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The Best Housing for Your Bird

By: Suzanne Zweigart

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The larger your bird's cage, the better. The absolute minimum size that your bird's cage should be is at least two wingspans wide. The width and length of the cage is more important than its height. Your bird should be able to flap his wings without hitting them on the sides of the cage, and without hitting his toys and perches. If you don't take your bird out of his cage daily for exercise, then the cage should be even larger.

Materials

It is important to know the material from which your cage is made. Stainless steel is the best material for a birdcage because it's the most durable and easiest to clean. Wooden cages can be easily destroyed by birds and are very difficult to disinfect. Some older cages contain zinc parts, which can be toxic to your bird. Galvanized metal will corrode when disinfected with most household cleansers.

If you're planning on housing a large bird, be sure the cage is sturdy and escape-proof. Cockatoos have been known to pick locks! The bars of the cage should be close enough together to prevent escape, but with no small areas in which the bird's toes or legs could become caught.

Choosing a Cage

Choosing a cage from a nationally known manufacturer may be the easiest way to know that you are getting a safe home for your bird. Talk to your avian veterinarian or respected bird breeder for advice on housing individual types of birds.

The floor of the cage should consist of a grate. Bird droppings and food should fall through the grate in the bottom of the cage out of the reach of your bird onto a pan below. The pan can be lined with newspaper, paper towel or butcher paper that should be changed daily. Daily cleaning minimizes bacterial and fungal overgrowth on waste materials. It also gives you the opportunity to observe your bird's droppings because a change in them may be a sign of illness.

Your bird is accustomed to belonging to a flock. In captivity, members of the household and often the other family pets are considered by the bird to be his "flock." When your bird is left alone and isolated from the flock, he will likely become insecure. Your bird's cage should be out of the main traffic area of the house but close enough for him to see the activities of the family. His cage should never be kept in the kitchen because the kitchen contains many harmful, even fatal things, such as boiling liquids, flames, smoke, knives, etc.

Your bird should be kept away from scented candles, air and carpet fresheners, perfumes and hairsprays because these chemicals may be toxic. Cigarette smoke is also harmful to your bird. Macaws have even been known to develop asthma-like symptoms.

If your bird is allowed free flight in the house, the area should be escape-proofed and safety-checked. Windows should be covered with blinds or curtains. Ceiling fans should be removed or turned off. All electrical cords should be well concealed and any toxic plants must be removed from the room. Your bird should NEVER be left alone out of his cage without supervision. Disasters can happen very quickly.

If you live in an area where your bird can be housed out of doors, make sure that his housing is predator-proof and escape-proof. Raccoons are notorious for reaching into cages and grabbing the legs of unsuspecting parrots, with devastating consequences. An outdoor cage should have food and water available at all times, as well as an area that provides shelter from sun and rain.

Perches

Every cage should have a variety of styles and sizes of perches, but there shouldn't be so many perches and toys that your bird doesn't have room to maneuver in the cage. The highest perch in the cage should be a concrete one that will promote healthy feet, nails and a well-groomed beak. Natural wood perches from a non-toxic tree are also good. Manzanita perches look nice, but are slippery and do little to promote the health of your bird's feet. Sandpaper perches are not recommended because they are not stable and are easily destroyed or ingested.

Toys

Birds are intelligent creatures and require mental stimulation. Parrots, in particular, have a strong desire to chew and destroy. Wood, leather and durable plastic toys are the most preferable. Rope toys can be dangerous because they can be ingested, causing a deadly obstruction.

Toys that make your bird think or work - to get a treat, for instance - are very good. Keep a variety of toys and exchange them in the cage to keep your bird interested. Smaller birds may like mirrors or bells. Make sure the clappers on bells are bird-proof. If they're not, remove them because they can be dangerous if ingested.

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