Introduction: Parakeet Retreat
My parakeets (Budgies) stay in their in their cage most of the day in the house. I let them out inside the house to fly around for a couple hours before sundown. When the sun goes down they instinctively go to their cage to roost. When it warmed up outside I wanted to leave them out for the day while I'm at work. At first I placed their cage on a stack of cider blocks in the backyard. I worried about predators and harsh sun light as well as rain. I thought it would be ideal if they could have their cage up in the mulberry tree in my backyard. Since I didn't want to climb a ladder everyday I knew I would have to come up with a way to hoist them up into the tree.
Step 1: Figure Out Where You Would Like for Them to Be
I have a spot under a high branch on my mulberry tree that has lots of branches above it to provide shade. It is also at least 15 feet above ground where a cat won't be able to terrorize them. It was near my rabbit hutch/ chicken coop, so I brought it out about 7 feet from the tree trunk. This way, when I lower and raise the cage it's clear of the hutch and there is no chance of the wind smacking the cage against the tree trunk.
Step 2: Gather Materials
I have a bunch of junk I hoard, so of course I have a good selection of pulleys (Who would throw away a pulley?!?) For the rope I had a nice nylon reinforced clothes line that resists stretching. Other than that, you'll need drywall screws, washers, bailing wire, a ladder to climb up into the tree, and all the tools to work with the stuff. A word on safety- climbing up into a tree with a ladder is super dangerous. I extended my ladder a couple of feet beyond the branch it was resting on to prevent the ladder falling due to tree sway from wind, or my weight pushing it down.
Step 3: Connect the Dots
This is pretty easy, but I'll explain in case somebody doesn't understand. I started by standing there and envisioning where I wanted the cage to end up. This needs to be on a branch of substantial strength, not only so it doesn't break, but so it doesn't sway much in the wind. Directly above that point is where the first pulley will be hung. Next I looked at the trunk of the tree and figured roughly where I wanted the upper pulley to go, then I did the same for the lower pulley. I also thought of where I would put the tie off, for when the cage is hoisted up into the tree. Now I went about Attaching the top pulley. I worried that a screw would pull out, and the top pulley is the most important for my birds safety, so I used a length of bailing wire and formed a loop two times around the branch for strength. I made these loops larger in diameter than the branch so it doesn't kill the branch. Next I attached the upper pulley to the tree trunk, and then the lower pulley.
Step 4: Hang the Rope
I started by tying the brass clasp to the end of the rope. Then I climbed up the ladder and ran the other end through the top pulley. Next I moved the ladder over to the tree and threaded the rope down through the upper pulley, and then through the lower pulley. You can trim any excess you have, but I would recommend leaving 5-6 feet on there in case you have to adjust later.
Step 5: Make a Tie Off for the Rope
At first I used a pair of drywall screws (first pic) about 2 feet apart and tied the slack rope in between them in a figure 8 pattern It held for a week or so and then the top screw started to give and was going to fail. I decided to make a wood "Cleat" (Second and third pics) based on the boat dock tie off cleats. You can used an actual boat tie off if you want. The way a boat cleat works makes it quick and easy to secure things on a rope at custom lengths. I still worry about the rope slipping since they're my pets, So I go the extra step of wrapping up all the slack and securing the loop I tied on the very end. I added a pic of a side view of my cleat to help you make yours. You can make your cleat what ever size you need, the wood I started with was roughly 1 1/2" x 2" x 2'. I attached it with three 1 1/2" drywall screws through the outside, and from inside the hutch outward two 2" drywall screws into the backside of the cleat for extra measure.
Step 6: Beef Up Your Cage!!
You may have to reinforce your cage a bit. Mine was not very substantial so I made bailing wire clasps to make sure it wouldn't fall apart under the added stress of wind, etc. For the part of the cage that meets the bottom I drilled small holes through the plastic to accept the wire.
Step 7: Other Notes
I always leave my cage a full 2 feet below the top pulley in case the wind were to pick up and sway the tree so much that the top of the cage comes in contact with the pulley, which I imagine would snap it right off. Also, I had to run home one day because of a rain storm, so always watch the weather before leaving your budgies outside. You might decide to make a rain roof to place over the top to give your birds protection. I don't want mine out in the rain since I imagine a clap of thunder could give them heart attacks. This rig works great and my birds love chirping with all the other birds and they get enjoy the fresh air all day. When I get home from work I bring them inside to their in-home perch. I always open the cages door over the food tray so they can escape and fly around the house a bit, they love it! Budgies instinctively return to their home at sundown, so you don't need to worry about trying to catch them or anything. I wouldn't try this outside, although my friend from Australia (where budgies come from) says they will come back. I am entered in the pets contest, so please vote for this instructable if you liked it. Thanks a bunch!