Follow up on the latest trends in bird cages
By Rose Gordon
Like the colossal McMansions dotting suburban landscapes throughout the United States, bird cages have gotten bigger in the last decade, even the last five years. Avian-only stores applaud this trend in bird cages. “Best size for your bird? There’s no limit as to how big,” said Richard Horvitz, president of Golden Cockatoo in Florida. “A cage can never be too big, but bar spacing can be too wide,” he added.
Kathy Lance, co-owner of Bird Paradise in New Jersey, agrees. “Being owned by a companion parrot is an everyday responsibility, and in that regard, we need to provide optimal housing appropriate for a particular species,” she said. “Optimal is in, minimal is out.”
Going large isn’t just for the big birds. “Years ago, wrought iron was really only for larger size birds,” said Todd Marcus Birds Exotic’s in New Jersey. “What we’ve really seen a lot of is more smaller wrought iron cages for cockatiels, conures, etc.”
Consumers demanding larger bird cages continue to fuel the go-large trend in bird cages. “Parrot owners are much more educated than 20 years ago,” Jack Lance, co-owner of Bird Paradise, said. “Based on that evolution in education, cages have definitely increased in size.”
“Many people are buying the right cage for their bird rather than putting their Amazon in a small round cage hanging from the ceiling,” added Meghan Barrette, manager of Bird House of Montague in Florida.
Pet bird stores endorse this turnaround. If it comes down to price, Ira Hertz, of Bird Jungle in New York, recommends his customers still size up but with a more economic model. “I encourage size over construction,” he said. To encourage them, he frequently offers a discount on cages to new bird owners.
Frugal New England shoppers at Allen Fox’s Bird Supply of New Hampshire frequently buy bird cages based on price. “Cost is probably the first thing people look at,” he said. Fox encourages them to look for a well-made bird cage that might cost more but will last longer.
On the other hand, HGTV devotees and others who have invested extra dollars in their homes might want to spend more on their birds’ homes. “People are getting more décor conscious,” Horvitz said. After choosing a particular sized bird cage, his customers look for style first, color next and then price.
“They want it to fit into their living room décor,” said David Lombard of the Bird Farm in Ohio. To fit their homes’ interior design, many bird cage buyers make the color and style of the bird cage a priority. “We sell a lot of white,” Lombard said.
Martha Stewart wannabes appreciate the move toward beautification.
“A cage no longer has to be a big ugly cube that is awkwardly placed in your home,” said James Fernandez, avian specialist at Bird House of Montague in Florida. “It can now look good.”
Looking good has led to an array of color options, Victorian styling and bird cages that look more like a piece of furniture than a small animal housing option.
In Florida, where half-a-million-dollar condos have become the norm, Alfredo Ona, of Simbad’s Bird House in Miami, thinks that many pet bird owners are willing to spend a little extra. “I don’t think price will be an objection if the quality and construction are good,” said Ona who has been in the exotic bird business since the early 1980s.
Others agree. “People are more willing to spend the money to get quality,” Joseph Bornheimer of The Parrot’s Cove in Texas added. “They’re a little more cautious with rising gas prices,” he added, but this could be a good trend if it causes them to “investigate” their choice more.
Like today’s car manufacturers, bird cage designers are piling on the options to fit people’s changing lifestyles. Pat Riddle, co-owner of Parrotville Bird Shop in Ohio, has been in business since 1987, and she remembers when cage selection consisted of a wrought iron cage built for macaws, “black, of course,” she said. Now, “everyone wants seedguards,” she said.
Today’s bird cage add-ons include extra feeders — three or four is becoming standard, says Bornheimer — seedguards, clear doors, multiple entry points, locks, built-in cabinets and embedded or zero hardware.
“Customers are loving it,” Barrette said. “It’s like adding an MP3 player and heated seats to a car. It’s the little things that make all the difference.”
Not all retailers are carrying bird cages with acrylic or see-through doors, but those that were liked it a whole lot.
“Cages with all acrylic fronts make for an all new experience of admiring birds,” said Fernandez. “Bars give the feeling of imprisonment. With the acrylic there is an illusion of no barrier.”
This addition also keeps the dust and mess level down, according to Lombard.
Bird cage exteriors are also morphing into something less predicable and something more easily arranged in a home.
