Housing Your Pet Bird: Choosing a Cage & More

parrot, budgerigar, little parrot-324665.jpg

Choosing A Cage:

We recommend that you get the largest cage that you can afford to buy. You should assume that the bird will spend more time in it than you may actually plan – i.e., don’t buy a smaller cage assuming that you will have the bird out a lot, because the bird will be spending a lot of time there, and the cage shouldn’t be too confining. All birds need to have a good “flap” occasionally, so if the cage is too small for him to spread his wings and flap comfortably, it’s too small.

The spacing of the wire or bars of the cage is very important. A bird could easily strangle itself, or get a foot or wing caught on a cage with incorrect spacing. We recommend 1 3/16 inch spacing for mid-sized birds, like most Conures and Poicephalus. 1 3/8 is acceptable for most of the larger parrots, like Macaws, Cockatoos and Greys; 3/4 for Cockatiels and Budgies, and 1/2 for Finches. Some cages have more ornate decoration, with fancy twists and curls of wire. Beware, birds can get caught in these and injured or killed.

The direction of the bars can also be a consideration. Horizontal bars are easier for climbers to navigate, but they can learn to adjust to vertical if they must. Vertical bars don’t cause as much fray in tail and wing feathers. This can be a more important consideration if you are housing showbirds, whose feather appearance is important.

Cages are available in many different styles and materials. Habits of the bird should be considered. (Many hookbills love to chew wood, and to them, a wooden cage would be a light snack.) Most Finches, however, would be fine in a wooden framed cage. For most birds, a metal wire cage is the best choice. Some cages are available in colors, using a powder coat finish, but a lot of birds will eventually chew the finish off. For this reason, you should be sure that you are using a cage that has a finish that is not harmful to your birds.

Some birds have been known to dismantle their cages bolt by bolt, if they can reach them. This could be dangerous either by the bird eating the small part, getting injured in a collapsing cage, or simply escaping.

Other things to check for when shopping for a cage are sturdy latches, peeling or chipping paint, rough welds, sharp edges, both inside and out. I always rattle the cage real good, and a good cage should stand up to a good shake, especially if you are planning to house a larger or more energetic bird in it.

Some birds are able to figure out and escape almost any opening on their cages – including clips, ties, and locks.

Used cages are a great option as well, but should be thoroughly disinfected before use. You shouldn’t buy a used cage that has any wood in it; as you can’t properly disinfect a cage completely that is made of wood.


Your bird needs perches of varying thickness, to prevent sore feet, joint problems, and to provide exercise. Put the perches in areas that are convenient to food and water, toys, and good vantage points for “people watching.” Try not to place the perches so that the bird stands on one while pooping on the one below unless you want to spend a good deal of time cleaning the perches.

Perches come in many different sizes, shapes and materials. You can make your own using cured wood branches, but make sure that there aren’t any bugs in the wood.


Keeping your bird amused is important. Some like to watch TV with me, some like car rides, (windows up!) or even just snuggling when I’m reading or typing on the computer. Quality time with you is important, but they need to learn how to amuse themselves also.

Birds playing with toys are happy birds. Bored birds have behavior problems, like feather picking, self-mutilation, and screaming. Toys that are comparable to the bird’s size should be provided. Birds like different types of toys – some love rawhide and bells, some don’t. Birds that feather pluck sometimes do well with a toy that they can pick at – something with lots of knots, strings, and fabric.

Periodically I rotate toys, so everyone gets something “new.” Then they don’t get bored with the same old toys all the time. If the bird is afraid of a new toy, sometimes it helps if I just put it near the cage first, so that he gets used to the sight of it before it’s actually in his cage, where he feels trapped with it.

When you hang a toy in a cage, be careful what you use. Frayed rope or fabric can get caught on a foot, and open (or too big) links on a chain can also catch a foot or beak. A lot of times I use those really tough colored plastic ties called electrical ties – electricians use them to bind groups of wires together. They are too tough for the birds to chew through quickly, and they are disposable, so I use them to attach toys, cuttlebones, and sometimes secure bowls in cages. Small parts on easily breakable toys could be eaten and cause problems.

Where To Put Your Pet Bird:

For a pet bird, you should choose a spot near the center of activity in your house, so that the bird will be entertained by the family activities. A bright area is good, but not direct sun. Pick a spot that’s not drafty or damp, preferably not a dark corner. The kitchen is not usually a good spot, since there are usually fumes, flames, hot burners, and other dangers in the kitchen.

Covering The Cage:

Covering the cage is up to you. Some birds like to be covered, some don’t. If the bird is in an area where they are disturbed at night by lights going on, TVs, etc, it might be a good idea to cover them. If you keep your house cool in the winter, you might consider covering the cage, even just on 3 sides and the top, to keep it cozy during the cool night hours.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *