How to Choose a Proper bird cage for your Parrot or Exotic Bird

Richard HorvitzAug 3, '18

The first thing to remember about choosing a cage is that you can never get an exotic bird cage that is too big.  It is possible, however, to get a parrot cage that has bar spacing too wide for that particular parrot species. Allow me to explain.   

  1. No such thing as a bird cage that is too big.

Keep in mind parrots are used to covering huge amounts of land each day, and must be stimulated if they are to be kept in a cage longer than the 10-12 hours of sleep they need to have every day.  The way to stimulate the bird in lieu of them flying around is to provide them with a great source of entertainment.  The best sources of entertainment while you are not around are toys and sounds.  Regarding toys, in order to have at least three toys, one swing, and some foot toys presented properly without crowding out he parrot it is critical that you acquire the largest cage possible for your bird.  The largest bird cage possible means the biggest overall size that you can fit in your house and fit in your budget.  Even though it is not possible to buy a cage too large, it is possible to buy a bird cage that is too small.  As a general rule, keep in mind that it is cruel to keep a bird in a bird cage where the parrot is unable to fully extend its wings without touch anything.  They need to stretch and flap their wings during the day, and their muscles will weaken and their attitudes towards you get worse if this stretching is prohibited by the size of the cage. 

  1. Observe the distance between the parrot’s eyes for proper bar spacing on an exotic bird cage

One thing different about exotic birds, as compared to humans, is that their eyes are located on the side of their heads (basically where our ears are).  If a parrot’s eyes are smaller than any particular opening, the general rule is the parrot, at some time in the near future, will in fact attempt to put its head through that opening to explore.  Therefore, it is critical that you compare the distance between the parrot’s eyes to the bar spacing of the exotic bird cage.  The bar spacing on an exotic bird cage ALWAYS needs to be less than the distance between the parrots eyes.  

If the bars on the bird cage are smaller than the distance between the parrot’s eyes, then the parrot will not be able to get injured, nor will the parrot be able to get out of the cage. 

However, if the bars on the bird cage are larger than the distance between the parrot’s eyes, then the parrot will try to get out of the cage.  Obviously, if the bars on the bird cage are really too wide, the bird will simply escape.  That event would be a problem, however, it is not as much of a problem than if the parrot attempts to go through the bars and gets its head stuck in the process.  What normally happens at this point is that the parrot will struggle, and its heart rate will increase until it exhausts itself to the point where it literally has a heart attack and dies.  We never like to hear these stories, but it is through these examples that we can make adaptations that permit us to save the lives of other parrots (like yours). 

Bird Cage Material, Construction, and Design

Exotic bird cages are available in many more different styles, colors, and materials than ever before.  Around ten years ago, the majority parrot cages were made of wrought iron, and were manufactured in Mexico.  Wrought iron parrot cages were basically a rough, black, unprotected metal cage.  If one so desired, they could spray paint the cage to protect their parrot from the metal getting into its system.  The metal would get into their system simply by moving around the cage using its beak.  As the parrot would move around, the small pieces of metal are removed from the cage, and ingested by the exotic bird.  Over time, it is believed that parrots were getting metal poisoning from these types of cages. 

Bird Cage Material: Powder Coated Cages

Today, the predominant material is powder coated steel.  The steel is given one electrical charge, the paint another, the magnetized paint powder is sprayed onto the oppositely charged steel cage body, the paint sticks to the cage, and the whole unit is placed into a big oven and baked.  Hence the phrase powder coated.  As long as the powder coating is in tact, the bird can not get metal poisoning from the cage.  (It is possible, however, to get poisoning from the hardware, if any, on the cage). 

Some exotic birds are very rough on cages, other parrots are not.  Once the powder coating is removed from the underlying steel cage by the parrot biting the cage repeatedly in one or several spots, it is possible for metal to be introduced into the parrot’s system.  So the powder coated cage is not the end all – you need to inspect the cage and spray paint over sections that are chipped off by the parrot. 

