Is your cage for the birds? How to select a bird cage.

Mar 8, 2001 (Updated Mar 21, 2001)

The Bottom Line The right cage makes for a happy bird and a happy human.

If you're getting a bird, then you do need to put the cart before the horse. Get your cage before you get the bird, because you'll come home with a bird in a box (so he/she will be protected from the weather and the wind) and then you won't have a home for your feathered family member.

The first thing to consider is size. The larger the more expensive, but don't skimp on size. This is, after all, where your bird will eat, sleep, and play. Your bird needs enough room to spread his wings out and exercise. He will spend a lot of time in the cage, even if you are a very hands on bird person (like we are).

Sizes are usually labeled by bird type, so be sure to see what kind of bird is usually housed in the cage you are looking at. The little cages are generally for finches and parakeetes, medium for hook bills on the small size like cockatiels, and the big ones for parrots.

Notice what the cage is made out of. Birds like to peck and pick. If the cage is made out of something like bamboo (which is pretty), your cage will not last very long. Basically, your bird will chew your cage up, so save the fancy type cages for decoration.

Decorative swirls and such look pretty also, but your bird can get caught and get hurt or killed with swirls and curls. Once again, the decorator styles are much better for plastic or art birds rather than real birds who really do not care what the cage looks like if it is roomy and comfortable.

The shape is the next thing to consider. Although the tall and skinny cages take up less human house space, you have to remember that birds do not land and take off like helecopters. When looking at more space for your bird, consider side-to-side space over up-and-down space. After all, your bird is wider when he spreads out his wings vs being taller. I really don't know what some bird cage makers are thinking about with the high rise bird cages. Birds do not hover (except for humming birds which are not house pets).

You may think that you will keep your bird out of the cage most of the time, but birds can be very demanding and distracting (which is fine around here but may not work out in all homes). They also leave droppings and peck and dig around on the furniture and knick knacks. So, keep in mind that your bird will likely spend a lot of time in the cage safe and not pulling on your earrings and going potty on your keyboard.

Shape comes into play next. Round may be pleasing to the human eye, but when you go round, then your bird does not have a safe corner to cuddle in. And, YES, some birds do really need to be able to hit a corner and gather his or her thoughts. So, square or rectangle is a good bet, unless you know that you have a very secure bird (which is hard to tell when you first buy one).

Doors. Small doors are fine for small birds. Keets and finches do not use feet and beaks so much, so they are pretty easy to get out of the cage (if they are friendly and like cage out time which our do).

For parrot type birds, the beak is used to help climb and hold on. Cockatiels and parrots tend to grab a hold as you're getting them out of the cage (even when they love to get out and play). The large swing out kind of doors are nice so that you don't have to try to pry your bird off the wires as you get him/her out.

The top of the cage is the next part to look at. The domed and double top house space shapes are nice for parakeets. Little birds are small and fit into nooks and crannies. These provide more spaces to huddle, so many mini birds do like these types of cages.

If you have a bigger bird from a cockatiel which is a small sized parrot to the full size in a parrot, then the flat top with a play bar is nice. Some of the play bars which are basically a spot where the bird can perch are open from inside the cage and some are closed off. The closed type mean that your bird can venture up when he or she is ready. At our home where we have kids, cats and dogs too, the closed type works better. Before Zena gets up top, we have to take her out (so we know that she is out and can watch for any dangers).

Next thing to look at is the bottom of the cage. Small birds tend to stay on the perches and off the bottom of the cage, but the bigger birds do go to the bottom. If you don't have the guard wire at the bottom, then your bigger bird is walking in bird poodie. That is not healthy for your bird, so look for a wire type mesh raised up off the actual bottom.

Also check to see that the cage has a slide out bottom tray. This a MUST in my opinion. Cages need to be cleaned often, and it is a real pain to try to entertain the bird and clean at the same time. You'll want to be able to leave the bird in the cage and clean out the bulk of the mess on a slide out tray.

A skirt around the bottom is nice too. That is just a jutted out piece that helps catch the seed hulls and such. Otherwise those go on the floor and need to be swept often. That does up the cost of the cage, so you can just plan to sweep often. But the skirt is a nice addition if you can afford to upgrade.

That takes care of the basic cage, and the next thing to consider would be the bar spacing, perches and feeding cups.

Spacing of the wires--Well, obviously small birds need wires closer together and big birds do better with wider spacing (which is why it is a good idea to check what type of bird the cage is intended for). Keets work out well with around 1/2 inch spacing, cockatiels around 3/4 and bigger birds can take an inch (rule of thumb).

Several perches are nice for your bird. If you just have one bar, then the bird has to stay in the same space all the time (or play on the bottom of the cage). Stagger those perches. If they are lined up, then the bird will get droppings on the lower bars which is again unhealthy. Vary sizes also esp with bigger birds. This helps keep their feet in good health.

Two basic feeding cups are OK. One is for food and the other for water. It is nice to have extras. I like to keep treats in an extra cup, and the bird enjoys a special cup for fresh fruit (which should not be left in for more than 2 hrs or so as it becomes stale and unhealthy).

Covered feeding cups are another option which is nice to have. Birds do not care where they use the bathroom, so they will do that in the food and the water. Food cup covers help protect from droppings, but you can just change frequently since most cups are not covered.

Once you have a nice sized, convenient, and safe bird cage set up, you'll want to add some toys. Birds are very curious and get bored easily. The smaller cheaper toys are OK for small birds, but spend a little more for bigger birds. Bigger birds can tear up small toys and swallow pieces.

When you're adding toys, remember that birds like bright colors, shiny things, sounds (bells), climbing toys (like ladders), and different textures. Don't put a whole bunch in at one time though. Rotate the toys so that your bird always has something new and interesting. And, make sure that the toys are clean and safe with no loose parts or frays.

This all sounds like a lot to consider when getting a cage for your bird, but birds live a long time. Small ones around 5 years and bigger ones 10 years and up depending on how well you take care of them. Birds become family members and are lots of fun, so do take the extra time to get the right cage and to make sure it has the features that you need and that will be best for your bird.

If you did get a small cage and see that you need to upgrade, then the small one can be used for transporting your bird. Be sure to cover the cage when it is cold outside and/or windy so that your bird won't get sick. But the small cage can be handy too and is nice to have.

Check at at your local pet store for help with buying your birdcage or go to where they have both brand new cages which run around wholesale and some used cages that meet the requirements. If you get a used cage, do make sure that it has the features that are listed here. Some of the older cages are cute but just aren't that great for your feathered buddy.

Remember that the cage is your birds home, so take the extra time and care in selecting the cage that will be comfortable for your bird and convenient for you.

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