The mews (sometimes refereed to as a hawk house) are where your bird will spend most of it’s life when it’s not hunting with you or being weathered (put out in open sunshine, generally within a weathering yard). The design and construction of the mews is therefore one of the most important considerations when planning on taking up falconry. The requirements pertinent to mews construction in Arkansas are as follows (from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission Code of Regulations, section 15.42; some regulations omitted, numbering is the same as in the regulations)
2) Birds must be kept in humane and healthful conditions, protected from the environment, predators and domestic animals.
3) Indoor facility must have a suitable perch for each raptor, at least one opening for sunlight and most provide a healthy environment.
5) Each raptor must have an area large enough to allow it to fly if it is untethered or, if tethered, to fully extend its wings or bate (attempt to fly when tethered) without damaging its feathers or contacting other raptors. It must be large enough to insure that tethered birds cannot strike the enclosure when flying from a perch.
6) Each raptor must have a pan of clear water available at all times.
7) An indoor facility must be large enough to allow easy access for the care and feeding of raptors kept there and must have flooring that allows drainage, does not retain moisture, and allows for sanitary maintenance activities
8) If raptors housed in an indoor facility are not tethered, all walls that are not solid must be protected on the inside. suitable materials may include vertical bars spaces narrower than the width of the smallest raptor housed in the enclosure or heavy duty netting
9) Acceptable indoor facilities include shelf perch enclosures where raptors are tethered side by side. Other innovative housing systems are acceptable if they provide the enclosed raptors with protection and provide healthy feathers and fresh air.
13) Permittees must keep all facilities and equipment at or above these standards at all times
As you can see, there are certain requirements to be met, but there’s a lot of latitude on how and from what mews can be constructed. The Modern Apprentice has a very nice run down with many examples of different mews and the advantages and disadvantages of each.
As for the mews I’m building, my biggest concern besides following the law and the well-being of my bird is that the mews needs to be relatively portable. We’ll be moving in 2-3 years after I’ve finished my Ph.D. and I don’t want to leave the mews behind – after investing good money and time into it the mews will be coming with us.
The first thing I had to decide, even before the design, was where the mews would go. I had two choices: he east corner, which is has the benefit of being the furthest place in the yard the mews can be away from the sidewalk outside and some overhanging trees that would provide shade, but would catch the afternoon and setting sun full on; or an area next to the house, which would get morning sun and be protected from afternoon and evening sun, but be close to the road and sidewalk.
After talking with a few of the members of Arkansas Hawking Association in person and on AHA message board and my mentor Howard I decided to build a sectional design in the area against the house. The people in the street shouldn’t be much of a problem if I design the windows properly. The presence of morning sun and absence of afternoon sun and the heat is important, especially in Arkansas where temperatures regularly get into the mid-90’s in the summer. The main room where the hawk will be housed will be 8’x8’x8′ (sloping to 7′ in the front), with a 4’x8’x8′ (also sloping to 7′) equipment room to one side. The equipment room will have a door that leads outside and a door that leads to the hawk room. This way I can enter the mews, close the outside door, and open the door to the hawk room with no fear of the hawk escaping. It’s also nice because I can keep the scales near the hawk and because I don’t have enough room in our house for the rest of the equipment anyhow.
The walls will be build from 4’x8′ pieces of framed plywood bolted either to each other or to 4″x4″s in each corner. The front two panels of the hawk room will have large windows made from vertical pieces of 2″x6″ and 2″x3″ studs. Sarah found a large (36″x26″) piece of double planed glass at work, which I’ll frame and put on an equipment room panel for some light. The roof will probably be made from corrugated plastic roof panels. The floor I haven’t decided on yet – it will either be pea gravel or wooden slats.