Photo: Les Rance. Safer all round: this budgerigar aviary at Les’s set-up has 16-gauge weld mesh all round 

LES RANCE concludes his three-part series on colony-breeding budgerigars with advice on wire gauges, perches and pests. For previous instalments, see February 7 and 28 issues.

WHEN building an aviary for your budgerigars, the best wire to use is weld mesh with a size of 1.27cm x 2.5cm (½in x 1in). You can use the thin 19-gauge, which is cheaper, but I prefer the heavier 16-gauge. This is because if, in the future, you want to keep a larger species, such as the eastern rosella (Platycercus eximius), the 16-gauge is fine for them, whereas the 19-gauge might be chewed through and your birds escape. In addition the 16-gauge is easier to work with, especially if you are using wood rather than tubular aluminium as the main structure.

Your design will be dictated by the space you have available. But remember, it is preferable to have a plastic roof covering more than 75 per cent of the top of the aviary and provision to stop the cold winter winds blowing through the flight. An inside shelter where you can fit an electric light and dimmer to increase the feeding time in winter will make life easier.

Perches are an important consideration since pet-type budgerigars are active and enjoy lots of “playtime”. I use both willow and hazel perches of various diameters; those that are only 9mm (3/8in) offer some “give” so that the birds can bounce up and down on them. Birds will enjoy biting the bark from stronger perches with a larger diameter. Once all the bark is removed I renew the perches.

Budgerigars enjoy gnawing wood and by providing plenty of new perches, they are less likely to attack the wooden structure of your aviaries. Always ensure that perches are securely fitted because if they twist and turn, it will make mating difficult and you will have a high proportion of infertile eggs. Due to their love of chewing it is difficult to keep budgerigars in planted aviaries since they kill anything that tries to grow. In the past I have experimented with giving them large clay flowerpots filled with young willow trees, but those did not last long!

You must ensure the structure is rat-proof by including suitable footings as a base. Once rats get into an aviary they are hard to eradicate and will kill and eat your birds. If you keep budgerigars in an outside aviary with a grass floor, you must consider the risk of a build-up of intestinal worm eggs that stay viable for long periods in the damp floor conditions.

I once had a light green hen breeding with four babies in such a set-up and found her dead one morning. When I checked at post-mortem she had 34 2cm (¾in) long worms in her intestine. Fortunately, the cock raised the four babies. Use sand on the floor and keep it dry with a plastic roof over the majority of the flight, and worm eggs will quickly dry up when they fall on the sand, so cannot turn into worms if the bird ingests the dried-up egg.

The keeping of all birds is an absorbing hobby but as I wrote in the February 7 issue, budgerigars are easy to manage. They are ideal for the beginner and there is no doubt that they give the keeper great satisfaction. If you are retired and have a fair amount of spare time, place a nice comfortable chair near your aviary and sit and watch their antics. It is a great way to pass half an hour. Enjoy your hobby.

Les Rance is the secretary of The Parrot Society UK.

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