What you need to know

What to Consider When Buying a Parrot Cage

Ana Diaz Maqueda
By Ana Diaz Maqueda, Biologist specialized in ethology. March 10, 2019
What to Consider When Buying a Parrot Cage

When you keep non-domesticated animals in captivity, the risk of behavioral and/or health problems is high. Although parrots have been kept as pets for millennia, they are not considered a domesticated animal like cats and dogs. This doesn't mean they can't be amazing companion animals, nor that they can't bond with their human guardians. What it does mean is they need special care and attention to meet their basic health and care requirements. This will mean knowing what medical conditions to look out for, what food they need and how their cage needs to be organized.

This is why AnimalWised brings you this information on what to consider when buying a parrot cage. This will include the size of the parrot cage, what accessories parrots will need and even the best place to put a parrot cage in your home.

You may also be interested in: Can Lovebirds Live on Their Own?
  1. What size of parrot cage to get
  2. What to put in a parrot's cage
  3. How to decorate a parrot's cage
  4. How to clean a parrot's cage
  5. Where do I put the parrot's cage?

What size of parrot cage to get

There is little in the way of consensus on the specific space requirements for a bird cage as there are few studies which can provide definitive information. What is generally agreed is that the bigger the parrot cage, the better. Even smaller birds will need to have space to exercise and spread their wings.

The size of the bird will depend on their breed and parrots are a diverse and wonderful bird species. Some people will have the image of a macaw or other large parrot bird, but there are many pet birds which you may not be aware are even considered parrots. Here we give you a list of some of the most popular parrots as pets as well as their recommended minimum cage dimensions:

  • Cockatiel - 20" x 20" x 24"
  • Lovebirds - 24" x 24" x 24"
  • Conures - 24" x 24" x 24"
  • Parakeets - 24" x 24" x 36"
  • Small cockatoo - 36" x 24" x 48"
  • African grey - 36" x 24" x 48"
  • Large cockatoo - 40" x 30" x 48"
  • Large Macaw - 48" x 36" x 60"

As you can see, the dimensions of parrot cages take into consideration width, depth and height. One important reason for this is that a parrot cage which is too small can damage their tail. However, it is not just their physical characteristics which will determine the size of their cage. Their behavior will also need to be considered. For example, the cockatoo needs a lot of room to fly around. If not, they can develop compulsive disorders known as stereotypies.

To allow for flight within the cage, it should be rectangular and the length must be greater than its height. Parrot cages should not be circular in shape as this can cause the birds to become disorientated. The cage must also be wide enough for the bird to stretch their wings in all directions.

Your domestic situation can inform the set up of your bird cage. If your parrot is allowed to fly and exercise freely within the home, then their cage may not need to be as large as indicated. They may only be kept in the cage when sleeping or when the windows are open. Birds allowed to fly freely will need extra precautions to ensure they don't escape.

Wild parrots spend a lot of their time in trees, playing, climbing and feeding. Smooth surfaced bird enclosures are unsuitable for parrots as they do not allow them to climb and simulate this natural environment. Most commercially available bird cages will have metal bars which are great for this purpose, but they need to be horizontal and not vertical. Mesh is sometimes also used.

The dimensions of the bars are also an important consideration. If they are too big or too small, they can damage the bird's legs and beak. Beak size and leg length will determine the size of the gap between bars. Smaller birds such as cockatiels will need about a 0.5" gap between bars, medium sized parrots such as some conures will need up to 0.75" and larger parrots like macaws will need up to 1.5". However, it will depend on the size of the individual bird.

The material with which the parrot cage is made is also very important. It should not be made from anything toxic, especially if it is painted. The color of the cage should be white, gray or pastel colors.

What to Consider When Buying a Parrot Cage - What size of parrot cage to get

What to put in a parrot's cage

Parrots not only need space, but they need an enriched environment which will mimic certain elements in their natural habitat. They will also need basic elements which will allow for their continued survival. Perhaps the most important is an adequate water supple and feeder. The size of the parrot will determine what type of feeder you can use. Some birds will be able to feed from tube feeders which keep the seeds and grains behind a mesh. However, some birds will have a beak which is too big to get through the mesh.

Other types of bird feeder might be platform feeders or even a stainless steel dish. Some birds might be prone to picking up dishes and knocking the food out. This may require a dish which is affixed to the cage to prevent this happening.

You will need to keep water and food separate. If certain seed or grains get wet, they may not be good for your bird. A water bottle with a ball at the end of the spout is great as it allows your bird to drink fresh water while engaging themselves in an activity which stimulates their mind. You should also keep another feeder for fruit and vegetables to supplement their diet. It is advised not to fill their bowls too high as birds tend to throw food away.

A solid nesting box is also important for your parrot's well-being. This should be a sturdy structure which allows your parrot to feel secure and protected. If you have a deep nesting box, you will need to ensure they have a ladder or something similar to allow them to climb out. Structurally, they need to be made from a solid non-toxic material. Wooden nesting boxes for parrots are generally a good idea. They will also use the wood to gnaw and maintain their beak. If the surface is a abrasive, this can damage the beak instead of benefit it.

