Our Dove Aviary
When I first met Tim in 1988, I would drive up from Sacramento for visits to his home in the mountains. In his living room, he had a tall birdcage with little, noisy, flitting Finches. There were several in one cage, and there was a little rattan nest fastened to the side of the cage. Inside were the tiniest little eggs! And before long, he had so many Finches, he had to give some away! Tim would arrange a twig across the width of that cage and the little Finches would sit along its length, preening and cleaning their feathers. We really enjoyed these small birds, although they did make quite a mess scattering their birdseed!
Tim had other fowl too--lovely, white Silkies, small chickens with soft, white feathers, and tufts of feathers just above their feet, like anklets--fluffy and beautiful. Ducks ran around his yard, eating bugs, laying eggs here and there, and gobbling up the stale bread he would throw out the back door. In the evenings, geese would glide across the sky honking loudly, their V-formation always an amazing sight as they were silhouetted against the fiery, evening sunsets.
After we married we bought Dunn Farm in 1992, and Tim continued to raise chickens of all kinds, turkeys, and ducks. I absolutely loved the ducks! We had one Peking duck and one Fawn Indian runner. They produced the most darling babies! We took tons of pictures of them, babies following mama, dipping into the pond looking for food, sunning in the sun near mama, and running away from dad who kept trying to peck at them! Then the wonderful day came when Lancelot, a gorgeous peacock, just appeared and adopted us. He grew into a magnificent creature with brilliant azure colors! Strutting across the lawns and down the walkways, spreading his tail feathers for the chickens, he was certainly magnificent! One of his favorite places to roost was, of course, on top of the dove aviary where he often left quite a mess. Sleep time found him up in the pine trees.
So, when Tim's daughter called and asked if we wanted some doves as she had too many, we answered YES, YES, YES! I was excited, doves were so pretty and gentle, and I loved their cooing sounds. So Tim set about building an aviary before their arrival. With the cold winters we have, he attached the back side of the aviary to the house for added warmth and protection.
Here are the steps he followed to prepare their home:
First, Tim prepared the area, tearing out old Juniper bushes to a length of six feet against the end of the porch wall, digging up the earth, raking it smooth, and covering it with gravel to three inches deep.
He laid thick beams of wood down, framing it in, and surrounded the cage with chicken wire, making sure the wired extended into the ground eight inches or so to protect the doves from burrowing animals.
He installed a good roof, using roofing material so it would not leak during the rainy season, and sloped it for easy snow removal.
Then he fashioned a door, putting cross beams of wood on the frame and added chicken wire, hinged the door to the door frame, secured a handle to it, included a slide lock device to secure the door shut, and wow, we had an aviary door!
Lattice was then nailed to the outside of the structure on three sides to keep the cats from reaching in to pet the doves! They still hang all over the cage, but this way they could look but not touch!
Next, Tim attached baskets with flat backsides on the sides of the cage, some high, some low, in several sizes and shapes for nesting females.
We had a wonderful old, gnarled branch of an apple tree that had died and he used this as a natural perch; it spanned the width of the cage, several smaller branches going off in different directions and it provided branches for more perches.
A large, shallow ceramic dish for seed and a deeper one for water completed the aviary. One dish was also set up for bathing, as doves love to preen and bathe. He also supplied grit for them to help digest their food.
Tim had created a charming little aviary that had a nice view of the garden and received the warm, morning light from the east. Our niece Michelle helped him one weekend. Such a hard and good little worker, a real sweetie. Now it was time for the doves! He brought them home in one large, wire cage. As they were put into their new habitat, they flew to different perches and nests, staking their claim. Within five minutes, all were settled, and cooing in unison, peering out at the landscape. Some of the doves were white with rings around their necks, some were gray. The 12 cats and kittens were very curious, and sat in straight lines on the other side of the lattice, staring--welcoming them, I think, or relishing them! They looked very funny sitting like that! They were intent on watching them, perhaps planning how they could get in! Maybe even wondering how they would taste! Some even jumped onto the roof and hung over, trying to get a closer look, wrinkling their noses, sniffing. Once the doves were confident the cats could not get in, the cooing resumed. The first afternoon they put me to sleep with the soft, cooing noises!
The aviary has proven to be cat-safe and even hawk-safe, as one summer day a hawk visited our aviary. After the second day, when Tim scared him off with buckshot zipping through his tail feathers, he has never returned. And so our doves coo happily, providing us with music, enjoyment and companionship. We have reduced their numbers in proportion to the aviary size, the original 18 were too many! We gave them away to good homes. We have had a few born there and they all look as though they have settled in nicely.