As with any pet bird, the cage is the first, and most vital, purchase you will make. The most important thing to look for is space – your birds need lots of room to fly. Even a large bird who will spend a lot of time outside on a perch like one of the larger Macaws will need a cage with enough space to climb and stretch his wings. The cage also needs to be easy to clean.
The bottom of the cage will need clearing of droppings and other mess, so ideally you need a removable tray that can be thoroughly washed on a regular basis. The bottom should be covered in wood shavings or shredded paper.
Your parrot's cage is his home, so it needs choosing with care
Choosing a Cage
When choosing a cage, you need to make sure the bar spacing is appropriate for the size of parrot you are going to keep. Cockatiels, and any species smaller than that, require 1cm inch bar spacing; larger ones need 1.5-2cm, and large parrots should be given cages with 2.5cm spacing. The reason is less to do with climbing issues, and more about parrots getting their heads stuck. If the bird can squeeze its head between the bars, it will.
Many parrots like to climb, so horizontal bars are a must for them.
Being intelligent and inquisitive birds, parrots can soon get bored. The cage needs to have plenty of variety, from different types of perch and climbing apparatus, to a rota of ever-changing toys. The more space you can provide, the better.
Positioning a Cage
Location is important, as your birds will be spending much – if not all – of their time in the cage. It needs to be somewhere neither too hot nor too cold. Kitchens should be avoided, as the various fumes from non-stick pans and gas hobs can prove fatal to the less robust members of the parrot family. You also need to avoid exposing the birds to any cleaning product fumes, fly sprays and other aerosols, paint fumes, tobacco smoke, carbon monoxide from boilers and car exhausts, and any plug-in air freshener or scented candle. These things are all pollutants.
The location of the cage is very important
Cages should not be exposed to drafts, and window ledges are not a good idea, as draft combines with direct sunlight to produce a stressful environment.
Letting Parrots Out
If you are keeping a pair of birds or a single larger parrot indoors in a relatively small cage, they will need to spend regular time outside. Although capable of finding their way to and from the cage, you will all get a lot more from the experience of you have hand-tamed your birds. A large parrot will spend most of his time outside the cage, and smaller species will need regular free-flight session.
It’s best to stay in the same room as your free-flying birds. They are very inquisitive, and will happily chew the tops of books, the seams of wallpaper, the leaves of houseplants, and anything else they can get their beaks into. If you’re there to discourage them, they will soon get the message. Having said that, there are plenty of examples of mischievous birds who do the things they’re not supposed to, for pure devilment. That’s the price you pay for keeping a highly intelligent animal – naughtiness!
See the Parrot training section of this guide for more details.
Parrots are smart birds, and will investigate door-fasteners with keen interest. Some of the flimsier designs can be opened by a persistent parrot beak, so the door needs to be robust enough to withstand these attentions, or you will have to secure it with a small padlock.
Having different feeding stations in cages helps diffuse squabbles and problems with territorial breeding birds who decide that all the food is theirs! A good rule of thumb is to provide one bowl per bird, and one extra. This gives everyone in the cage a choice of feeding places. Some can be on the cage floor, but most should be elevated, or attached to the sides of the cage.
A White-Fronted Amazon feeding
Water Bowls and Bottles
Water bottles are an efficient way of satisfying your birds’ liquid requirements. Open bowls and containers are likely to get soiled very quickly with droppings and bits of food. This is fine as long as you keep an eye on the hygiene and clean the bowl regularly. The bottle needs to be fastened securely to the side of the cage.