At Project Perry, The Central Virginia Parrot Sanctuary,
We provide sanctuary for a variety of birds/parrots.
The Special Needs Grey Aviary is 1,250 square feet. It is lovingly named "Peach's Aviary" and it houses African Grey Parrots that are unable to fly due to various reasons such as inability to fly, atrophied muscles, blindness, pet birds that have come to the sanctuary to live, (They usually start out in here), and for other reasons that may present themselves. The Aviary opened October of 2013. The outdoor and indoor areas are large enough for short flights and walks. There are various trees, logs, and "ladder/ramp" logs for the birds to move around.
The main Grey Aviary is 3,600 square feet. The aviary opened in spring of 2009. This aviary provides sanctuary for fully flighted African Grey Parrots that choose whether they wish to fly or walk. There are many wild caught African Greys that live in the aviary and the wild calls ring out over the whole sanctuary. At any given time, there are 35-45 parrots living here. (As of Nov 2021, this aviary has been dismantled and will be rebuilt in our updated more efficient style of aviary. See the "Sanctuary News" Tab at the top of this page.)
The Small Bird Aviary is home to Cockatiels and Parakeets. The Aviary is 1,250 square feet and opened in the fall of 2015. Inside the aviary the small birds fly freely and at will. It is a happy feeling aviary filled with small birds that have big personalities. We love our small birds.
The Conure Aviary is filled with Conures, Quakers, Senegals, a Severe Macaw, and the like. The Aviary is 1,250 square feet and opened in the spring of 2013. Inside the aviary various Conure sized birds fly freely and at will. It is also a high energy aviary with plenty of places to fly, hang out, and anything else these little high energy birds may enjoy.
The Amazon Aviary is 3,000 square feet and opened in April of 2014. It provides an outdoor area large enough for the Amazons to spread their wings and fly at will.
The Bob Barker Macaw Aviary residents have moved in! There are 3,900 square feet for these birds to enjoy! The grand opening was celebrated at the 2017 Annual Open House at Project Perry!
As time goes on, Matt Smith, Founder of Project Perry is hoping to erect a Welcome Center and various other possible aviaries.
All of the aviaries at Project Perry have an indoor area that heated in the winter, and cooled by a fan or two, based on the aviary size in order to move air through the enclosed area in the summer on hot summer days. A sprinkler is brought in for excessively hot days as well, and the large African Grey Aviary had a sprinkler system installed. The ground is mulched and red wiggler worms were brought in to break down bird waste and food that falls to the ground. 3,000 gallons of propane fuel 3 generators that run the 27 acres as normal in the event of power loss.
It is important to understand, this is their home. The birds who reside here are allowed and encouraged to make their own choices in how they wish to spend their time while in a controlled and safe aviary. Many of these birds have been through extremely horrifying ordeals. Especially the older wild caught parrots. Each bird has a story, it is up to us to listen.
If you would like more information on the aviaries at Project Perry, Please feel free to contact us, but keep in mind that we are extremely busy. Hopefully the next section of this page might answer some basic questions.
-Matt & Kirah
I want to open my own parrot sanctuary. How can I go about doing it?
Hello! We often get asked how does one go about creating a parrot sanctuary? This is only some of how I can answer this question. There is so much more, and never enough time to cover it all...
The first thing I’d recommend is figuring out how big you want to be. How many birds would you be comfortable with taking on? A lot of what I will be telling you is from what I have learned on my own adventure here. I have learned a lot. After 5 years, I’m still learning.
I’m not biased when I say that Matt is second to none when it comes to what he has created. No one else has created structures like this with the live vegetation the way that he has. The natural ground, the natural trees and plants, and then the choice to be in or out of the elements is all for the birds to choose. There are no “bars” for them to look through. They can live as birds without the threat of predators or searching for food and water. I’m telling you this is because if you should decide to start a sanctuary, make sure you do it right. Also, understand that it is going to take YEARS. Unless you are independently wealthy, you are going to need donors. In order to get good donors, they need to be able to trust you with their money. For that to happen, you need to create a reputation, and that is HARD. You need to be transparent, honest, and open to the public so that they can see first hand what you are doing, especially donors. Donors have the right to see where their money is going. A sanctuary is nothing without their donors and grant contributors.
