October 27, 2011 § 22 Comments
A few days later and I love my Expandable Habitats cage even more than I did when it first arrived. Being that they also built Lola’s cage, I wasn’t expecting many surprises, but I still experienced some pleasant ones this second time around. As some of you might know, my search for the perfect budgie cage has been a long time coming: actually, it began well over a year ago, even before Charles ended up in the powder-coated Featherland cage I hated so much. It seems that well-made, functional, and large cages made for small birds (with 1/2″ bar spacing in particular) are quite the rarity. There are a few options on the market: that Featherland cage, the HQ or A&E flight cages, a Prevue Hendryx cage, even an extra-large A&E flight cage. But after all of my research, I simply wasn’t going to go with a company with a spotty track record in terms of powder-coated lead and zinc safety. I know that chances are, the cage I purchased would probably be safe: it seems that most are, but a good enough percentage end up with deadly levels of lead or zinc that I don’t want to take that risk — and more importantly, I don’t want to reward a company with a spotty safety record with my hard-earned dollars. So after trying out the Featherland, which had a better reputation for their powder-coated cages, and still being disappointed, I finally decided that I would have to go custom and American-made if I was going to get the cage I wanted.
Well, it turns out that that didn’t make the search much easier. I contacted a number of bird cage companies within the U.S.A., who make both powder-coated and stainless steel cages (and even aluminum, and at one point acrylic — not the acrylic sheet style but actually acrylic bars created in the same way as a traditional metal cage). Even with a relatively open-ended budget, I was turned down by a number of companies: making a large cage for a budgie, it seems, is actually much more difficult than it sounds. Some companies simply don’t work with small bars, as would be required for a bird as small as a budgie: the bars required for budgies are so much thinner than the thick bars used on a medium to large parrot cage, requiring far more support bars and therefore not only increasing cost but significantly increasing labor as well, and making the acceptable margin of error that much smaller. Eventually, I was literally left with only one: Expandable Habitats. Not that that was a bad route to go: as I already know from personal experience, it is a very good one. I simply like to exhaust my options.
So we began talks, and the result has been spectacular. It is everything I wanted. Here are the specs:
- an American-made cage
- 304-grade non-magnetic stainless steel
- 1/8″ bars spaced exactly 1/2″ apart
- Interior dimensions: 36″ wide by 24″ deep
- a large front door with one 6 x 6″ door on each side
- no grate, just a slide out tray
- an acrylic divider that keeps my aggressive two safe from each other
- a flat top with a frame that supports an acrylic sheet above
- a spacious shelf underneath
- the amazing paper roll system
- heavy duty casters
I’ll begin with quality: it’s phenomenal. Really. This cage is flawlessly electropolished and perfectly constructed. The welds are strong and beautiful, and the entire cage is a wonderful and airy addition to the room. The stainless steel is thick and sturdy, and the casters that the cage is mounted on are very heavy duty. One of the best ways, in my opinion, to distinguish the quality of the cage is to actually put it together. There are a few hints: the directions or the manual, the actual fit of the panels, the smoothness or rigidity of movement.
Unlike a cage made in China by an anonymous factory, this cage comes with hand-typed instructions complete with diagrams that completely explain how to put the cage together. Each piece comes specifically and clearly labeled, including all of the bolts and screws! It even anticipates the difficulties in cage construction that might occur and warns you not to tighten all of the screws on the first round. It has suggestions for putting the cage together with a second person v. by yourself. It has suggestions for how to most effectively use the paper roll system. They are clear, comprehensive, and utterly appreciated by somebody who has ever had to put together a China-made cage. The best part is, at one point I got confused, so I called the company and they actually picked up. I didn’t have to wait on hold for ages listening to a recorded message; I spoke to the owner right away and she answered my questions and made sure I was completely satisfied within two minutes.
Then when you’re actually putting the cage together, magically, everything fits. Have you ever had to push, shove, or simply “make” something fit? I have. But not with this cage. Everything fits together perfectly, just as it should– there are holes that line up with each other in the places where screws should go, every panel fits exactly into the next, and there are no sharp edges or jutting bars or unsightly misfits anywhere. (In fact, because the budgies are so little and I was concerned about little toes being caught at the corners of the cage where the panels come together, the company was nice enough to grind back all of the corner joints so that there were absolutely no small crevices for toes or beaks, and no sharp edges at all.) Everything fits and is made with the highest safety standards.