Your parrot will need to toys and accessories to keep stimulated. This is especially the case if they spend the majority of their time in the cage. Toys made from natural materials are ideal, but you can find appropriate toys made from other sources. These toys should be colorful and appeal to a parrot's habits. For example, climbing walls, foraging boxes or even gnawing blocks for beak health. The toys should also be colorful as this appeals to their natural instincts.

How to decorate a parrot's cage

Decorating your parrot's cage is another element of their environmental enrichment. Birds we consider parrots are known as psittacine and they are susceptible to certain conditions and diseases. Many of these problems are stress related. Although stress may be the underlying cause, it can manifest itself in serious physical problems such as losing feathers, brittle beaks or even self-mutilation.

Enriching the parrot's environment will reduce the possibility of developing stress related problems, but there are other reasons your parrot might be stressed. Our article on signs of stress in parrots will help provide some background on keeping your parrot secure.

Along with toys and nesting boxes, you can provide cuttlebones, natural sticks or swings to help the bird engage. Cuttebones not only act as a way to keep your parrot occupied, they also provide calcium to supplement the bird's diet. However, your bird is an individual and there are some objects and accessories which they will prefer over others. A trial and error method will help you get to know their preference.

What to Consider When Buying a Parrot Cage - How to decorate a parrot's cage

How to clean a parrot's cage

The cleaning of our parrot's cage is essential in preventing our parrot from getting sick and even developing zoonotic diseases which can be transferred to humans. If you parrot spends certain times of the day outside their cage, you can take advantage of this time to clean it. This way we can avoid manipulating the bird excessively or causing undue stress. Feeders and water dishes/bottles need to be refreshed and cleaned daily. This will avoid the growth of bacteria and fungus, especially if they defecate around their bowl.

The bottom of the bird's cage should be cleaned daily with soap and water. you may need a brush to clean areas where excrement accumulates. You can help make this easier by placing absorbent paper on the bottom.

Where do I put the parrot's cage?

Parrots are a species of bird which are no considered birds of prey. In fact, they are often attacked by birds of prey in the wild. This means they need to protect themselves from predators, something which can be affected by the placement of their cage. Placing the cage next to a wall helps to provide a greater sense of security. Ensuring they are not near windows and doors will also be beneficial. Otherwise, they can be easily distracted by outdoor sounds of other animals or even noise pollution from more human sources.

As birds can be prey for various animals, placing them near doors and windows can also make them feel vulnerable. The height at which the cage is placed is also important. Parrots will hide in trees to protect themselves from predators. Parrot cages should be placed at least at head height to help them feel more secure. Never place them on the ground as it can be very stressful for the bird.

Parrots are gregarious animals and are used to being surrounded by certain noises in their natural habitat. For this reason, parrots will often be quite noisy during the day. The extent of such noisiness will depend on the breed and the well-being of the individual. Absolute silence can often infer the presence of a predator. Equally, if their environment is too noisy, it can cause the parrot to become nervous or agitated. Soft background music, wind chimes or similar low-key background noise can help them to feel more reassured.

In terms of temperature, parrots can withstand a wide range of ambient temperatures. Anything too extreme can be dangerous. Leaving them beside windows or underneath air conditioners can also affect them negatively.

Many parrots originate in equatorial regions where they have a constant 12 hours of sunlight per day and 12 hours of darkness. When considering the light cycle in our own home, we need to ensure the parrot has at least 10 to 12 hours of darkness per day to promote sleep. Regardless of whether the light is natural or artificial. Placing a cover over the cage can help provide this darkness without having to keep the lights our for yourself. Similarly, the transition between night and day (twilight) is an important time for the bird, so you should try to let light in gradually again.

You should not leave your parrot cage on a balcony or terrace. Even in cities and towns, you can find predators such as kestrels, hawks and owls which would be happy to attack your parrot. Cats and other animals can also be very tempted. Inclement weather can lead to disease and stress for your bird, especially if you are not around to bring them inside. However, the bird should get some vitamin D from sunlight where possible. During sunset or sunrise is a good time to place them in the light. You can even place the cage half in the light and half our of it to allow the bird to decide how much sun they need.

What to Consider When Buying a Parrot Cage - Where do I put the parrot's cage?

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Hawkins, P., Morton, D. B., Cameron, D., Cuthill, I., Francis, R., Freire, R., ... & Jones, A. (2001). Laboratory Birds: Refinements in Husbandry and Procedures. Laboratory Animals, 35(Suppl 1), 1-163.

Kalmar, I. D., Janssens, G. P., & Moons, C. P. (2010). Guidelines and Ethical Considerations for Housing and Management of Psittacine Birds Used in Research. ILAR journal, 51(4), 409-423.

Luescher, A. U., & Wilson, L. (2006). Housing and Management Considerations for Problem Prevention. Manual of Parrot Behavior, 291.

Meehan, C., & Mench, J. (2006). Captive Parrot Welfare. Manual of Parrot Behavior, 301-318.

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What to Consider When Buying a Parrot Cage