Review: Expandable Habitats Budgie Cage

October 27, 2011 § 24 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

the entire cage

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.

close up of one of the top corners of the cage

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.

close up of the bottom door hinge on the large front door

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!

close up of the front door locking mechanism

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.

view of the smaller side doors

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.

the custom flat top with the acrylic frame attachment

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.

close up of the bottom of the cage

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.

the paper roll system

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.

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§ 24 Responses to Review: Expandable Habitats Budgie Cage

  • natachag says:

    You actually typed Lola is naughty! 😀

    It truly looks like a wonderful cage. Do you have the sheet metal at the bottom of Lola’s cage?

    How are the budgies? Did they try and get to each other through the acrylic or did they get that it’s a wall separating them?

    • Coco's Flock says:

      Oh, she definitely is 🙂

      Thanks Natacha! I didn’t actually have the sheet metal for a long time — it came with the cage, but I never used it. I just installed it today, though, because I LOVE the way it works!! It eliminates SO MUCH mess!! I also installed her paper roll system and got rid of her grate.

      The budgies are doing okay. Those little buggers, though– they have both decided to meet at the very edge of the acrylic and try to get their beaks around it so that they can still lunge at each other. They peck at each other through the acrylic now.

  • Doris says:

    What a brilliant review! EH – I hope – has seen this, or will see it?
    They are to be commended for several points that really jumped out at me, aside from the obvious superior workmanship:
    Simple, easy to follow instructions!!! (that alone is HUGE!)
    Answering your phone call! (such a simple thing, yet seldom happens with calls to most companies)
    Your very pampered budgies will enjoy many years ahead in that gorgeous cage!

  • stace says:

    Just thought I’d say hello and say “wow”. Your stainless steel cages are amazing. I’m in Sydney, Australia, and haven’t found anything of that kind of quality. (Must have cost a bomb, though!)

    Hard to believe, but you’ve got even more of a toy fetish than me. I think I found your blog while googling for stainless steel bird toys. (I have single budgie, acquired when he flew into my house and danced on my head as a little tiny baby, would you believe.)

    I ended up getting a big stash of stainless toys sent over from Grey Feather Toys – found through one of your recommendations on here. So, thanks for that. You’ve got so much more choice there in the US.

    I see you use cotton rope perches. I’ve got some great sisal ones, stiffened with stainless steel wire, and with natural wood chews and stoppers on the ends. Made here in Oz. At least we’ve got some super quality natural wood toys and accessories being made here – all with stainless fittings.

    I’m sure your budgies will love their shiny new home. And all those lovely new toys, toys, toys!

    I’ve got cage envy. But it will pass.

    • Coco's Flock says:

      Hi Stace, nice to meet you!! Thanks for your comment!

      What an awesome story of how you found your budgie. Serendipity! Let me know if you ever want more toy recommendations… finding quality and safe budgie toys can be a challenge because they’re so often overlooked (there are way too many cheap plastic toys on the market for budgies).

      The sisal perches sound great. I would love to see what those look like! I’ve definitely come across a few Australian bird toy websites and been jealous.

  • stace says:

    I’m not sure how to add pictures into blog replies, but here are some links. (I have no relationship with these people, just bought toys off them!)

    These are some natural toys, made here in Australia. They are really well made, by hand, by a guy in Melbourne.

    I got the sisal boings off My Parrot Shop, but I can’t now find them on there now. This is the person making them.

    He makes some great natural playstands, super well made, and my bird loves it. Might give you some ideas for custom made things you can get made where you are. They’re brilliant for the cage top.

    For the budgies, have you tried any of those cute Molly’s Bird Toys?They are really sweet.

    Another thing I bought from the US was the Get a Grip, Fine Vine Swing and Fuzzy Wuzzy Preener from Starbird. Made from natural abaca. They’re great too.

    As you can see, I have been around the world looking for quality bird toys.

    • Coco's Flock says:

      Ah!! I’ve seen those Australian products before… VERY envious!!! I would love more natural products like that in the US, especially those beautiful playstands. Lovely!

  • Erika says:

    Alright, I’m trying to catch up on some things and found this review, how awesome! I love the paper roll too 🙂
    Quick question for you — if I take the grate out of my cage, the side “shields” that keep the mess in the cage are only held on by a couple of pegs and I think Bean could hurt his little toes in there pretty easily. Are your cages any different so that the bottom is more secure?

