Your bird's cage will soon become an important fixture in your home. With birds becoming ever-popular in the pet-trade, more and more cage styles are entering the market. Finding that perfect cage can be a daunting task. Because your bird will spend much of its life in its cage and you will be dropping a lot of money into its purchase, it is important to consider your cage choice wisely. The following are a few factors to consider when buying a cage.
Size: Choosing a perfect cage size can be tricky. The general rule is to get the biggest cage possible for your bird. However, you must juggle this with your home and financial specifications, as well as the safety of the bird. Your needs: Before buying a cage, consider how much space you can spare in your home (hopefully, if you have no space in your home, you will not choose to buy a giant Macaw!). Also, see how much you can afford to spend. Cages are expensive, but often you get what you pay for, so don't scrimp too much. You want to get the largest cage you can afford in money and space. Your bird's needs: These are the most important considerations when looking at cage size. At a minimum your bird should have enough room to fully swing its tail around and completely open up it's wings (when they're fully grown in). Because birds like to climb, hang, etc., it is important to get the largest size cage possible, even if it exceeds the tail/wings requirement. Before you go out and get your conure a cockatoo cage, though, read the next section as a word of caution.
Cage Bar Spacing: Although we would all like to see our pionus parrots in a cage built for a macaw, there are some risks in buying a cage that is too big. The spacing in between the cage bars can prove to be a serious hazard to some birds. If your bird can fit its head in between the bars, this could result in injury or even death! Because birds are trapezoid shaped (narrower on top that by the jaw-line) they can (and will!) squeeze their heads out between the bars of the cage if this spacing is too large. Once out, the width of the jaw-line will not allow the bird to pull it's head it. Serious injury may be the result when your bird tries to free itself, or if you try to help. If you have a smaller bird, make sure to buy a cage with this in mind. Your bird store, breeder or avian veterinarian can give you recommendations on bar spacing.
Cage-Bar Orientation: The direction or orientation of the cage bars is not something that buyers often consider when buying a cage. If you remember that your bird loves to climb, though, it will make sense that horizontal cage bars are the most desirable for the cage walls. At least two walls of the cage should be horizontal, to allow your bird to climb and hang, if she so chooses.
The Paint: The first (and most minor) consideration in regards to cage paint is color. While this is probably not important to your bird, you will have to live with it, so choose a cage color that goes well with your home and with your bird's color! Custom cages can be painted in almost any color these days, so have fun. The more important consideration is the type of coating your cage has on it. The older-type coating is a standard spray paint. This paint is usually safe and less expensive than other options and us usually a fine choice if you realize that you will have to replace the cage or repaint it in the near future. The second option is powder or enamel coating. This is a newer coating option where the cage is covered with a powdered color. The cage is then baked until the powder melts all over the cage. When it is cooled and dried, the coating sticks into the "nooks and crannies" of the cage and leaves a smooth finish. These cages are easier to clean, chip less and rust less than their paint counterparts. This enamel comes in many colors and usually looks very nice on a cage. If the enamel does chip, there are services who sandblast and re-coat cages (make sure the company you use has done cages before - your bird club or veterinarian may be able to give you names of reputable people). The best option for a cage is stainless steel. Normally, coated cages are made from wrought iron, then coated. These stainless steel cages are left uncoated and have a smooth, silver finish. These cages are the easiest to clean, never chip or rust and are much less likely to harbor bacteria. However, stainless steel is considered unattractive to many, and it tends to be quite expensive. As a final note on this subject never buy a cage, paint, toys or bowls from out of the country or from a less than reputable source. Lead and Zinc levels are a huge concern for birds (because they chew their cages), so it is important that the coating on your cages, bowls and toys be free from these chemicals.
The Welding: When you look at cages, check the welding spots. Make sure they are free from gaps (where does can get stuck) and sharp points. Look for areas where your bird could hurt itself or get hung up.
The Locks: Many parrots try to escape from their cages, often just for the challenge. When you buy a cage, check the locking mechanisms on the door and food hatches. Remember that simple latches are no challenge at all for a Cockatoo, Gray or Macaw. Keep in mind that there have been reports of parrots opening combination locks by listening to the drop of the ball-bearings inside (just like a safe-cracker) - so make sure you have some type of secure lock on your cage!
The Playpen: Many parrot cages are now equipped with gyms or playpens on top. This option is nice because it gives your bird a place to be when not confined to a cage, yet it does not take up any more space in your home. Still, it is important to remember that a bird standing above an owner's eye-level is less likely to "obey" (come down, step up, etc.) because they feel "dominant." If you are unsure of your bird's "obedience," or you have a bird that is a biter, screamer, etc., you may want to consider a floor-standing playpen, instead.
The Frills: There are many other options less important when buying a cage - but they are worth looking into. These include cage or seed guards (a plastic or metal "skirt" that fits around the bottom of the cage to catch mess), stands or cabinets on which the cage is seated and even custom cage designs that challenge the old rectangular cage design standard. Whatever you choose, look it over safely and never let looks or style get in the way of your bird's safety.