Finch Furniture or
Well, if you are a birdkeeper of any sort I bet that you are not only proud of your birds but also of your collection of innovative gizmos and ‘apparatus’ that you have ‘developed’ through ‘years of fine tuning’ to make your aviary run like ‘well-oiled machinery’!!
I will also be willing to bet that, like me, you are forever on the lookout for ‘new and interesting ways’ of adding something innovative to your aviary set up. I guess too that, like me, you have a collection of ‘priceless and irreplaceable’ treasures stored away just awaiting the spark of invention to take their place as a novel piece of ‘finch furniture’ – yes, this is what most sane people refer to as junk, rubbish or several other unprintable words!! The idea for this article came from just such a sane persons exasperated reaction to my asking her to save all her small cat food tins for me, as I ‘needed’ them in the aviary. Her look suggested that she was weighing up calling the padded van or that, this time; I had finally ‘lost it’!
So, this is an attempt to justify that collection of priceless pieces of
discarded ‘equipment’ for later ‘redeployment’ as finch furniture. I hope
there is something in here that you find useful and would love to hear from
any other ‘inventors and collectors’ for any bits of junk…………..eeerrr………’items’
that I could use in my finch aviaries.
Fig 1. Bait Baskets Well doctor, it all started when I was walking on the beach many moons ago and I noticed all these bait baskets lying around and I felt compelled to pick them up……………I must be able to find a use for them – one day. Not only did I rid the beach of a hoard of unwanted plastics but I also found the perfect solution for feeding seeding grasses to the finches up off the ground. These thrown away bait baskets were tied onto the aviary walls and several generations of finches have benefited by having their greens presented away from all the potentially nasty organisms that live at ground level. Ok, it took me 10 years to finally develop my ‘plan’ but at least I had a ‘fine collection of materials’ to make it a reality. All this and saving the environment too! And they dared to laugh at my bags of ‘useless’ plastic! Even had a clever friend make me up a heap out of plastic mesh – reckoned he was too lazy to tramp all over East Coast Tasmanian beaches picking up rubbish!
Then there was the time when cash was tight and Tea-tree stocks even tighter and I was musing as to where my birds were going to nest this season? Sheer inspiration! I have always berated my dog for being a useless drain on my resources but, no longer! Those empty 700gr dog food tins were just the job to screw to the walls and fill with Bracken fern and Tea-tree (Fig.3). My dog was elevated to legend status overnight! As we all know there is one in every crowd and a mate arrived with some ‘u-beaut’ ones that he had made to put me to shame. "Didn’t know things were so bad ya had to use dog food tins mate, so try some of mine"! ‘His’ (Fig.4) were made from plumbers pipe and had special areas for easy attachment – show off! Just because my inventive skills match my building skills there was no need to rub it in!
Then there were the rolls of pig wire that I ‘liberated’ from the local tip – the welded stuff not the twisted wire one. Just the trick for making into ‘bunts’ to pack with nesting materials – square ones round ones, you name it we rolled and cut it! For the square ones there was nothing better than ‘J-clips’ to hold it all together (Fig.5 and 6). These are great to clean, simply take off the wall and throw the old nesting materials into the bin or the compost heap. Add one of those discarded plastic rubbish bin lids to the top and you have a virtual housing lot for finches.
I bet you are wondering what on earth the small cat food tins were used for. With the building of a set of small aviaries I wanted to have a number of different soft food items for the birds. But how to present them? I had just purchased a number of nifty little trays (Fig. 7) that could be clipped onto the wire of the wall and, lo and behold, these little cat food tins fitted in perfectly! One for John’s cereal meal, one for insectivore mix, one for dry egg and biscuit, one for PVM powder and another for Bob’s Lory Dry. Did I also fail to mention that I have NEVER thrown away a coffee jar lid either!
I feel sure that everyone has a cheap import store in his or her neighbourhood – be it Chickenfeed or the $2 shop! These places are a Mecca for avicultural fittings – from small dog and cat bowls to the ultimate in essential items, the ubiquitous tap tidy!
How did we survive before we had these fantastic items available to us? They can be used to place seed heads, millet sprays and the like up off the ground and, in every aviary of mine, to put the birds soaked seed in. Mind you, you must have a butter container to place the soaked seed in which fits ‘like a glove’ into your tap tidy – makes it a simple chore to clean out your waste soaked seed rather than letting it fall onto the ground. (Fig. 8 and 9) Try to show a little class and go for the plastic butter containers as they survive the bleaching better than their thinner cousins! What, you have been recycling these for ages! And you call yourself a ‘bird person’- will you never learn!
As previously mentioned I have a pathological need to place food, supplements and nesting materials up off the ground to keep the birds away from those ‘nasties’ that lurk there. It just so happened that I had rather a lot of slightly used fencing wire lying around that I, reluctantly, was forced to gather for disposal. Ever noticed how tensile fencing wire doesn’t like to be rolled up? It was during such a battle with this wire that I had a ‘vision’ of how I could use it to my bird’s advantage. With a simple cut of the wire snips – Ok then, several cuts! – I had numerous 15cm lengths of wire, which I then twisted into the letter ‘S’. These are great for attaching nesting material, cuttlefish, fruit, cucumber and………well, just about most things, to the wire of your cages. (Figs.9 and 10)
As you wander around the countryside attending conferences, bird shows & sales and visiting fellow breeders you will always find innovative new items for your aviaries. A trip to Gunnedah Bird Sale in NSW yielded some nifty little seed hoppers made by Bob from Toowoomba, Queensland, (Fig.11) with a double feeding site – just the ticket for eliminating seed waste - and a visit to Bendigo, Victoria, yielded some reversible feeding trays – just the trick for live food bowls. A mate in Cessnock, NSW, showed me a set of perch holders that are great for perches large and small (Fig.12), but it was a trifle embarrassing setting the metal detector off at the airport because I had several stuffed into my pocket – oh dear! I have now collected these perch holders from three different states, same basic design but all slightly different – just goes to show that there are a lot of clever people out there keeping birds!
Fig 14. The Lot!! If you’ve been pottering about in birds for any length of time you will probably remember the ‘bad old days’ when there were very few specialty items available for use in your aviaries. It is great to now be able to purchase hoppers, feeders and specialty trays that help you create an environment more conducive to breeding your birds. One of my favourites is the multitude of Coop cups that are available in most pet outlets these days. (Fig.13) They come in a range of sizes and are terrific for placing out those ‘special’ treats that are essential for breeding and over wintering birds – from Greens n’ Grains, German paste, Madeira cake to live food in the bigger bowls. By attaching these bowls to the wire of your cages you eliminate the need to constantly fully enter the flights and put the fear of God into the inhabitants! They will soon associate your presence with the arrival of goodies and will be more inclined to check you out rather than cringing in the back of their cages lest you should enter ‘their world’! At the time of writing I have a pair of Pictorellas that actually sit on the live food Coop cup as you put the mealworms in!
Well, I hope I’ve made you view that junk pile in a new light and given you a few ideas, basic though they be, for a bit of novel ‘finch furniture’. However, I accept no responsibility for the allocation of blame over that ever increasing pile of lids, assorted pieces of plastic and rolls of ‘slightly used’ wire that might tend to ‘appear’ around your yard! So before you give into ‘partnerly’ pressure and inter that ‘rubbish’ at the tip remember Occam’s Razor which states that the simplest way is often the best way and get stuck into creating some finch gadgets of your own and let’s read about them ASAP!!
Written by Marcus Pollard - Copyright remains with the author.