    • Coco's Flock says:

      Hmm, which sides are you talking about? I can kind of see what you mean on the sides where the paper roll doesn’t go through the cage (on Lola’s cage, it’s the front and back) but on those ends, the tray has its own sides there that, so far at least, have kept her from messing with the shields at all. Where the paper roll goes in and out of, though — those shields are more sturdily held in place on mine. Does that answer your question at all… ?? Sorry 😦

  • Vince says:

    What beautiful cages. This is exactly what I am looking for. Great design!

  • Steve says:

    I know this is way late, but thanks for your review on cages on the Parrot Forum. I’m looking for a large stainless cage for our harlequin macaw and soon to be greenwing macaw. You pointed me to some companies I was not aware of.

  • Gary says:

    I read your list summary of different bird cage manufacturers elsewhere and then found this review of the EH cage. We have a similar need – we have a small parrotlet and just lost one to some kind of poisoning. I am looking to get an all stainless small bird cage and, as you also found, it’s a challenge. We will have two small birds again – either two parrotlets or a parrotlet and a canary as we have had in the past. So we would want separation as you did. My question, if you see this, is now that you have had the cage for a while, are there any changes / improvements to your design that you would make if you were to order a new one today?

    Thanks for your informative posts and for any suggestions!

    • Coco's Flock says:

      Gary, I’m so sorry to hear about your late parrotlet. It’s so hard to lose them 😦 Actually, since writing this entry, Charles the budgie has also passed, so Sabrina now has this cage to herself. As for your question, yes, I absolutely still love this cage! I have moved multiple times with it and have had to take it apart and put it back together time again, but it’s so well made and everything fits together wonderfully. Still looks like new. Design-wise, I don’t think I’d change a thing. I got both an acrylic divider and an SS-bar divider just in case and that was a wise choice (the acrylic offered more protection between the two).

      The only problem is, I am not sure the company is still making the 1/8″ bar with 1/2″ spacing cages. I think they may have temporarily halted production on them. However, email Tricia and she will be able to tell you best. Might help if you mention reading my blog and seeing my budgies’ cages. 🙂 I hope you find something perfect for your parrotlet!

      • Gary says:

        Thanks! I will contact Tricia and see what’s possible. I also exchanged emails with Northwest cages and they said they could do something with 1/8″ bar stock. It is surprising to me that there is no-one making wire cages, of the thickness you usually see for small bird cages, but using SS wire instead of painted. However, they are not out there as far as I can tell, so 1/8″ looks to be the only way to go.

        I was thinking of the acrylic divider as well for the same reasons you cited and will do that if we get one rather than two separate cages. I will definitely mention this post when I talk to Tricia as I was astonished to see your cage already built and looking pretty much exactly like what was in my mind! Best wishes….. Gary

      • Coco's Flock says:

        Northwest makes excellent cages. I spoke with them too about the cages, but because he drills everything by hand, the 1/8″ bar stock and the 1/2″ spacing elevated the price quite significantly. They’re beautiful and extremely well made, but ultimately went with EH because the price was better, even on a much larger cage. I’d bet a NW cage would be beautiful though! So glad to help 🙂

  • erika says:

    still looking at all your wonderful posts!! may I ask how much was this cage? I know stainless steel is quite pricey, but this truly seems like a perfect cage for budgies! and I have three I would like to spoil sometime in the future 🙂

    • Coco's Flock says:

      Thank you Erika 🙂 I don’t have the exact figure but it was just over $2,000. EH also runs wonderful specials (sometimes free shipping, which can be a few hundred dollars; sometimes 10% off). I still love this cage and think it was worth every penny!

  • Bilquis says:

    For some reason a I can not see the photos. Can you send them to me in my email. I would like a large cage with divider built for my 2 Caiques coming home after they are weaned. I like the idea of the wide band at the bottom to replace the skirt. I was going to do that anyway with plexiglass but I like that it can be added. I want big casters too. Is the feeding station internal or external? Thank you.

    • Coco's Flock says:

      Hi Bilquis, if you connect with me on Facebook (username Coco’s Flock), I can send you some photos. My photo host shut down my ability to link photos, unfortunately, which is why they don’t come up anymore. This cage doesn’t actually have a “feeding station,” but I attach stainless steel bowls and ring holders internally. Hope this helps!

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