Buying A Cage - - - by Liz Davies (aka "Mom")

Aside from the cost of the bird him/herself, the cage is the single biggest-ticket item you have to get when you adopt a bird.  There's a lot to consider - and no cage is ever perfect.  In this article I address the needs of medium-to-large parrots, but much of the considerations for them also apply to smaller birds.

There’s no such thing as a cage that is too large.  This is one time when “less” is definitely not “more”.  Your bird is going to spend a lot of time in its cage – and it needs the largest size you can provide.

Our Catalina macaw’s cage is 30” deep by 40” wide, and about 50” high.  The seed skirt that goes around the bottom adds another 8 inches to the sides and front/back.  When we first assembled it and placed it in the family room, I thought it seemed huge.  But once I saw the bird in it, I realized that it’s small!  Jesse can certainly move around in the cage, and there’s room for perches, toys, and a spiral-spring perch, but she can’t fly in it.

When you consider the proportions and compare the average macaw cage to those used for other kinds of birds, the smallness of a 30x40x50 cage becomes more apparent.  For example, Jesse’s wingspan is about 36 inches.  Her cage is 40 inches wide.  That means there’s only 4 inches of clearance if she extends her wings inside the cage.  Proportionally, if I were to house a canary in a similar size cage, the cage would be smaller than half a shoebox!  Ridiculous! 

There are a lot of cage choices for large and medium birds now.  Beyond the size of the cage, there’s also the style, color, and features to consider.  When considering your options, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Dome-tops have the advantage of a little extra interior space (vertically) and are easier to cover with a sheet or blanket than “play top” cages.  But if the bird climbs up on top, there’s nothing to stop droppings from hitting perches, food cups, and toys.
  • Play-top cages offer additional play space, but cleaning the top may not be especially easy.
  • How difficult will it be to get replacement perches for the playtop (assuming they are wood, and if they are, your bird is going to chew the wood)?
  • Generally, more horizontal space is better than more vertical space.  Vertical space may seem economical in terms of where you can put the cage in your home, but with more vertical cages, but it’s harder to place toys and perches without having them on top of each other (and collecting droppings when the bird sits over them).
  • You’ll have to clean the area under and around the cage; with this in mind, cages that can be easily moved by one person (cages on wheels?) are best.
  • The cage bars must be sturdy enough to withstand powerful beaks.  Never try to house a bird in a cage designed for a smaller animal.
  • The cage bars must not be spaced widely enough to allow the bird to put it’s head between them.
  • Cages that are painted with dark colors make it easier to see the bird.  Unfortunately, they also show droppings and dust more.  Light color cages seem less “transparent”, but you don’t notice every dropping and speck of dust.
  • The distance between the bottom grate of the cage and the bottom (where you’ll put newspaper to collect droppings) needs to be great enough that the bird cannot grab the newspaper.  If the bird can grab the newspaper with his foot, you are going to have shredded newspaper a’la bird droppings.
  • The slide-out tray at the bottom of the cage is worth some consideration.  I use newspaper to line the bottom, and have found its easier to do that in some cages than others.  Some cages have a perfectly square tray – those are easy to work with.  Others have a slight indentation on the front of the tray to make a kind of easy-grab handle.  That indentation extends into the tray and the newspaper has to be folded, cut, or rolled over it.  Look for cages that have trays without the indentation.
  • Look closely at the closures on the door and food access slots.  Is it possible that your little “Houdini” will figure out how to open the latches? 
  • How hard would it be for your bird to grab the food dishes that come with the cage, dislodge them, and throw them?  Parrots love to toss their food – and tossing the bowl, too, is just oodles of fun.