Buy the largest appropriately constructed cage you can afford.
All hookbills (birds having a curved beak, like conures, cockatiels, macaws
and parakeets) are natural climbers in the wild. In captivity, these birds must
have a cage with horizontal bars to climb on. My personal opinion is the larger
the cage, the better. I don't think that there is any such thing as too large a
cage. If the bird will be spending several hours a day out of the cage, you
don't need the largest cage made. If the bird will almost never be out, buy a
cage it could fly in.
In any case, the cage should be large enough that the bird can spread its
wings without touching any wall or the roof. My personal favorite is made by
Prevue-Hendryx, model #125 which measures 20" wide x 20" deep x 29" high (ask at
any pet store that carries a large selection of cages). Be sure the cage you
choose has no sharp edges that could cut you or the bird.
Try not to buy a round cage, because the perch arrangement causes the bird's
tail to rub on the bars and get worn and ugly. Most round cages are also awkward
to fit paper into, and difficult to clean. Whatever cage you buy should be both
convenient for you to care for, and healthy for the bird.
Perches should be of different shapes and thicknesses. Birds stand on perches
all day, and if they always stand on the same size perch, their foot muscles
will stiffen from lack of stretching. Some birds also will get sores on the
soles of their feet from always standing on the same points. The best perches
are branches of fruit trees (not cherry trees-they are toxic). Be sure the trees
have not been sprayed with anything! Cut the branches, wash and scrub them
thoroughly with clear water and Oxyfresh Cleansing Gele or
Oxyfresh Dentagene, and bake them for 30 minutes at 350 degrees to kill any
insect larva or eggs. Then cut them to fit the cage, and either notch the ends
or wedge them between the cage bars.
The perches should be at different heights, one level with the food dishes,
and if the cage design allows, one near the level of the cage door. This allows
the bird to come out the door easily on its own, when you want it out of the
cage. Be sure not to place any perches directly above the dishes, so the bird
can't defecate in its own food or water.
Every bird needs a "place of refuge" where it knows it can go to get away
from things which bother it. Most birds will come out of their cages whenever
the door is opened. Many birds become territorial about their cages, and prefer
not to have anything entering "their" territory. This is normal, and OK as long
as the bird will come out whenever you want to interact with it, and does not
physically hurt you when you MUST reach into the cage.
Place the cage in a spot where it is not in direct sunlight, and where heater
vents will not blow on it when the furnace is on. The bird should not have to
endure temperatures below 60 degrees or above 85 degrees for long periods. If it
is very hot, set a fan to circulate room air without blowing directly on the
bird (place the fan in the opposite corner and point it straight up, if
possible). Air conditioning is fine as long as the bird is not directly in the
stream of cold air. Be careful of allowing your bird freedom in a room with a
ceiling fan-it could get caught in the revolving blades. If the bird is out,
turn off the fan.
You can tell if your bird is too hot-it will slick its feathers down tight
against the body, spread the wings slightly, and pant. If it is too cold, it
will sit with the feathers all fluffed up, and try to keep its feet covered.
Try to keep the humidity in your home high enough that you don't have static
electricity problems. If the air is too dry, the bird's respiratory passages
will dry out, and this could easily lead to increased respiratory illnesses (and
high veterinary bills!).
You don't have to cover the bird's cage at night, unless you live in a home
which gets cold after dark. Leave a night light on in the bird's room, so it can
find its way to its dishes at night. Cage covers should be made of smooth
material (no terry cloth or velour to snag nails), and should come almost all
the way down to the bottom of the bars. If your bird tends to get noisy early in
the morning (some birds sing to the sunrise), covering it at night will
sometimes help keep it quiet a little later. Some birds will have occasional
"bad dreams" which will cause them to fall off their perch at night and thrash
about. If you hear this happen, quickly turn on a light, and speak soothingly to
the bird until it calms down and stops moving about. Reassure it as you turn the
Most cages are designed with a wire top and a solid base made of plastic or
metal. Avoid buying a cage with a base whose sides slope inward-this design
makes it easy for the bird to defecate on the sides of the base. This quickly
becomes unsightly, and will make extra work for you. Be sure, for your own sake,
that the sides of the base are straight up-and-down from top to bottom.
Your conure's cage will eventually need cleaning. Droppings should not be
allowed to build up in the cage, as this can cause the bird to become ill from
exposure to bacteria. The cage papers should be changed every two or three days,
more often if the bird is usually left in the cage. Don't use the colored
sections of the paper-the inks can be toxic if the bird manages to chew on them.
The grate in the bottom of most cages will help prevent paper chewing, but some
birds are very clever in finding ways to get to the paper. If your bird is a
paper-chewer, you can also use brown paper bags in the cage bottom.
If there is no grate with the cage, one can be cut from 1 inch mesh hardware
cloth (available at most hardware stores). Use wire cutters to cut the cloth. Be
sure to carefully file all the rough edges off and thoroughly wash the mesh to
remove casting sand and oil before installing the new grate.
When the cage bars or grate get really yucky, you will have to wash the cage.
Remove the bird, and put it somewhere safe-a spare, cheap, cage comes in very
handy at this time. Take the perches out, and all the dishes and paper. Using
very hot water, rinse the cage well. Then take a plastic scrubbing pad (one for
Corning Ware works well), and some Oxyfresh Cleansing Gele,
and scrub the bars till they are all clean and smooth again. A plastic paint
scraper works well for removing stubborn stuck-on gunk, without damaging the
finish on the cage. Then rinse with hot water again and again. You must be sure
to get all the bleach off!
An alternative for an all-metal cage is to dis-assemble the cage, and take
the whole thing to a do-it-yourself pressure hose car wash, and blast the dirt
out of it with water. It will still need scrubbing in places, but it is much
easier to clean this way (in warm weather, anyway.) Rinse it well to get off all
the soap. Do not wash wooden parts or dishes at the car wash. The car wash
pressure sprays do not work well on plastic cage bases.
Let the cage dry. While it is drying, scrub the perches with hot water and a
scrub brush (NO BLEACH-it doesn't rinse out of wood), and bake to dry them, or
use an alternate set of perches while the freshly cleaned ones dry naturally.
When everything is clean, reassemble it all and put the bird back in.
You will find that a hand-held Dustbuster vacuum will soon be your best
friend when it comes time to clean around the cage area. It is great for picking
up feathers, dust, seed hulls, chewed paper and wood scraps!
It is best to have more than one set of dishes which fit the cage openings.
They need to be washed every other day, and when one set is dirty, you can
switch sets without depriving the bird of food while its dishes are being
washed. Extra dishes which can hang on the cage walls are also handy for serving
special goodies. If you have a dishwasher, just put the dishes on the top rack,
and the bleach in the detergent will sterilize them. If you are the dishwasher,
pour some hot water and bleach in the dishes and let them set for a half hour.
Then wash with hot water and a cloth, rinse very well, and let dry.