If you love birds, but would also like a few small cuddly friends, you might be interested in investing in a large aviary which can also house small mammals. Providing you choose your species carefully and design the aviary with their needs in mind, you can create an environment which is both easy to maintain and allows your pets to all live together in harmony.
What Can I Keep Together?
It is best to avoid rodents such as rats and mice, even tame, pet-bred types, when considering housing mammals with birds. Ideal choices are rabbits and guinea-pigs as they will generally just ignore any birdlife in their environment and are very unlikely to hurt them, even if the birds ventured onto the aviary floor.
The larger parrots should be avoided as their powerful claws and beaks can deliver serious injuries. While they might not intend injury, their cheeky natures and natural inquisitiveness may lead them to inspect the mammalian tenants and lead them to be potentially dangerous, such as pecking eyes. In addition, their resemblance to natural predators could frighten the rabbits and guinea-pigs, causing them constant stress.
However, the smaller members of the parrot family – such as cockatiels and budgerigars – would be fine and all the finch-type birds, such as canaries, would be ideal as they spend most of their time on their perches.
How About Feeding?
Food for the different species can be separated, with bird food placed in containers located high in the aviary – either attached to the cage wall or the branches – and food for the rabbits and guinea-pigs placed in bowls on the ground. The birds will probably help themselves to some of the rabbit and guinea-pig mix, in particular picking out the seeds but as these are usually types the birds would eat anyway, it will not do them any harm.
How do I Keep Things Clean?
Perhaps one of the key concerns for many owners is maintaining hygiene in the aviary. There is a strong chance that small mammals living in an aviary will suffer the indignity of bird excrement on their fur! However, this can be reduced if the mammals do not spend a great deal of time in the areas directly underneath the bird perches.
Rabbits can actually be toilet-trained to use a specific area and many have even been taught to use a litter tray. Even if not trained, rabbits will tend to favour one spot, away from their sleeping quarters. It is important to make sure that a suitable substrate, such as sand, is used and regularly cleaned. Flooring substrate in particular areas, such as those directly under perches, may need to be removed and replaced more frequently to ensure that the mammals have as clean a ground cover as possible.
What About the Aviary Design?
In general, the larger the better but as a minimum, the ground space should be equivalent to that of the largest guinea-pig or rabbit hutch with a similar height above – enough to give the birds rooms to fly around and exercise. Ideally, the aviary environment should also be segregated into two parts, half with perches and half kept clear so that the mammals can retreat to areas without the threat of birds defecating overhead. Shelter, in the form of covered hutches or even just dense grass to hide in, also needs to be provided for the mammals, particularly if they are initially frightened by any overhead flying by the birds. Make sure there is good circulation throughout the aviary, particularly at ground level as this will have a significant impact in the health of your small mammals.
Keeping small mammals together with birds is a popular choice for many pet owners and can actually mean less work overall as you will only need to clean and maintain one area, whilst also providing the animals with additional interest and stimulation in their environment.