Today I finished Atticus’ pole perch, which is where he’ll hang out–unhooded–while I’m around to check on him. I based the perch on the design described in Falconry Equipment: A Guide to Making and Using Falconry Gear by Bryan Kimsey and Jim Hodge. It’s a must-have book for every falconer, but it is lacking in specifics and how-to advice. So I’ll share mine, for what it’s worth.
The pole perch is a highly-customizable piece of equipment that anybody can build without specialized tools. Following is my “recipe”, with notes. With the exception of the stadium turf, everything needed can be picked up at your favorite Big Box building supplier. I happened to go to Lowes.
- (1) 24-in. 1.25″ Galvanized Pipe
- (1) 38-in. 1.25″ Galvinized Pipe–you can go shorter, but you’re shooting for a shoulder-height overall structure
- (3) 1.25″ Galvanized Floor Flanges
- (1) 38″ x 26″ sheet of Galvanized Hardware Cloth (the book specifies chicken wire, but hardware cloth is MUCH easier to work with, and provides more stable walls.
- (1) 38″ x 26″ piece of either loop-free carpet (watch for fraying), heavy, tight-woven canvas, or other durable, snag-free material.
- (1) 26″ x 2″ strip of above material, for seam cover.
- (2) 12″ diameter 3/4″ thick pre-cut plywood rounds
- (1) 24″ diameter 3/4″ thick pre-cut plywood round
- (1) Eye screw, about 1″ eye; shank length at least 1″.
- (1) Appropriate 12″ diameter perch covering. I’m using cocoa mat, but might switch to stadium turf. Note, I am also fiddling with a replaceable covering system using hook-and-loop…I’ll report my findings later.
- (18-24) Cable ties (smallish, but strong works best to cinch seams together)
- (12) wide-head screws, approx. 3/4″ long. Make sure heads are appropriate for flanges. Don’t skimp on quality.
- Your favorite adult beverage
- Heavy-duty contact cement.
- Optional: Shorter sections of galvanized pipe, for table-top applications.
- Also optional: Felt pads for underside of base, so as not to screw up wood floors.
- Marking Pen
- Seamstress’ Tape Measure. Waaay easier for measuring hardware cloth than retractable, metal tape measuring devices.
- Heavy Duty Hand Stapler, Staples. I do have an air stapler, but found that a hand stapler is sufficient, with the added bonus of not chewing up the wood or sinking in.
- Heavy-duty toenail clippers, or small wire snips (for cleaning up any pointy edges on hardware cloth)
- Heavy duty tin snips (for cutting hardware cloth)
- Exacto-knife, box-cutter or other sharp knife (for cutting perch wrap, cylinder covering)
- Drill, plus whatever smallish bit you have on hand, and driver bit for screws.
- Small hammer for bashing staples flush
- Bottle Opener/Corkscrew
- If you’re an apprentice, verify this project with your Sponsor. I have some fine-tuning to do, and am not leaving my bird unattended until I know the perch-surface securing system (hook and loop) is safe.
- Find center on your plywood rounds.
- Drill guide hole on 12″ round that will be the top of the perch.
- Install floor flanges on rounds; one 12″ round will have a flange on either side. Remember to stagger screw points.
- Connect both 12″ rounds with 24″ galvanized pipe. Be sure threads are properly seated.
- Staple hardware cloth to top round, aligning top edge of wire in the middle of the top round. Staple every inch or two.
- Use hammer (or smooth rock, or your partner’s iPhone) to be sure staples are properly seated.
- If the wire is properly installed, the seam should line up nicely. Your choice if you want to cable-tie the seam before stapling wire to the bottom round.
- Once the wire is installed and the cable ties applied, be sure all tag-ends of the ties are flush. Turn in cable tie ends toward inside of cylinder.
- Repeat process with cylinder covering material , starting from the top, and aligning material to the top edge of the top round, or a wee smidge below.
- Important…if you even think the staples will come loose, i.e. you’re using a thicker material, borrow an air stapler or be certain your staples have a sufficiently-long shank. Do not allow any room for the staples to catch toes/talons, or tempt your bird to pry them out.
- Securing the material seam: Bond a strip of material over the seam with a heavy-duty contact cement. Be sure there is no way for your bird to snag a toe along the seam. Follow instructions for drying; be careful of fumes around your bird.
- Attach your perch covering of choice to top of cylinder using contact cement. DO NOT use staples for this part.
- Connect cylinder to 24″ base, using 30″ galvanized pipe. Be sure threads are properly seated.
- Set stand in its proper location, being aware of distance from walls. Find an old sheet or towel to drape around base to catch mutes. If your bird is larger than mine (a 420-g tiercel Barbary) you might want to put sandbags on the base to add ballast.
- Install your bird. Make sure leash doesn’t allow bird to bate more than halfway down the side of the cylinder. Also…it’s a good idea to observe your bird very closely the first few times you have him on the perch, with an eye out for any snags or problems that you might have missed.
- Gloat, and have that drink!
It’s important to remember that pole perches do not allow your bird free access to water. Always monitor your bird’s moisture intake, and have his spray bottle or drinking cup handy to offer on a frequent basis.
When placing your perch, consider the following: Birds will bate toward uncovered windows. Ceiling fans cast shadows that freak out birds. Artwork depicting predators, or tv shows featuring predators freak out birds.
You might want to try the following…rather than have the strip covering the seam of your covering, cable-tie a strip of corrugated cardboard or plastic (i.e. Coroplast) to your hardware cloth before you staple it to the rounds. You can then glue or staple your outer covering to this strip at the seam. I’ll try this with the next perch I build, and report back later.
So far, Atticus loves his new perch. The height gives him a sense of security, and he looks pretty smug being at eye-level (if not slightly above) the helper-monkeys in the house. If my cat gets into the living room, he can’t reach the bird, even when Atticus bates; I’ve made sure there’s no furniture from which the kitty can launch.
Honestly, I hate building stuff, but this was a really easy project once I figured out how to find center on the rounds (thanks, Fox, for helping!) Because the pipe fittings can be broken down, this perch can be packed up and hauled along on trips, or modified for different heights. With a little varnish and color-coordination, it’s easy on the eyes, as well.
I’ve seen similar pole perches designed with a lipped tray as a base, in which one can put cat litter. (I’d do this, but of course my cat would just shit in it all day.) Other modifications might include leaving part of the cylinder bottom unstapled, so you can stash leftover Halloween candy or miscellaneous contraband inside. Maybe a battery-operated voice recorder to make your housemates think your bird is telling them to do their dishes. The possibilities are endless…as long as the end result is safe for your bird.