Pet birds need a large amount of equipment. Fortunately, most of it is easy to acquire. The main thing to be careful about is safety. In some ways, choosing equipment for your bird is like buying for a small child, and you need to ask yourself the same questions: Is there a choking hazard? Are the colours from safe dyes? What is this made of, and will it hurt Sunny if he swallows some of it?
YOUR BIRD NEEDS TWO CAGES
The main cage is where your bird will be spending the nights, and possibly most of his days, too. It needs to be big enough to spread and flap his wings. For finches, width is more important than height, because they fly across but not up. Parrots climb, so height is almost as useful as width for them. Choose a rectangular cage because it feels more secure to the bird, and be sure that the gaps between the bars are the right width for your bird’s species. Otherwise, a head or foot could be caught.
The second cage that is needed is a travelling cage, to allow you to take your bird to the vet and so on. It is also a safe haven to keep your bird in when cleaning the big cage.
PERCHES AND LADDERS
It would be ideal to have a variety of perches for your bird’s comfort. Most or all of them should be wide enough that the bird’s toes do not overlap around them. A minimum selection to start for most species, would be a natural-wood branch-type perch, a rope perch, a wooden ladder (a textured plastic one will do for small finches, but wood is better), and a swing.
Plain white vinegar diluted half-and-half with water is a good general-purpose cleaner for the cage and toys. Any mild dish soap is appropriate for the food and water containers. For really tough messes, and organic stains on the rugs, walls, furniture, and so on, an enzyme cleaner in a spray bottle will pay for itself many times over.
Plain white paper towel and a bottle brush are the only other cleaning equipment that should be needed. However, if you are ill or if you have a compromised immune system, rubber gloves and a face mask may be a wise precaution.
FOOD AND WATER DISHES
There are two main types dishes pet birds: the hopper and the bowl.
Hoppers that fit through the bars of the cage are a popular choice for budgies and canaries. They have the advantage of cutting down on evaporation, for water, and of cutting down on mess, for seeds and pellets. It is more difficult for a bird to hurt or drown himself with a hopper, which is why hoppers are used for less-intelligent farm fowl such as domestic turkeys. Some people even believe that their pets won’t foul the water with food or droppings if a hopper is used, but don’t be fooled. The hopper still needs to be cleaned every day.
A heavy ceramic or metal bowl is a perfect water dish for conures and similar birds that like to play with their food and dip their heads in their water. Yes, this makes a mess. And, yes, you’ll need to clean it every day. There are brackets which hold bowls on the inside sides of cages, to keep the water dish off the floor and to keep it from spilling. They also discourage your parrot from throwing the bowl around.
In warm weather, it’s a good idea to use both a hopper or two anda water bowl. You really can’t have too much water available for your bird, as long as it isn’t too deep.
Many birds enjoy ‘foraging toys’. These are puzzle toys that reward the bird with food. They have the advantage of mimicking the kind of work a wild bird would need to do, to find his food, and so they provide productive mental stimulation. Foraging toys are available in many sizes and levels of difficulty, geared to the many kinds of pet birds.
The food itself is worthy of an article on it’s own – check out our tips and advice for ensuring your bird gets the right food and nutrition.
A bird bath is also needed. If you bathe your bird in your bathroom, a shallow plastic basin can be ideal. There are commercial bird baths available for the many kinds of pet birds, if you prefer. A spray bottle with a ‘mist’ setting makes a nice shower for birds who enjoy that kind of thing: cockatiels and some finches.
TOYS, TOYS, TOYS
In addition to foraging toys, chew toys are important for the hook-billed birds. Destruction of wood and wood-like objects is very important to them, for showing off and for personal amusement. Toys made of wood, twisted paper, cardboard, and plastic are designed with different types of birds in mind.
If a bird’s natural habitat is in thick foliage, be sure that at least part of the cage has enough toys to hide in.
‘Preening’ toys are meant to be pecked at and groomed, in much the same way that some children like to play ‘hairdresser’ with a doll. In a similar vein, many birds like to have a warm cuddly toy to snuggle up against. Obviously, a canary’s snuggle toys will be smaller than a cockatoo’s.
ALL THE COMFORTS OF HOME
A good cage will be the biggest initial investment in your bird’s equipment, and you’ll find that replacing the toys will “add up.” However, it shouldn’t be hard to find all the right bits and pieces. What’s the next step? Check out the particular needs of your bird’s species, and make sure you’ve got everything covered.