Review: Expandable Habitats Budgie Cage
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.