Choosing the Best Bird Cage: Where to start

Selecting a cage is one of the most important decisions youíll ever make for your bird. After all, a bird cage is really a birdís home. Itís where they eat, sleep, rest, play and observe whatís going on around them.

There are a lot of factors to take into account when selecting a bird cage thatís just right for your bird. If this is your first cage purchase, you may feel a little overwhelmed with so much information to take in.

To make it easier, weíve pulled together some valuable tips that will help you make the perfect choice.

Sizes/Dimensions you must take into consideration:

Overall cage dimensions

  • Bar gauge/thickness
  • The amount of space between the bars

Overall cage dimensionsare important for two reasons: the cage must be large enough for your bird or birds, and you have to be sure that the cage will fit in the desired area of your home.

Bigger IS Better!

Weíve said it before and weíll say it a hundred times again. In the vast majority of situations, the bigger the cage is the happier a bird will be.

HEADS UP: There are some online cage sellers out there that pooh-pooh the notion that "bigger is better". They are trying to look like they are taking the high road, while implying that others are just trying to sell you a larger, more expensive cage. Most experienced bird owners would immediately recognize such a message as pure rubbish. But some beginners may follow the advice and purchase a cage that is disproportionately small for their bird.

Of course larger cages do cost more, but to say that bigger IS NOT better is total rubbish, outside of rare exceptions. Exceptions would be people who get to spend most hours of every day with their bird, and that their bird gets to spend a lot of hours every day outside of its cage.

If you are lucky enough to be able to devote that much time to your bird, and if your bird is lucky enough to have a lifestyle where he or she does not spend the majority of time in a cage, well then sure, opt for a smaller cage. That would certainly make sense.

But that is not the reality for most people and their birds. If itís not the case for you and yours, Quality Discount Cages strongly recommends that you purchase the largest possible cage that you can afford and that will fit in your home. Or, at the very least, be sure to get the recommended minimum-size cage (as recommended by your vet) for your breed of bird. In short: itís cruel to house a bird in a space that is disproportionately small.

A word of caution: If you are looking for a nice big cage to give your bird or birds plenty of room to stretch their wings, be sure that the bar spacing is not too wide. (Your birdís head should not fit through the bars.) Sometimes it takes some real hunting to find a big cage with bars that arenít too far apart. You may want to consider one of our many flight cages available as they tend to be larger with narrower bar spacing.

Bar Spacing.

If the space between the bars is too wide, birds can get their head stuck or they might even escape. If the space is too narrow, a wing, beak or foot could get stuck between the bars. Either way, if any part of a birdís body gets stuck, they usually panic and thrash around violently to try to become unstuck. This often results in serious injury, or worse. (See the end of this article for a chart with bar-spacing recommendations for many bird species.)

Bar Thickness

The thickness of the bars on bird cages is usually measured in millimeters or sometimes in inches. Medium to large birds need thicker bars than small birds do because their beaks are strong and can bend thinner bars more easily. (The beaks on larger parrots can exert hundreds of pounds of pressure per square inch.)

Bent bars can lead to broken bar welds which are dangerous and can seriously injure a bird. Avoid these problems by adhering to at least the minimum bar thickness recommendations for your birdís species. (See the end of this article for a chart with bar-thickness recommendations for many bird species.)

IMPORTANT:Sometimes bar thickness information is given as a gauge number. Itís important to know that lower-gauge steel is thicker than higher-gauge steel. For example:
10-gauge steel is THICKER than 12-gauge steel.

Construction Materials

Cages are commonly available in: plastic, wrought iron steel with hardened, baked-on powdercoating, 304 grade stainless steel and acrylic. Some bird cages are made out of wood or bamboo but they are not recommended. Parrots like to chew wood and it wouldnít take long for them to chew through a cage made from wood.

Plastic cages are for only the smallest of birds and most do not meet minimum size recommendations. Steel cages covered with powdercoating or made of stainless steel are the more ideal cage materials to consider.

A wrought iron steel cage with a baked-on, powder-coat of paint from a reputable manufacturer can last on average for 5-7 years with regular cleaning using mild cleansers and sponges. A 304 grade stainless steel cage can cost 2-3 times more than a wrought iron steel cage with powdercoating, but it can last 20-25 years if cared for properly.

Did you knowÖparrots love to climb in the wild, and in their cage. If you get a cage with bars that run both vertically and horizontally, your parrot will be able to climb to his or her heartís content. Quality Discount Cages carries many cages that offer bars that run both ways. Some run both ways only on two sides, while others run both ways on all sides. Either way, your parrot will have a structure that allows him or her to climb. This will make your bird happy, and offers an opportunity for in-the-cage exercise.

