by Lara Joseph
Aviaries are large outdoor enclosures designed to give birds space to fly, walk, learn and explore in a naturally occurring environment. Providing an aviary in which to train birds is an important form of enrichment for them. Birds, like other animals learn, from their environments.
Birds with behavior problems might scream, pluck, or resort to nesting behaviors. Conversely, birds in aviaries have an opportunity to interact with their environments in positive ways and can demonstrate positive behaviors to replace abnormal, repetitive, or undesired behaviors.
An aviary improves a bird’s environment with its exposure to sunlight. Birds absorb sunlight, which aids in the distribution of vitamin D. The intake of vitamin D improves a bird’s health and its feather quality, molting and regrowth.
Aviaries also provide the ideal opportunity to train birds with distractions from neighbors, wind, other animals, noises, and shadows. Practicing recall with these distractions can increase the bird’s focus during a training session.
People who rent homes, live in townhomes, condominiums, or apartments that have to conform to association rules might not have the authorization or space to have an outdoor aviary. So a few of the options available to people with limited indoor or outdoor space are enclosed porches or patios, enclosing small outdoor areas, maximizing available indoor space, modifying cages into flights in an unused room, and using PVC pipes to create an aviary. PVC aviaries can be built for less than $100.
Birds that are unfamiliar with aviaries or live primarily indoors might benefit from a slow introduction to the aviary. The bird should consider the aviary to be a positive experience. If the bird shows any signs of fear in its vocalizations or body language, immediately return to the point where it showed signs of calm body language and build up from there.
It is important to remember to positively reinforce calm behavior with each step toward the aviary. During the summer, it is important to reintroduce the birds to the aviary at a pace at which they are comfortable. Any attempt to rush the birds into the aviary at a pace that seems appropriate and ignoring their signs of discomfort will cause them to fly away and not go to the aviary.
Birds’ safety and protection from predators are the primary considerations when planning and building an aviary. Birds might require a human’s presence when predators are near the aviary, and they should be transported to the aviary in a carrier to prevent an accidental flight if the aviary is not adjacent to their primary residence.
This article originally appeared in BARKS from the Guild, Issue 7, April 2014, pp. 44-45.
Lara Joseph is the owner of The Animal Behavior Center, an international educational center focusing on teaching people how to live, love and work with animals using positive reinforcement and approaches in applied behavior analysis. She is a professional animal behavior consultant and trainer, and member of The Animal Behavior Management Alliance, The International Association of Avian Trainers and Educators and The Pet Professional Guild.