When heavy snowfall destroyed two of Chintimini Wildlife Center’s flight cages last February, the public quickly chipped in $11,000 to replace the enclosures that help the nonprofit rehabilitate injured owls and other birds.
The backlogged parts for the large pipe-and-netting cages finally arrived Monday — and on Tuesday, Chintimini received a welcomed, and coincidental, phone call.
“It just so happened that this group called us and said we’re looking for projects,” Chintimini Director Jeff Picton said Wednesday, “and we said, as a matter of fact, we have one.”
Packing electric drills and steadying ladders, the 18- to 20-year-olds learned the schematics of flight cages as they helped Picton and three other Chintimini volunteers assemble the two structures Wednesday and Thursday.
The volunteers, mostly from Linn County, have contributed to various repair, renovation and building projects across the mid-valley through enrollment in YouthBuild, a program sponsored locally by Community Services Consortium. The program helps young people achieve their educational goals while also learning job skills.
Metal bows for both the large 60-by-60-foot enclosure, and the smaller 30-by-30-foot cage, were up in a few hours on the first day.
By that afternoon, they were making headway in fastening the horizontal support piping.
“This crew is amazing,” said Dave Hohler, Chintimini board vice president. “Normally the work crew would be the four of us old guys. We were thinking it would take two days to get to this point.”
“We’re moving right along,” he said. “These kids are good because they’ve got some training. The program is to train them in construction techniques.”
Chintimini admitted 1,311 animals into its facility last year — three-fourths of them birds. The enclosures are necessary to give recovering birds a chance to fly around and build their strength before they’re returned to the wild — and February’s heavy snow spared only one flight cage from damage.
The insurance pay-out and community donations made it possible to build sturdier enclosures that won’t cave in so easily, Picton said.
“The walls are more than twice as thick as the other ones were, and also we’re spacing them (piping) closer together,” he said Wednesday, pointing to the skeleton of the large enclosure. “This shouldn’t go anywhere. It would take an awful lot of weight to get this guy to bend.”
After building perches and performing some other detail work, the enclosures should be ready for the birds to move by next week, Picton said.
“We have a whole bunch of baby great horned owls that would love to have more space to fly around in,” he said, “and we have a whole variety of different song birds (for the smaller enclosure).”
Picton said the new cages should last 20 years.