So many people out there with questions on how to build a loft. No single design is right or wrong. They need a roof to keep them dry, walls to keep them out of the wind, nest boxes to build a nest, and perches to roost on. An aviary or some way to get fresh air and sunshine. In other words, a warm safe and secure place to live. Safe from weather, injuries and desease, and predators. A sturdy roof and walls will keep out the wind and rain. Windows to let in light and fresh air.
Air circulation is very important in a loft. This means a slow current of air that moves through the loft, preferably coming in at the bottom, and exiting at or near the top. This is important to keep things dry, and to carry out stale air and bird dust. A damp loft grows bacteria which can make your birds sick. And a dusty loft is bad for both you and your birds. I once read somewhere that if you wanted to know if your loft had enough ventilation, to invite a friend with asthma to visit. They would know right away if the air was fresh, or heavy with dust or dampness. And they were right. I have asthma, and I know immediately upon entering my loft, if the air is fresh and clean, or if I have to open the windows wider. I'm lucky in that I have large windows that I can open or close according to the weather. But you never want your birds exposed to a draft. A strong wind blowing in on them. Nest boxes and perches can be placed to keep them out of drafts.
Perches should be sanded smooth so as not to leave splinters. No nails should be left for a bird to get injured on. And if breeding babies, it is a good idea to have a 2 inch board running along the bottom of the nest boxes to keep babies from falling from the box. Good nesting materials to give the babies something to grab with their feet, to help prevent splayed leg, a problem where the legs grow out to the side, rather than straight down. This happens usually because the surface they are kept on is too slippery, or they just don't have the right nesting materials to be able to grab onto.
Where the birds will be flying across the loft should be kept free of anything hanging that they could fly into. I use heat emitters that are connected into a metal cover, like a drop light. But I make sure these are hanging out of the way of the birds fly space. Also, I put a protective screening on the bottom of them that prevents the birds from coming in contact with the hot bulb.You can buy these, or simply fashion them with hardware cloth. And birds have even been known to land on top of these. They get very hot, so I fashioned a foil pie plate on top so if they do land, it will be on that. If you use a heater in the loft, then you need to fashion some sort of cover to keep the birds from landing on it, or touching it and getting burned.
A disease free loft is important. It is a lot more work to try to nurse sick birds back to health, than it is to keep a clean loft. Scraping perches and the floor should be a daily routine. Keeping nest boxes and bowls clean. Feed and water should be changed at least daily, and in containers that the birds will not soil with their droppings. They can quickly get sick from soiled feed or water. Feeders and waterers should be cleaned often, and disinfected. You should also disinfect the perches and floor routinely. Window screens, over the windows will keep mosquitos out, as they can infect your birds with pox.
Rain must be kept out of the loft. Your birds deserve a dry environment. A wet or damp loft will breed bacteria and make your birds sick.
Your loft must be predator proof. I can't stress this enough. How many times people have learned the hard way that your birds are dependant on you for their very lives. Locked into a loft, if a predator should get in, they are doomed.
The windows must be covered with, 1/4" or 1/2" hardware cloth. Traps must close, and be able to be locked up to where nothing can get through them. Raccoons have been know to tear through traps that people believed to be secured. Amazing how strong they are. No spaces where walls meet the floor, or the ceiling. A mouse needs only a 1/2" space to squeeze through. Any vents must also be covered with hardware cloth.
Aviaries or fly pens also should be covered with hardware cloth to prevent rats, mice, snakes, raccons and many others from getting in. In just one night, a predator can wipe out your whole flock. And that is a horrifying thing to walk into in the morning, as too many have found out. Even one little mouse, while he will not attack your birds, can and will leave droppings which are responsible for salmonella /paratyphoid, which can kill your birds.
Raccoons have torn through chicken wire, and snakes, rats, and mice can easily go right in through the openings. If a flypen is built on the ground, rather than raised, it should be made so that nothing can dig underneath and get in. Either a solid floor, or hardware cloth, covered with sand or gravel is one alternative. Some attach hardware cloth to the bottom wood of a loft or aviary, and run it down a foot or so, then out a foot or so. Most digging predators will try to dig right next to the structure, and in hitting the hardware cloth, will not be able to get in. However, this is not always the way it is with rats, as they dig burrows, and can come up anywhere. They simply CANNOT be allowed to get into your loft or aviary.
Even people who use the chicken wire, or similar on the aviary, and assume their birds are safe because they are kept in the loft during the night hours, are taking a chance, as rats ARE out during the day, and mice can still leave droppings in the aviary that the birds could pick up, and thereby catch salmonella/paratyphoid. This can kill birds. Just not worth the little bit of money that you think you are saving. It could cost a lot more in the aggravation, the medicine, vet bills, and the loss of your birds.
Snakes hunt during daylight hours, and you probably don't even know they are there. But they will know that your birds are there. The PVC or plastic chicken wire is even worse. I used this in the beginning, as I had built an enclosure for the young pigeons I had rescued, and had planned on releasing when they were ready. I never thought of the possibility that something would chew through it, as I hadn't planned on having them that long. One day on returning home from work, I was greeted by the two youngest of my six pigeons. I looked around, and in horror, realized that a squirrel had chewed through the plastic wire and four of my birds had gotten out! Thankfully, I eventually caught them all, but not without a lot of effort. And thankfully, before a hawk got them. Also, when you use wire with larger holes, it is possible for a predator to reach in and grab a bird. This has happened. Wings can be torn off, or the bird can be killed. Especially if the perches are right up next to that wire.
Building a safe and secure loft and aviary are not hard. It just takes thought and planning. Think about what COULD happen, and plan for it. Make adjustments. Your birds will thank you for it. They will be safe and happy, and you will feel good knowing that you have provided them with a safe environment to live in.