Our comprehensive guide covers everything you need to know about setting up a parrot cage. From size, location, food, cleaning, perches and more.
We know there’s lots to think about when it comes to parrot cages such as bar spacing, where to put the perches, toys and UV. Parrot expert, Dorothy Schwarz answers the questions you have when it comes to setting up your bird cage. So that your bird’s cage isn’t just a cage but is their home.
What kind of bird cage do I need? | What kind of spacing between the bars do I need? | Where should I locate my birds cage? | How to keep pets away from parrots | What should I line the cage with? | UV lighting and my bird |
Mikey Macaw and Friends share their cage set up in their video above.
What kind of bird cage do I need?
A cage is a home and a territory – it shouldn’t be a cell – so the larger the better for your bird type.
The best cages are made of stainless steel but for most of us they are too costly. With a modern cage, you don’t need to worry about lead in any of the construction.
What kind of spacing between the bars do I need?
African Greys, Caiques, larges Conures Amazon, Eclectus, and small Macaws or mini Macaws can be in a cage with a bar spacing of around 20-24mm.The video above produced by Exotic Direct suggest bar spacing dimensions with a length and height of 25×50 mm, 50×50 mm or 25×25 mm. These are closer to the upper end of 24mm, and are suitable for medium to large birds.
Bar spacing can vary depending on the size of the bird it’s been designed for.
You’ll find that larger cages have wider spacing – this should be remembered if you’re planning to put a small bird in it. There have been accidents where a small bird pushes a wing through and injures it or even breaks it.
If you’ve got a larger cage and you feel the spacing is too wide, you’ll need to attach a smaller mesh wire inside or outside.
I think that cages for smaller birds are too small. This is rather a minority view.
A parrot enjoying the rain in her aviary. Read about the importance of water.
Where should I locate my birds cage?
Birds are social creatures who require either company from other birds or company throughout the day from humans. This means there are a number of options as to where you can put your birds cage.
A cage can be placed in the living area, if it’s quiet enough at night. If you’re using non Teflon products in your kitchen, and your oven is not coated in Teflon, then you can also consider the kitchen.
I’d always recommend a cage on wheels (modern cages already are). You can also put your cage on a wheeled trolley, so that you can move your bird from one location to another.
If you don’t have an aviary, you can wheel the cage into the garden or on a balcony to safely provide your bird with some time outside.
The cage should stand in a corner or have the back against an internal wall so that the bird can retreat from view if they want to.
You should avoid draughts. Pet parrots can withstand cold but dryness or draughts can cause illness.
Putting a cage for single bird in a corridor or garage or bedroom is unjustified and unkind.
Direct sunlight on the cage even through glass is to be avoided.
Many parrots enjoy a view from the window and will comment on passing wild birds that they see.
Chaucer, my friend Virginia’s African Grey calls out ‘Squirrel, squirrel,’ whenever he sees them in the yard.
Some carers have sleep cages in a quiet room, where the parrots are taken each night so that in the daytime, they can interact with the family and in the evening, they can have peace and quiet and remain undisturbed.
Finally, you can also adapt a whole room to your bird. However, your bird will need the company of other birds for this, unless you plan to spend all your time in there.
Birds in a bird room – with the company of other birds and entertainment
How to keep pets away from parrots
An adult bird coming first into contact with domestic cats or dogs can be seriously frightened. Without a long period of desensitisation and acclimatisation, there’s not much else you can do but keep them apart.
The problem is not insuperable but can be tricky. When my four-year-old niece ignored my warning not to put her fingers in Casper’s cage, he nipped her; she learned the hard way.
In 20 years, I’ve co-existed with parrots, dogs, cats, poultry, horses, children and grandchildren. If puppies and kittens are brought up with parrots they accept them as part of the household. But parrots DO bite and if the very idea of this is something you dislike then a parrot isn’t a suitable pet.
However, in the same way that a farm dog won’t attack the farmyard free range hens, a pet dog or cat can become accustomed to living alongside flighted companions.
I’d never allow different species loose in a space together unsupervised. That said, my husband Wal and I generally watch TV with two or three assorted pets. Many of my friends do the same.
You may also like to read this Training your parrot to ‘step up’
What kind of perch do I need?
I discard any plastic ones. You will want to add one or two extra perches so the bird has possibility to climb around or flutter from one to the other.
Birds like to be as high as possible so if the main perch crosses between the food bowls you should move it. You don’t want your bird to poop in its food bowls.
You should also put subsidiary perches at angles as high as possible.
I use tree branches and cut a notch at each end so that they slot into the bars. Of the commercial perches available, nail trimming perches work well in wearing down claws obviating the need for clipping.
Wooden perches will get chewed and need replacing frequently. There are also edible perches and mineral perches available. Bendy rubber or rope perches are fun.
Bear in mind the size of the birds’ claws; the smaller species need thinner perches – the larger need wider ones. A variety of diameters helps maintain healthy feet and claws.
Cost of perches varies enormously well washed tree branches come free. A flat perch can be a comfort for any bird with sore feet or arthritis.
Where to put the food and water bowls in the cage
Most cages come with two bowls attached and a perch stretching across the middle of the cage. You may want to hang some additional bowls on the bars.
When buying new bowls, stainless steel will amply repay the extra cost in the ease of keeping clean and lasting permanently. Plastic bowls get greasy; ceramic bowls crack and break.
Another article you may like: Safe food and plants list for parrots.
What should I line the bottom of my birds cage with?
Using wood shavings on hard floor looks attractive, if you are sure the wood is natural and contains no chemicals.