Finally, everything is smooth and works like a well-oiled machine. In Charles’s last cage, I literally never shut the door. Why? Because if I did, I couldn’t get it back open. The locks were so rigid and tight that I simply pushed the door ajar– and the hinges on the door itself were so rigid and awful that even that in and of itself was a challenge. (There was absolutely no risk that Charles could have escaped; it was perfectly safe.) The side doors, too, were difficult to open and close, and the locks were extremely shoddy. Not so with this cage. Every door opens and closes with ease, the wheels run smoothly, and everything simply works!
On the note of doors and locks, I absolutely love the locking system on this cage; it’s different from their larger parrot cages. It’s basically an eye screw that can be turned vertically to lock the cage and hold the door in place, or horizontally to open it: it’s so simple, requires no padlocks, nor any other locks or things that can be misplaced! And, for a small bird, it’s perfectly safe and cannot be manipulated (it’s made of a thicker bar). This probably wouldn’t work for a large bird– especially a mechanical one– but I don’t see the budgies ever figuring out how to escape from it.
Both Charles and Sabrina each have one side door. Usually, these are used as feeder doors, but I like to change the location of mine frequently so I just had them place single ones in the center. (You can have them customized to have them in different locations, or to have more than one, etc.) I had them simply placed in the center of each side. These have the same locking mechanism as the front door.
Here’s what the top of the cage looks like– it comes with an attachment frame that fits a sheet of acrylic through it. I had this added for a few reasons: first and foremost, Lola is a naughty parrot and likes to land on top of the budgie cage all the time. I’m weary, for obvious reasons, of her big beak getting through the bars and harming the budgies, and I also don’t want them biting at her toes. But since all of the birds like to hang out up there, and I have hooks in the ceiling above the cage, the acrylic also keeps everything inside nice and clean (and not soiled!). I had this done on Lola’s cage first and liked it so much; I consider it a must have for right now while we all share a limited space and confined bird room.
As I stated in the previous entry, I actually had this cage built without a grate at all. I never use them anyway– I always cover them with paper– and I find them quite a bother to clean. So I figured I would save some money and opt not to have one at all. (Of course, should I always change my mind, I can always have one built in the future.) To compensate for the lack of the grate, the company slightly extended the height of the stainless steel sheet metal at the bottom of the cage. The effect is actually amazing: all of the debris, feathers, droppings, and food fall to the bottom of the cage (rather than getting stuck on the grate), and the sheet metal acts like a shield to keep it from escaping or flying out of the cage, even when they flap their little wings as hard as they can! The best part is that unlike seed skirts, they don’t take up an extra 8-10 inches, but rather are perfectly flat against the cage. That also means that I can’t walk into them and bruise my poor legs because I’m clumsy. On a more relevant note, I’ve already noticed that there are significantly less dust and feathers around the room.
Finally, the paper roll system. For some reason, I opted not to use it when I had Lola’s cage built. I have no idea why. I absolutely LOVE it!!! It is so easy to use and so much cleaner!! I simply roll, pull, and cut. No more meticulously arranging and fitting newspaper to oddly sized grates or cage bottoms– it’s so quick and easy this way. It’s also very cleverly designed so that it’s really not visible from the front of the cage at all and isn’t at all unsightly. I love the system so much that I actually went out and bought a paper roll for Lola’s cage and have switched to using it for hers as well. No more newspaper for us! I’ve noticed that observing droppings is much easier with the kraft paper as well. I’m liking the change quite a bit.
And there you have it. I love this cage, and I hope I’ve sufficiently conveyed exactly why. It’s beautiful, it’s well-built, the company offers excellent customer service, and it’s safe. It is a perfect home for my two little loves. I highly recommend Expandable Habitats.
