready piece by piece, the whole may be set up.
The two iron stays between each couple of upright rafters must on no
account be omitted; nor yet the galvanized iron squares, similar to
those used by shop-keepers to support their window-shelves, which will
be found most useful to strengthen the angles.
Now get the mason to come with his cement and some bricks, and build up
on the selected site a level foundation for the house to rest on,
spreading a layer of cement along the top of the upper course of bricks,
to which the base of the frame-work (which must be lifted on to it while
it is moist) will adhere. Then, to give additional stability, and lessen
the risk of the house being lifted or shifted by a gale (for, being open
in front and sides, it will offer, like the inside of an open umbrella,
far greater resistance to the wind than would be the case if glazed as a
greenhouse is), an inner line of bricks is next cemented against the
side of the bottom rafters all round, and flush with their surface, as
seen at Fig. 3. Lastly, when the floor has been paved with bricks, the
mason's job is finished.
Now comes the roof. This is made to play out widely for two purposes: to
give our aviary a somewhat ornamental appearance, and also to carry the
drip well clear of the walls and wire netting. First of all, the boards,
B (Fig. 4), must be nailed on, planed surface downward, to form a smooth
ceiling; then the whole is covered with strips of stout canvas, A,
overlapping one another. The ends of the canvas are fastened tightly
under the eaves, and the exposed selvedge of one strip, with the
selvedge of the next beneath, is properly tacked to the wood. Finally
the top piece, C, and the narrow strips of wood, B (Fig. 5), being
securely nailed on over the canvas, the roof is complete; and when
painted with light lead-color, it will be perfectly water-proof, and
have the appearance, without the weight, of a real leaden covering.
There remain the sides to be walled up. The boards for these can now be
nailed on from the bottom upward, with the exception of the pieces H H
(Fig. 6), which must be left over until the wire netting has been
attached to the upright pillars. A window two feet square, of a single
pane of strong glass, well bedded in putty, to give more light to the
interior, without extra draught, and with wire netting over the glass on
the inside, is placed at the back, where also is seen the door,
capacious enough for a person to get in and clean out the aviary when
required; for which purpose three feet by two feet will give sufficient
room. But we do not want the bother of unfastening this big door, and
stooping down to the floor, every time we put in the saucers of food,
besides running the risk of allowing some of the birds to fly out during
the operation; so we construct another one, much smaller, at the side
(Fig. 7), at about the height of one's elbow when standing by it. Two
brackets fixed to the door serve to keep it in a horizontal position
when open, thus forming a table on which to place and fill the saucers
with seed and bread and milk, before transferring them to the wooden
tray at the same level inside. Another little door, fourteen inches by
four inches, with the bottom of it flush with the brick floor, A (Fig.
8), and a spring like that of a mouse-trap attached to the hinges to
make it shut, will be large enough to admit a zinc trough one foot
square, two inches deep, which will contain abundance of water to give
all the birds a good bath daily.
Two coats of lead-color painted over the whole outside wood-work, two
coats of dark green over that and over the wire netting, three coats of
light lead-color over the outside of the roof, with three coats of white
paint over the walls and roof inside, will complete the work of the
The arrangement of perches and nesting-places may be left to the
reader's judgment. The goldfinches will want some slender twigs close to
the roof, and a swinging perch, such as in Fig. 9, as they love to get
up as high as possible, and look down contemptuously on everybody else.
The canaries will like another swing (Fig. 10) suspended from a stout
perch above by a small swivel and chain, and placed in the front near
the wires, where they can be swung to and fro by the breeze. It is
pretty to watch the canaries singing as they swing.
The site should be as sunny and sheltered as possible. If the front of
the house can face south, and there be a hedge or spreading shrub on the
eastern side, the birds will have nothing to complain of from spring to
autumn. By the first of November place a covering of thick warm felt
over the whole roof, tacking it to the narrow slips above the canvas, so
that a space is left between the boards and the felt, the warmth of a
double roof is imparted to the interior, and the birds are made all
snug and comfortable. This covering, together with a wooden shutter
fitting closely over the top half of the netting on the weather side,
may be removed again in March.
One word more. It may happen that at feeding or cleaning-out time a cock
bullfinch, or some valued bird, will slip out and escape. Nothing
whatever will be gained by exclaiming, "What a pity!" nor would it be
wise to chase the fugitive from bush to bush, because to pursue would
merely frighten it farther afield. But if left alone, it will probably
be too much astonished at the novelty of its freedom to think of flying
at first farther than the nearest thick shrub. So, having noticed where
it has flown to, we must fetch the trap-cage without losing a moment,
put in a hen from the aviary as call-bird, a few grains of hemp as bait,
stand the cage on a box, or anything else, close to the bush, and watch
from some point out of sight. In less than ten minutes we shall most
likely have caught the truant safely once more.