I wanted to start my own sanctuary as well, but I lived in the city. I envisioned the same type of enclosures that Matt uses, but I learned that I didn’t think it through 100%. What I mean by that is, I didn’t think about the heating/cooling issue. I didn’t think about the fuel to heat. I didn’t think about the cost of land. Whoa… $$$$. Neighbors don’t want to hear birds that can compete with the decibel level of a jumbo jet. You need land and you need space. I thought about taking the birds into free flight aviaries inside of a building during inclement weather if I were to start a sanctuary/rescue. That would cost significantly more. Two separate large free flight areas? Moving a hundred or more birds back and forth safely? No way. $$$$ Even after seeing what Matt has done here, I know “how” to do it, but I can’t do it. Building these structures is hard. Really hard. If it’s not done right, it will fall or become damaged. If the foundation isn’t done correctly, then you risk predators getting in and killing your birds. After it is built, you have constant upkeep that needs to be done for sanitation and structure safety. It takes more than one person to do this, and you have to be sure that any partners are the real deal, because if they’re not, mistakes are going to happen. You will fail the birds you set out to help or save. It’s not something the average person can tackle.
Matt is a marvel. There is really no other way to explain it. He started VERY young and he gave up everything. He gave up his life 100% for the birds. That is not an understatement, that is the truth. You have to be ready to do that, and that may mean doing what he did. He didn’t have a “job”. He had donors in the beginning that knew him, knew his dream, and believed in him. This was his job 100%, and for many years, he didn’t get paid a salary, he just worked and had whatever he brought when he started Project Perry, like his little truck. Every cent went to the birds. I’ve seen the financial records from the very beginning for Project Perry. I couldn’t have done it. No way.
Please understand that I’m not trying to crush anyone’s dreams, I am telling the side that I didn’t see until I came here. I don’t feel like my dream was crushed; I feel like I am living my dream. Matt did the hard part (hehe) and I am honored that he wants me to be here to help in continuing the success here.
If you decided to just have a warehouse or birds in your home as your sanctuary/rescue, then you have your home being damaged. There is no way around that when it comes to birds. Especially if you bring in volunteers. They will NEVER have the same standards as you would have as a sanctuary director. Trust me, I know first hand. HVAC systems can fail from dander, so filter changes are a requirement often. You need to have regular maintenance on the HVAC system. There can also be human lung issues if you don’t move the air or filter it correctly… I can go on but there are other things to address. Cages are time consuming to clean. Dishes, bars, grates in the bottom of cages. It all must be sanitized and put back together. The more birds you have, the more mess on your floors and walls. The more time you need to clean all of the cages. The more money you need to raise for proper diet. Proper diets are expensive. Human quality foods should be available with fresh produce. That gets expensive quick. Our outdoor aviaries have so many red wiggler worms brought in to eat the food waste and bird waste which keeps it sanitary. It also creates a fantastic dirt that birds love to dig in. The birds don’t eat the worms, but if they were to eat them, the worms are harmless.
Our aviary frames… lets start with what is under those frames. We will use the 1,250 sq ft aviary as example because it is our smallest structure size out here. A professional contractor has to come in and clear land. Then level the land. After that, trenches are dug down at least 3 feet, and at least 2-3 feet wide. This keeps predators from getting in by digging. They’d have to dig down three feet, over 2-3 feet underground, then up another 3 feet. That’s not going to happen. It is imperative to have predator proofing. Foxes, Coyotes, Racoons, etc are in cities as well as the country. They will try to get birds. The trenches are filled with cement and leveled. After the groundwork, we bring in Carolina Carports. Steel Framing is put up and leveled by professionals. It is important that all of the ground work is done properly before the frame is set on it. By the time you are done with groundwork and frames, you are looking at around $12,000 – $15,000. After the groundwork and the framing are brought in, then it is taken over by Matt and the rest of us as needed. Depending on the aviary size, you need a larger fan to move the air in the summer. You don’t want the inside area to get too hot. You must close a section for those cold winter nights, but you want to allow natural light in for the birds. Polycarbonate should be high quality to stand the test of time as well as for it’s insulation properties. Polycarbonate for the 1,250 sq ft can run around $8,000. Next you have the Fan, Stainless Steel Mesh, Electricity, Propane Lines, and the Heater you are looking at around $10,000 - $12,000. Obviously the larger you go, the more it costs to build. The generators are important for when you lose shore power. You can’t be without power on a cold night or super hot day. Heat and air movement is crucial. The fan and the heater are both powered by electricity which is why generators are so important for back up. Propane provides the heat. The propane has exhaust outside of the aviaries so that no one is poisoned by fumes. Polycarbonate has fantastic insulative properties as well as allowing light in, so it is the best choice for insulating the structures. Now, throw in the fees charged for labor when digging and installing electric lines and propane lines as well as hooking them up. Don’t forget that you have to run a water line as well. Don’t forget inflation either. Prices of supplies are always going up.