October 24, 2011 § 6 Comments
The budgies’ new cage is here!!! And I somehow mustered up the strength to put the entire thing together, by myself, despite being sick. The hardest part was probably lifting the massive kraft paper roll by myself. Now that was heavy. Otherwise, however, putting it together was a breeze. It’s really nice to purchase a cage with great and thorough directions, with every single part (and even extras), and with customer service so excellent that the owner of the company is available to answer your phone calls while you’re putting it together if you have any questions (which I did!). Everything fit together like a breeze (another rarity in parrot cages!). It is beautiful and shiny and lovely and the budgies have already moved in!! They are christening it with their first sleep tonight. I’m too tired to write a full review with any detail tonight and I know that all anyone cares about anyway is photos, so without further ado…
The cage is a custom built stainless steel cage from Expandable Habitats. It matches Lola’s quite well: it has the custom acrylic panel on top that keeps toes from being bitten and also allows them to hang out up there without soiling the interior of the cage. The entire cage is lovely and incredibly well built! This time around I actually opted for the paper roll system on the bottom and had them remove the grate entirely since I don’t use them. There is sheet metal around all four sides, which helps to keep in the mess. I think clean up will be a breeze with this cage!
As you can see, the cage is divided in half, split down the center by an acrylic divider. It’s a bit hard to see in the above photos. To be honest, it’s not ideal– I hate the acrylic– but stainless steel bars is not an option right now because my two are very, very aggressive towards each other. It was actually quite difficult to set up their cages with one less wall from which to hang toys and perches. (I don’t know why anybody would ever want a cage with an acrylic side unless they absolutely had to. I am hoping that my two will quickly get over their aggression so that I can use a stainless steel barred divider rather than the acrylic as soon as possible.) But I did it, for now, and we’ll live with it.
For some reason, Charles’s side looks oddly empty in the photos, but it doesn’t in person. Unlike Sabrina he also never goes to the bottom of the cage, so maybe that’s why it looks so empty. I am going to stick a few perches down there anyway, though, just in case the mood strikes. Maybe Sabrina will lure him down there.
In any case, I’m quite pleased with it. It really is beautiful: very shiny and airy. I wish I could have gone bigger for them, but at least I can rest assured knowing that the cage is expandable. Right now, it’s 36″ wide by 24″ deep, so each of them has 24″ by 18″ of space to him and herself. I had it built, however, so that in the future we can add another 36″ by 24″ section of cage, doubling the size, making it 48″ wide by 36″ overall. That’s probably a few years off, for now, but it’s something to look forward to for all of us. 🙂
I will write more soon– a full review with plenty of details. The doors and their locks, for example, I absolutely love! I will take some closeups and whatnot as well. Just not tonight!
October 21, 2011 § 2 Comments
Not that I’m at all surprised, but the new toys from Oliver’s Garden, were, of course, a huge hit with Lola. She adores them all!! I decided to put the Catch of the Day toy on one corner of the Crawler to spruce it up a bit. The splash of color looks lovely against the pristine white cotton. On the topic of the Crawler… I couldn’t be happier with mine. It has held up so incredibly well– it still looks new! If I’m not mistaken, I’ve actually had mine for a year now. It looks just as it did on day one, and I’ve never had to steam clean it or throw it in the laundry. I just spot clean when necessary, and it holds up beautifully, despite the fact that Lola does enjoy chewing on the blissfully soft cotton. I’ll bet that it’s awfully comfortable on her feet as well 🙂
Anyway, back to the Catch of the Day: there’s Lola attacking one of the orange hardwood buoys. She really adores the mix of hardwood and soft pine on this toy: one snaps so easily; the other presents a bit more of a challenge. She also loves chewing on leather, so this toy is just perfect for her. It doesn’t look quite as pretty anymore (those fish are missing a few large chunks, especially on their tails!), but I don’t mind!
I also added Lola’s new Skywalk platform perch to her cage– what an awesome perch. She took to immediately, of course. This perch is enormous!! I absolutely love it. It measures an extra large 14″ wide– and the hole in the center is large enough for Lola’s entire body to pass through. In fact, she has been wandering and climbing through, up, and out of it several times! I couldn’t get a good photo of it, but rest assured that the space between the perch and the cage bars is perfectly safe. I highly recommend this perch, but please make sure you size it correctly. This perch is 100% safe for Lola, but it would definitely not be safe for a larger bird, whose body could easily get caught in the space. Susan Tuck, the owner of Oliver’s Garden, is very knowledgeable about many species of birds and will definitely help to make sure that you choose the size of your perch properly and safely.
