You put a lot of efforts and time into your research and finally chose the bird that perfectly matches your personality and your life style. Now it's time to make your home a cozy and safe place for your new family member - let's choose a cage!
The cage has to be comfortable and safe for the bird and your home, it should have plenty of room for your bird to stretch and play, be easy to keep up, so your bird will be happy and healthy camper and great company to enjoy for all your family.
Size and Bar Spacing, Shape, Style, Upkeep and Construction Elements, Cage Materials, Accessories and Cage Location need to be given special consideration. Bird Cage Size and Bar Spacing
General rule of thumb - choose the biggest safe cage you can afford with appropriate bar spacing for your bird.
For small birds bar spacing should be less then ½ in, for medium birds - ½ in to ¾ in, for larger birds - ¾ in to 1 ¼ inch. Too narrow bar spacing will limit visibility for you and your bird, but too wide spacing may allow your bird's head to slip between bars and get stuck.
Here is suggested bar spacing and gauge guidelines for the Parrot species:
Small Parrots - Badgies/Parakeets, Lovebirds, Meyers, Parrotlets Bar spacing - Up to ½" Bar gauge - > 2.3mm
Medium Parrots - Caiques, Cockatiels, Conures, Lorikeets, Pionuses, Quakers, Cape/Un-Cape Parrots, Red-Bellied Parrots, Senegals Bar spacing - ½" to ¾" Bar gauge - 2.5mm to 4mm
Large Parrots - African Greys, Amazons, Cockatoos (small to large - Goffin - Umbrella), Mini Macaws (Hahn's, Noble, Illeger's, Severe, Yellow-Collared) Bar spacing - ¾" to 1" Bar gauge - 4mm to 5mm
X-Large Parrots - Cockatoos (Lg - Glossy Cockatoos, Moluccans, Palm Cockatoos, Red tailed, Carnaby's White-Tailed Black Cockatoos, Sulphur Crested), Macaws (Lg) - Blue & Gold, Catalina, Green-Winged, Harlequin, Hyacinth, Scarlet Bar spacing - 1" to 1 ¼" Bar gauge - >=5mm
Remember your bird's tail feathers shouldn't touch side or bottom of the cage when it sits on the perch, as it may damage its feathers. One and a half of your feathered friend wings span is a minimum measurement for the width of the cage (or diameter if the cage is round) - it will basically allow bird to stretch. Suggested Cage Width Minimum within safe Bar Spacing:
Small Parrots - Badgies/Parakeets - >=18 in, Lovebirds, Meyers, Parrotlets >=20 in.
Medium Parrots - Caiques, Cockatiels, Conures, Lorikeets, Pionuses, Quakers, Cape/Un-Cape Parrots, Red-Bellied Parrots, Senegals >=24 in.
Large Parrots - African Greys, Amazons, Cockatoos (small to medium) >=32 in; Mini Macaws (Hahn's, Noble, Illeger's, Severe, Yellow-Collared) - >=36 in.
X-Large Parrots - Cockatoos (Lg - Glossy Cockatoos, Moluccans, Palm Cockatoos, Red tailed, Carnaby's White-Tailed Black Cockatoos)>= 40 in, Macaws (Lg) - Blue & Gold, Catalina, Green-Winged, Harlequin, Hyacinth, Scarlet >=48 in.
The best bird's fly cages are ones that wide rather than tall - since naturally birds fly in horizontal direction from side to side of the cage not up and down. For breeding, small and larger birds and/or warmer climates - Aviary is good and happy place for your parrot to catch fresh air and stretch its wings. Even if your bird was born in a cage its feathered ancestors were wild once - and they had all the freedom to fly, forage and play in their native environment. In its new cage the bird will spend lots of the time - eating, stretching, playing, so make it easy on your friend, for its health and sanity - invest as much as you can to make its home spacious and comfortable.
Cage shape is often gets overlooked - generally people tend to choose what they like or what they think will fit in the house - but your feathered friend has its own needs:
Better to choose rectangular cage than round one. In round cage bird fills unprotected - naturally it needs a corner to escape if it gets frightened or startled. But if you still tend toward round - good alternatives are octagon cages or ¼ of circle corner cages (a space saver as well).
Dome top or play top cage. If you have play top style cage it will eliminate the necessity to buy a parrot's play-stand and headache where to put it if you have a space constriction, but on the other side of equation are play-stand maneuverability (you can move your beloved parrot and enjoy its company anywhere in your home), higher cost of play top parrot cages and some inconveniences on using cage cover over the play tops.
Upkeep and useful construction elements
Your life would be much easier and you will enjoy your parrot company more if its' cage wouldn't demand a lot of time and effort to keep it clean and safe.
Bar placement: Bars should be parallel - NO divergent bars - entrapment hazard.
