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Buying a Bird Cage

If you buy a cage from a reputable seller, you should be on safe ground. If you’re going down a less verifiable secondhand or online auction route, ask questions about potential poisons - nothing wooden in the cage should be varnished or chemically treated, and the paint used to coat the bars must be non-toxic. There should be no rust on the bars either.

The cage will have a bottom tray, for holding paper or sawdust. This will need cleaning at least once a week. Some designs have a removable grille above the floor-covering space to avoid the birds walking through the soiled material at the bottom, although if the cage is cleaned regularly this isn’t a problem.

Canary in a cage
A suitable cage is the root of all happiness for your feathered friends

A finch cage will need to be equipped with life’s essentials: perches, food and water bowls, some bird toys (a bell, for example), a bird bath, and something to line the base of the cage.

Positioning a Bird Cage

Cages should be placed at eye-level, as finches can get panicky if they see things moving overhead. In the wild, any non-finch shape moving up above is a potential predator. If the cage is against a wall, with minimal ‘overhead’ traffic, being at chest-height rather than head-height is less of an issue.

Conversely, if you place the cage too high or in a lonely spot with little human through-traffic, your birds won’t adjust to human presence and may never properly settle in. They also need noise and activity outside the cage, to prevent boredom. If you end up keeping nervous finches that no one can see properly, you need to ask yourself why you got the birds in the first place.

A secure piece of furniture such as a sideboard or wide shelf will make a suitable surface for the cage to rest on; although many owners of indoor birds opt for a purpose-made cage stand. These come in the form of plinths, or stands with a hook.

Whichever cage-placing method you choose, you need to make sure it’s secure. It needs to be away from locations where it will be constantly brushed against or knocked (by children, dogs or vacuum cleaners, for example).

One side of the cage should face a wall, giving the finches somewhere to retreat if they feel in any way nervous. Windowsills, however, are not the answer. Prolonged direct sunshine through glass can kill pet finches, if there’s no shade into which they can retreat. They can also catch a chill if there’s a draft from the window.

Covering Canary Cages

Canaries’ and other pet finches’ hormones are regulated by light. They need to sleep in the dark, and to experience proper daylight. If they are kept in perpetual half light or in a room constantly illuminated, it will interfere with their hormonal balance, causing stress, out-of-season moulting, or other ‘unbalanced’ behaviour.

Caanries can be kept alone
Like all animals, Canaries' activity is regulated by light

To make sure the balance of light and dark is kept at the right level, cages should be kept in a room where natural light can do its thing; or the cage should be covered shortly after sundown and uncovered shortly after sunrise. This makes sure your bird experiences the changing light of the seasons, and goes through the moulting, singing and mating seasons at the correct points in the year.

The disadvantage of this ‘as nature intended’ approach is that summer sunrise comes very early, while in winter you may have left for work before the sky has started to lighten. The plan will need some adaptation to take this into account, and as long as you uncover the bird as soon as you wake up in the morning, it will be fine.

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