Skip to content

Building a Pigeon Flight or Aviary

August 28, 2010

A pigeon loft need not be difficult or gigantic, but it should definitely be aesthetic to the surroundings in which it is placed. I converted a little garden shed to suit the needs of my pigeons, and it works quite well. The shed is portable and rests on skids, so it can even be moved if needed. It was built by VanWyk Builders on the south side of Grinnell; these guys do great work and build all sorts of neat little sheds, cabins, storage buildings, gazebos, and etc and will do custom work when asked. In my case, they came and built the shed right on my property because I didn’t want my gardens all messed up dragging a pre-built one into the back yard. Even with that, the cost was quite acceptable. I had them place lots of windows in it and electrify the building, then had it spray insulated for comfort. All I have to do for electricity is plug the building into an outdoor socket on the house. The 8×10 size of the shed is pretty minimal for a Fancy Pigeon loft I think, though I’ve seen smaller. It is made of cedar for long-term weather resistance.

Travelling in Europe I saw some amazing stone dovecotes and pigeon lofts; some were round and looked like short silos, and others were stunning little cottages. The Europeans really get into their pigeons and pigeon loft design. There are lots of designs to view and study on the internet, and anyone interested may be able to find other information from various pigeon fancier magazines and the National Pigeon Association. Purebred Pigeon magazine occasionally has articles written by experienced pigeon fanciers regarding their building design for lofts.

So, in the summer of 2010 I added a flight to my little pigeon loft to give my birds lots of fresh air and some “flapping” room, because a loft without a flight is just not really complete. I would love to just let them out free to roam, but one never knows what might happen to them with all the cats and varmints running around. I was recently talking to a friend of mine who happily accepted a number of my birds that I could not keep for breeding; he had a great set-up with a little loft on the farm where they could get out and about and fly free. I went out a couple of times to watch them; of course, they were a beautiful sight to see winging about in the sunlight. So beautiful, in fact, that a few weeks later he found half of them were gone, as they had caught the eye of a pair of sharp-shinned hawks, one of which was calmly devouring one on the branch of a nearby tree, white feathers drifting by the hundreds to the ground. This is the problem with “showy” birds in the wild, and especially pigeons. They have a multitude of predators already; throw in a lot of color and contrasting white, and you have a meal in a suit; may as well wear a sign that says, “eat me”. So, mine will stay behind bars. His, however, will be allowed out when the hawk migrations are past, and it will be survival of the fittest. We’ll see what happens.

In the past I’ve built my own aviaries out of all sorts of materials from wood and wire mesh to PVC pipe and high-grade aviary fencing, depending upon what sorts of birds I was keeping. I also once had a custom-made indoor glass and oak aviary made by a gal in Texas for my parrotlets. The last outdoor aviary I had was used by my pigeons as well as Gouldian finches and canaries, so I used a very fine mesh screen on the outside and a heavy plastic square fencing on the inside with a wood frame; the roof was wire mesh covered with willow fencing. It looked like a little Hawaiian beach minibar. It was great until we got about 80 inches of snow in the winter of 2009-10 which was so heavy it caused the roof to collapse. So, I made window aviaries to hang on the side of the loft. These work great – made of wire mesh and PVC pipe, they are light and sturdy and merely hang on the side of the building over the windows on hooks. The birds alight on the window sill and hop out on the mesh floor. The only problem is that they cannot be made very deep, or they will sag.

Hanging small aviaries or flights off the side of the building is convenient and easy and allows for lots of exercise and fresh air. This technique is best for small birds.

So, I ordered an outdoor dog run from Northland Pet Supply through The Jewett-Cameron Lumber Corporation in North Plains, Oregon. It is made of 4X6 foot panels, one of which contains a door within a door. The roof is flat and also made of panels. It is covered with a black powder coat; this is important, as the best bird observation in an aviary can only occur if the aviary panels are black, as otherwise there is too much light reflection off the wire, and it is a terrible visual distraction. The individual squares are 2×4 inches.

Here’s the site – 8X12 feet. I changed the path so it will come to a door in the center for easy access. I put old willow fencing on the floor to avoid mud. A bird bath will be available.

So the following pictures show the 8X8 foot version (temporary while waiting for more panels to arrive) and the 8 X 12-foot version. Under the windows is a 2×6 pine board perched into the wire panels with a couple of nails in each end. It’s easy to move and remove, and the pigeons really prefer to have a landing board both going in and coming out of the loft. The bird bath is a big plus, as they use it daily. The willow fencing on the ground keeps their feet and leg feathers clean. They love being outside. There is the possibility of extending the flight to 16 feet; the more outdoor flying the better.

This aviary is incredibly easy to get in and out of since the door is nice and wide and opens in and out. Because of the design and the easy to apply clamps for putting the panels together, one could make any number of shapes as well, including an L-shaped flight. For those who are interested in urban chickens for home-grown eggs, it would work perfectly for that as well! (Just check with the city council first to make sure your town allows it.)

The almost completed new aviary! The access door at the end of the path has a second half-door so one can reach inside to fill the bird bath without walking all the way in. It is a great design for larger birds, even though it is sold as a “dog-run.” 

Another view. I really like how the aviary is nestled into this space with gardens and specimen shrubs all around.

Here then is the final 8X12 foot version. It has a ceiling of the same panels and was incredibly easy to put together. It is rugged and rust-proof. The birds love being outside and spend all day out there now. 

Anyway, this flight looks very nice and professional. It’s important to have some trees and shrubs and flowers around to soften the effect of tubular steel, however, and these sorts of panels would be amenable to window boxes for flowers on the outside. Don’t forget this if you use this approach! Keep in mind that some varmints can get through this sort of panel, as the openings are two inches wide. Obviously, mice and chipmunks and young squirrels, but also a much more deadly critter – the weasel or mink. Weasels and mink will enter the loft and kill all the birds by biting their heads off and eating the brains; they leave the rest. This happened once years ago to a flock I had, and by morning there were three birds left. It was a hideous bloody massacre. So, keep in mind that the loft should be closed up tight at night. Furthermore, don’t feed the birds in the outdoor flight – it will be an unnecessary attraction to some of the pests I mentioned.

And here, in the last photo, is the scene the following spring of 2011 with the aviary fully integrated into the landscape. Ferns have grown up around the perimeter, and a Passionflower vine in its pot has been allowed to grow up and over the wire; a clematis is doing the same nearby along with Virginia Creeper, and I’ve attached some air ferns to the cage for additional softening of the “square” effect of the steel. Glazed giant copper flower sculptures have been “planted,” and native woodland plants have grown in everywhere. I seeded the entire floor of the aviary with shade tolerant grass where the pigeons like to lie on warm sunny days, wings spread out. As the writer Gertrude Stein wrote in her opera: “Pigeons on the grass; alas!”

From → The Pigeon Loft

  1. Pauline permalink

    Would the bar spacing be too wide for cockatiels? And if so, do you think it’d be possible and worth it to cover the interior bars with a 1/2″ x1/2″ stainless steel mesh? Or would I be better off just constructing a frame using PVC myself? Thanks


    • Cockatiels would likely be able to maneuver through the described panels. I think a wire mesh would be more suitable for them.


      • Pauline permalink

        And I’d definitely be covering the panels with a 1/2″ stainless steel mesh for the cockatiel’s safety. Your backyard looks amazing!


        • Pauline, as long as its tied down with cables a hurricane wind wouldn’t budge it. The building it’s attached to would also have to be hurricane wind resistant of course!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: