An Aviary That's a Steel

Harry Linden


The last time you made your ritual visit to a nearby zoo to see if any new birds had been added, or gone to nest you probably failed to notice the construction of the cages or flights. The framework of the flights are so simple and smooth that such distracting details as chewed up 2" x 4"s, protruding nails, and delaminated plywood, have been completely eliminated - all through the use of steel tubing.

Like many other chronic zoogoers and bird breeders my wife and I visit our local zoo often and and occasionally even have a look at the elephants! One thing that has always stood out in our minds, other than the critters themselves, is the steel cages. Year after year they remain the same - smooth, efficient, attractive, and, other than an occasional fresh coat of paint, maintenance free. I had always wanted metal aviaries, but like so many other breeders had shyed away after reading about "exorbitant prices" in various bird books.

On July 26, 1977 we suddenly had the unusual and, in this case, unwanted opportunity to start all over again - from scratch! Our home, all our belongings, our bird farm, and half our breeding stock were destroyed in the tragic Sycamore Canyon Fire in Santa Barbara, California. I won't go into details about the fire, but only to say losing the birds was the worst part.

Since we subsequently had birds living in friends' garages, in miscellaneous aviaries, and sharing our trailer, I started immediately to build new flights. The first consideration was the size of the flights and my immediate thoughts were in the standard 8 ft., 10 ft., and 12 ft. lengths with widths of 3 ft. and 4 ft. I also had decided to build some experimental flights from steel, because of past bad experience with wood and feathered termites.

I found that most steel tubing comes in 20 ft lengths, which is nice since any 2" x 4" over 8 ft. long is usually crooked, or will warp with time, making long flight construction difficult. The decision was made to go for broke and build 20 ft. long flights. I also decided that a thin wall, square tubing would be the easiest to fabricate and chose a tube of .065 thickness and 1 W' square dimension for the main framework. For the doors I used .065 by 1" square. The cost of this tubing is about 116 times as expensive as wood 2" x 4"s, and easily ten times stronger and more durable.

I used a 10" abrasive wheel mounted in a radial arm saw to cut the tube. I found a radial arm saw to be the easiest and most accurate method for cutting long lengths. Incidentally, the 20 ft.

lengths are not exact, but are usually 0-'' to 2" longer. I purchased a small lincoln arc welder that comes with all the accessories for about $ l 25, and spent about two hours relearning how to weld, which I used to do and which is easy to learn.



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