Over the years, we have had several birds that have needed mobility assistance for good quality of life. The most well know of course if Blue. She was wheel chair bound for the majority of her life after a crippling bout with Marek’s disease that killed both of her sisters. She was my little angel. She had many struggles, but she was a happy baby. Most recently we adopted Pablo NeROOda. He was a rescue bird for a neglectful environment. His feet had such a severe case of scale mites that even after the mite infection was cleared up, he was never able to fully walk again. I wasn’t writing back when Blue was in my life, so it didn’t dawn on me to document the construction of her chair in order to possibly help others with differently-abled chickens, but we did the best we could when we built Pablo’s chair to detail the construction. Pablo was a much bigger bird than Blue, so we could not re-purpose her chair for him. We also found that making a little Suit with a seat belt harness was a must for this to be safe for the bird to be left unattended, although I don’t recommend leaving them unsupervised when in the chair for very long as you never know what can happen. Watch this video to see how to put a chicken in a wheelchair. Also, to see how we used a finch hang on feeder with the wheelchair, check out Rolie in His Wheelchair.
First of all, these were the supplies that we needed. A good pair of scissors and a pair of heavy duty wire cutters. You will also need a sewing machine. the sewing steps can be done by hand, but it will be very time consuming.
You will also need 4 large safety pins, some 1/2″ wide elastic and some small parachute clips. All of this can be found at most craft stores.
For the wheelchair frame, we used an oval shaped coated wire plant basket. For larger birds there are some nice wire waste baskets available. Probably the hardest part of all of this is finding something that will fit your bird. You may need to get creative.
And a wheeled plant base. Their original purpose is to be able to move large plans around without having to pick them up. We found this at our local home improvement store. They can also be found in a wide variety of sizes, so find one that fits your basket.
Then you start by turning the plant basket upside down and removing the bottom. Remove the whole layer so that there is a smooth ring around what will become the top of the wheel chair. If your bird is short or your basket is taller, it may be necessary to cut off more than one layer.
It may be necessary to use a file and smooth out any sharp spots left by the pliers.
The next step is to make the sling for inside the chair. This is easier to accomplish before you attach the body of the chair to the wheeled base. I cut a section off of a pair of old pants, then opened the piece at the one side seem so it would lay out flat. It doesn’t need to be a pant leg, but it does need to be a durable material. Denim also works nicely. the amount of fabric you need is determined by the size of your basket, but you can see from the picture approximately how much of the basket the sling will cover.
Then you fit it over the chair body, allowing the fabric to drape down in. We used small tie wraps to attach it to the basket.
We cut small slits in the fabric at the points where we wanted to attach it to the rim. We attached it at 4 equally spaced points on the rim. We were careful to position the connector piece of the tie wrap under the fabric so that it wouldn’t be a source of irritation if the birds body rubbed on it for any reason.
Then trim off the excess.
I then added one tie strap in the middle of the side to hold everything firmly in place.
Now it’s time to cut the leg holes. We cut a cross opening, just big enough to get the birds feet through, but no larger than necessary.
Then we made the seat belts. These will ensure that the bird can get a foot hold on the side of the chair and push themselves out. Surprisingly, they do it more than you think. You will need 2 pieces of elastic as long as the diagonal on your basket plus several inches on each side. You will see why you need that much extra in a minute. After you have you pieces cut, then cut them each in half.
Attach your buckles to the ends of the elastic halves. This is where a sewing machine really speeds things up.
Clip your buckle together and lay it diagonally across the chair body. Leave a little slack so that it won’t be too tight once the bird is in the chair. Then pin the ends to the side of the chair. Use a large safety pin to avoid a struggling bird tearing a pin open. The pins also allow you to adjust the tension on the belts as necessary.
Repeat on the other diagonal.
Now for the wheels. We removed the inner ring of the wheeled plant base like so. Since not all of these bases are constructed the same way, it may be necessary to make some adjustments to where you make your cuts, but the end result needs to be an open area inside so that the birds can put their feet on the floor. For Blue’s chair we found a plant base that was big enough so we did not have to cut the wheels off and re-attach them. If you can find something like that, I would recommended it. It not only saves you the step of reattaching the wheels, but it gives you a broader base so that the birds are less likely to tip it over on themselves. Next time we have a bird that needs a chair, I will most likely find a new base because this set up was a little top heavy. But for now, this will give you an idea.
Next we removed the wheels from the inner ring. The welds weren’t very strong, so we essentially broke them off. We then folded the loop attached to the wheel at a 90 degree angle and attached it to the side of the frame with tie wraps.
Then we attached the body of the chair to the wheeled frame with more tie wraps.
I wanted to include those pictures here, because that is the chair construction that you will see in the video, however since then, we have made a few alterations and changed to a wider base for more stability. This is what we decided to go with. We cut part of the inner ring out and left what we could.
Then we mounted the chair body to the frame. It is set forward to allow the bird to get closer to things like food dishes and water. The trade off with this frame is that it is heavier and doesn’t move around as easily, but it is safer, so it seemed like a better alternative.