Powder coated cages are much easier to clean than their wrought iron counterparts, and they come in many colors.  A cage is, after all, a piece of furniture. 

Bird Cage Material: Wooden Cages

Most wooden cages are decorative, and do not have the elements necessary for easy cleaning and disinfecting.   Especially this is the case with finches, since when finches get mites you must remove all wood from the cage and clean all crevaces.

Bird Cage Material: Stainless Steel

Stainless Steel is absolutely the best material for bird cages.  It is easy to clean, not toxic to parrots, and they last for at least fifteen years if cared for properly.   As well, today one can find stainless steel cages for around 40% less than a few years ago, with many different manufacturers.  

Bird Cage Construction

When it comes to bird cage construction  and hardware, less is more.  That is, cages with less hardware are better for your parrot because the parrot has less hardware to remove and disassemble.  If hardware is being used, it is best to acquire a cage that has only the screw or bolt side exposed, and the nut portion hidden inside the cage tubing itself. 

As well, you need to look at how the cage bars are constructed.  Parrot cage bars that are threaded through drilled holes in the cage body make the cage more suseptable to rusting.  By drilling holes in a hollow tube to allow the cage bars through, you have a tube with a series of open holes that allow moisture in, but not out.  As a result, the bird cage will rust more rapidly than a bird cage that has welded on bar sections as opposed to drilled out tubes. 

Also look for swing out cups that the parrot can not remove once the cup door is closed.  With swing out doors, even people who may be a bit afraid to play with your parrot  will be able to change the food and water in your absence.  The fact that the parrot will  not be able remove the cup once the door is closed will save you time cleaning and money refilling flipped cups with food over and over again. 

Another important factor often overlooked in cage construction are not only the casters, but how the casters go into the bird cage.  There are two main types of casters:  rubber and plastic.  Normally cages on  rubber wheels do not move as easily as bird cages on plastic wheels.  Also, if  the parrot allowed to climb all over the outside of the cage (which I do not condone), then it can easily go to the floor and chew apart the rubber wheels.  My Blue and Gold Macaw has actually done this several times. 

There are two ways the casters attach to the bird cage:  plastic inserts, into which you press the actual wheel, or threaded wheels, which simply screw right into the cage legs.  The plastic inserts tend to dry out over time, get loose, and as a result the wheels tend to fall off every time you go to move your bird cage.  Threaded casters are much preferred, since they do not loosen with time.  A threaded, plastic caster is the best construction you can find. 

Bird Cage Design

There are two main types of bird cage design:  dometop, and playtop.  We usually recommend dometop cages.    

The reason is two-fold.  First, parrots breed in tree hollows, or enclosed nests.  Their cage is the closest thing they have to a nest.  As a result, when they are on top of their cage (read: nest), they tend to get protective of their territory.  Combine that fact with the odds that the bird is above your eye level and you have a potentially very aggressive parrot.   

Reason number 2, there is a certain “pecking order” with parrots.  When parrots are at or above your eye level (i.e., on your shoulder or their cage), they tend to get very aggressive.  Now this may not happen the first year or two, but I can almost guarantee you it will happen when they hit sexual maturity.  And at that point, you will have already trained your parrot to play on top of its cage and on your shoulder.  These are very difficult habits to break.  You are much better off by getting a separate playpen, only let your parrot go on your shoulder if you put them there AND they come back onto your hand with a command.  Then, you may, after they reach sexual maturity, experiment with them on top of the cage. 

Another thing to be aware of in bird cage design is bars that start far apart and end up coming together in a “V.”  This “V” is very dangerous, especially if the “V” is shaped just like the letter, with the point on the bottom.  Image what happens when a bird slides its nail down the cage into the “V” – that’s right, it gets stuck.  Bad idea for design, stay away from cages with any “V’s” in the cage bars or cage elements. 


If this article did not put you to sleep, you will now more likely know more about cages than your salesperson.  Good luck in getting the largest, safest cage for your beloved parrot. 

Richard Horvitz   

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