The budgies will be getting their new toys and perches as soon as the new cage arrives… which should be on Monday!!! Unfortunately, I highly doubt I will be able to put together the cage during the week what with work, so, I probably won’t be setting it up or sharing any photos until next weekend. But maybe I’ll find energy from within somehow to do it during the week. Who knows!
On another note, I just wanted to say that I have not forgotten about the Pellet Project; things are just incredibly busy right now. I did work a bit on Hagen Tropican the other day, though, and I only have a few of its ingredients left, so hopefully I will be able to write a brief summary of Hagen soon enough. I can’t remember what was supposed to come after Hagen, but I will dig it up from a previous entry. I haven’t abandoned this project 🙂
October 17, 2011 § 2 Comments
I received a very exciting package from Oliver’s Garden this weekend! The wonderfully creative Susan Tuck invented a brand new type of perch: the Skywalk. I absolutely loved the idea of it and purchased one for each of my little companions. I decided that they each deserved a new toy as well in preparation for the new cages! As usual, Susan did not disappoint. Everything is fun, playful, and very unique. (And, of course, incredibly well-made to boot!)
I absolutely adore the Skywalk perches. They are very similar to her beautiful platform perches, but they have a little peephole through the middle, sized appropriately for each species to be able to climb through! The large one is, of course, Lola’s. It has the signature beads inside that she loves so much– she really adores spinning them around. The hole is also perfectly sized for her body so that she can’t get stuck between the perch and the cage. The two little ones are for the budgies. I opted for no beads on those simply because their feet are so tiny that I didn’t want them to slip or get caught. I really love the look of them with no beads, though– very refined looking! I know that Sabrina in particular, my little climber, will have a blast climbing in and out and around this perch!
Here are the beautiful toys as well. For Lola, I ordered one “Catch of the Day,” with added ribs in the fish to entice her to chew on them a bit more. (She’s a bit picky when it comes to pine wood, but she does love the fragrant Oliver’s Garden pine.) I think she will like the combination of the soft wood fish with the hard wood buoys. The littles received very special custom-made fleece toys, designed specifically for them! Susan was nice enough to take my request for a custom fleece toy that is tiny– budgie-sized– but that they can snuggle and preen. They are adorable, and the colors really pop! Charles’s has adorable little beads strung throughout on soft and chewy hemp rope, and Sabrina’s has some teeny tiny wood pieces that I know she will love chewing. (She’s the most voracious little budgie I’ve ever seen– she chews willow wood!!) Best of all… Susan was nice enough to throw in three of the adorable Star Cannon toys that we helped to name, and another awesome foot toy that I know Lola will love and adore.
A huge thank you to Susan for another big hit!! The budgies’ new cage is set to ship TODAY!! So I can’t wait for it to come so that I can outfit it with all of these beautiful new toys and perches. I promise lots of photos when I do!
October 14, 2011 § Leave a comment
I just thought I’d share some photos of Lola enjoying her new toys. I finally caved in and let her have one of her new custom Things for Wings toys. It’s so darn pretty that I almost cringed when I saw her playing with it. I’m sure that it won’t look even close to this photo when I get home from work today! Then again, I did purposely put it in a part of her cage where she doesn’t usually seem to play with her toys too roughly. So maybe it’ll last a week, if we’re lucky!
It’s such a beautiful toy, and I’m shocked by how much there is packed into it. There are, if I’m not mistaken, five legs of fun packed with tons of hardwood parts on this toy! Everything is completely all natural and perfect for those heavy wood chippers out there. It’s even named after my little girl! You can find it here, Lola’s Toy, on the Things for Wings website.
I also gave her a few of these wonderful bamboo sticks to forage with. I stuffed each end of them with some sunflower seeds and handed them over to her– she absolutely loves them!! They’re such a fantastic and super quick foraging toy. The bamboo is extremely snap-able and makes a delightful crunching noise. They’re a bit easy for Lola but a lot of fun nonetheless. Plus, she likes to keep snapping the pieces until they’re just tiny little slivers, even after she’s eaten the sunflower seeds. We will definitely be stocking up on these– they are the perfect quick and easy foraging toys that keep her entertained.
