Introduction: Enrichment for Captive Birds - PVC Perch/Play Stand
Captive birds, especially parrots, require a significant amount of enrichment. They are very intelligent and become bored easily. If they are not given enough to keep them busy and engaged they will develop illness and/or self-destructive behavior. A quick, easy and inexpensive solution to this problem can be made with some readily available PVC parts. The parts are easy to put together, take apart and put back together again in different configurations that give your bird an endless variety of new perches to climb and explore. These can be made very simple and small or very large and complex. It's all up to your imagination and available supplies.
I'm using 1/2" PVC pipes for small or some medium sized birds. Adapt your supplies and construction to the appropriate size for your type of bird.
Step 1: Supplies
Scissors (for wrapping)
Sander / Sand Paper (for sanding)
1x10 foot x 1/2" PVC pipe
1/2" PVC SxS connectors
6x T connectors
12x 90º elbows
2x 45º elbows
1x 4way connector
VetTape or VetWrap cohesive flexible bandage - I'm using 4" x 5 yard rolls
Sisal Rope or Natural Fiber Cord
Wood, Paper or Plastic toy parts
Step 2: Cut and Connect
There are a variety of tools available for cutting PVC. I like this one but check them out at the hardware store and pick up what works best for you.
I usually don't bother measuring out exact sizes for each piece of pipe. I tend to cut a piece that looks about the size I want and then another to match it. Then I just keep cutting and adding until it looks like something fun to climb on that won't fall over.
I don't use any glue to hold them together. Just push them in tight and they hold together pretty well. If you wrap it then that will just add more support.
If you're the sort who likes to be precise and measure things out, here's the size of pieces I used:
1.5" x 4
Step 3: Wrap or Sand
I've used SyrVet and Vetrap. Vetrap tends to have brighter colors but both will do the job well. Just pull it tight and wrap it around the PVC like an ace bandage. It will stick to itself. Have fun mixing up the colors!
If you would prefer to wrap with sisal rope see the images below. It's just a simple knot over and over pulled close and tight.
If your budget or clean up preference calls for sanding rather than wrapping, use a medium course grit. You just want to make it so that the PVC is not so slippery smooth. I found that about as much as it takes to rub off the text is more than enough. Rub the back of your hand or cheek over the pipe to make sure it's not so rough that it would irritate your birds' feet.
Step 4: Add Toys (optional)
Zip Ties are great for strapping on a variety of toy parts! Be creative and have fun mixing up the destructibles with other bird safe items. You can use simple household items like the cardboard roll inside of toilet paper or hang store bought toys.
Step 5: Test and Counterbalance
In some cases the balance will be solid and anything from a light item to a heavy one won't affect the perch. Some other perches are more fun because they have a little bit of bounce and sway to them. Be careful to check that the sway isn't offset by a heavy toy enough that when your bird adds his/her weight to it, the whole thing topples over. Try pushing and pulling the perch from a variety of angles and determine if a counter weight or added support is necessary. Do this early and often in your construction and before allowing your bird to climb on to it.
Step 6: Introduce Completed Perch to Your Bird
If your bird is like mine s/he watched you make the whole thing and maybe even "helped". These birds are probably already on top of and playing with your new creation. Some birds take a little more time to warm up to new items. In that case you'll want to keep the new perch somewhere nearby that the bird can see it and get used to it. It might help to hang a small favored toy from the perch so that it feels familiar.
Step 7: Maintenance and Additional Considerations
Your perch can last indefinitely and be reconfigured any number of ways. The VetTape however, might not last as long depending on how much your bird likes to chew it up, how much direct sun or water gets on it and how well poop trained your bird is. The wrap may need replacing every couple of months or so. This is about as much time as your bird might take to get bored with the configuration so you can take care of both things at once by replacing the wrap and putting it back together in a new way.
When reconfiguring or making other perches of your own, you might want to consider the size of the base, how far the branches will extend, and placement of toys in terms of balance and where the poop might land. Also adjust for the size of the paper you want to place under the perch.
Whatever you do, have fun with your birds and offer them as much interesting stuff as you can for them to play with.