October 1997 Magazine
Safety should be your first consideration when shopping for a cage. Many pet birds have become injured from the very thing that should make them feel safe....their cage. These injuries can range from minor toe abrasions to death from strangulation. Look at the overall cage construction and ask yourself the following list of questions.
The majority of cages are constructed from a variety of different metals that include: wire, stainless steel, zinc, brass, and chrome. Wire cages are the most economical and are often used as breeding cages and travel carriers. These cages are processed in two different ways. You have the choice of Galvanized after welded and Galvanized before welded. The cages are Galvanized to prevent the metal from rusting. Galvanized after welded is generally considered safer. The welds may expose hazardous metals that can cause metal poisoning. Most wire cage manufacturers recommend an initial cleaning using vinegar and a wire brush. Metal poisoning can occur if the metal or metal flakes are ingested. Clean and inspect wire cages regularly looking for broken welds, broken wires, and metal flakes.
Metal cages are in the medium price range. They are manufactured in a wide variety of metals, sizes, shapes, and colors. They are usually brass or chrome plated, or have a powdered coated paint finish. Powdered coated finishes are more resistant to chipping, rust, and are easier to clean than the plated cages The plating can wear off over time. Some of the cage manufacturers offer a textured finish which not only make chips and scratches less noticeable, but give a better footing for grasping and climbing.
Stainless steel is the most expensive cage on the market, but stainless steel is the safest material for cage construction. These cages will never rust, chip, or cause metal poisoning. They are easy to clean and they are strong enough for even the most powerful beaks. A stainless steel cage will last a lifetime and be the most economical when you consider that it will never need replacing.
Some decorative features enhance the appearance of the cage, but can pose a safety risk. Scroll work may trap beaks, heads or toes, resulting in minor injuries or death.
Bar spacing is equally important in preventing injuries and allowing for maximum climbing mobility. Make sure the bar spacing is smaller than your bird's head to prevent him/her from becoming trapped in the bars. Horizontal bars give greater climbing mobility for increased exercise and play. The diameters of the bars determine the strength of the bars. The bars should be stronger than your bird and they should be large enough to allow for easy gripping.
SIZE and shape is also an important factor when considering a cage. I generally recommend that you purchase the largest cage that your can afford and can accommodate space wise. At the very minimum, your bird should be able to comfortably extend both of his/her wings at the same time. Highly active birds such as: Lovebirds, Parrotlets, Caiques, etc., require a larger cage than their size would indicate. The cage should be large enough to hang a few toys and allow for active play such as climbing, swinging, hopping, jumping, etc.
The overall shape of the cage will determine how much actually usable space is available.With the exception of Macaws and other long tailed birds, the width of the cage is more important than the height. Use the inside width dimensions to determine the amount of usable space. Round or dome top cages can make placement of hanging toys more difficult.
COMPONENTS such as Swing out feeder doors offer a safe and convenient way to feed, especially for the aggressive bird and breeding pairs. Your bird sitter will also appreciate the added security. Most cages come with 2 feeding stations and two dishes. Several cages are manufactured with 3 to 4 feeding stations. Extra feeding stations will allow you to offer several different types of food at the same time. For added convenience, purchase an extra set of food dishes.
Food dishes come in a varity of styles, colors, shapes, and are made from plastic, ceramic, or stainless steel. Lock down feeder dishes will prevent your bird from dumping his/her dishes over. Some birds like to toss their seed out of their dish. Dish covers and hoods can help contain the mess and save on wasted seed.
The main entry door on your cage should be large enough to remove the bird with ease. Entry doors and feeder doors should have a locking mechanism that will prevent accidental escape. If your bird learns how to open the cage doors, then you will have to add some type of safety feature such as quick links or locks. Make sure the quick links and/or locks are inaccessible to your bird.
Removable grids and litter trays are other cage options. They are easier to clean than solid cage floors.They can also prevent your bird from getting to the old food on the bottom of the cage, provided the distance between the grid and the tray is greater than your bird can reach. It is amazing at how far they can stretch those legs.
Removable seed guards can also help contain the mess to the inside of the cage making clean up outside of the cage easier. Seed guards will also need to be cleaned regularly.
Play tops are a convenient way to give birds time out of the cage. They can save space and money by not having to purchase an additional playstand. Many of the play top cages have an extra litter tray for use on the play top to make clean up easier.
CLEANING the cage is an important aspect to maintaining the good health of your pet bird. Change the litter tray daily. Wash the entire cage and perches weekly (or more often if necessary) using a mild soap. Disinfect the cage monthly using a 10% bleach/water solution, or other commercial disinfectant, and rinse well.
Purchasing a new bird is an exciting time and shopping for all of the supplies can be fun. Consider all aspects of the cage construction and disign . Remember to consider safety first and your bird's cage will truly become his/her castle.
Winged Wisdom Note:Anne Johnson has been a companion bird owner for 12 years and has been breeding birds for the past 6 years. Anne is the owner and creator of Avian Antics Bird Toys, a well known manufacturer of bird toys.
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