The world of interior design doesn’t stop at the cage door. Choosing appropriate housing for a 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-housing design, use your species’ particular needs and quirks to best set up perches, sleep areas, play areas and food areas to create the most positive experience possible.
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.
"Regardless of species, birds tend to prefer eating from a dish that’s high in the cage,” said Greg Burkett, a board-certified avian veterinarian and owner of The Birdie Boutique in Durham, North Carolina. "You can use this to your advantage when introducing new foods, or converting them to pellets.
Burkett suggests putting new food in the highest dish. "Birds are more likely to try food in the higher dish. Ground feeders like budgies, cockatiels and cockatoos also enjoy getting treats from dishes that are on the floor of the cage. But even in ground-feeding species, I see individuals that never go to the bottom of the cage,” he said.
Vicki Johnson-Ratliff, owner of Caique Capers and Mews in Glendale, Arizona, recommends placing dishes closer to the top of the cage for bird species that are natural canopy (top of forest) feeders.
"For birds that like to ‘dunk’ their food, place the food dish on the opposite side of the cage from the water dish,” Johnson-Ratliff said. "Caiques in particular love to dunk their food and fling it, so for them I recommend that the water dish be at the highest point inside the cage and the food dish be slightly lower, at the opposite side. Make sure not to position the food and water dishes below perches.”
Though ground-feeders, such as grass parakeets, cockatiels, some species of lovebirds, cockatoos and African greys, like to feed from dishes on the bottom of the cage, those dishes can be tough to keep clean and free of droppings.
"Replicate ground-feeding behavior by using a wide, shallow, hanging dish, and fill it sparsely with seed or pellets so the bird can pick at the food there, perhaps even jump into the dish to eat,” said Donna Garrou, owner of birdStuff in Orange, California. "The African grey at our store loves to retrieve his foot toys from his toy chest, throw them on the floor and then go down later to play with them. Another store mascot, an Alexandrine parrot, will not descend to the bottom of the cage for anything, not even the fattest, most tempting nut. He is a canopy-feeder in the extreme.”
Budgie, cockatiel, cockatoo, lovebird, African grey: Food dishes both high in the cage and on the cage floor; sparsely filled wide dishes; shallow water dishes at the cage bottom in addition to hanging water dishes.
Conure, macaw, Amazon, ringnecks: Food dishes higher in the cage; birdie "kabobs” for feeding fresh foods.