Perfecting the Nest
Retailers can offer pet owners the perfect assortment of cage accessories needed to keep pet birds healthy and happy.
Setting up a birdcage is much like furnishing a home. The cage should have a secure and comfortable place to sleep, an area to hang out and be entertained, and fresh food. Failing to include any one of these components can lead to a number of physical and mental problems in companion birds, so pet owners should be prepared to provide for all of these needs.
The first thing bird owners should consider when setting up their pet’s cage is where the cage will be located—where the cage is placed is equally as important as the placement of cage furniture and accessories.
The cage should be situated away from doors or room openings, where a bird may be startled if someone suddenly comes in. The bird’s home should not be in direct sunlight, but it should get a lot of indirect light. If this is not possible, use a full-spectrum bulb over the cage for at least 10 hours during the day to keep the birds healthy, and change the bulb every six to eight months. If the room that allows the bird the most interaction with its owners is especially active at night—such as a living room where family members watch TV—then the bird should have a second cage designated for sleeping set up in a quiet room. Birds need at least 10—preferably 12—hours of uninterrupted darkness to sleep properly. Covers can be used to help achieve this as needed.
Once a good spot is chosen for the birdcage, what is put into it will depend somewhat on the species of bird. “Selecting the correct birdcage accessories is as important as selecting the correct bird home,” says Caterina Novotny, director of marketing at Prevue Hendryx. “For starters, and to promote good foot health, it is important to select varied perches for the cage environment. Birds need different widths, shapes and materials, so they do not develop foot problems. In addition to wood perches, Prevue offers Coffea Wood, Beach Walks and Cosmic Crunch perches.”
Most bird species, including many finches and parrots, also enjoy having swings that can provide entertainment or a place to perch.
Most cages come with dishes, although pet owners often have to provide more cups to ensure that their birds have access to plenty of fresh food and water. When possible, it is preferable to keep dishes, especially food dishes, near the bottom of the cage or even on the bottom, to contain the mess. Some cages have cage guards built in to help keep the area around the cage clean. If the built-in dishes are placed high in the cage, using a cage skirt—material with elastic edges that fits around the area where dishes are located—will be a great help. It is also important not to put any perches above the cups, otherwise they will get soiled constantly, which is not good for the bird’s health.
No home is complete unless it has something for the occupants to play with and keep them amused. Toys are not an extra item for birds, but rather a very necessary accessory in their homes. “Toys provide both the mental stimulation and physical activity that birds need to remain happy, healthy and engaged,” says Novotny. “This is why it is important to rotate a variety of toys for them to be able to pick apart, problem solve, grab, chomp, climb and chew.”
Although the tray of the cage acts as a bathroom for birds, they still need items that will keep their beak, nails and feathers in good shape. Cuttlebones and beak conditioners of the right size and hardness can help keep the bill shaped properly, and certain perches can help keep nails filed.
Pet owners can also provide morning baths for birds that enjoy it, or owners can simply mist their feathers, to help keep them in good condition. Preening is really what keeps the feathers in the best shape, and misting or baths cause birds to preen more thoroughly.
Last, but not least, pet owners should consider providing a place for birds to sleep. This is particularly important for some bird species, such as conures. Tobi Kosanke, president of Crazy K Farm Pet and Poultry Products, says, “Research shows that parrots benefit mentally and emotionally from having a place of privacy in their cage to escape to, rest, nap or sleep. Additionally, many birds enjoy having something soft to snuggle up against.”
To this end, Crazy K offers the Avian Haven. “[It] is a unique, patented hut that hangs over your bird’s existing perch, enabling your bird to rest and sleep in a natural perching position,” Kosanke says. This sleeping area gives the bird a secure “bedroom” area, so they can rest properly. The Avian Haven comes in four sizes, from extra small up to extra large ,to accommodate many of the pet parrot species kept.
Prevue also makes a number of sleeping products “to keep birds comfortable, warm and safe, including Snuggle Sacks, Snuggle Huts and Cozy Corners to create a warm and welcoming space,” says Novotny.
The needs of any living creature include having a proper shelter that has good, healthy food, grooming tools, a secure area to sleep in, and some place to be able to play and be entertained. Bird owners must supply all of these necessities if they expect to keep their pet in prime condition, both physically and mentally, throughout their entire lives.
Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 35 years of pet retailing experience.