Introduction: Parrot Play Gym on a Budget

Pet parrots require plenty of out-of-cage time, toys and enrichment to keep them healthy and happy. Unfortunately for us humans, they will also do a number on your walls, woodwork and furnishings- unless we give them proper places to play! I created this Instructable so that other bird lovers can make their own safe parrot play spaces. There are many commercially available play stands, but they are very pricey ($100 - $500 or more for a nice free standing gym!) All of the materials can be easily found and only minimal skills and tools are required.

Step 1: Materials


First and foremost, you need to find a bird-safe tree or large branch. You will want it to be about 3" diameter at it's base (this measurement isn't critical) with lots of branches and twigs. Select a tree based on your bird- a budgie will need lots of branches with smaller diameter branches, while a macaw will need larger, thicker branches. I made this tree for my Senegal parrot and Nanday conure (medium birds.)

There are many species of trees that are safe for birds to climb on and chew, but unfortunately there are also many, many that are toxic. I selected a beech tree as the  tree for my play stand because it is local to me and easy to identify. Please see this list for a selection of safe (and unsafe) trees and woods that you can use in the construction of your gym: Be sure you are selecting a safe tree! Also, be sure that any tree (or large branches) you select are pesticide free. I would also advise against trees directly exposed to highway traffic, as they absorb a lot of toxins and, in northern climates, road salts. If you don't have your own land/yard, I would suggest keeping an eye out for storm damaged trees, or asking friends and neighbors if they mind you taking a small tree. The trees that are often just right are "pest" trees anyway, saplings that are not intentionally planted.

In addition to a tree, you will need:
an old office / rolling chair (I bought mine at Habitat for Humanity's ReStore for $16)
a length (2'-3') of 2" or 4" PVC pipe (Home Depot, $7)
a 24" electric water heater plastic drip pan (Home Depot, $10 approx)
hand saw
Clippers or hedge trimmer (or shears)
utility knife
pine shims (Home Depot $2.50)
bathroom silicone (I used left-overs from bathroom caulking)
Contact paper or vet wrap (optional)
Quikrete 10 lb. Quick-Setting Cement (Home Depot $7.28)
Dust mask, mixing and measuring containers, water and gloves for Quikrete

Step 2: Preparing the Chair

You will need to take the seat off of the chairs. What we want is the rolling wheel base. Look for one that has smooth rolling casters and some sturdiness to it.

Every chair is different, so you'll have to do some investigation to determine how to get the seat off.  For this chair, there was a little tab at the top of the post that I had to pull out. Once I did that, the seat popped off of the post. Then I flipped the base over, and pulled out another tab to release the hydraulic  lift. You won't need the hydraulic lift or the post that the chair seat is on- please recycle these if you can (most are made of metal or plastic.)

Step 3: Cut a Hole in the Drip Tray

The drip trays come in several sizes- you'll want one that will catch anything that falls off the tree- I used a 24" tray.

Measure the outside circumference of your PVC pipe, and either scribe a measured circle, or trace something the same size- I chose to trace a tape roll that was the right size. Draw your circle onto the center of the tray with a sharpie (or similar.) The center is usually easy to find, as it's marked. Using a utility knife, carefully cut out the hole. Use caution! The plastic on these trays is very thick. When you're done, the tray should be able to slip down over the pipe and post (in the photo, I hadn't yet removed the hydraulics.)

Step 4: Glue the PVC to the Chair Base

Using silicone, place a thick bead on the rim of the PVC and set it onto the chair base. Use several layers of silicone to fill in all gaps between the base and the pipe. I used generous portions of silicone (this is necessary if you do the Quikrete step, which I recommend.) You'll also want to plug and silicone the hole in the base where the hydraulic lift was attached, if there is a hole. Be sure to use ventilation and follow the safety directions on the silicone tube.

Step 5: Quikrete the Base

Unfortunately, I didn't get any pictures of this step. Quikrete is fairly easy to use, just be sure to use a dust mask, gloves, and follow directions. You'll want to do this outside, too.

At this point, the PVC should be firmly attached to the wheel base, and the gaps between them filled with silicone. Turn the unit upright. Mix the Quickrete according to the package directions, and pour into the pipe. This is to add weight to the base and ensure a firm stand for the tree (otherwise the PVC pipe could wobble.) Allow it to cure according to package directions.

Step 6: Trim the Tree!

The tree you select will likely need to be cut down before it's used.

First, you will want to remove all leaves and trim all branches with shears or clippers so that they fall mostly within the radius of the tray (give or take- this is just to keep your floors clean.) Try to trim the tree so there are lots of interesting climbing options, leaving as many branches in place as you can. Keep the portions that you trim off, as you can use them later.

Be sure to measure all doorways that you will want to move the gym through to see how high the tree can be- then put it in the base, and cut the trunk and top until it is the right height. The base will likely need to be shaved a bit to fit in the PVC pipe.

Step 7: Finishing Up

Slide the drip tray down over the PVC pipe. As an optional step, you can use more silicone or tape (I used electrical tape) to seal gaps between the PVC and the pipe.

If you choose, wrap the PVC in contact paper that matches your decor, or vet wrap if you think your birds will nibble it. Use bird safe materials, but it is highly unlikely that your birds will access the base of the gym (unless they spend a lot of time on the floor.) The tray can be lined with bird safe litter (like Swheat Scoop litter, carefresh, etc.) or newspapers for easy cleanup.

Push the tree down into the pipe until it hits resistance. Double check to be sure it isn't too tall, and take a few moments to cut off any branches that are too close to the base.

I used bird-safe pine shims to firm up the tree, as there was a lot of space between the tree and the pipe. Just hammer several down into the pipe until the tree no longer wobbles.

Lastly, using the branches that you trimmed off earlier, you will want to add more horizontal perches. This can be done in several ways. I used bird-safe palm fiber rope and veggie-tanned leather strips that I had on hand to tie the horizontal branches. You can also use stainless steel hardware (MUST be stainless steel if you choose this option.) Add more toys liberally and change them often, and your bird will be in a birdie paradise!

As always, supervise your bird during out-of-cage time and replace toys as needed.