A pet bird’s cage should be chosen with great care and attention to detail to ensure its health, safety and quality of life.
A common challenge for pet specialty stores today is having to fight the Internet on pricing. How often does a customer come in to buy a pet bird and note they already have a cage that they bought online? The worst part is that the customer does not know what they are getting; just because a cage appears to be the same as those sold in a pet store, that does not mean it is the same in terms of quality and safety. So while it may have seemed like a bargain to the customer, the cage could mean disaster for their pet parrot. For this reason, pet stores should seize every opportunity to educate customers and show them the wisdom of buying their cages directly from the store.
Pet bird owners, especially new ones, need to understand the basics of finding an appropriate cage for their pets. For starters, bird owners need to consider the strength of the cage bars, the spacing between the bars and what they are made of before choosing a cage. Usually with smaller parrots like parakeets (budgerigars) and cockatiels, the spacing is the more important factor, as a bird can be seriously injured or even killed if it is able put its head through the bars of the cage.
With larger parrot species, bar strength is critical, as the larger the bird, the stronger the bill. Large parrots can easily break welds and even cage bars that are not appropriate for larger bird species or are of poor quality. Bird cages sold on the Internet may claim to be appropriate for a larger parrot, but the bars may not be thick enough to withstand the powerful bill. If the wire strength is subpar, at best the bird may just get out of its cage, but it’s more likely the parrot will get injured or worse if it can break the cage bars.
What the cage is made of is a very important factor when housing birds like parrots, which love to chew everything, including their housing. Metal poisoning can quickly cause death, therefore cages must be made of materials that are safe for birds, such as stainless steel. Cages that are powder-coated correctly with no chips can work as well, even if galvanized steel is used underneath. Although galvanized steel is great for keeping rust away and much less expensive than stainless steel, it is made with zinc, which is very toxic to birds. Proper powder coating protects the birds from being poisoned.
Caterina Novotny, director of marketing at Prevue Hendryx, says that established companies like Prevue test their cages to ensure that they have no exposed galvanized steel and do not contain any other toxic metals, such as lead. Since product information on the Internet is limited, often excluding information on the cage’s construction and materials, it is best for bird owners to purchase cages from brick-and-mortar pet specialty retailers with trained staff to guide them through their options.
Another risk that comes with buying a cage off the Internet is that it may be delivered broken or missing parts. Stores deal with this issue all the time and can easily return cages that cannot be fixed or get missing parts from the manufacturer. The cage is already assembled at the store, which means if there are any initial problems, they can be addressed by the store, and the bird owner is getting a well-made and complete home for their pet right away. If the bird owner buys a cage with issues online, it can be a huge hassle to get parts or try to return the cage.
This brings up the point that it is really a necessity for stores to set up bird cages not only to be sure all the parts are included and nothing is broken, but also to show off the cage and make it easy for the customer by doing all the assembly work. A cage will never sell as well if it is kept unassembled in a box. At the very least, stores should display one of each style and/or color.
If a cage is sold boxed, the salesperson should pull it out and check to be sure it is in good shape and not missing any parts before the customer leaves the store. Stores can also give a small discount on unassembled cages to give customers an incentive to buy it over an assembled one.
One of the best marketing tools to get customers to buy their cages from a pet store is to offer a discount on a bird and perhaps the supplies, but only if they buy everything from the store. Complete setups should always be discounted to give the best value to the customer and for the store to make the most margin.
Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 35 years of pet retailing experience.