Judging from the new bird cages and playpens on display at Global Pet Expo 2012, held in Orlando, Fla., the latest designs lean toward the practical, with a focus on products that are easy to set up and clean. Of course, colors and shapes have changed to keep up with what is trending in home design, and the market continues to offer a variety accessories, such as built-in playpens, cage guards, extra doors and dishes, plus cage stands or hooks.
The breadth and depth of the assortment can be a boon to retailers, as they can generate excitement—and sales—in the bird cage category by offering customers an array of cage styles and accessories. Retailers will also need to offer more than a great product selection, since customers will look for guidance in selecting the best setup for their pets.
Choosing the right cage is important to the health of a pet bird. The most important cage features for retailers and their customers to consider are the size of the cage, and the strength and spacing of its bars.
A bird cage must first fit the bird that is being housed to be sure it stays physically healthy. Bigger really is better when it comes to choosing a bird’s cage. It should be at least large enough for the bird to be able to flap its wings freely. Flight cages are large, long cages built so a bird can actually fly between the perches and are especially good for perching-bird species such as finches.
Birds in the parrot family can also benefit from being able to fly in their cage, but since a large macaws’ wingspan can be close to four feet (more on a Hyacinth), chances are that a flight cage would not be practical for most large parrot owners. Parrots like to climb as well, so a cage that at least allows them to flap freely will be large enough. Giving these birds a playpen to use everyday will also help keep them physically fit.
A retailer must consider bar strength and spacing when selling any cage. Cages made for small species such as parakeets, cockatiels and birds in the finch family have lightweight bars with small spacing between them. As a rule, the bar spacing should never be wide enough to allow the bird to put its head through; this may lead to injury or death.
Larger parrot species need to have thicker cage bars because they have strong beaks and can break the thinner bars used for smaller bird cages easily, leading to escape or injury. Store personnel should be sure to point out which cages will work for the bird species being housed and never allow customers to buy a cage too small, or with the wrong bar spacing or strength.
Deciding on Design
Once the cage size and bars are taken into consideration, design and features of the cage can be up to the customer. Bird cages do take up a lot of space, but it is important for stores to display at least a few designs and colors with various accessories so the bird owner can have some options. Cages will not be sold easily—or at all—if they are left in the box.
Smaller cages can often be hung from the ceiling, which will save quite a bit of floor space. Most medium- to large-sized cages come with a stand built in and can be easily displayed on the sales floor.
Retailers should also display cages using the stands the store has for sale. This is not only a great way of displaying the cage, it will also help sell more stands. Because almost all stands now come with wheels, moving and cleaning around the cage is easier both at the store and at home—a great selling point for retailers to keep in mind.
Many cages have one or more special features that add to their value. For example, a playpen that sits on the top of a cage can be a great accessory for a playful parrot, and it helps limit messes to the cage area. Other cages have tops that open up to allow a tame bird to climb out easily, or larger doors that open downward like a castle gate and stay horizontal so a bird can walk out onto them.
Cages that have extra doors built into the sides are great for reaching the back of larger cages for cleaning. These doors can also be used to hang a nest box on the outside, so it doesn’t take up space inside the cage.
The shape of the cage can be important to bird owners, as well. Some customers may not have a lot of room at home, and a space-saving cage, which is usually pentagon or pie-shaped, may be the best design as it can fit nicely into a corner. A cage that has a flat top is great for bird owners who would like to put a playpen on top to save on space.
Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 35 years of pet retailing experience.