Tips for Building Flights

We hope that you are inspired to build your own outdoor habitat. Even if you use it seasonally your birds will enjoy the opportunity to spread their wings. We have put together a list of building tips, that may help you sort through the endless options that are available.

Photo Left: We have a number of these enormous, old growth tree stumps tucked around the aviaries. The trees were harvested before we bought the property. Wouldn’t it be great to build a colony over one? I don’t dare, it would cause drama. So, the dogs have excavated them for dog houses. The one with my Danes in it, is huge the picture only shows a small segment.  

Let’s start with frame options.

Costco Carport Frames                                                

I prefer and use the steel carport frames sold at Costco. They are very strong, powder coated frame, easy to put up and very inexpensive. Also, most cities and county code, consider these frames as temporary structures and do not require a permit. If you cement them into the ground, they become a permanent structure and that has a new set of rules for you. To be safe, check with your building permit department. I like the option of the easy take down to move them around if I need. The Costco frames are strong enough to hold the weight of the wire, hanging perches and steel roofing panels. I have 6 frames that have been in use for 18 years and the only wear is on the powder coated paint. The frames are 20′ x 10′ and you can always add more, end to end or side to side, I do.

Dog Run Panels

I use these also, not my favorite, but they were free. I use them as quarantine enclosures, time out, and does not play well with others, enclosures. I have some with 1″ and 2″ chain link, as well as coated wire. I have them peppered around the Sanctuary and they come in handy. Really, the main reason I don’t like them? They don’t match the white Costco frames I use. The newer Costco frames are dark brown….glad I have plenty of white left.

Dog Run Flat Black Wire Kits             (photo right)      $375. – $460. +

They are powder coated black dog runs sold at Lowes and Home Depot. The wire is also black powder coated. They look really nice… first. I know so many Cockatoo people whose bird picked all the lovely black paint off. Also, they will easily pop the welds and it’s a mess. This run does not come with top wire. I am sure it would work for Macaws or…? But, not Cockatoos, unless you have one of the rare ones that don’t chew much.

There are some companies that specialize in aviaries for parrots. You can get big or small, seasonal or year around. I am confident your Cockatoo will love the option of a safe enclosure outdoors. 

This is the start of the Grey Colony

If you are going to allow your bird(s) to sleep outside, pay attention to what type of predators live in your area. You may need to move perches away from the side walls. Our Great Danes guard the Sanctuary and have free run. They are very protective and proactive……Protecting from man or animal that doesn’t belong.

We have bald eagles and hawks that hunt on our property. They do not bother the Cockatoos. Well, there was an incident years ago. The Goffins were sounding off, an emergency call that I rarely hear. As the years have gone by, I’ve learned the difference between happy to be alive calls and get here quick calls. Unfortunately, it’s not something I can teach you. You pick it up, living with the Cockatoos over years. Back to the Goffin drama, I heard the alarm call, ran out no I walked briskly….I saw a hawk on top of their colony and it had a bunch of Goffins hanging upside down. I grabbed a broom and yelled, like that would help! I couldn’t figure out why the hawk didn’t fly off. As I got closer, the Goffins had the hawks foot not the other way around. I was banging on the wire with a broom, the Goffins finally let the hawk go. He was bleeding and the Goffins were fine. He hasn’t been back.

If you live in an area where predators can be an issue, you may need to double wire or some other steps to ensure your birds safety. Most predators are active at night so, if your building an outdoor enclosure for your pets, you can always bring the birds indoors.

How I put together the Costco frames for a colony:

Pick your spot away from wind, excess heat or any other site issues. For me, I don’t have a wind problem or heat issues. I use mine year around and I want to maximize the sun in the fall and winter. Also, I plan around the trees to reduce the risk of shallow rooted varieties that could endanger the enclosures. I will allow shallow rooted saplings to grow around the flights, until they are perch size. Alder saplings are my favorite perches. Then, out comes my electric chainsaw to harvest perches. Every spring and fall I harvest perches. Once they are cut, I hook a rope around them and drag them behind the riding lawn mower, to the colony that needs them. From there, I drag them by hand, into the colony, one by one. This property is organic never used sprays or toxic chemicals so, I have my choice of trees and saplings for the aviaries. 