Horizontal bars in your bird's cage let your feathered friend climb up and down so it gets plenty of natural exercise. Vertical bars' placement on front panel of the cage allows better view for you and your bird. At the same time cages with cross wire may catch feathers and may also restrict good grip for the larger birds to climb. A cage with elaborate decorative elements may look cool (especially antique ones) but bird can get caught in their ornate elements and hurt itself. Another big NO for antique cages - as they very well may contain toxic metals or may be constructed from materials that can be easily chewed.
Bar attachment: Look for well, smooth welded or casted (molded) bar placement as drilled holes that hold bars on the frame collect moisture and bacteria.
Wire cages may be strong enough for the small birds, but larger parrots need wrought iron or stainless steel cages to sustain their avian curiosity - look for specific bar gauge guidance for your particular species. Almost all wire cages have some kind of covering (plastic or metal plating - usually with nickel, chromium, zinc, copper or brass) - to protect bird from bare metal and to protect metal from oxidation and corrosion. Some parrots could manage to shave-detach pieces of wire covering - be aware that some of these metals could cause heavy metal poisoning in birds.
Tray - Removable tray is a must.
Grate - Look for removable grate. If you have an escape artist on your hands it's better also to have a spare grate to put in place of removed for cleaning. Another important thing is the placement of the grate. It should be high enough not to let your bird to pick its droppings from the bottom tray.
Feeding doors - swing solid doors for feeding cups are very convenient options too. It keeps most of the food spitting inside of the cage and protects you from beaky parrot.
Access doors - Look for full swing full size (from top to grate) access doors for easy handling your bird and preventing toes pinching - some parrots love hanging on open doors. If cage has several access doors - it gives you flexibility of cage placement and access to your bird.
Perch and toys placement - Assess your future cage for desirable perch(es) and toys placements - it's better if cage has enough options where you can put perch(es) and some hardware that allow you safely to attach bird's toys (one for small cages, 2 or more for larger cages).
Seed skirts proved to be very useful in keeping your parrot forage inside the cage. Look for rounded corners for your own protection.
Padlocks should be parrot-prove to keep inside even advanced escapee. Also see warning below regarding padlocks' materials.
You should approach your parrot safety in your home with the same care as you would for your child. It became apparent that there are many health issues for birds with materials used in cages and many other common household items. Please check our detailed article about heavy metals and other toxic substances that your parrot may get accidentally exposed to. Here we give only short summary of materials that you bird can access in its cage. Commonly agreed toxic metals (alloys) Substance: Lead - Highly toxic to birds. Can be found: Cage paint, Household paint, paint primers, in soldering metal - soldered joints in cage (distinguished from welded joints), foil on wine bottles, champagne wire Exposure: Beak activity - scratching, chewing, climbing on its cage with beak
Substance: Zinc - Highly toxic to birds Can be found: Cage paint, Household paint, paint primers, galvanized cage wires and mesh of outdoor aviaries (galvanization - term used only for zinc plating) Exposure: Beak activity - scratching, chewing, climbing on its cage with beak
Substance: Copper (especially Oxidized) Can be found: Copper plating, copper food containers, copper plumbing Exposure: Chewing on its cage decorative copper plated elements, ingesting acidic food stored in copper food containers, drinking water from your home water supply if you have copper plumbing and your water is slightly acidic.
Substance: Brass (alloy of copper and zinc)
Can be found: Usually used in padlocks, in soldering metal - soldered joints in cage (distinguished from welded joints), and some cage hardware as well
Exposure: It's probably OK for small bird who is unlikely to chew a padlock, but should be avoided around larger parrots
Substance: "Galvanized tin"(misused term for sheet metal -galvanized steel; and small galvanized containers) Can be found: May be used in aviaries (especially self made - to withstand the elements and self made cages - trays), small galvanized containers Exposure: Beak activity - scratching, chewing, climbing
Substance: Iron, Oxidized iron (rust) Can be found: Cage wires, frame, hardware Exposure: After coating wears off (paint, powder coat or plating) - it exposes underlying iron to oxidation and can be ingested by your parrot during his usual beak activity
Substance: Chromium (III and VI) Can be found: Plating, colored leather (Chromium salts) Exposure: Beak activity - scratching, chewing, climbing on its cage with beak
Substance: Cobalt Can be found: Electroplating, ground coats for porcelain enamel, batteries Exposure: Beak activity - scratching, chewing, climbing on its cage with beak
Potentially toxic metals (alloys) - some experts listed them as safe, but there are publications documenting wild birds toxicity in polluted habitats and poultry toxicity as well with elevated level in food intake (please investigate to your own satisfaction and make your own decision)
Substance: Nickel Can be found: In plating - cage wire and hardware (screws, padlocks, hinges) Exposure: Beak activity - scratching, chewing, climbing on its cage with beak
Substance: Tin Can be found: In soldering metal - soldering joints in cage (distinguished from welded joints), in pewter, in cans Exposure: Beak activity - scratching, chewing, climbing on its cage with beak
Substance: Aluminum and its salts Can be found: Aluminum foil, soda cans and parts in birds toys, food containers Exposure: Beak activity - scratching, chewing, climbing on its cage with beak
Most of parrot aluminum toxicity cases that were documented connected to heated aluminum foil - which is mostly attributed to fumes from its non-stick polymer additives Nontoxic metals (alloys) Substance: Stainless Steel Can be found: Cage wire, frame, hardware Exposure: Very hard metal alloy almost impossible for your parrot to scratch, chew or detach with usual beak activity
In short - ingesting any paint, any kind of metal or any not-food item is never a good thing - doesn't matter how safe it is. There are no standards for safe levels of toxic metals and other toxins established for birds. Birds' digestive system with gizzard (pH 2.0, and 42C) allows some non-food items sit there for prolong time releasing toxins or causing obstruction, impaction, bleeding and death (like corn cobs that absorb moisture and swell and could stay in gizzard for years!). If you noticed that your parrot is using its cage as a chewing toy - strongly consider buying a stainless steel cage - there is nothing to detach and to ingest.
