rand avicultural society
conservation through aviculture
The Garden Aviary
An Introduction To A Mixed Collection Of Small Seedeaters by Gordon M Duncan

The Aviary
A great many people start out keeping birds when they decide to get a mixed collection of singing or colourful birds in an aviary in the garden. If you wish to breed then you must get pairs and limit the numbers. If you only want singing and colourful birds, a collection of bachelor males will do just as well. Make certain that the aviary you choose meets at least the following criteria:
  • Sufficient space: Never overcrowd the aviary. Provide both open, clear flying space and sheltered, private planted space.
  • Adequate shelter: It is absolutely essential that the birds are able to shelter both from the driving rain and especially from cold winds. A wet bird on a cold windy night is a dead bird.
  • Interest & variety: The aviary is the birds’ whole life. Plant it with a variety of interesting and non-poisonous plants.
  • A safety door to pre-entry can be very helpful.
  • Perches: provide a variety of nest boxes and baskets. Many birds sleep in nest boxes even when not breeding.
  • Nesting material: Provide dry grasses, pine needles, moss, twigs and feathers.

With a basic collection of seed-eating birds, an optimum feeding regime would encompass the following:
  1. Seed: A good mixture including millet and canary seed.
  2. Germinated seed: This is an excellent supplement, both for adults and babies.
  3. Soft food: Avi-plus Finch and Softbill or Canary should be offered in clean dishes.
  4. Fruit: Fresh fruit (not avocado) in season, cut up or grated should be offered as often as possible.
  5. Live food: Necessary for many of the finches and waxbills, especially when rearing young.
  6. Grit and minerals: Supply a mixture of crushed, untreated charcoal, oyster shell grit, river sand and powdered mineral supplement.
  7. Fresh water: Obviously clean, fresh water for drinking and bathing must be available to both the perching and the ground birds at all times. Clean the dishes and supply fresh water daily. Use shallow dishes.
Suitable birds for the collection
How many birds should you have in your aviary? A good general rule is an absolute minimum of one large or medium bird or one pair of tiny birds per cubic metre of aviary space.
  1. Zebra Finch, Bengalise and Java Sparrow: Good, easy birds. Overbearing and interfering in numbers.
  2. Delicate Waxbills: (e.g. Cordon Blue, Twinspots, Swee, etc.) First get experience with the hardier kinds.
  3. Tougher Waxbills: Orange Cheek, Golden Breasted, Strawberry and Red Eared Waxbill are a bit tougher.
  4. Manikins and Nuns: All relatively inexpensive and tough. Excellent beginner’s birds. Best in groups.
  5. Tough Australian Grass Finches: Diamond Sparrows, Hex Grassfinches, Plumheads and Star Finches.
  6. More delicate Australian Grass Finches: Gouldian Finch, Bicheno’s Finch. For the more experienced.
  7. South American Finches: Can be a bit aggressive. Cuban Finch, Saffron Finch and the Warbling Finches.
  8. Doves and Pigeons: The smaller species mix well with small birds. Often good breeders.
  9. Pheasants and Quail: One pair of quail or a male and a few females of one type of pheasant per aviary.
  10. All South African birds require a permit from your local Department of Nature Conservation.
When you get a new bird home
Any new bird may suffer a bit from stress and therefore liable to get ill and die if not handled properly. In addition to this, when the new bird is introduced to the aviary he is an intruder and likely to be harassed by the existing collection. New birds should be gently placed in a small sheltered cage, indoors for seven days. Offer Avi-Stress in the water. Offer the food that the bird will receive in the aviary and check that it is eating. Once you are satisfied that the bird is well, introduce the new bird into the aviary in its small cage. After a further 2 – 3 days, simply open the gate of the small cage and walk away.

If you wish to find out more about keeping birds in garden aviaries it is suggested that you buy some books or the video Birdkeeping the South African Way and consider joining a club. The members of the Rand Avicultural Society meet at the Honeydew Country club Tennis club section, No 1 Boundary Rd Honeydew, Johannesburg on the LAST TUESDAY OF EVERY MONTH, except December.

If you wish to find out more about the club then click back to RAS introduction page.


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