Powdercoat Paint On Bird Cages

Birds maneuver around their cage by holding on to and sliding around on the cage bars with their feet and their beaks. If their cage has a powdercoating on the bars, youíll want to be sure that the powder coating is "bird safe", meaning it does not have toxic levels of zinc or lead.

Reputable bird cage manufacturers are well aware of this and thus produce bird cages with a powder coating that is certified to be bird-safe (usually through testing by an independent laboratory). If you are going to purchase a bird cage with powder-coating, be sure to find out if it is in fact certified bird-safe. If it isnít, donít buy it. If it is, no worries. Powder-coated cages are perfectly fine so long as they do not contain dangerous levels of zinc or lead.

Welded Bars versus Drilled Bars

Cages with welded bars vs. drilled bars are typically easier to clean, but can be considered less strong overall because the bars are only connected at a certain point, not physically inside one another like with drilled-through bars. This is something to consider if you have a medium or large parrot that can exert hundreds of pounds of pressure in their "little" beaks.

Strength is the primary advantage of drilled-through bars, so they are especially ideal on cages for medium to large parrots that have stronger beaks. The downside cited by some owners of these types of cages is that because the bars are drilled and fitted through a square tube they are harder to clean. There are "nooks and crannies" at the connection point that donít exist in welded cages, so you have to clean around each bar one by one instead of being able to quickly run a sponge across an area.

Ease of Cleaning

Bird cages must be cleaned regularly to avoid growth of bacteria that can make your bird ill. Youíll be much happier if you purchase a bird cage with design features that make cleaning a little easier. Hereís what to look for:

  • Trays, grates and skirts that are easy to remove for cleaning on a regular basis.
  • Easy-rolling, high-quality casters (especially for large bird cages) that allow you to transport and clean your cage outdoors or in another room in your home.
  • Modular sections that allow you to clean certain parts without disassembling the entire cage.

Dome Bird Cages

Dome bird cages, compared to play top bird cages, have extra headroom which is a nice feature for birds that spend all day in a cage because his/her owner is at work, etc.
If you do purchase a dome bird cage, experts suggest that you also get a separate play-stand that your bird can use when it does have outside-cage-time. Play-stands come in various sizes and styles and many can easily be picked up or be rolled so that you can bring your bird with you from room to room.

Play-Top Bird Cages

Play-top bird cages are very popular with bird owners who are able to give their bird a lot of supervised time outside of the cage. Most play-top bird cages are designed so that when you open the cage door it serves as a kind of bridge to the play-top. Well-stocked play-tops usually have food & water dishes and plenty of toys.

Low-Priced vs. Higher-Priced Cages: Whatís the Difference?

Lower-priced cages have fewer features that provide convenience than more expensive cages. So when picking the cage that is most suitable for your budget, make sure you consider the following:

  • Does the cage come with cage skirts? If so, are they easy to install and remove (for cleaning purposes)?
  • Can/will your bird remove the food and water dishes inside the cage? Some birds like to pick them up and make noise with them or simply throw them around. Most medium and large bird owners say that well-secured dishes are a must.
  • Birds are messy eaters and some cages are designed with features to help contain the mess within the cage, instead of on your floor.
  • Birds are intelligent creatures that can learn how to open cage locks just by watching you do it. Whether you are purchasing a low- or higher-priced bird cage, find out how the cage lock(s) work and donít buy a cage with a lock that you think your bird will be able to figure out how to open.
  • Cages held together with a lot of nuts and bolts usually cost less, but they take a lot longer to set up and breakdown. If you do not intend to frequently breakdown and set up your birdís cage, then buying a cage held together with a lot of nuts and bolts might be a good way to save some money.

If you and your bird have a lifestyle that includes moving the cage around a lot, setting it up and breaking it down frequently, then you would probably prefer a cage with fewer parts. These "no nuts and bolts" cages typically cost more, but are easier to assemble, disassemble and clean.

Shipping/Returning Bird Cages

Shipping costs for large bird cages are expensive. Although many retailers offer free shipping, including Quality Discount Cages, there are a few things to consider:

Make your selection carefully, because shipping costs for returns will be your responsibility. In addition, if the company you purchased your cage from paid for shipping the cage to you, those costs will be deducted from your refund.

IMPORTANT: Never throw away any packing materials or cage boxes until the cage is fully assembled and inspected. Failure to do so can often hinder any shipping damage or warranty claim.

Shipping Damages

When you consider the number of goods that are shipped nationally and internationally every day, the vast marjority of them arrive on time and with no damages. But, having said that, damages can occur. To be prepared for the possibility here are a few tips:

  • Before you make a purchase you should read the shipping and the return/exchange policies to make sure they are in line with what you consider to be fair business practices.
  • If possible, you should be present at time of delivery so you can inspect the exterior of your shipment for any signs of damage while the driver/carrier is still there. If there are signs of damage, open the box while the delivery person is still there so the damage can be verified with the carrier.