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




A bird's entire life is spent either standing or flying. The thought of standing most of one's life creates mental pictures of sore, aching feet and legs. A bird not only stands all day long, but also sleeps in the same position with his claws locked around the perch. The only time in his life span, 10-77 years, the bird is off its feet is when the hen is nesting. When not flying, the bird may walk, but generally jumps from place to place, which is a further insult to the already stressed locomotion system.

The material a bird stands on does make a difference. Should the surface be smooth or rough? Should the perch be hard or soft? Should the perch be flexible or rigid? The shape may also be questioned. The answer to these questions will prevent a few of the leg and foot problems that bother our birds.

Although we think of something round when the word "perch" is spoken, there are many shapes. A variety of shapes in the bird's perches is probably more important than a number of round perches of various diameters. The goal must be to have even distribution of weight on the toes and feet in order to prevent pressure sores. Having the toes grip different size and shape perches conditions all parts of the foot.


  • Round
  • Oval
  • Square
  • Rectangular

Flat (Birds sometimes prefer to sit with their toes extended on a flat, wide perch. Any board placed across the cage can easily provide for this need.)

Soft Perches
With the frequency that foot problems have been encountered in pet birds, it is advisable to have a soft perch in the cage which the bird may use if he desires.
Padded-cotton, cork or carpeting or other soft material
Wrapped-with paper towel, flannel or felt
Soft hose-as suggested under "non-rigid"
Softwoods-white pine for lovebirds, conures and parrots
                      -balsa wood for parakeets and cocktails

In observations of aviary birds where both rigid and non-rigid perches were used, the birds about equally divided their time between the two. Both types should be provided for your bird's use.

As nature has provided swaying branches, non-rigid perches help to absorb the shock and impact of a bird's landing. As the bird made its adaptation for flight, the bony skeleton became delicate, and therefore a cushioned stop is helpful. A hose stretched across the cage makes an ideal perch, especially if composed of soft rubber or soft plastic.

String or rope stretched across cage Perches with a spring end Branch with small twigs on it

I've told many first clients that they should carry a pocket knife. After the surprise comes off their faces tell them that it's to be used daily to cut twigs off of bushes or trees for their bird.

Birds enjoy green twigs or small branches more for beak activities than a perch. The bark provides a challenge to birds, and they strip it off enthusiastically. Some birds chew at the underlying soft wood.

The entertainment seems to be over when the wood has become exposed, and they await a fresh new branch. Thus, collecting a small twig or branch becomes an almost daily ritual. I doubt that any commercial toy provides any better beak exercise or entertainment value than fresh branches and twigs.

Branches and twigs used as perches have certain advantages for birds. The irregularity of branches supplies a variety of shapes and sizes for birds to grip. This distributes their body weight to different parts of the toes and helps to prevent pressure sores.

No Frame Index