In June, while walking the dogs in the neighborhood, my wife and I found a bird—a little green and yellow parakeet that was on his own. We caught him, took him home and tried to find his family. Then we tried to find him a home. Then, gradually, we realized he was going to stay. I have never wanted a bird; the idea of captive birds makes me sad. But he wouldn’t survive long out in the world, and we felt responsible for him. We grew fond of him. We named him Tinker.
Through summer and into fall, Tinker lived in a green and white plastic cage borrowed from a neighbor. As grateful as we were for the loan, we were not fans of the cage. It filled the living room with its pet-store plainness. So I started to think about what I might be able to do to give Tinker a warmer, roomier home. I researched online and found all kinds of grandiose projects, but our house is small so size was the primary constraint. I finally decided on an audio tower—the right width and depth for the available space, nice and tall. It took about three weeks of focused searching to find it. $50 on Craigslist. A little banged up, but just what I was looking for.
I made some measurements and sketched out a very basic design. Then I disassembled the tower and started sanding. As I was working, I started to get a clearer image of what it would become. A large, open area for Tinker. Two cabinets— a small one for his food and supplies and a larger one below, just for random storage. Dark mesh that would blend into the wood frame and the room. A grate floor, with a shelf a few inches underneath to hold newspaper. A hinged door in the back through which to clean out that newspaper. A hand-sized door on each side for delivering food and treats and doing light cleaning. A large door as the back, the whole back, for more thorough cleaning. No access at all from the front, so it would have an unbroken facade. And a lighted ceiling… with a dimmer switch.
Even with this vision, I wasn’t sure how to make it all come together, even what materials to use. Spent lots of time on numerous occasions at the salvage store just looking around, trying to find things that could work. I already had glass shelves, hinges, knobs, screws and shelf pegs from the original piece, as well as a staple gun and staples to attach the wire mesh to the frame. I found lumber and trim in various dimensions, many feet of shelf standards and some tracking that would be perfect for covering the sharp edges of the wire mesh and supporting the newspaper shelf, a piano hinge that was long enough for all the non-cabinet doors, casters so it would be easier to move, eye bolts, non-slip cork pads and reclaimed tin roof tiles that would make beautiful cabinet door inserts. I also went to the local home store for items that were safety related: New rolls of ½” wire mesh, non-toxic VOC-free paint, spray paint to frost the glass shelf ceiling for diffused light, strong magnets to keep doors closed, a strand of fifty clear incandescent mini-lights, an eight foot extension cord and insulated tacks to attach it. In the end, I estimate it’s about 75% repurposed materials and 25% new parts.
Yesterday, four months after we found him and seven weeks after I bought the cabinet, Tinker moved into his new home. It’s bigger than where he was living and it fits into our house in a more aesthetically pleasing way. The only thing missing now is a custom cover that clips to the frame. I’m going fabric shopping at the thrift store next weekend; that’s the perfect project for November.