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How to Make An Aviary by A. H. M.

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.

Fig. 1. Fig. 1.

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.

Fig. 2. Fig. 2.

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.

Fig. 3. Fig. 3.

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.

Fig. 4. Fig. 4.
Fig. 5. Fig. 5.

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.

Fig. 6. Fig. 6.
Fig. 7. Fig. 7.
Fig. 8. Fig. 8.

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 house itself.

Fig. 9. Fig. 9.
Fig. 10. Fig. 10.

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.