Let's Celebrate Pet Birds!
T.J. Lafeber D.V.M.

The Danger of Cages


The Danger of Cages

Let me explain. Most people probably don't realize that continuous confinement in cages can create serious psychological problems for birds. Birds may appear to be content and living a normal life, but appearances can be deceiving. Birds often develop a phychosis from caging and become "goofy.'' It may ordinarily go unnoticed unless they begin acting abnormally-such as plucking their feathers out, or screaming. I'm not saying that pet birds have to fly loose, or that cages aren't important. I'm concerned when birds are placed in cages and then never leave.

Pet birds need a roomy cage, daily freedom, and a play area outside of the cage. How much cage space does a parakeet need?

The minimum cage size for parakeet housing should allow ample room for stretching, hopping, jumping, climbing, acrobatics and to hold interesting toys. To be more specific, their 12 inch wing span.


Birds can develop a cage psychosis.

should be accommodated by a cage at least 14 inches wide. To keep their long tail from touching the floor of the cage requires perches to be six inches off the floor and approximately the same distance from either end of the cage. Ordinarily, there would be two perches about six inches apart. Total length of cage would measure 18 inches or more. A reasonable minimum height would be approximately 12 inches.

Larger birds need cages proportionately roomier.

If birds have two or more hours of freedom outside, do they need a big cage?
Because birds want to be active whether in or out of a cage, the size of the cage is always significant. Every cage should be of sufficient size to give birds room to hop or move from perch to perch, for acrobatics, stretch their wings and to hold toys.

The requirement for large size cages can be compromised if birds have time outside of their cage. A period of two hours a day would be minimum.

What kind of freedom does a bird need?
The opportunity to leave the cage and climb to the top probably will give most birds adequate freedom. Cages with flat tops can be equipped with play areas-ladders, swings, ropes, toys, perches and places for food and water dishes. Since birds always want to go to height, the top of a cage is really an ideal free area for pet birds.

Birds need the freedom of being outside of their cage.

What about exercise areas?

Play pens and exercise areas are carried by pet stores.

How can a cage help promote companionship-socialization-friendship?

A few cages now on the market have been designed to conveniently give birds freedom. The top may open or the sides swing out or down,

Fear from a loud noise may cause a dog to scurry under the bed or hide where he feels safe, but what do pet birds do when they are frightened? They also would like to hide, but in a cage where are they to go?

Safety and security are always of utmost importance to birds. (If you lived inside their delicate bodies you'd want to avoid threatening situations, too.) Experience has shown, though, that elaborate measures are not necessary. Anything that would act as a visual barrier between them and the source of concern provides sufficient protection. Birds feel safe when they think they are well hidden-when they have a feeling that their enemies cannot find them.

Dr. William Dilger tells of an incident which occured in the Ornithology Laboratory at Cornell University. A graduate student had a research project in which he had to closely observe the behavior of a group of wild birds. The birds had successfully been collected and were housed and allowed to free fly in an 8' x 10' area. To collect the desired data the student placed a chair just inside the door where he would sit quietly and observe their actions.

The project initially failed. When the student sat in the room the birds were constantly uneasy. At times they would hysterically attempt to escape, flying recklessly around and blindly crashing into the walls. Their feathers were being broken and damaged, and their wings, head and body bruised. The more the student observed, the worse the birds became. The more he stayed away, the calmer they were.

When the student finally discussed the problem with Dr. Dilger, a plan was formulated. Across from the door and a couple of feet from the wall a rope was stretched near the ceiling. Burlap sacks were hung from the rope, and a perch was placed behind the sacks.

Within three days the student could procede with his study, with the birds almost ignoring him. Now, with safety behind the sacks the birds felt secure to come within a few feet of the student.

In retrospect, all the birds needed was an available security area.

For practical purposes a piece of material hung down from the top of the cage so that it desired a bird may hide behind it, works well.

Only One Pet Per Cage.

If the purpose of keeping a bird in your home is to have a pet, then maintaining each bird separately is essential.

When two birds have the companionship of each other, they don't need you, (Just as a mirror in a cage can hurt relationships.) Further, two birds together can impede taming and training, and, if anything, they tend to become wild.

Placing two birds in one cage always risks incomparability. The appearance of harmony, especially in lovebirds, may be deceiving. One may dominate the other, guard the food dish and physically injure the lesser, and yet they sit with their heads together as if in love. The subordinate bird eventually shows signs of harassment, weight loss, weakness and plucked feathers. Separation is the only solution.

Birds need to love their owner not another bird.

Should food cups be in or out of the pet bird's cage?

Having meals out of the cage can help change a bird's attitude on eating and toward his owner.

Having birds leave their cage is the first step to opening up a whole new world.

Birds that would eat only certain foods enlarge their appetites to include many types of food. Eating out of the cage allows them to be more expansive and also to regain their natural curiosity.

Feeding outside of the cage has the advantage to the owner of making mealtime much more convenient. The dishes are easy to fill, empty, and clean.

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