A bird is entirely reliant on you for everything in its life. Its happiness and good health are provided by you, the caring pet bird owner. It is important to continually strive to better your bird’s life and help ensure the maintenance of a long lasting, healthy relationship between you and your bird.
How big should my bird’s cage be?
As a general rule, bigger is better. In the wild a bird would spend much of its day flying from tree to tree in search of food and at play. In captivity, we must allow for some sort of exercise, self-expression and entertainment. The cage must be big enough to move around in with ease as your bird goes from perch to perch and stretches or flaps its wings without striking anything. There are numerous designs to suit all tastes. Generally a rectangular metal cage, preferably longer than it is tall, is the best. Tall, narrow cages prove to be rather impractical, as most birds do NOT fly straight up and down. Round cages create a situation in which every perch across its width is in some way directly over the perch below it. This leads to constant soiling with feces of all lower perches.
Wood, wicker or bamboo cages may be attractive or decorative but are impossible to clean and disinfect effectively due to their porous nature. These cages will NOT confine larger birds as they are chewed apart with ease.
An all-metal cage is the most practical to maintain. The bars on the cage must be close enough together to prevent the bird from getting its head through the bars. Acrylic cages can also be good provided they have plenty of ventilation holes or a ventilation system. You also need to ensure that the acrylic is durable enough for the species of your bird. A plastic cage built for budgerigars, for instance, would probably not be durable enough for a small cockatoo.
What sort of perches should I have?
A bird spends all its time standing on a perch so careful consideration must be given to this aspect of your pet’s environment. Tree branches or wood naturally make the best perches. Providing non-toxic, washed, fresh branches such as apple, elm, ash, maple or willow will be both functional and attractive in the cage. Natural branches should be selected such that a variety of diameters are available to perch on. This affords various textures, choice of grip and good exercise for the feet. REMEMBER, a bird should be able to wrap its foot around a perch to grasp it, NOT just stand on it. Some birds on perches too big will fall or slip if they cannot grasp the perch. Wood perches seem to help wear the nails down better than other materials. Branches provide an entertainment value for those birds that like to chew. Wood is more difficult to disinfect due to its porous nature but can be washed and replaced often.
Other options include various types of rope perches, chola-wood perches, rubber, and various types of cement, ceramic, and mineral. Again, a variety of textures and sizes is key to healthy feet. If using rope perches, be aware of loose threads as these can become wrapped around toes. Only natural fiber ropes should be used in perches as synthetic threads are more difficult to break if a bird does become tangled.
Keep the perches clean with regular washing. Most wood or mineral perches can even be run through the dishwasher for convenient cleaning. Fresh branches should be cleaned with soap and water.
Branches can be heated in an oven at 300 F for 30 minutes to kill organisms. Be very careful of exposure to open flames in the oven and be aware that dead branches can harbor a lot of bugs that will crawl out when the wood is heated. We do not recommend sandpaper covers or smooth dowels as perches.
What sort of food and water dishes should I provide?
Dishes are best made from sturdy non-toxic materials that are easy to clean and disinfect every day. Position the dishes such that they are easily accessible and yet not under perches where they will be soiled by droppings. Dishes for larger birds are made of stainless steel or crockery and attach securely to the side of the cage. These dishes may prevent your pet from tossing the dishes around. The dishes should not be too deep or food will be wasted.
What about toys for my bird?
Being cooped up in a cage all day can be a very boring, frustrating experience. Whether you are home with the bird or not, a pet must have some form of entertainment. They love to play and explore. Toys may
include ladders, rope, swings, mirrors, bells, hanging toys, pieces of wood to chew on, or rawhide chew toys. Birds are inquisitive by nature. There are numerous “puzzle toys” and foraging and enrichment toys on the market that will entertain birds for hours. These particular toys challenge a bird to figure something out such as getting a favorite food out or opening a container. Although most companies strive to provide safe toys, there are no quality controls or regulations. Great care must be taken to ensure the toys you purchase are free of potential dangers. Be mindful of snaps, clasps, bell clappers, open chain links, removable parts, easily broken parts, glass or extraneous loose fibers that may be chewed or swallowed or that the bird could become entangled in. Rubber toys that are easily chewed apart can be very dangerous and must be avoided. Make sure toys are large enough not to be swallowed. Glass mirrors are NOT suitable for large birds since they are easily broken. Polished stainless steel mirrors may be more appropriate.
Some birds like to hide in boxes or paper bags. Experiment with toys and find out what your bird enjoys the most. You may wish to have an assortment of toys that can be rotated on a daily or weekly basis to keep the bird from getting bored. Some birds may appear frightened of new items in their environment. In this case, toys should be introduced slowly (hang nearby the cage) to allow the bird to become accustomed to their presence over time.
Should I clean my bird’s toys?
Occasionally toys get dusty or soiled. Some birds develop such affection towards a toy that they may even regurgitate or masturbate on the toy in a display of courtship or sexual offering. Remove the toy if this happens. All toys should be periodically washed with mild soap and water. Remember to rinse well with fresh water.