When considering what type of bird cage to get a small pet bird such as a budgie or cockatiel, it’s easy to focus on the roomy side and forget the safe. However, appropriate bar spacing and perches are as important as the size of the cage. "The basic rule of thumb for bar spacing is a size whereby your parrot cannot get its head through,” said Ohio’s Chrys Meatyard, who has raised budgies and cockatiels for 18 years. "Small bar spacing will also help prevent cats or other household animals from getting their paws/claws through in attempts to get to your bird.”
Greg Burkett, DVM, Dipl. AVBP, agreed. "When the bars are too far apart, the bird cannot grab enough bars to get a good climbing grip. I recommend maximum cage sizes and minimum bar spacing based on the size and species of bird that will live in the cage,” said Burkett, who is an adjunct professor at the NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine and owns an avian specialty practice in Durham, N.C. He suggests a 20- by 20-inch cage with 1/2-inch to 5/8-inch bar spacing for budgies, lovebirds, cockatiels, parrotlets and similar-sized birds.
According to Meatyard, your bird should be able to vigorously flap her wings without her head, tail or wings touching anything inside the cage.
Imagine if you had only one pair of shoes. Not only would your wardrobe suffer, so would your feet. "A variety of different size and types of perches in the cage is essential for good leg/feet health,” Meatyard said. Look for perches 1/2 inch to 1 inch in diameter for budgies and 3/4 to 11/2 inches for cockatiels and lovebirds. "A properly sized perch is one in which a bird’s feet wrap three-fourths of the way around the perch. If a bird’s toes touch when wrapped around a perch (the front toes touch the back toes) or a bird’s toes sit flat on a perch, the perch is the wrong size.”
Consider the perch texture as well as size. Perches can be made from Manzanita, dowels, concrete and plastic. "Rope perches should be used carefully because long toenails can become entangled in the string of rope perches that have become frayed,” Meatyard cautioned. "I also recommend placing perches in a variety of ways inside the cage, such as vertically, top to bottom corners and horizontal placement. A variety of perches will ensure your birds have the leg/foot exercise necessary for their continued comfort and well being.”
Don’t forget that wherever the perches are, your bird will often defecate from that spot. So make sure food and water dishes are out of aiming distance.
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