The first thing to consider when fabricating a playgym for your bird is size. Do you want a tabletop or freestanding model? How big is your bird? Make sure your design allows for adequate tail room!
A playstand can be as simple as a T-shaped perch screwed into the bottom of a pizza pan, or as elaborate as you care to make it. Many bird owners elect to purchase pre-made stands and then customize them with toys, climbing ropes and screw-in perches.
Make your stand sturdy enough to bear the weight of an active bird. Athletic Amazon parrots and playful African greys are capable of rocking a lightweight stand from side to side. Consider the weight and beak strength of macaws and large cockatoos when choosing materials for your stand. A stand for a big bird requires a substantial base and sturdy perch supports.
Birds are curious, playful and intelligent. Because of their beak dexterity, they have the ability to dismantle an entire household. Whether you’re making a stand from scratch or adding to a pre-made model, choose your components carefully. Avoid galvanized screws, nails, staples and tacks. Most contain zinc, a component of the galvanization process, which is poisonous if ingested. Some manufacturers forego the use of small metal parts altogether, because birds can swallow them if they dislodge them from the structure. Instead, they drill out the base and perches so that they fit together tightly. When using eye screws to attach toys and swings to perches, be sure they’re too big for your bird to swallow. Use locking nuts where necessary, and install them in recessed holes to make it more difficult for birds to gain access to them.
Never use pressure-treated, stained or pre-painted wood to make your bird’s stand, as the toxins in these finishing products can be harmful. Your pet will inevitably chew on parts of the stand, so use safe wood products like milled pine or maple. Do not use pine branches; the sap or "pitch” is sticky and contains compounds that may be harmful if ingested. Pine is softwood, however, and hookbills with a penchant for chewing can destroy it easily. Clean, unsprayed, natural maple, eucalyptus and fruit tree branches can be used for perches on your bird’s stand. You can often purchase manzanita and lengths of other natural wood at pet shops. PVC pipe is a popular material for making perches and playstands. Be sure to sand or score PVC so your bird will enjoy firm footing. Some choices for the base of the playstand are formaldehyde-free particleboard or plywood or a slab of Formica® for easy cleaning.
Many birds, like Bogart, my red-lored Amazon, quickly learn to climb off their play stands and go marauding through the house. Even though Bogart’s stand has a flared apron around it, he devised an escape plan. He hangs from the very end of the apron with the tip of his beak and flays his legs around until he reaches the leg of the stand! Build some safety features into your stand. A pedestal base where birds are unable to grab onto the legs of the stand makes sense. Recess the legs of the stand enough that birds will not be able to grab them and climb down. I like to place tabletop gyms on folding snack tables … the base of the gym extends out over the snack table a bit, and the birds are unable to gain access to the legs.
Have fun adding toys, swings and climbing ropes to your bird’s new stand. Select these items with as much care as you use with in-cage accessories. Supervision is the best way to ensure your bird’s safety. Do not leave your bird alone while it is out on its stand.
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