In other news, if I’m not mistaken, the budgies’ new cage should be shipping out today!! I’m super excited for it… I love doing new cage setups for them, plus I have so many beautiful new toys for them. I’m also anxious to see how they do as roommates with an acrylic divider, and if it will help to calm down their aggression towards each other at all. I’m hoping that gradually they will accept each other’s presence a bit more, and maybe down the line I can upgrade them to an actual stainless steel divider with bars rather than an acrylic sheet divider, if only for the fact that I can hang toys and perches from it. I’m not thrilled about the idea of losing an entire wall from which to hang toys and perches, but it’s necessary for their safety.
October 13, 2011 § 2 Comments
I forgot to post this small order I made with Grey Feather Toys. Just a few staples around here and then some other goodies 🙂 This order was entirely for the budgies as we gear up for their new cage! With them in particular, because of those teeny tiny nails that seem to be able to get stuck in anything, I’m very weary of using any natural cotton ropes with them in cage. The only company’s products I’ll use is Grey Feather Toys because of the incredibly tight weave on their rope items.
I ordered two more of the excellent quality, fully welded stainless steel trapeze swings for the budgies as back ups. It turns out that Sabrina really likes untying the knots where the ropes come together and are beaded– so she’s quickly tearing hers apart, and really needed the new one. I have to keep a close eye on that little girl! Charles also got a second one, if only for back up while I’m cleaning his current one. Each of them got another shorter rope perch for the new cage, and finally I purchased a few toys. The Fuddy Duddy is for Sabrina– I think she will enjoy preening the very soft supreme cotton rope, and I can probably squeeze things into the wiffle balls as foraging material for her. The horse toy is for Charles– it’s probably his favorite toy of all time. And the little treat bucket is for Sabrina, because Charles already has his own.
As always, service was prompt and professional! I love that Grey Feather Toys makes a commitment to using only stainless steel.
October 11, 2011 § Leave a comment
We finally have holes in the ceiling! Yes, it’s a good thing. One of my least favorite things is putting holes in the walls and ceiling, but it’s a necessary evil when it comes to designing a great bird room. Mine is quite very far from great, but at least I have the bare minimum up now: the Crawler and the Atom! (A huge thanks to my friend Billie Faye, by the way, without whom I would definitely have caused my ceiling to cave in on me and then would be in a lot of trouble with the management.) Everything is looking pretty grim now until I get more toys and things up there, but I’m happy to at least have these up. Unfortunately, it seems I actually don’t have all that many studs in my ceiling, so there are really only a few spots from which I can hang things. I could only find six places for my stainless steel hooks that made sense. I’ll keep looking, but I’m not too hopeful.
There’s the Crawler, set up right above Lola’s cage. On one end, it hangs directly from the hooks in the ceiling, but the ceiling is partially vaulted, so on the other end it hangs from ceiling protectors so that it is slightly lower. So far, the flock isn’t terribly impressed with its location for some reason, but I think I just need to hang some toys from it to attract them. They absolutely loved the Crawler in our old bird room.
Lola did play on it a little last night, but then she flew to me for some cuddles. Oh well! Not the worst thing in the world 🙂 I think that once the budgies’ new cage comes, I will attach the budgies’ crawler in between their cage and Lola’s cage, as a bridge between the two. Their cages will be adjacent to each other and I think they will really enjoy that arrangement!
For some reason, everybody was much more attracted to the Atom, which surprised me because it is hanging so much lower than the Crawler. Maybe it’s because it’s on the opposite side of the room, near my chair? I’m not really sure what it is, but they all love it and opted to hang out on the Atom yesterday, ignoring the Crawler. I have to rearrange the toys on the Atom too though… offer some variety and shake things up 🙂
The sixth hole is being saved for a project I’ve been working on forever. I don’t think I’ll finish it any time soon so I’ll probably put up a different swing in the mean time, but I am definitely very excited about the future project… it’s been a long time in the making!
In other news, Sabrina had a pretty awful night fright the other night and somehow managed to knock out all of the longer flight feathers on her right wing, and now she can’t fly at all. It’s really upsetting to see. The feather shafts came out fully, though, and didn’t break, so I think that I am just going to keep her safe and grounded for now until the new flight feathers come back in– hopefully it won’t be too long. I would hate to clip her, especially because her wings were really butchered when she was a baby and I was so happy to see her regain her flights. She is a beautiful flier. She’s a little upset about being kept in cage, but she just plummets when I let her out.