Cages & Accessories

posted: 05/15/12
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The most important item needed before your feathered friend is brought home is a cage. Remember, even birds that come out of the cage to socialize spend a large part of the day in their cage. Bigger is better as long as the spacing between the bars is narrow enough to prevent injury if the bird tries to escape. The bird's head should not be able to fit between the bars.

The door needs to be large enough to comfortably put your hand through, catch the bird, remove the bird, and replace the bird. The latch on the door needs to be escape-proof also as the bird is going to have a lot of time to find a way to open it. Some owners place a clip or a padlock on the door of their escape artist's cage.

Budgies like to move around and should have a cage that is tall and wide. Canaries and Finches like to fly and should have a cage that is wide and long to allow for flight. Cockatiels need a cage that is big enough so the crest on the head and the long tail fit without being crushed. The size recommended at most pet stores is going to be the minimum size for that species of bird. Your bird will be happier with a larger, more spacious cage.

Stick with square or rectangular cages as these are easier to clean and safer for the pet. As the number of corners in the cage increases, the flight area is decreased and the connecting edges decrease safety. Metal is usually the best material as it stands up to the abuse birds give it and is easy to clean and disinfect.

A sliding bottom tray is commonly seen in bird cages. This should be easy to remove, clean, and replace with no gaps that the bird can escape through, either while the tray is removed for cleaning or while the tray is in place. Newspapers are commonly used to line the tray and should be changed daily. Some owners will use small animal bedding. Do not use wood shavings or chips as they are dustier and can irritate your bird's airways. Bedding made of shredded paper or cardboard works well. Towels can be used in a pinch as they are easy to clean by tossing into the washing machine.

Cage location

Place the cage so the bird perches at about your chest level. Lower than that (especially if placed on the ground) and the bird will be anxious and feel vulnerable. Do not place it higher than your chest level as 'higher' means 'superior' to birds. In the wild, the more dominant birds perch on higher branches. Keep the bird in a sunny, draft-free area. If the bird is more social, keep it in an area of human activity. If the bird is less social, it may be happier in a quieter area of the house.

Several furnishings are needed for the cage. These include perches, dishes, grooming supplies, nest box, cage cover, and toys. Make sure when the accessories are all in the cage that the bird still has plenty of room to fly and move about without colliding with obstacles.

Perches

Birds spend the majority of their time standing on their feet so a good perch is essential. A variety of types and sizes should be supplied. Natural tree branches are better than the wooden dowels normally supplied when the cage is purchased. Because of their uneven shape, the bird is not always putting pressure on the same part of the foot when it stands. Most fruit and nut trees are fine to use as are ash, elm, dogwood, and magnolia. Grapevines can also be tried. Cut the branches to fit the cage, scrub and clean them well with detergent, rinse, and dry in the sun. Check for insect egg pods and remove before placing the perch in the cage or the egg pods will hatch in the cage. Untreated cotton rope is great to use for perches. It can be tossed in the washing machine for cleaning. Monitor it closely so the bird does not eat any of the strings or catch a toe in a frayed area. A concrete (mineral) perch gives the bird a spot to groom its beak and nails. Expect birds to chew and shred everything in the cage except the dishes and the cage itself. All other items, including perches, should be obtained knowing that birds like to chew, shred, and destroy things. Knowing this, remember to replace what he is destroying with more of the same (as long as it is safe). Plastic perches are not recommended as they are slippery and can cause medical problems if eaten. Sandpaper should not be used on the perch as it scratches the bird's feet.

Dishes

Dishes need to be appropriately sized for the bird. The food and water dishes need to be easy to remove and clean since this needs to be done on a daily basis. Those made out of stainless steel, crockery, or high-impact plastic are able to withstand the washing and disinfecting necessary to maintain the health of the bird. Water may be given in a dish or in a water bottle such as the type guinea pigs use. Make sure the bird knows how to use the bottle and that it is easy to remove, wash, and refill. Use a bottle brush for cleaning it.

Grooming supplies

Grooming supplies include nail clippers, a sharp pair of scissors, a spray bottle for misting, and a bird bath. An ordinary plant mister and plastic dish for the bird's bath are fine but should not be used for anything else to prevent contamination.

Nest boxes

Nest boxes should be supplied for a place to hide, especially for the smaller birds. These boxes can be attached toward the top of the cage and should be easy to remove and clean.

Cage covers

Cage covers are used to signal the bird that it is bedtime and he should be quiet. A cover made to fit the cage can be purchased. An old sheet or pillowcase will also work. Some birds never have their cage covered while others have their cage covered at night. A cage cover should not be used as punishment or for extended periods of time outside of sleeping hours.

Toys

Toys should be plentiful and alternated. They are what will occupy the bird through the largest part of the day while the owners are gone. Small birds like small, lightweight toys, and tiny mirrors. Larger birds like to manipulate toys with their beak, tongue, and feet. Birds will chew their toys so choose items made from nontoxic wood or hardened plastic. Check the toys daily for damage. Rotating the toys every several days to a week will help keep the bird interested in the toys. A bored bird is at high risk for behavioral and health problems. Finding toys that are favorites will entail trial and error. Try a wide variety as long as they are safe.

Sanitation

All items should be able to be cleaned in hot soapy water or put through the dishwasher set on the hot water cycle. Disinfecting can be done by mixing one-half cup bleach to one gallon of water. Clean and disinfect items away from the bird, rinse thoroughly, and air-dry before returning the item to the bird. Do not use scented cleaners as they can be harmful to the bird's respiratory membranes.

Each species is going to require research on their specific needs for housing, feeding, and socialization. The above is a good starting point toward providing your bird with the necessities for a good life.

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