Choosing a Suitable Cage: Part 1

I’ve seen a recent trend towards so-called “space saver” cages; cages designed to be very tall, but very narrow. I’ve yet to see any of these cages that are appropriate for any bird, let alone the birds that they are marketed towards. Since parrots are, by nature, active, intelligent, and inquisitive creatures, housing them in such a small space is inappropriate and saddening.

This cage, for example. Dimensions are 27″ wide by 24″ deep. This is a decent cage size for a very small parrot – such as a lovebird – or for less active species, like cockatiels, but it isn’t roomy enough for any species larger, and certainly not large enough for a grey or Amazon. Although the cage goes nearly to the floor, at least the lower third of that cage is wasted since most birds will never venture down there, and anything placed in the lower 2/3rds of a cage designed like this will get covered in poop quickly.

Pyrrhura conures like Green Cheeks, though about the size of a cockatiel, need significantly larger cages due to their activity level. Phoenix Landing, a well known and respected avian rescue resource, recommends a minimum cage size of 32″x23″ for them – and other conures, Lories, and small Poicephalus – and I tend to agree. Unfortunately, most larger birds – like greys and Eclectus – rarely even get to live in a cage this large.

A main concern for caregivers is whether or not any given cage suits our home’s style, but there’s more to choosing a cage than just our personal taste in decor. Sure, we’d like for our birds’ cages to fit in with the rest of our furniture, but in order to choose a cage that will suit our birds, we need to see things from a very different perspective.

The cage we choose is more than just something that prevents our parrots from destroying the house. Their cage is their house, and just as much as we wouldn’t choose to live in small, cramped quarters if we had a better option, we should not force our birds into small spaces just for our convenience.

Companion parrots usually have the ability to fly removed via wing feather clipping, and unless an aviary is provided, even unclipped parrots in a large cage will not fly. Instead, they climb along perches, toys, and cage bars using their feet and beak. They move laterally – from one side to another – and being prey animals who have evolved to equate height with safety, they’ll spend the vast majority of their time in the “canopy” of their cage: the very top. For a grey in the 27″x24″ cage above, their home is going to consist of little more than a two foot cube, and considering that the average adult Congo grey has a wingspan of about 20″, this doesn’t leave much room for toys or wing flapping inside.

Some ground foraging species – like ‘tiels and greys – may venture down to the grate to explore, but are much less likely to do so if the grate is inches from the floor, or if the grate is level with the head of a predatory canine.

We already know that parrots aren’t like cats or dogs, but keeping a parrot as a pet also requires a lot more real estate within our homes than do cats or dogs who generally are happy with a sleeping area and a box of toys, and perhaps a crate or room for confinement during training. Parrots, on the other hand, require large, spacious cages, several play areas outside of and away from their main cage, and possibly a night/travel cage for sleeping in. For most people, providing appropriate cages and play areas is something they only think about (or are made aware of) after they’ve already bought a too-small cage from a untrained sales associate at a local pet store. Sometimes, it’s a matter of how much space they have available for a cage and play area. Sometimes, it’s the result of the bad (and incorrect) advice that a bird in a small cage will be more eager to get out of it when asked to step up.

Regardless of the reason, I’d love to see the trend swing towards providing roomy, fun-filled cage environments that are significantly longer than they are tall, and at least half as deep as they are wide. It’s important to remember that these are creatures born to inherit the vast expanses of the skies and the trees, and they deserve the best – and the biggest – that we can afford.

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