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  Day Caging: perches part 1

In Lecture One, you learned about cage sizing and bar spacing. Now let's take a look at what you'll want to put in cages for your parrot's comfort and entertainment. (Note: Food/foraging systems will be discussed in the feeding lecture. Water sources will be discussed in the health lecture.)

Please keep in mind:

While you want to make the cage a safe, secure and fun place to hang out, you also want to give your bird plenty of out-of-cage time each day. Make the cage awesome. Make it fun. Give your parrot the best of everything you can in there. But limit the time he has to spend in there without your attention.

Parrots are flock animals.

The wild parrots in natural habitats hang out together for safety as well as companionship; your bird will look to you as a flock mate for safety and companionship. Don't deny him that friendship because you've made his cage super-fabulous and fun. No foraging toy can replace the kindness of one-on-one attention from a favorite friend and owner.

Now. Let's take a look at the cage interior with the thought of spoiling your bird! Start with the perches.

(Not all perches will be simple sticks and branches. You can hang a ladder vertically or horizontally to give your bird options for moving around.)

Here's a tip:

The first thing I want you to do is throw out the dowel rods!

Many cage manufacturers still sell their cages with dowel-rod perches that stretch across the width of the cage. The first thing to do when you get a new cage home is to dislodge the dowel rod perches and dispose of them. Find some other purpose for those ridiculous rods because they're no good for parrot feet. Branches in natural habitats are not perfectly smooth and cylindrical, are they? No. Those dowel rods give your parrot no exercise for his toes. The muscles in his feet will atrophy with one, constant, unchanging grip. Instead, purchase several perches of different materials and thicknesses. You saw the short video at the beginning of this lecture for a quick-n-easy idea. Now let's look at some other basics.

When you put the day cage, sleep cage, play gym or aviary together, the wood perches made from Manzanita will be so smooth that parrot feet might slip on them. If you have other perches that you need to clip together, or if you have a parrot with arthritis or other toe problems, you’ll want to use a material that parrots won’t ingest to cover the perches. One of the most popular items to use is veterinary wrap. It’s safe for the bird and comfy for his feet.

cute example right here...right?

It's important to have different types of perches for your parrot so he can stretch and exercise his toes and feet.

(These three perch types are just a sampling of what's available for your birds. You have a ton of options out there in all kinds of sizes and materials for any species of bird you have in your home.)

Consider this: in their natural habitats, parrots access tree branches and fallen limbs and stumps and flat earth and clumps of dirt and rocks get the idea...

Birds don't sit on the same diameter of branch all day long in the wild. Your companion parrot shouldn't either. Mix it up to give him a way to not only change his grip, which is good for his muscles, but to also change his "furniture" options. Think of it like getting out of bed on a Saturday morning and having no chair to sit on to eat breakfast and no couch or La-Z-Boy to lounge in to watch cartoons with your kid. Boring, right? Having perching options will make things a little less boring for your bird when he has to have "in-the-cage" time.

Another thing to consider is perch types.

  • Calcium perches - these can be flavored or not; they're designed to be safe for the bird to bite/munch on and ingest bits; they have texture that helps give the feet different grips even if the perch is one diameter all the way along the length of it
  • Nail-trimming perches - these are usually made of concrete, but some companies make them out of other materials; they're designed to help keep birds' nails smoothed down, but they're only effective if you place them in an area where the bird moves around & walks on the perch
  • Wood/branch perches - make sure these have been cleaned properly
  • Edible perches - these are often made with bee pollen or calcium or another material that companies use for small animal huts, etc.
  • Flat/corner perches - these can be made of metal or wood; they're typically used for special-needs birds who have difficulty perching on rounded branches
  • Rope perches/boings - these are wire perches wrapped tightly with bird-safe rope; they can be called "comfy perches" or boings, depending on the configuration; when using a rope perch, monitor your bird's destruction of it, trimming frayed rope to keep toes from getting snagged in the scraggly ends
  • Warming perches - these are electric perches that offer a warm surface for cold toes in winter months; monitor your bird's use of these perches to ensure the perch isn't too hot for your size of bird; notice that warming perches have metal spiral wrapping around their cords to prevent beaks from getting at the electrical cord even though the electrical cord will be on the outside of the cage (never underestimate a bird's resolve to reach something beyond his cage bars)

(This boing is no longer a safe perch because its frayed rope could snag bird toes and potentially cause a twisted leg or worse.)

There are other perch types you can find at bird stores and online. Check out all the cool options, but remember to introduce new things slowly to birds who have fear of change. African grey parrots are renown for fearing new things.

Here's a tip:

Place the new perch on a chair or table near the cage where your bird can see it. Interact with the perch YOURSELF in front of your bird so he can see you touch it, pick it up, set it down, carry it into another room and back with no ill effect. (This behavior is called modeling, and it is very useful in training your bird, but that conversation is outside the range of this course.) Then you can place the perch in his cage, preferably in an area where it won't interfere with his food/feeding in case he still has fear of it.