Before buying a cage make sure it does not contain lead or zinc, as either one is toxic to birds). Please visit this website to find out criteria that will help you identify the best cage for your bird and your household. Rectangular cages are preferred over round cages, because a round cage does not give a bird a safe corner to escape into when it is frightened. The round bar positioning in round cages may also affect a bird’s feathers, particularly the tailfeathers. Diverging bars will also pose a great risk to your bird.
Things to look out for when shopping for a cage:
- All welds should be smooth; no sharp edges.
- All doors should be escape-proof or easily made so with a lock or C-clamp. This is especially important when it comes to the larger parrots who are known to be real escape artists
- All bars should be parallel; NO converging bars anywhere on the cage.
- Cages should be powder coated or stainless steel. Many wrought iron and painted finishes (especially imported) are dangerous.
- The bar width should be appropriate. The bird should not be able to fit his or her head through the bars.
Bar Spacing: The bar spacing on your bird’s cage should be narrow enough to prevent the bird from getting his/her head through or wedged between the bars. The bars should be strong enough to withstand your bird’s beaks.
Cage Covering / Towels: Bird’s toes may get tangled in any holes or threads (they usually bite holes into them very quickly). They may strangle themselves in any threads.
Cage Lining / Litter: Cage litters made of corn cobs or walnut shells are not a good idea for parrots. Parrots will often ingest the material. Corn cob can swell once eaten, potentially causing impaction. Walnut shells can have sharp edges, which can cause damage to the digestive system. Both walnut shells or corncobs also harbors fungal spores when soiled or wet.
- Newspaper / newsprint (usually available inexpensively at self-storage places) are safer options for the cage bottom (that’s what I am using). Other options are decomposed non-toxic saw dust, corn cob, wood shavings (i.e., Aspen shavings) or other suitable materials. Please note that wood shavings – such as pine, cedar and redwood – give off aromatic hydrocarbons (phenols) and acids that are toxic and very damaging to the respiratory tract. They should not be used in cages, aviaries, or nestboxes.
What to put at the bottom of your cage:
1. Grates: The advantage is that droppings and other dirt will fall through the grates, keeping the cage environment for your bird pretty clean. However, I fear that it is not very comfortable for the pet and I did not cherrish scrabbing the grates, which you would have to do periodically.
2. Sand / Kitty Litter: Some cat litters may have chemicals / additives that might not be good for your birds. Clumping litter contains ingredients which can absorb moisture and swell to over 10 times their size, possibly causing crop impaction, gastrointestinal tract obstruction and death. Even if not eaten, there is a possibility of inhalation of the powdered portion of kitty litter. These products absorb liquid and make poop examination difficult.
3. Pine Shavings: Please note that wood shavings – such as pine, cedar and redwood – give off aromatic hydrocarbons (phenols) and acids that are toxic and very damaging to the respiratory tract. They should not be used in cages, aviaries, or nestboxes.
4. Ground Corn Cob: Breeding ground for fungi, such as aspergilosis (a deadly fungus). Ingested corn cobs absorb moisture and swell inside a bird’s digestive system causing impaction, bleeding and death. Baby birds develop bacteria and yeast infections from ingested material. Not recommended.
5. Wallnut Shells: When digested, can inflame and irritate organs, causing internal damage, bleeding and death. Not recommended.
6. Cedar Shavings: Can cause dermatitis, allergic symptoms and irritation of the digestive tract. Do not use in cages, aviaries or nestboxes.
7 Options for suitable nesting or litter material are decomposed non-toxic saw dust, clean straw / dried grass or wood shavings (i.e., Aspen shavings or wood chips). The larger wood chips the better, so the parents don’t feed it to the babies or the chicks accidentally ingest it.
8. Paper Products – Paper products are the safest materials to use for bedding. Unprinted newspaper, printed newspaper, paper towels, any plain paper and even brown paper bags can be used. I purchase packaging paper from a local moving / storage company. It works great — and doesn’t stain my bird’s feathers, as a printed newspaper would. If using printed newspaper, don’t use the glossy pages or the pages with colored ink as these inks may contain lead and other harmful chemicals. Paper towels are expensive and very absorbant, and are a great choice for chicks. Paper and paper products are very easy to change and allow you to monitor droppings. They are also relatively inexpensive.
Cage Cups / Feeder Cup Systems: Birds can get stuck in openings for food dish holders. Be careful when snapping in the feeder cups on these cages when your bird is closeby. They may get their toes or legs caught as they are trying to get to the food. Birds have gotten trapped under food bowls and the metal holder they sit in. Poor cage design features such as the above have killed numerous pet birds.
Happy Huts / Bird Condo: I lost my own cockatiel to Happy Hut. One morning I found him hanging from a thread – strangled. Other birds got entangled in the elastic that holds the Happy Hut. Yet other birds managed to chew through the sleeping tent, or digest part of the “fluffy material” that often lines the sleeping tent, causing intestinal blockage and death. The threads easily get wrapped around your bird’s neck. Other birds have chewed through the flooring of the tent and the shredded material became lodged in their throats. My lovebird loves his Happy Hut and I still use it – however, I replace it as soon as it gets torn; wear and tear increases the risk of injury.
Ornate Cages / Diverging Bars / Scrolled Design: Birds get their toes and feet trapped between the upper arch of the cage door and the body of the cage. “Diverging bars” — in ornate cages pose the same risk. One of my canaries lost her legs this way.
Paint / Cage Finishing: Fresh paint will kill your bird. If you have just finish painting your cage, make sure it is completely dry before placing your bird inside. Cages should be refinished as the paint or plating wears off.
Perches: Rope perches that have loose strings and inappropriate cage covers (such as towels) can also become nooses for legs and necks. These can cause serious injuries, amputations of toes or feet, and death by strangulation. Trim loose strings on rope perches regularly. Safe wood to use for your perches.
Sanitation: Spot clean small buildups and changing the paper once a day. Wipe down the cage once a week with a warm cloth and disinfect once a month (more often if you suspect or know of a disease problem; or your bird is suffering from an impaired immunesystem. I like to take my cage out and hose it down. It cuts cleaning time by half. After disinfecting the cage, make sure to remove any disinfectants before putting your bird back into the cage.
Travel Cages: Many of these cages are manufactured in multiple sections to facilitate shipping and storing the cage. Oftentimes, the bottom and the roof sections just clip onto the body of the cage. There have been accidents where these have fallen off while transporting birds and the bird has escaped.
Species Research by Sibylle Johnson
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