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Choosing a Home for Your Feathered Friend

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No accessory for your bird is as important as its cage. After all, it's your bird's home and the place where she will spend most of her time. You'll want to take special care in making the cage as comfortable as possible. Here's how!

Cage Size
Here's a good rule of thumb when shopping for the right cage: it should be at least two to three times the bird's wing span and three times its length, from head to tail.

Birds, such as Canaries and Finches, need plenty of room to fly from perch to perch, which means they need a wide cage. Long-tailed birds need cages where their tails have room, plus plenty of room to stretch their wings. For this reason, they need a cage that is taller and wider.

Buy the largest cage you can afford and can fit in your living area. Your bird needs plenty of space to climb around, and room for its tail and for spreading its wings without bumping into its perches, toys and dishes.

Here are some minimum size guidelines:

Bird Type Cage Length Cage Depth Cage Height Bar Spacing Bar Configuration
Budgies/Finches/Canaries 14" 17" 16" 1/8 to 3/8 in. Vertical
Cockatiels, Large Parakeets, Conures, Pionus, Lovebirds 12" 15" 19" 1/4 to 1/2 in. Horizontal
Macaws, Cockatoos, African Greys, Amazons 32" 32" 36" 1 to 1.5 in. Horizontal

Cage Design
Strength and durability are crucial. It should not have sharp edges or areas where a toe, foot or wing could get caught. A nontoxic, safe material or finish is also important.

The spacing between the bars should not be so wide that the bird can slip between them, or even get their head caught. Cages with bars running in a vertical direction (up and down) are best for Canaries and Finches. Horizontal bars (side-to-side) are best for Parakeets and other long-tailed birds. Long-tailed birds are prone to tattering their tails when placed in cages with vertical bars.

Larger birds, such as Amazons, Cockatoos, and Macaws, require a very strong cage. A wire cage or one with plastic pieces will be easily destroyed. An all metal (or even wrought iron) cage is a must for the larger parrots because of their powerful beaks.

Also, consider the fasteners on a bird cage. Doors that are kept shut with a simple spring action may be appropriate for a Canary or Finch, but will not be secure enough for a Lovebird or Parakeet. Larger birds, such as the African Grey or Macaw, will actually learn to open or break simple closures. They often require a padlock or a combination lock.

Cages should have a grate in the bottom to prevent your adult bird from walking in its own waste. This grate also makes the cage easier to clean. Baby birds however are the exceptions because they have poor balance and can easily hurt themselves on a grate. Until young birds are 6 months of age or older their cages should have only paper towels or black and white newspaper on the bottom.

Placing of the cage
Keep in mind when deciding where to place your bird that they are social animals (typically live in flocks), but still need to be in a safe area of your home. Usually the best place to keep your bird is in a room where most of the family are gathering, for example the living room. Avoid areas such as the kitchen, next to the television, and the bathroom. These are dangerous areas for most birds.

In the kitchen, when cooking, things like fumes from burnt pans, or stove fires can be deadly. Also in the kitchen as well as in the bathroom, birds can easily fall or fly into a sink or a toilet and drown or become seriously ill due to detergents used.

Keep your bird away from the television. If possible a bird should be placed at least 10 feet away from a television. Televisions can have sudden loud noises, such as a gun shot or loud music. These types of noises can make your bird nervous and he may be more apt to be nippy. In the case of smaller birds (i.e. budgies, finches) sudden, loud noises have been known to cause heart attacks.

You also want to make sure that the bird is not being kept near a door to the outside, a window, or a heating/air-conditioning vent. All three of these areas can have sudden temperature changes, whether it is the door opening during a cold wintry day, or the heating/air-conditioning coming on for a few minutes, or a gust of wind blowing through a window. Your bird will be happier and healthier in a draft free area.

When you do finally find a place for your pet bird, be sure to give a few days of adjustment to the area before taking her out of her cage and socializing with her. This will help your bird adjust to the noise level, traffic, people and other pets in his new environment. Any change in your bird's routine can be the most stressful time in her life. This is when she will be most vulnerable to illness.

If you need to cover your bird due to noise (birds are most vocal at dawn and dusk), be sure to use a sheer bird cage cover or to leave a small opening so that some amount of light can get to your bird. Birds do not see well in the dark and can easily fall and injure themselves if they should have what is referred to as night-fright. This is basically a nightmare. With a small amount of light they are more apt to catch themselves by grabbing the side of the cage or a perch.

Toys
Providing high quality, safe toys is essential for your active and playful bird. Because birds are such intelligent animals, they derive great psychological benefits from specially designed bird toys and accessories.

It is very important to select toys that are appropriate to the size of your bird. Toys that are too small will break and shatter with large beaks. Toys that are too large will frighten smaller birds.

Toys should always be of sturdy construction and manufactured with non-toxic components. Examine the toy for small parts that can be broken off and swallowed. Avoid toys with clasps which could pierce the beak, mouth, or eyes. Smooth edges and toys that have been thoroughly tested are the best.

For the best results, purchase several toys and rotate in the cage (change bi-weekly). This will prevent boredom and reduce feather picking. Always wash and disinfect toys when they get soiled (if reptile exist in the house, wash separately) and discard them if you notice excessive wear. Remember your bird will spend much time in the cage or enclosure, so toys help to keep the environment developmentally appropriate and help keep your bird happy and healthy.

Travel Cage
A travel cage or carrier is essential for visits to the veterinarian, travelling, or in case of emergencies when you have to get your bird out of her cage.

A pet carrier will give your bird a safe place to stay while being transported. The carrier should be big enough for the bird to move around in, but it should not be so big that it can take flight inside the carrier; this is when a bird is most likely to injure themselves. The cage doors should be secured with clasps or even twist ties. A good choice is a hard-sided plastic carrier that is normally used for dogs or cats. The carrier should be lined with a plush towel and some favorite small toys. Sometimes it is helpful to have practice sessions with your bird to get her used to being in her new carrier. Your bird should be placed inside the carrier on a regular basis before the trip, with the time inside being increased each day.

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