Back to choosing a flight spot…..Security is a concern. A Sanctuary in our state, had 60’ish birds stolen from his outdoor aviaries.  He had no fencing, no cameras, no dogs allowed near colonies and no tips for police. Even with a huge reward, offered by a donor, these 60 birds have never been found. So, security is a consideration.

Plan to have a full or partial roof on the enclosure. I cover minimum 1/3 of each enclosure. The Cockatoos here, sleep under the covered section of their enclosure.   

I spend a lot of time observing the activities inside the enclosures. I don’t want the entrance door on the front wall of the colony. I will place the door on a side or end section. In other words, it looks better.

Wire, I use the galvanized cage wire. Not the fancy stainless steel that costs a fortune. The reason? Its less expensive and non profit organizations are always trying to save money. I know that zoo’s all over the world, house rare animals/birds in enclosures made of galvanized wire. If I had baby birds/ Cockatoos I would not use galvanized wire. Baby birds don’t know better and they could grind their beaks and loosen the coating, then accidentally consume it. In this type of setting, birds are active and engaged not bored in a small cage. 

The coating on the original colonies, still looks new after 18 years. I have one enclosure, 16 year old wire that has rust on it. This is the only enclosure with wire imported from Asia. I suspect it was an isolated incident. The wire I prefer is Red Brand from Canada. They make rolls that are 6 foot tall, 100 foot long. The reason I want 6 foot rolls? The Costco carport frames have side walls and roof sides that are 6 feet tall. After I bury the poles in the ground a foot or so. Less wire cutting makes a quicker set up and less grinding of sharp wire cuts. It’s tedious to smooth the rough spots with a metal file or grinding attachment for my drill.


Stainless Steel hose clamps

These photos are of the new Grey enclosure that consists of two angled sections. I haven’t stretched the wire yet.

Photo Above Right: To fit the triangle end of the enclosure, I take a section of wire the width of the end piece 10 feet and attach the piece with bungee cords. Next, I cut the wire to fit the frame triangle, with an overlap of  6 ish inches. I use a rubber mallet to bend the overlap to fit. I use stainless steel “hog rings” to finish off the end. 

 Ready to trim. It is very hard to see, sorry. Once the ends are completed its time to attach the legs, one side at a time. Then lift and attach side wire and frame doors. 

Photo Right: I make the door and frame out of pvc schedule 40 water pipe. The door is divided into 3 sections to make it sturdy. The hinges are attached to the pvc frame for the door. Then the frame, door attached is clamped to the steel frame with stainless steel hose clamps. If the frame or door feel flimsy, drive a steel rod into the ground a couple of feet then hose clamp the rod to frame.  

Photo Below: The entire door and door frame is made of PVC. I attach that PVC frame to the steel carport frame with stainless steel hose clamps. 

The latch is a typical fence latch that any Cockatoo can pick in under a minute. I always use a lobster snap through the latch will prevent picking. If your worried you can add another type of lock as well. I haven’t had a bird pick the lock in all these years.

I have heard concerns, about using PVC pipe for the doors and door frames. Would it become brittle from UV exposure. Well, I am happy to report that after 21+ years, it looks and works like new. I would have expected it to last 10 years or so. And, I am also surprised the powder coating on the steel carport frame has held up as well. Not bad for the price tag of less than $200.

The photo on the right is the Triton colony. I built it over an old growth stump…I thought it might last a few weeks of fun but it has lasted for years. I won’t make the same mistake again. Its a source of arguments. I have the new Triton colony started behind this existing one.


Photo Below: Carport configuration side to side there is no wire on the shared wall.

Photo Above: Carport configuration end to end. Feeding stations are always under the covered portion. 

