by Tricia McManus
I never planned on adopting birds, until a cute little parakeet appeared in my backyard about five years ago. Since then I’ve become enamored with these small birds. In my desire to set up a good environment, I read a lot of books, took courses from Phoenix Landing, found ideas on the Internet, and sought advice from my vet.
Cages and perches – encourage exercise
Based on my vet’s advice, I chose double flight cages to provide plenty of room for exercise, including keeping a clear path for flight from end to end. Perches of different materials, textures and thicknesses are provided for interest and foot health, including lots of different types of natural branches, rope, ladders, wood and metal platforms, along with a few wood dowels and concrete/pumice perches. Rope perches are used on the outside of the cage and at the door entrances to make it easy for the birds to get in and out, and to provide additional places to play or hang out. I like the ropes, because they can be configured in many ways, and the plastic end caps are safe inside the cage. Long ladders can also be used between the floor and the cage doors if your bird spends time on the floor.
Toys – Projects to keep birds active and busy
Toys are the fun part! There are an incredible variety of toys available to keep our birds busy and active and give them choices. Swinging and moving toys and perches provide variety and help with balance. I look for a variety of material types, such as balsa wood, yucca or mahogany for chewing, different types of straw and vines, leather, bells and rattles, paper shreds, cardboard, plastic, and non-pill fleece. The ends of paper cord often used for toy-making are also great chewing material. One area for caution is bells. Parakeets love them but some bells have heavy clappers that can contain lead. If the clapper does not appear to be made from the same material as the bell, you might want to replace it with a plastic toy link.
Multiple places for food, water, light, and privacy (when needed)
My cages are set up to have multiple food and water areas to give every bird an opportunity in the event one bird becomes protective of the dishes. Full spectrum daylight lamps are used during daylight hours, along with a UVA/UVB bird lamp for short intervals each day. Each cage also has a few quiet resting areas that are shaded and hidden from view. In setting up the cages, I also considered that each half of the cage could function independently with everything needed and varied experiences for one bird, in the event the divider needs to be inserted to separate the birds.
Evaluating and setting up the space: Safety, flexibility, and more
The first consideration is to evaluate your space and think about how the room will function, including identifying potential hazards. I put decals on the windows and installed Venetian blinds to provide a buffer for potential crashes. I also removed carpets and used furniture that’s easy to wipe clean. I keep paper towels and a spray bottle with water handy for clean-up, along with a small broom & dustpan and a covered trash can. If you notice a particular out-of-cage location where your bird spends time, placing paper towels or newspaper below that spot makes clean up easier.
My intent for the room was to provide lots of choices for flight and exercise, along with additional variety in experiences from what could be provided inside the cage. Ideally, the birds would explore and use the entire room. Moveable tables with play stands allow the room configuration to be changed. A large dogwood tree branch was potted to provide views out the window, and spray oats or millet is sometimes clipped to it to encourage foraging. Untreated baskets provide perches and play stations along the walls. Hanging perches and ladders provide opportunities for swinging and movement. A stud finder was used to locate structural ceiling joists, and eye bolts were installed to hang the toys.
The room and cages are evolving all the time as I continue to learn and come across new ideas and examples. You will learn your bird’s preferences and what works best for you!