February 1, 2014 § Leave a comment
Setting up a cage well is a real art. I find it very difficult to do, increasingly so the larger your bird is and the less space you have. Whenever I am visiting my mom’s house and have to change the setup of Lola’s temporary cage, the King’s aluminum cage, I always struggle with fixing it up nicely for her because it’s only 33 x 25. (I will admit, Sabrina is pretty easy to deal with because she has quite a bit of space and is so tiny.) But fixing up a cage for a medium to large bird is a totally different story!
Where do you start? In my opinion, the easiest place to start is with the food bowls. For many people, this is the most natural place to start because it is the one part of the cage of which they don’t control the placement, because they use feeder doors. I don’t use feeder doors with attached bowls, but I still think this is the best place to begin, simply because I know that I like to keep the food bowls relatively close to the side doors (in case I ever have to travel, I can have somebody else feed Lola safely), and you’ll know that wherever there is a food bowl, you’ll need at least one perch nearby. That always helps to get me started. I try to change whether they are directly on the door or near by it, level with it, a bit higher, or a bit lower, but mostly they are a relatively constant.
Once the food bowls are in place, you can start placing a few perches. You’ll need one near the bowl, obviously, and I tend to avoid putting perches above food bowls because then you increase the likelihood of clean food or water getting soiled. I did make an exception this time by putting a very wide platform perch above a food bowl because I think it’s wide enough that the bowl getting soiled is not a danger. I’m still testing it out, but hopefully it will work!
After a few perches have found their place, I find the other stuff tends to naturally follow. There are usually a few things we all like to keep in the cage– for Lola, for example, I like to use one cotton rope perch and at least one swing. So those usually go in next, and I try to configure everything so that each perch is reach-able from at least one other without having to climb the cage bars much. I also like to make sure there is a large variety of textures, sizes, and heights. I’ll always include several natural wood perches: some with bark, some without, some curvier, some harder, some softer; a pedicure perch; a platform or two; and a cotton perch. I don’t use dowels, ever– I know that some people feel they are “okay” as long as there are other choices, but why bother with just “okay” when you can do way better with natural wood? The uniformity of dowels simply isn’t comfortable or healthy for parrots’ feet. I know some people also like to have at least one perch that spans the length of width of the cage. I choose not to have one like this because I think it limits placement of other things, but that’s a personal preference.
Once I feel like there is a solid network of perches, that’s when toys and other accessories can get placed. I like to make sure there are a very good variety of toys– a single toy often falls into multiple categories, but I like to make sure that each of these core “functions” is fulfilled: noise-making, foraging, natural wood coins or chunky pine, snap-able wood beads, natural textures like coconut or vine. Some people also include snuggly toys or plastic toys depending on their birds’ preferences. Lola also adores her foot toys, so a good foot toy bucket is a necessity as well.
And that’s all there is to it! Now of course, easier said than done– and every time I rearrange the cage, I am constantly tweaking it for the next several days. That’s okay. Some setups are more successful than others, which is why I always take photos so that I can reinstate the “good” ones after cycling through a few others. This past week I did a new setup for Lola. It’s actually not one of my favorites and I have tweaked it several times since I took these original photos, but Lola really likes the perches I chose, so I’m only making minimal changes for now. Here’s what it looks like.
In my opinion it’s a bit busy, although I have spaced out and lowered some of the perches since taking this photo. Then again I’ve also added a few more toys, so not sure how it all comes out to balance.
On the left, there are two out of Lola’s three food bowls, both place on or near the side door. So that’s where I began with this setup. In between the two, I placed a curvy grapevine wood perch from the Birdsafe Store so that she could get between the two. On the left is a forked sandblasted manzanita perch from Things for Wings. On the right is a safety pumice perch, and in the front winding all over is her cotton rope perch. Up above, you’ll see the wide platform perch I was alluding to earlier.
I love this perch! Aside from the fact that I can put it above a food bowl because it blocks Lola from soiling it, she really adores it. It is made by Kris Porter but sold by Things for Wings and I highly recommend it. As you can see, Lola has already gone to town on it and has been stripping it away and smearing her blueberries on it, but she really enjoys being on it. I have been wrapping up little treats in unbleached cupcake liners and putting them in the foraging holes and she loves to look in each hole to see what surprises there may be.
Here’s the other side, where you’ll see the opposite end of the cotton rope perch snaking down. That perch was from the now-closed Grey Feather Toys and I am still upset about it. I still can’t find a cotton rope perch with a stainless steel interior that I like as much. On the right of it, you can barely make it out, but there is a cute little side-mounted foraging pot too hidden under the cork bark perch from I Got a Woody. That’s another little spot that Lola loves to check for treats. The cork bark perch at that funky angle proved to be a big hit with Lola, so it reprised its role in this setup. On the right of it is a lovely, chunky willow bark perch, also from Things for Wings. That funny looking pale colored perch near the top right is a new one for us; it’s the Nu Perch sold by the Parrot Wizard store. I’m always happy to see perches being made with stainless steel hardware so I thought I’d give this one a try as well. It’s interesting in that I assume it is made of a uniform dowel, but they actually cut it and shape it so that it is no longer uniform and is quite varied in shape and diameter. The result is a very nice looking perch that appears to be very comfortable and healthy for our parrots. Lola really likes hers so far, except that she has already taken a big chunk out of the end. Down below you’ll see a sandblasted manzanita corner perch (flanking a third food/water bowl), as well as a Manu mineral perch.
In the center back of the cage you’ll notice another awesome foraging perch, this one also from Things for Wings. I love this one: it’s also a platform, but it has lots of chunky willow bark on the bottom side for stripping, and there are several pod cups hanging below for more opportunities to hide treats! You’ve probably noticed by now a recurring theme in my cage setups– a multitude of places in which to hide treats. I love having dozens of different foraging opportunities for Lola because it keeps her busy. She will go around and check all of these hiding spots, multiple times a day, because she never knows where she might find something. This is such a great thing to do to keep your parrot active and stimulated, even while in the cage, especially if you work all day or if you have a perch potato. Encouraging Lola to forage is of the utmost importance to me for her physical and mental health.
Finally, you probably noticed this awesome swing front and center. It’s homemade! Well, sort of. The very cool, refillable stainless steel base is made by Scooter Z, an awesome chunky willow wood perch from Things for Wings, and fantastic pine wood pieces and cork-stuffed blocks from Mother Pluckin’ Bird Toys. Actually, my sister very kindly made this for Lola. She loves it and has been very busy chipping away at the wood pieces!
Other things included… there’s an awesome grapevines wood perch on the front door that Lola loves to perch on, as well as several toys from Things for Wings, I Got a Woody, Oliver’s Garden, Parrot’s Treasure, and more. You can be sure that the uglier ones are homemade by me. I have actually changed and added a few since posting these photos so there is a bit more variety now. I am also getting some new Avian Stainless toys so I am very excited about that!
So that’s how Lola’s cage is now, but it never stays in one iteration for too long. Just as how the seasons change in the wild, I like to change her cage often and keep her guessing. I change out toys weekly and perches every so often, and do a full cage restructuring every 2-4 months. 🙂 Hope this helps you set up your cages in an enriching and stimulating way as well!