How our generators work… They are hooked to the shore power electric source by a professional electrician and then the gas company runs the propane to the generator for fuel. When the generator no longer detects electricity, the generator battery kicks in and pulls from propane. Like a car would use gas to power itself and run the engine, the propane fuels the generator engine. The generators need to be serviced often as well as the HVAC. Generators are expensive and hooking them up to your main shore power is expensive as well. Once it is all done, you must always maintain it and be ready. Propane for the winter here with 3,000 gallons can run anywhere between $10,000-$15,000. You can see why donors and a very good reputation is important. They are the lifeblood of the sanctuary. Without supporters, we are nothing. We are not independently wealthy here (I wish) and supporters make what we do possible. They are a huge part of our team. Always treat your donors with the utmost respect. Again, they make it possible for us to do what we do. Transparency and honesty are so important. I can’t stress it enough.
Aviary cleaning, the outside area is taken care of by worms and mother nature. The inside area needs to be sprayed, the polycarbonate needs to be cleaned, the inside perches need to be cleaned, and the grounds of the aviaries need to be raked. The ground is turned over to bring the worms to the top. As the worms work their way back down through the dirt, they eat the wasted food and bird waste. It makes great compost.
Taxes, we actually have a CPA handle all of our tax information. The CPA takes all of our receipts (we must save everything) and puts them all into the Form 990. I can’t tell you how to fill out a form 990, but what I can tell you is that it is complicated, and we highly recommend that you have a CPA working for you. It is worth it. If you were to start a non-profit, I think it is a requirement for accreditation from some of the accreditors if you were to want accreditation. Donations are put into a quickbooks file here at Project Perry. Donors usually want a tax receipt for itemizing and tax breaks, so that needs to always match what you’ve taken in. Bob Barker is one of our largest grant providers to date. If his foundation files that they’ve donated $100,000 during a year to Project Perry, but we don’t claim that we received the $100,000, we can get into big trouble with the IRS. You bet your butt the IRS checks in on a huge itemization like that and verifies that we received it. If we haven’t stated that we received it on our end, the IRS is going to want to know what we did with that money. Most importantly, it is dishonest, and it is unacceptable to be dishonest. It would actually be stealing the birds money if the $100,000 wasn’t used on them. Smaller donations are deposited into Project Perry’s bank account, the CPA needs that information and also put that on your 990 form to match your bank records. Cash donations obviously can’t be traced, but we are back to that honesty thing. Stealing from the birds is not ok with us. We put our cash donations in our QuickBooks and submit it to our CPA. It is the right thing to do, ALWAYS be honest. It will catch up to you like it has with other various 501 (c) (3) organizations. I can’t stress it enough… BE HONEST with donor funds. Always. I don’t care if it is $5, be honest. It’s not our money, it’s not your money, it is THEIR money. People donate to Project Perry, not to Kirah or Matt. The IRS can find out anything, and they will. Your reputation will be destroyed if you are dishonest. It may take years, but it will come out, and you will lose all credibility. You would be known as a fraud and it will never go away. You can actually google search for parrot sanctuary frauds, and various people will come up. We do not bad mouth people at Project Perry, we let donors find out on their own and direct them to where to look for making their own decision about a person or rescue/sanctuary. If you are interested, look it up, even facebook. Fraud spreads like wildfire.
There is so much to running a legit sanctuary. Bills. Vet costs. Groceries. Vehicles. Employee payroll (when applicable).
Are you really sure starting a sanctuary is what you want to do? Why not become a part of one that is already established and successful? Perhaps one day you would take it over. No one lives forever after all…