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How do you choose a cage for your cockatiel?

How do you choose a cage for your cockatiel?

When selecting a cage for your cockatiel, make sure the bird has room to spread her wings without touching the cage sides. Her tail should not touch the cage bottom, nor should her crest brush the top. A cage that measures eighteen-byeighteen-by-twenty-four inches is the minimum size for a single cockatiel, and bigger is always better. If you are planning to keep a pair of birds, the cage should be at least twenty-four-by-twenty-four-by-forty inches.

Simply put, buy the largest cage you can afford because you don’t want your cockatiel to feel cramped. Remember, too, that any parrot is like a little airplane, which means she flies across an area, rather than a little helicopter hovering up and down. For this reason, long, rectangular cages that offer horizontal space for short flights are better than high, tall cages that don’t provide much flying room.

Wire Cages

Chances are you’ll select a wire cage for your cockatiel. Some cages are sold as part of a cockatiel start-up kit, while others are sold separately. Discuss your options with the salesperson at your local pet supply store. Find out what advantages there are to purchasing a complete kit. Regardless of whether it’s part of you choose before making your final selection. Make sure the finish is not chipped, bubbled, or peeling, because your pet may find the spot and continue removing the finish, which can cause a cage to look old and worn before its time. Also, your
bird could become ill if she ingests any of the finish.

Reject any cages that have sharp interior wires or wide spaces between the bars. (Recommended bar spacing for cockatiels is about half an inch.) Sharp wires could poke your bird, she could become caught between bars that are slightly wider than recommended, or she could escape through widely spaced bars. Finally, make sure the cage you choose has some horizontal bars in it so your cockatiel can climb the cage walls easily for exercise.

Cage Door Options

Once you’ve checked the bar spacing and the overall cage quality, your next concern should be the cage door. Does it open easily for you, yet remain secure enough to keep your bird in her cage when you close the door? Will your bird’s food bowl or a bowl of bath water fit through it easily? Is it long and wide enough for you to get your hand in and out of the cage comfortably—with the bird perched on your finger? (Remember, cockatiels have high crests and long tails!)

Does the door open up, down, or to the side? Some bird owners like their pets to have a play porch on a door that opens out and down, drawbridge style, while others are happy with doors that open to the side. Watch out for guillotine-style doors that slide up and over the cage entrance, because some cockatiels have suffered a broken leg when the door dropped on them unexpectedly.

Finally, check the floor of the cage you’ve chosen. Does it have a grille that will keep your bird out of the debris that falls to the bottom of the cage, such as feces, seed hulls, molted feathers, and discarded food? To ensure your cockatiel’s long-term health, it’s best to have a grille between your curious pet and the remains in the cage tray. It’s also easier to keep your cockatiel in her cage while you’re cleaning the cage tray if there’s a grille between the cage and the tray.

What About Acrylic Cages?

Birdcages are traditionally made of metal wire, but you may see acrylic cages in magazine advertisements or at your local pet store. These cages are better at containing seed hulls, loose feathers, and other debris your bird creates, which may make birdkeeping easier and more enjoyable for you. Although it sounds like a sales pitch, I can attest to the fact that acrylic cages clean up easily by wiping inside and out with a damp towel and regularly changing the paper in the tray that slides under the cage itself.

If you choose an acrylic cage for your pet, make sure it has numerous ventilation holes drilled in its walls to allow for adequate air circulation. Be particularly careful about not leaving your cockatiel in direct sunlight if you house her in an acrylic cage, because these cages can get warm rather quickly and your bird could become overheated. (Cockatiels in wire cages shouldn’t be left in direct sunlight either, as they can also overheat.) If you select an acrylic cage for your cockatiel, make sure to include a couple of ladders between the perches to give your pet climbing opportunities she won’t be able to take advantage of on the smooth sides of an acrylic cage.

Caution: No Bamboo

If you find wooden or bamboo cages during your shopping excursions, reject them immediately. A busy cockatiel beak will make short work of a wooden or bamboo cage, and you’ll be left with the problem of finding a new home for your pet! These cages are designed for finches and other songbirds, who are less likely than a cockatiel to chew on their homes.

The Cage Cover

One important, but sometimes overlooked, accessory is the cage cover. Be sure you have something to cover your cockatiel’s cage with when it’s time to put your bird to sleep each night. The act of covering the cage seems to calm many pet birds and convince them that it’s really time to go to bed, despite the sounds of an active family evening in the background.

You can purchase a cage cover or you can use an old sheet, blanket, or towel that is clean and free of holes. Be aware that some birds like to chew on their cage covers through the cage bars. If your bird does this, replace the cover when it becomes too tattered to do its job effectively. Replacing a well-chewed cover will also help keep your bird from becoming entangled in the cover or caught in a ragged clump of threads. Some birds have injured themselves quite severely by being caught in a chewed cage cover, so help keep your pet safe from this hazard.

Cockatiels may also benefit from a night-light left on for them at bedtime. Some cockatiels are prone to night frights, in which they thrash around the cage and can injure themselves quite seriously. Having a low-wattage light on helps these birds find their way around the cage at night, which may make them less prone to being startled.

Cage Considerations

Your cockatiel will spend much of her time in her cage, so make this environment as stimulating, safe, and comfortable as possible. Keep the following things in mind when choosing a cage for your cockatiel.
• Make sure the cage is big enough. The dimensions of the cage (height, width, and depth) should add up to at least
sixty inches for a single bird.
• An acrylic cage may be easier to clean up. Wood or bamboo cages will be quickly destroyed by an eager cockatiel’s beak.
• Make sure the cage door opens easily and stays securely open and closed. Avoid guillotine-style doors.
• The cage tray should be a regular shape and easy to slide in and out. There should be a grille below the cage floor so you can change the substrate without worrying about the bird escaping.


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