Photo Right: A safety pass thru section added to the colonies. It is used as a safety section to enter with a wheelbarrow, close the door behind me and then enter the main colony. It prevents birds from escaping while I enter the space. When not in use for the wheelbarrow, I use it as a spare cage/enclosure. I can put a new bird in so they can observe how the main colony interacts with each other. Or, I can use it for birds that need a time out. Inside the pass thru is another PVC door and frame.

Over the years, I have not had a single escape via the PVC door or frame, they are very sturdy using the 3 section door.


Above Photos:  cedar wood chips every where. Fresh chip delivery my dogs love to pose on the top as they survey their kingdom. Used and slightly soiled chips are used as paths. 

A very important consideration is flooring options. The option of sand presents an issue of mold and accidental ingestion. I know of another Sanctuary that, used sand and had a problem with mold growing. Also, sand is very heavy and there is always the problem finding a place to dump soiled sand. I am fortunate to have acres of land to place the cedar wood chips we have used.

I know of many rescues that use free wood chips from tree service companies. I have concerns about toxic wood or pesticide contamination. We spend $1,500. per year on fresh cedar “play chips”, for our enclosures. If I can save money on wood chips, I will be very happy. I tried free chips on our paths around the Sanctuary. Within a couple of days, mold was sprouting every place I had the free chips. It was black, furry and really gross. I had to scoop it all up and dump it in the woods, far from the bird enclosures. I won’t do that again.  I have used the cheaper chips from pine or fir trees. In our rain forest climate, the fir/pine chips break down quickly and turn into sawdust quickly. I worry about accidental consumption by the birds, if they drop moist food like banana or melon and pick it up.

I also know of enclosures elsewhere, that use natural grass. The grass can’t be cleaned properly with a hose, gross.

Then there is the cement floor option. The birds here, fall on occasion, when they hit the wood chips they bounce up and land softly. Cement is too dangerous. When the big birds land they can split their beak or even break the keel bone on their chest. Breeding facilities have had issues with bacteria accumulating in the small surface crevice’s. They need to routinely bleach the surfaces. Not something you want to expose your bird to.

We use the cedar wood chips. It prevents bugs, slugs, mold and it smells really good. The wood chunks are large enough where they won’t be accidentally ingested. It lasts, so I can take the soiled chips and use them as mulch and paths around the property. They don’t have pesticides.

That’s about it for options and the reason I pay a fortune for cedar play chips.

I wanted to error on the side of caution when it came to security of the birds. The first few colonies I built, I used wire under the wood chips. My thought was to prevent anything from digging in or out. The floor wire was a mistake. It was nearly impossible to clean because the poop would fall through the wire and onto the ground below. The wire started to rust, and it was a pain to remove. I didn’t need it. The sidewall wire is buried a few inches into the ground and that is all I need. 

The birds that live in our colonies, have lots to do and lots of friends, that could be the reason they have little motivation to escape. If you are building for a couple of birds, pets may be motivated to escape. You know your bird better than anyone.


There is a style of bird enclosure that utilizes, knee walls. A knee wall is usually a two foot tall strip of metal that surrounds the base of the enclosure. It is normally used to prevent animals or birds a visual barrier to prevent aggression between enclosures. It also hides a dirty enclosure from view. You would need to get close to look over the barrier.

The problem …it does more harm than good when it comes to parrots. You can’t see a bird in trouble, sick, hurt until you are close enough to peek over the top of the barrier. Additionally, it creates a dark corner.  A perfect mix for aggression issues. Any dark corner or private space can become a nesting site/territory drama. I don’t think a knee wall is safe for housing parrots. It was meant for ground birds.

The steel roofing panels are riveted together before attaching them to the enclosure. I use the pop rivets that explode on the opposite side. They are called star rivets and are hard to find. I order mine through Tacoma Screw Company.

Once the roof is on, I secure them with heavy wire tied to the carport frame. They is all that has been needed.

Please consider donating to our non profit Sanctuary. Donations of any size will help us provide for the birds that call this home.

Thank you