Bird Cage Trends
Retailers can be a helpful resource for pet bird owners seeking the most appropriate cage for their pets.
When it comes to pet bird cages, the saying about bigger being better is so true, and thankfully, manufacturers agree. The market is increasingly offering larger cages to suit pets’ needs. Meanwhile, customers are becoming more educated about the care of pets, and they are seeking roomier bird cages, often with added features such as cage guards, extra dishes, play tops and multiple doors, all styled to fit well in the modern home.
Before a pet parent chooses a cage, he or she must consider the species and size of the bird. Larger cages have always been better for pet birds, as long as the spacing between the bars and the strength of the bars is taken into consideration. A flight cage made for small birds such as parakeets and cockatiels may be large enough to house a cockatoo. However, no large parrot should be placed in a cage with lightweight bars, as these birds can just bend and break the cage wire, thus pulling the cage apart. In this scenario, a large bird may not only escape the cage, it may also be seriously injured by the thin, broken bars.
Small birds should not be put in a cage made for large parrots either. A cockatiel or a parakeet would not be able to break the thicker bars, however, it could fit its head through the wider-spaced bars and get stuck. Small birds would also have a problem moving around the cage, since the bar spacing is too wide for their smaller legs and feet to navigate.
Birds are certainly healthier when they have ample space to move around, as they will get more exercise. A cage should never be so small that a bird cannot easily flap its wings. Of course, the cage size also depends on whether or not the bird has a play area to go to most of the day. For example, many macaw owners provide their pets with a play area, since these birds have very large wingspans. Macaws should still be kept in a suitably large cage, but an open play space is best for exercise purposes.
Some owners also have a second, smaller cage in a quiet area of the house that is essentially the bird’s bedroom. It is important to utilize a space like this if the bird’s main cage is in an area of the house that is active or noisy both early in the day and later at night. For a parrot to stay healthy, it must get at least 10 to 11 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. That cannot happen in a room where the TV is on late or people are gathered. Although not absolutely necessary, it’s not a bad idea to cover a bird’s cage at night to give it a greater sense of security and let it get the shuteye it requires.
After considering the most appropriate cage size, and bar space and strength for the bird, pet owners have some latitude in choosing the style of cage that best appeals to them. For example, corner cages are great space savers for smaller homes, although most are square or rectangular.
One myth being circulated on the Internet—where misinformation sometimes travels faster than fact—is that round cages are bad for birds. There is no problem with a round cage that is large enough for the pet and has evenly spaced bars all around. However, if the spacing between the bars gradually narrows toward the top of the cage, this can be a danger, as a bird can get a toe or even its bill stuck in the bars, leading to serious injury or death. This can be particularly dangerous for birds in the parrot family, such as parakeets and cockatiels, that like to climb around. While bar spacing may be less of an issue for finches, including canaries, round cages with solid tops that have evenly spaced bars are still best.
Some websites also claim that round cages are bad for a bird psychologically because they don’t provide a corner for it to retreat to when scared. However, if a bird is feeling that scared, it will go to the back or bottom of the cage, no matter whether it is flat or curved. Also note that cages with solid tops, like many round ones, actually feel more secure to birds anyway. In fact, pet owners with a nervous bird should partially cover the top of wire-top cages toward the back, to help the pet feel safe.
No matter the shape of the cage, it should be easy to clean, and it should be designed to help contain the mess. Cages are increasingly sold with built-in seed guards, as birds are truly the messiest pets to keep. Guards can be bought separately—although they are mainly available for small- to medium-sized cages—but it is rare for newer large parrot cages not to include some form of built-in barrier to keep the discarded food inside the cage where they belong.
Almost all large parrot cages, and a number of medium and smaller cages, either allow the pet owner to open the top and secure a perch to give the bird a play area outside the cage, or have an actual playpen built into the top of the cage. A playpen is easy to use and gives the bird some of the mental and physical stimulation it needs, while keeping the mess in one area, since the built-in play area often comes equipped with a tray.
Many times, parrot playgrounds also have a food and water dish included, just like the main cage area. An additional dish can come in handy as a second food cup for wet food or when the cups are smaller. In almost all cages, cups can be removed from the outside through small doors. If extra cups are needed, there are many that can be hung on the bars, while ceramic pet dishes can be used on the bottom. It is best to keep dishes low or on the bottom so that the mess is contained, but pet owners need to remember to place perches in a way that the bird cannot soil any of their water or food dishes from above.
Bird owners also have a lot of choices when it comes to cage styles and colors, and as long as the bird’s needs are kept in mind, the customer can choose whatever they find appealing. Designs have changed through the years to follow décor trends, so bird owners can find exactly the right cage for their pets and their homes.
Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 35 years of pet retailing experience.