No purchase is more important when you get a parrot than the cage.
The cage is where your parrot will spend time when you're not home, when the family is sleeping, or when you can't pay attention to your pet.
The first rule of caging: Buy the biggest cage you can afford. Forget the generic categorizations you'll find in pet stores. Those descriptions represent the minimum size to consider -- a better bet is at least one size bigger. For a cockatiel, get a cage for a small parrot. The bigger, the better, always, as long as the bar spacing isn't so big that your pet could escape.
Dimensions are important, too. Tall and narrow cages may look nice, but they force birds to fly more like a helicopter than in the style that comes naturally for them. Parrots like to fly horizontally as well as climb up and down in their cages, so a cage should be wide enough to accommodate both activities.
Metal is generally the best material for a cage. Wood is too hard to clean and usually won't stand up to the abuse parrots can give out, and some manufacturers are experimenting with acrylics. But while these components can make attractive housing for your pet, they may not offer enough social interaction to keep a bird happy.
With so many cages available, how can you be sure you're buying one of high quality? Here are a few points to consider.
- Design. You want a cage to be attractive, but even more important, it should be workable for you and your bird. Look for features such as a birdproof latch; dishes that are easy to move, remove and clean; and a droppings tray that takes standard-sized newspapers. Make sure you can easily reach in and make contact with your bird, wherever your pet may be within the cage. Mess-catchers can be helpful, too. They look like an inverted metal skirt around the base of the cage. The best position for the slide-out droppings tray at the bottom of the cage is under a grid so your bird can't get to it. High-impact, durable plastic or metal is a good choice for a droppings tray. No matter what the material, the tray ought to slide out smoothly and be easy to clean.
- Sturdiness. You're going to have your bird and the cage for a very long time, so you need to make sure the construction is solid. Check seams, welds and places where wires and corners meet. Is everything smooth and sturdy, with nothing for a bird to chip off and chew? Beware chipping or flaking paint, or welds that can be broken off and swallowed. Used cages can be a real value, if well-made to begin with. Look for wear and rust. And before introducing your bird to any cage that another bird has used, scrub thoroughly, disinfect with a bleach/water solution, rinse completely, and allow to air-dry.
- Convenience. A cage stand is great, especially with cages designed for smaller parrots. You and your bird are likely to appreciate having the cage off the ground -- in your case, for ease of access; for your bird's, visual perspective. Some stands come with shelves, which are handy for storing newspapers, food and other supplies. Casters are a blessing, too, because you can easily move the cage and stand out from the wall to clean behind it.
Take your time and shop carefully. Many parrot species live for decades, so you'll want the best cage you can manage since you and your bird will be enjoying it for a very long time indeed.
Don't forget gear to go
No matter what cage you end up with, you'll also need a carrier for safe transport of your pet parrot. Choose one made of high-impact plastic with vents on the side and a grid door on the front or top. These are marketed for cats and small dogs, but they're just as helpful for transporting birds.
Sturdy carriers are important for reasons beyond trips to the veterinarian. In times of disaster, a carrier allows you to evacuate with your pet safely and keep him contained until conditions improve.
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