Lead and Zinc - highly toxic for birds and the most common source of poisoning in parrots associated with cage materials. If your cage paint, material or hardware contain these metals it more likely will cause heavy metal poisoning in your parrot. The bigger the parrot the bigger the danger - the larger bird can easily scratch, shave or detach by chewing up some pieces of softer metals or paint.
Paint - always check with manufacturer regarding Lead and Zinc content. Powder coating is much stronger than regularly applied paint that easily flakes (can be ingested), and let the cage rust. Structured surface of powder coating also provides better grip for bird. If you decided to restore an old cage, please, make sure you use safe methods to clean the rust, and use not only bird-safe paint, but bird-safe primer as well.
Plating - process used to coat one metal (alloy) with other metal (alloy) to prevent underlying metal from oxidation and to make it look better - used on cage wires, wires or mesh in outdoor aviaries, hardware and some metal parts of bird's toys. Nickel plating considered by many to be safe, but be aware and distinguish it from Zinc plating - galvanization. The danger of any plating - it could chip or peel (bird could ingest the particles) exposing underlying metal to oxidation and rust which is not good either.
Play it safe - check all metals in your bird cage and on your birds toys regularly for chipping, peeling, rust & oxidation.
Toys - happy parrot beside your company needs lots of toys. It will keep bird from feathers plucking out of simple boredom, and also to prevent other health and behavioral issues. You need to consider how much space the toys will take from the cage interior when choosing the cage. Look for toys made by reputable manufacturer rather than artisans. Even though it's not a guarantee but much probable that toys from manufacturer will have consistent safe structural elements as well as safe materials you can inquire about.
Feeding & drinking bowls - for your bird's health invest in stainless steel bowls - they are easy to clean too.
Cage covers - to cover or not to cover. In nature most of the parrots live in tropical latitude - their native day and night are approximately 12 hours all year around. So unless you live in the same place and function in a similar manner cage cover will encourage 10 to 12 hours of sleep for your parrot, in some circumstances it also can help stressed bird to relax.
Parrots are highly sociable creatures they love to be with family, they need to socialize with their owners. This usually determine cage placement where family gathers - living room, family room or your office if you spend most of your day time there and your profession allowed your parrot vocalization.
Never place the cage in kitchen or any room with direct conjunction to the cooking area (open style family rooms) - most of the cooking vapors dangerous to parrots gentle respiratory system. Also there are dangers of bird flying into some hot pots, pans, oils; eating something not intended/toxic for parrot, Teflon vapors, sharp cutlery and so on...
Place cage against the wall or in a corner allowing your bird interact with family and feel secure - not in the middle of the room where it will be always in people's way and bird can easily be startled with sudden movement or agitated with excessive activity around it.
In their native environment birds dwell in trees high above the ground, the best height for the bird in a house is human chest level - place your cage on a stand rather than directly on a floor - your parrot will feel more secure and relaxed - it may even cure some behavioral problems.
Location should allow enough natural light and view if possible (birds love look outside of the window) but never against the window. Direct sun may raise temperature substantially and dehydrate the bird as it can't escape.
Avoid position in direct draft area or under the conditioner as well as heating outlet.
Bird shouldn't have access to power outlets and power wires - parrots may use outlets holes to climb and chew on wires.
Household plants can create lovely canopy around your bird's cage but consider their safety to your parrot.
This simple consideration will make your parrot right and comfortable in its new home - enjoy its company!
* - All the information provided is collective from many sources over the Internet, birds owners, breeders and other public sources. It's provided for your convenience only and does not represent any warranties or promises. If in doubt - always contact your avian veterinarian and manufacturer of the product in question.