Caging is important for our pet birds, because it is where most of them will spend the majority of their day. Choose a cage that is the largest possible for your species of bird, and make sure it has an appropriate height for your bird. The cage should have bars that are small enough to prevent your bird’s head from fitting in between them, but large enough to prevent toes, legs or the tips of wings from becoming stuck. The cage material should not be made out of any toxic material since most birds chew on their cages at some point. Lead and zinc are especially toxic, and are often found in galvanized metal cages or those with soldered edges and joints.
Location of Cage
The cage should be kept in a part of the house where the family is present a large percentage of time when they are home. Some nervous or anxious birds will need to be kept in a quieter area that is not heavily trafficked. We do not recommend keeping your birds in or right next to the kitchen, however, because this usually is a room with varying temperatures and aerosolized chemicals, such as Teflon non-stick coating if pans become overheated (we do not recommend cooking with Teflon at all if you own birds).
Do not place your bird’s cage under a vent as this can also cause extreme changes in temperature that can make your bird at risk for respiratory problems. Remember that birds are messy animals, and will throw food around the cage. If you are not comfortable with it getting messy, avoid placing your bird’s cage near any expensive furniture or carpeting.
The cage should also ideally be near a window. This allows the bird to look outside and can often be a great source of stimulation through interactions with wild birds outside, people passing by, and other distractions that can keep your bird entertained. Make sure part of the cage is not in front of the window so your bird has a shady area to be able to get out of the sun if the cage becomes too hot.
Offer a variety of perches that are different materials and sizes for your bird inside the cage. Wood perches offer natural textures for your bird to rest and climb on. Natural wood perches from fruit trees, dogwood trees, and willow trees work well. If you do not purchase these perches from a pet supplier, but instead want to use a branch from a fruit tree in your own yard, then take the branch and bake it in your oven at 250°F for 20-30 minutes to kill any bacteria or mites that might be living in the wood. Rope perches are good as well and gentle on the feet, so are ideal for older birds with arthritis. In general, birds will sleep on the highest perch and spend the majority of their time awake on perches near the water and food bowls. Do not use concrete or sandpaper perches as these can be abrasive to your bird’s feet, especially if they are in these specific locations. You can offer a vertical concrete perch for beak care but we do not recommend using one as a perch because of the risk of foot problems.
Cycad, Sago Palm, and Zamia palms are all toxic to the liver and should not be used as branches in your bird’s enclosure!
There should be fresh water available at all times. Water bottles or bowls both work well, though some birds do not easily learn to drink from a bottle, and lots of birds like to dunk their food in their water bowls. Change the water daily. Clean the water bowls with hot water and dish soap at least once a week, and rinse thoroughly to avoid any soap residue.
Newspaper (or paper towels, butcher paper, or similar paper product) should be used to line the cage bottom. You can easily see your bird’s droppings on the newspaper, which is an important way to monitor overall health as changes in droppings can occur as a first sign of illness. NEVER use corncob bedding, aspen or pine bedding, coconut shells or any other organic material to line your bird’s cage. These bedding types are notorious for growing dangerous fungi such as Aspergillus that can lead to life threatening pneumonias for your bird. Newspaper should be changed every 1-3 days to avoid buildup of ammonia from urates in the bird’s droppings and bacterial buildup on wasted food that falls to the bottom of the cage.
The cage should be kept clean and free of organic material such as feces, urine and urates, and old food. Move your bird to a play gym or other part of the house before cleaning the cage. Daily cage cleaning can be done with a hot washcloth or paper towels to remove any organic material and bird dander. Weekly cleaning should include hosing down the cage with hot water (you can use hot water with dish soap as a mild disinfectant) and wiping down the bars. Thoroughly rinse the cage with clean hot water and allow it to dry before placing your bird back in the cage.
Toys, food and water bowls, bottles, and perches should all be removed from the cage and cleaned separately with soapy hot water and rinsed well. Monthly cleaning can include a chemical such as a commercial cleaning wipes (Clorox) or dilute bleach solution (mix 1 ounce of bleach in 10 ounces of water), or a commercially available avian safe cleaner (AviClean cage cleaner found at www.avitec.com). Spray the cage down, allow the chemical to sit for 10 minutes, and then thoroughly rinse the cage with hot water. Allow to completely dry before bringing your bird back to the cage. Birds are very susceptible to aerosolized chemicals, and breathing them in (especially bleach) can be very dangerous.
It is always a great idea to have a separate play gym or play stand so your bird can interact with you outside of the cage environment. Foraging trees also work very well to stimulate your bird. Any of these stands should be mobile so your bird can come with you throughout the house!