Housing And Cages For Parrots

Bird Cages: Size, Safety, and Design

Parrots, especially because of their high intelligence level and complex emotions, do not belong in cages at all except when sleeping at night, or for those times when there is no one available to monitor them. For a parrot to be locked in a cage for extended periods on a regular basis constitutes animal abuse in our opinion. Parrots should be given, if at all possible, a large outside "free-flight" aviary space. Lots of "outside the cage" time, both indoors and outdoors, is absolutely necessary to their mental and physical health.

Parrots that are placed in an outside environment, where they can receive natural sunlight, fresh air, and rain, will live considerably longer than parrots that are strictly "inside birds". This will in no way adversely affect their companion qualities, but will result in healthier and happier birds all around.

"As far as I'm concerned, a BIGGER house is a BETTER house!"

Housing Basics For Parrots--
Choosing a good "House" for your bird.

There are a number of important considerations when choosing a cage for your bird, but perhaps the most important, from both the physical and pyschological health perspectives, is the cage's SIZE. The rule is simple: no creature, including humans, likes to be confined in a small space! Don't put your bird in what amounts to a "jail-cell"! The cage must allow the bird space to spread it's wings and flap without hitting anything. And it must be large enough to accomodate long tail feathers, and allow the bird to turn around without its tail feathers constantly brushing the sides of the cage.

Some smaller birds, such as canaries and finches, also need to be able to fly from perch to perch, as this is necessary for their well being. A good rule of thumb is that a cage should be, at least, TWO, and better yet, THREE, times the the length of the bird's wing-span, in all directions. Yes, I realize this is probably larger than what many people have or buy (especially considering the cost of a quality cage!), but as soon as you can afford it, I would urge you to give your bird the best possible house! This is a main ingredient in your bird's happiness and contentment, just as it is for humans.

Next, the SPACING of the bars on the cage must allow for the "GRIP-SPAN" of the bird's FEET, as well as the SIZE of the bird's HEAD. If the bars are too far apart, the bird will not be able to grip the bars properly and get around without slipping or maybe even falling. Also, the bird should not be encouraged, because of too wide a bar spacing, to stick its head through the bars and risk getting it trapped. On the other hand, if the bars are too close, then there is a risk of feet and/or toenails getting hung up/broken. When a bird becomes hung-up or trapped, it will panic and thrash about wildly, resulting in serious injury, or even death! So make sure the bar spacing is right for your bird. Also, when placing toys, dishes, perches, and other items in the cage, make sure you don't create an area where the bird can get trapped or get its feet, head or wings hung-up.

Cage Bar Spacing:

Small birds (Canaries, Finches, Budgies): 3/8 inch to 7/16 inch.
Small parrots (Cockatiels, Conures, Senegals): 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch.
Medium Size Parrots (African Greys, Amazons, Smaller Cockatoos, Smaller Macaws, Eclectus, Ringneck, Larger Conures): 3/4 inch to 1 inch.
Large Parrots (Cockatoos, Macaws, Larger Eclectus, Larger Amazons) 3/4 inch to 1 1/2 inch

The MATERIALS used in the cage's construction are also an important consideration. Cages, and all their parts, must be made of materials that can withstand the chewing ability of the bird. Plastic and wood may survive ok for smaller parrots like Budgies, but the medium to large parrots like Macaws, Amazons, African Greys, Conures, and Cockatoos, can easily destroy such materials. Stainless steel, wrought iron, and heavier guage wire, will be the way to go with these larger birds. Also, consider that birds are very good at learning how to undo latches and "doors", so think about the way these items are constructed, and how you will secure them. Also, make sure that all materials, both the cage materials and any items you place in the cage, are non-toxic (see below, "Dangers"). Avoid cages with any sharp edges or "burrs" on the metal. Sloppy welding and non-matching paint may indicate non-factory work that could present a lead and poison risk, so avoid such cages. If you buy a used cage, check for repainting, and if found, don't buy it.

Other Considerations-
Most cages will have a "grating" and pull-out tray in the bottom for ease in cleaning. The grating should, ideally, be far enough above the floor "catch tray" so the bird will not be able to pick through food that has fallen down among the droppings, or chewing on any tray "liner" material. Some cages, also, have larger "shields" around/below the base to minimize debris on the floor around the cage. This is a real help with "messy" and "picky" birds!

More elaborate cages, with "playgrounds", perches, feeders, and trays on the top, give the bird a good place to stay occupied when outside the cage. The top tray also prevents droppings from falling into the food and water in the cage below. However, it may be better to establish a "play" and outside perching area away from the cage from a psychological point of view, as a top perch above the cage may make the bird more territorial, feel more dominant, and hard to handle. At any rate, the cage's height should not allow the bird to be higher than you are. In general, birds will almost always step "up" to you, but it's harder to get them to step "down" to you.

Bird Safety: Dangers And Things To Avoid!

Avoid cages and cage items that contain brass, zinc, lead, or copper. These metals can present a poison risk to your parrot.
    Brass can sometimes be found on certain accessories and padlocks.
    Zinc, highly toxic, can be found on galvanized cage wires, in "anti-rust" primer paints, chrome, keys, zippers, toy chains and snaps, certain shampoos and skin preparations, padlocks, nails and screws, and transport cages.
    Lead is another "heavy metal" that, like zinc, can produce drastic results when the bird ingests it. Common sources are paint, the lead frames of stained glass windows & tiffany lamps, fishing weights, lead solder, weighted ashtrays, pewter, curtain weights, lead-acid batteries, foil from champagne, and some toys.
    Foods stored in copper pots may leach out some of the metal, and copper pipes and pipe fittings may increase the amount of copper in the drinking water supply.
    There are so many potential sources for these "poisons" in our environment and homes, that it is difficult to name them all. Heavy metal poisoning will make a bird extremely ill, can cause seizures, convulsions, and death. If your bird looses its coordination and balance, or is falling off its perch a lot, then take the bird to a vet right away to see if there is heavy metal poisoning. Take all possible means to assure that the cage and its accessories are free of these metals.
Non-galvanized tin, steel, and iron are generally safe.
A good rule is: If in doubt, don't use it!

Cage doors that lift vertically and can suddenly fall back down hard should be avoided. If they fall on your bird it could injure toes, feet, neck, or head. With a smaller bird they could maybe even break its neck. Avoid these doors if possible, or make sure they are secured against accidental closure if the bird is loose and going in and out of the cage. Birds are very good at lifting these type doors and scooting out underneath, but this is dangerous and the bird could really get hurt. Doors that swing out or slide sideways are a better choice.