The same for corn husks. We are a newspaper family so always have newspaper for lining.
Brown paper sheets look smart. If you like cleaning, you actually don’t need any lining but will then have to wash the grill and base daily.
What toys can I put in my bird’s cage?
One of the best toys to keep bird’s active is some sort of swing. You can also use your ingenuity and make toys of your own. I’ve written an article on making toys here.
Inspect toys regularly, frayed rope can be dangerous. Toys that offer a challenge such as foraging ones can keep a bird content for a long time.
Internet suppliers and pet shops have an astonishing variety of toys. Northern Parrots sells a selection of toys.
A good idea is to have a toy box so that you can rotate toys to prevent boredom and stimulate curiosity.
A well-brought up young bird displays curiosity and plays naturally with toys. A bird that has become phobic may need desensitizing to toys. This can be done by leaving a new toy outside a cage until the bird grows used the sight of it.
Finally, don’t expect your toys to last. Even toys labelled as indestructible can be destroyed by a curious parrot.
Your bird should have a variety of toys to stimulate them.
Why does my bird need UV lighting?
Birds need Vitamin D (as we do) from sunlight. Indoor birds can obtain it from UV lighting.
Birds in the wild or birds who live outside, often rest with their plumage raised in sunlight in order to make it easier for sunlight to reach their skin and therefore expose the preen gland which is located at the base of their tail.
Sunlight enables the production of the waterproofing oil which contains Vitamin D3.
Birds who live indoor face a challenge as they don’t have the exposure to sunlight that outdoor birds do. To resolve this challenge, they can obtain Vitamin D from UV lighting.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you can put your bird’s cage in a sunny spot in your home for them to gain UV exposure. Placement in front of a window won’t provide exposure.
Normal glass used in windows blocks the beneficial UV rays and amplifies the impact of infrared rays that cause heat.
Instead of providing UV exposure, you’ll be exposing your bird to excessive heat and potentially heatstroke which can quickly become fatal.
Always locate your bird’s cage away from the window and set alongside a wall. Not only will this reduce heat exposure but it will give your bird a greater sense of security.
Lack of Vitamin D in parrots can lead to health problems such as feather plucking and calcium deficiencies. Both of which can lead to other health problems developing.
When my friend Natalie adopted Dave, a dull-feathered, traumatised Blue fronted Amazon, his feathers dramatically improved as did his sinusitis when she placed a UV light on top of his cage.
The above highlights just a small part of the importance of UV lighting for birds, to learn more, and for advice on choosing the correct type of UV lighting for your parrot, read our five part series covering UV lighting for birds here.
Like us mammals, birds cannot survive without water.
Within their cage, they require water bowls that must be changed once or twice a day if the parrot dunks their food.
I use tap water or rain water and add a teaspoon of cider vinegar to a litre. Cider vinegar is supposed to confer health benefits.
Bathing is an important part of a parrot’s grooming routine. Often, parrots bathe themselves in a stainless-steel bowl in the bird room or and a similar one in the aviary.
Spraying is an option some parrot owners also include as part of their bird’s routine. None of my flock – except Casper Grey- enjoy being sprayed.
One option is to use fresh branches that are wet with rain, most birds will enjoy playing in them.
Another option is including parrots as part of your routine. Many people take their birds into the shower with them as a daily routine.
Just remember not to wet a bird too late in the day as the feathers must be dry before sunset. Cockatoos can adore hair dryers.
Do birds need to be covered at night?
Companion carers who cover their birds believe that it gives a bird a more restful night and a sense of routine. Covering can offer reassurance for a nervous bird.
I advise against using a cover to to quieten a screaming bird is I feel it is unkind and unproductive.
If your bird is screaming and cannot be calmed, I’d advise seeking veterinary attention as it might be your parrot’s way of telling you something is not right.
Many parrots enjoy being covered and will say ‘night-night’ and eagerly ‘good morning’ when it’s time for the cover to be removed.
I‘d never cover a bird for more than 12 hours because that is their natural rhythm wired into their brains.
I’ve never used covers myself however know of parrot owners who have and can see the benefits to them. They’re a personal preference and new parrot owners soon discover what works best for them and their bird’s routine.
How much time should parrots spend out of their cage?
Your bird will need 3 – 4 hours minimum out of cage time.
You need to ensure that when you’re letting your parrot out their cage, your environment is safe and secure to prevent them escaping. Our article on bird proofing. will provide some invaluable tips to ensure out-time is as safe as possible for you and your bird.
Before buying a parrot, ask yourself if you have you got enough time and space for the type of bird you have chosen? Keeping a bird in a cage 24/7 is unkind. They need exercise and your presence.
Out-time is essential to keep a creature as intelligent as a parrot interested and not prone to develop screaming and biting and plucking behaviours or else simply become apathetic and bored.
Exercising your bird
As mentioned, out time should be 3 – 4 hours minimum for a bird’s mental and physical health. If you work during the day my article on parrot care suggests a workable routine.
Small birds like budgies and cockatiels get exercise in a flat or house.
The larger species benefit from a screened in patio or an aviary in the garden.
A play gym on top of the cage can be a worthwhile activity for everyone. They play and you observe.
Not all pet shops have knowledgeable salespersons. Two internet sites I have used which have very helpful advisers if you phone or email them are:
www.northernparrots.com Tel: 0800 488 0345 or 01706 507309
and www.gardenfeathers.com Tel 0191 5277025 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Parrot Society UK (if you have a parrot – join) will answer any husbandry question.
Tel: 01442 872245 Email. email@example.com