“You can have a bird or a bank account, not both.”
Truer words had never been spoken, and they were spoken to me by the sales associate of my local pet store, ringing up my 3rd $200+ purchase of bird toys that month. The particular statement was made when I asked him how expensive some of the larger java wood tree stands in the store were. You see, I had already done my research online about large tree stands but had a sliver of hope that maybe in the stores they would be cheaper...That hope was soon shot down. Alas, it seemed if I wanted a nice large stand for my two blue and gold macaws, it was going to be costing me almost as much as a mortgage payment.Now, when I say tree stand, I’m not talking a few small branches here and there for them to stand on. Those were running between $250-450 online and in the store (still a big chunk of change). No, I wanted a play stand. I wanted a large area where they could climb and explore and chew on those hundreds of dollars of toys I was buying for them. I’m a bit paranoid about FDB (feather destructive behavior) and wanted something that I knew they wouldn’t get bored on, even if I had to leave one of them on it for a few hours during the day while I worked. When I told my husband what it would cost, he laughed...and laughed...and continued laughing until I told him I was serious. I wanted one. I knew we didn’t have the money but my birds were my babies and I wanted nothing but the best for them.
When he mentioned doing one DIY, I cringed. I was terrible at DIY stuff and had no building talent whatsoever. But he was handy and had some tools and was up to the challenge, so I said ok. Best decision I ever made.
First, we researched what woods were typically used for bird tree stands.
Dragonwood, Java, Manzanita... all hard, all gorgeous, all ridiculously expensive. No wonder large play trees cost so much! So that led us into researching what woods were and were not safe for birds.
We noticed that orange citrus wood was considered safe. It was local to us, and we knew of a grove that had not been fertilized as it had been on a friend’s property (she gave us permission to cut dead branches). Also, the branches tended to be curvy and unique on the trees, which was ideal for a good play stand. We also needed wood for a base, and we decided to go with 2 untreated pine 2x4x8s (do not get treated wood!!). With our woods picked out and an idea in our heads, we set out to make this thing.
Now, you may be thinking to yourself - “that wood is really soft! My birds would chew through that in an instant!” Yes, the woods we chose are softer woods. Yes, our birds do chew on them. But we have found that as long as we have toys on them, the birds choose to chew on the toys rather than the wood beneath their feet. Also, we designed it with the explicit intention of being able to unscrew and replace parts quickly and easily as they got worn down or chewed off. But if you are worried about the softness of the woods, this design can be done with any type of wood you desire.
- 2.5 inch stainless screws
- 4 inch screws (we could not find them in stainless locally)
- Small electric pressure washer
- Measuring tape
- Circular Saw
- Pruning Saw (could be substituted for anything handheld and can cut through branches)
- C – Clamps (could be substituted with strong people)
- Saw horses (can be substituted with anything similar, buckets are great)
- Sand Paper
- Squaring Tool / Straight Edge (optional)
- Ear protection / Eye protection
First, we went and cut branches off of dead trees that we liked. We decided not to use live trees as we didn’t want to take away from her possible orange harvest. We were aware of diameter, length, and “curviness” when cutting the branches.
Then, we prepped the 2x4x8s. First, each one was measured out to 5 feet. Then, using the Circular Saw, we cut through each one separately. Make sure not to damage the last 3 feet as this will be used later.
Then, take the 2 5-foot long pieces and place them on the Saw Horses stacked on top of each other. Try to make at least one of the ends line up perfectly. The more precise you can get, the more stable the stand will be. Use the C-Clamps on either end of the stacked wood.
Once those are in place, take the 2.5-inch stainless screws and begin drilling. We used a total of 8; 4 on one side 4 on the other, alternating on each one. We did not measure exactly the spacing, and you are welcome to use more screws if you desire.
Then, we began on the legs. Taking the 2 3-foot pieces still left over, measure out 2 feet on each and cut. Then, draw a diagonal line using a straight edge. We drew a diagonal such that the skinny ends of the feet would not be pointy, but instead have a small amount of height to them (about ½ inch). Once drawn, cut along the line using the circular saw.
Once complete, I sanded all the cut sides of all of the boards. Then, standing the now-screwed-together 5 foot pieces on end, begin with one leg and drill into the side of the base. Be careful of being level!! This is where taking your time will really make the stand more stable. Repeat for all 4.
Congrats!! The base of your stand is now made!
Now it’s on to those lovely branches you cut.
First, we took the branches and trimmed some of the small, stick like ends. We also cut some of the longer branches. This part is entirely up to you and what your vision is for your tree and the area it will be in.
Then, we pressure washed all the branches. This was to remove any excess dirt, along with the dead bark along the wood. If the bark didn’t come off with pressure washing, we tried peeling it off. If it didn’t come off even after peeling, then we left it on. Once pressure washed, we allowed them to dry for 24 hours.
The final step is to arrange and screw the branches onto the base.
This is entirely up to you and depends on what branches you have. We kept in mind width and height, and also thought of areas where it would be great to hang toys. This is where we used the 4-inch screws, as the branches we used were pretty thick.
And that’s it...I promise (lol). 2 days of time and, for us, $24 (this was to purchase the 2x4s and screws).
It was a lot of work, but in the end we now have a tree 3 times the size of any I was looking at for literally a fraction of the cost. The birds love it, we love it, and our bank account loves it.
Now to figure out how to make all those toys they love so much...
Article by Ashlyn Kumanchik, a BirdTricks customer.