To ensure happiness, health, and safety, a pet bird requires a specific living environment. For starters, the cage must have adequate space, be kept clean, have several perches placed at varying levels to include one near the food and water dish, and offer a variety of toys for stimulation. The exact cage size will depend on the bird species but also the amount of time actually caged.
Although decorative cages look nice, they are not designed to properly house birds. In addition, cheap cages are sometimes made with toxic materials and pose potential safety concerns due to poor construction. Therefore, we recommend buying a cage from a reputable pet supply store or pet shop and while the cost might be slightly higher, it is a worthwhile investment long-term.
Below are a few key points when purchasing a cage.
• Buy the largest cage available according to bird species
• For most birds, vertical is better than horizontal space with the exception of small flighted birds such as canaries and finches that need equal room to fly
• Cage bars should be set closely enough to prevent small heads from becoming stuck yet far apart enough to keep toes and wings from getting trapped. Recommended dimensions are as follows:
o Canary, Lovebird, Budgerigar, and Parrotlet – 3/8 to 7/16 inch
o Small Cockatiel – 5/8 inch
o Larger Cockatiel, Conure and other small parrots – 1/2 to 3/4 inch
o Ring-necked Parakeet, Eclectus, Pionus, African Grey, small Cockatoo, large Conure, and Amazons – 3/4 to 1 inch
o Large Cockatoo, Macaw, large Eclectus, and large Amazons – 3/4 to 1.5 inches
• Jointed areas of the cage should be professionally soldered and smooth
Perches are a critical investment for all bird cages.
• To prevent or alleviate boredom and stress, but also help strengthen leg muscles and keep long nails trimmed, birds need a variety of perches.
• Perches should consist of different shapes, dimensions, and textures but also materials such as natural wood that comes from willow trees, fruit trees, and dogwood
• Perches made from PVC pipe help prevent damage to beaks but because the material is slippery, the surface should be sanded down
• To keep beaks trimmed, we recommend placing one concrete perch in the center or near the bottom of the cage
• Rope perches are also great but need to be cleaned or replaced after becoming soiled and/or frayed
The placement of a bird cage is equally important as shown below.
• Keep the cage away from extreme cold and heat to include space heaters, wall heaters, fireplaces, wood-burning stoves, window air conditioning units, exterior doors, and overhead heating/air conditioning vents
• At no time should a bird cage be placed in a kitchen due to hot temperatures and dangerous fumes emitted from certain types of cookware to include Teflon pans
Cleaning and Substrate
Other considerations when choosing the right cage is ease of cleaning and substrate:
• A pull-out bottom tray and large door makes cleaning easier
• Seed guards prevent droppings, substrate, and food from getting on the floor
• Rolling casters make it easy to move the cage when cleaning
• For birds without their wings clipped, food and water dishes that can be accessed from the outside of the cage make it possible to keep the access door securely closed
• Substrate can be made at home or purchased from pet shops and pet supply stores. At home, newspapers and brown paper grocery bags can be torn into strips and from stores, wood shavings and shreds of recycled paper work great. The two types of substrate that should always be avoided include corn cobs and wood chips, which can be ingested and pose risk of Aspergillosis.
Following are a few miscellaneous things to know about bird cages.
• To avoid possible dropping contamination, food and water dishes should always be placed in the upper portion of the cage
• For smaller cages, an exterior mounted water bottle frees up interior space. While most birds will drink from a bottle, some are notorious for placing seeds and debris into the sipper.
• In addition to an actual bird cage, especially larger ones that are difficult to move, a free-standing perch offers a bird the opportunity to spend time in other rooms of the home or in safe outdoor spaces
• Remember, cage height is usually more important than width but extremely tall cages can cause certain bird species to feel dominant, which then creates unwanted behavioral problems