The world of interior design doesn’t stop at the bird cage door. Choosing the appropriate bird cage for your pet bird is just the first step to keeping it content. The next step is to use "feathered feng shui” techniques to set up the cage so that the bird feels comfortable and safe, both day and night.
Feng shui is an ancient Chinese system of aesthetics that asserts that design can be used to receive positive energy. When it comes to bird-cage design, use your species’ particular needs and quirks to best set up perches, sleep areas, food areas and play areas to create the most positive experience possible.
"As owners set up the interior of the cage, the goal should be to create an environment that deepens the bird’s sense of satisfaction and prevents some of the more common behavior problems,” said Kathleen Lance, owner of Bird Paradise in Burlington, New Jersey. "The choices we provide our parrots are important in determining the quality of our experience with them and their experience with us. Birds need to be provided with freedom of choice, resulting in some degree of autonomy in selecting what makes them happy.”
Read on to discover the best way to set up a cage for the majority of birds, as well as tips on how to make your bird’s cage species-specific.
What's the best feng shui setup? "Several perches of different materials — rope, Manzanita, java, cholla, sand — need to be placed throughout the cage,” Lance said. "The perches should be of varying diameters in order to provide exercise for the bird’s feet. Ladders of varying heights can also serve as pseudo-perches and provide levels of play.”
Because the cage interior is a limiting factor, use the space as efficiently as possible.
"The general nature of birds is the same across species,” said Greg Burkett, board-certified avian veterinarian and owner of The Birdie Boutique in Durham, North Carolina. "They see height as security, so they tend to sleep on the highest perch. Species-specific details include perch size; how far to put the perch from the cage wall based on tail length — the longer the tail, the farther from the wall the perch should be to prevent damage to the tail — and the size of the species, which determines how far apart to put the perches. The larger the bird, the longer the legs and the farther the bird can reach, so spacing the perches will encourage stretching exercise.”
Burkett said that a generic cage setup includes placing a pedicure perch as the highest perch, generally used as the roost/sleep perch, and natural branch perches near the food and water bowls.
"Use half-perches that attach on one end but do not extend completely across the cage,” Burkett said. "I strategically place perches in the cage to provide easy access to other perches. Place one on the door so that it’s easy to get the bird out and return it to the cage, and place perches near the bottom to encourage birds to use the whole cage. I use a spiral rope perch that hangs from the middle of the top of the cage to utilize the space more efficiently.”
Donna Garrou, owner of birdStuff in Orange, California, says that certain species have some charming habits that should be accommodated in the cage setup. "Certain large macaws and cockatoos, for example, love to have a sleeper toy or leather toy that they can drape across their back or tuck under a wing when they sleep,” Garrou said.
Cockatiel: Its long tail can get ratty if the cage isn’t large enough and the perches are too close together.
Conure: Conures need a spacious cage so that the long tail does not get ratty; they also appreciate a high place to perch at night and/or a private hut.
Poicephalus: These birds like hiding places and appreciate a box, dark corner or hut to sleep in.
Caique: Caiques like a hut or other private place as a nighttime roost.