“The biggest change we’ve seen is the design and creativity of cages,” said Marcus. “The square flat top is a thing of the past.” The latest offerings include split-level cages, cages side-by-side with a center divider and playtops or domes that open, he said.
Once popular only with retailers trying to maximize floor space or bird breeders doing the same, bird cages that stack one on top of the other have received renewed attention in the last few years. Multiple-bird households seem to particularly appreciate these space savers. “Stackable cages are nice for bird lovers who are short on space, but have more than one bird,” Marcus added.
Lombard noted that his customers buy the stackable cages for their RVs or summer homes, and Ona finds the stackable bird cages popular as a sort of “second home” or second bird cage. His customers accustomed to Florida’s weather use these as outdoor bird cages or a get-out-of-dodge quick option when hurricanes strike.
Like many products sold in the United States, bird cages once made here were shifted to Mexico’s assembly lines for a short time and later to China where most bird cages are manufactured today. A select few are assembled in Europe and the United States.
“Years ago, Mexico had the market on bird cages,” said Jack Lance. “Over the past 10 to 15 years, however, competition has placed Mexico in the lower percentage as it relates to cages. American-made cages are, unfortunately, in the lowest percentage bracket.” Lance said that China has about 96 percent of the bird cage manufacturing market.
Retailers differ as to whether this global volleyball game with bird cage manufacturing is good for the consumer and the bird. “Just because they’re made in China doesn’t mean they’re bad,” said Fox. “I think the quality is more what the manufacturer demands.”
“I’ve seen an improvement in the quality of cages,” Bornheimer said. Cages have better paint, better casters, stronger feeders,” he said.
Ona disagrees. China-made bird cages have “gotten better and better,” he said, but he believes steel quality has decreased. The cheaper price means thinner steel and less durability, he said. He prefers European or U.S.-made cages, although the cost is prohibitive for some. He wishes cage manufacturing would return to the States.
“Economically, consumers can’t afford to buy cages made in America,” Martin said. “Cages from China are now much better quality. We really find cages made in Europe to be one of the best.”
Overall, the bird cages selling fastest at avian-only stores are economical, powder-coated wrought-iron, stylish and include the latest options, such as extra dishes/crocks, playtops or open dometops and seedguards. “In the general scheme of things, customers, as well as stores, want a durable, nice looking, safe and moderately inexpensive cage,” said Martin.
Still, there’s room for improvement say many retailers. More options for their savvy customers are especially important. “I personally would like to see more colors,” Barrette said.
“Built-in recyclable feeders would increase the creature comforts of being owned by a bird,” said Kathy Lance. “as well as removable acrylic panels which cover bars on the sides and back of cages to minimize the mess which some birds can make.”
Keeping it clean also tops retailers’ criteria when choosing a bird cage. “I’d also like to see less nooks and crannies where food and feces can get lost,” Barrette said.
The longer we live with pet birds, the more we figure out what they’re capable of, so cage safety standards constantly evolve as well. “I’d also like to see a conscious effort on behalf of the designers to make the locks on larger cages more efficient,” Barrette said. “Too many customers say that their birds are getting out of the cages, because they’ve figured out the locks.”
“I’d like to see the manufacturers stop supplying dowel [in the cage],” said Fox. More natural perches would be ideal, he added. Others echoed this sentiment.
And don’t forget the small birds, say retailers. “There needs to be more creativity for flight cages,” Lance said. “Flight cages tend to be very basic and boxy. Finches and canaries seem to be left out of the thought process when it comes to designing aesthetically pleasing cages.”
Choose The Right Cage
For the pet bird owner, all of these options might be overwhelming, but retailers are ready to offer their expertise.
“I think construction depends on the bird and owner,” Martin said. “I have several birds at home and each of them are different and require different setups. If my cockatoo were in a cage with bolts, she’d more than likely unscrew them and rebuild — like MacGyver. My red belly would be petrified in an acrylic cage, but my sun conure would love it. Different choices are a good thing, but not all birds are created equal.”
Gordon, Rose. "Bird Cage Trends - Page 2." Pet Birds, Parrots, Parakeets, Cockatiels, Canaries and Finches Care, Tips and Information. Web. 20 Oct. 2011. http://www.birdchannel.com/bird-housing/bird-cages/bird-cage-trends-2.aspx
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