Shady Pines Aviary, Breeder of Caiques and Brotogeris Parakeets contact

Aviary Watering System

Shady Pines Aviary uses an automated watering system of our own original design. The aviary has its own water supply and filtration system.

Aviary watering systems typically use drinking tubes, not unlike a water bottle set-up, that deliver small droplets of water when activated by the bird. Not at all satisfying to species that love to bathe such as Caiques and Brotogeris Parakeets, we had to find a better way. We wanted to provide our birds with bowls of clean, fresh water at all times rather than small amounts "on demand." Another requirement was to develop a method which would keep the water lines free of standing water as that can result in bacterial growth. The materials used needed to be safe and durable as well.

The resulting system delivers fresh water up to four (4) times daily. As the cycle starts, water pressure flushes any food particles out of the bowls. Our bowls are stoneware crocks with round bottoms so food does not get trapped in corners, and heavy enough that they do not get overturned. At the end of the cycle, the bowls are filled to overflowing, and the water lines drain completely.

With the system running four times a day, we can count on a constant supply of clean, fresh water. An added bonus is the event provided for the birds - many flock excitedly to their bowls to enjoy the bubbling water.

Our avian veterinarian, Dr. Susan Clubb, was so impressed with our design that she recently adopted our system for her own aviary.

How the System Works

The system is controlled with an irrigation timer and electric sprinkler valves for each zone. From each valve runs a a 1/2" PVC pipe overhead, suspended from the rafters by metal pipe straps. Between each two cages is a PVC "T" with a length of pipe dropped down to just above the cage where another "T" and two 90º elbows split it to supply each cage. Here the 1/2" pipe is reduced with a fitting to 1/4" vinyl micro tubing. The last 6-8 inches of tubing is run through 3/8" flexible copper tubing to keep the busy beaks away. A small coupling connector at the end of the tubing further restricts water into a sharp stream. The copper tubing is angled and affixed to the cage with plastic cable ties in a position to create the most effective swirling action to flush out any food particles. At the far end of each zone is an elbow with a spring-loaded brass check valve which is closed while there is water pressure in the line and which opens once the water has stopped in order to take in air and allow all pipes to drain thoroughly.

Through trial and error, we determined that our water pressure was only sufficient for a maximum of 16 water bowls per zone, although some zones have fewer to accommodate our cage layout. As each zone runs, the water flows full force for one minute (or more, set on a timer) causing each bowl to swirl and flush. Once it switches to the next zone, gravity causes all the lines to slowly drain, filling the bowl to overflowing and leaving the pipes empty. This way there is no standing water, no need to flush the pipes with bleach, ever. The only maintenance required is replacing micro tubing and plastic tips as necessary. In over five years of operation, there has not been a bit of trouble!

The timer is set to run four (4) times daily in spring and summer, and three (3) times daily in fall and winter, adjusted when changing to and from daylight savings time to coincide with the longer or shorter daylight hours.

At the same time the watering system was installed, we also installed misters. Low-flow (.3 to .8 GPH) mist heads were installed into 1/2" PVC pipe every 8 feet above the rear of each row of cages. This produces a very fine mist and cools the building by about 15º within minutes. These misters are controlled by manual valves. Perhaps someday we will adapt the misters to be thermostatically controlled.

All the materials to build both the water delivery and misting systems were purchased at Lowe's and may be available at other home improvement or irrigation supply stores.


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