Mitch mentioned something to me the other day that I had never given any thought to the cage canopy. I had more or less arranged toys in the top part of the cage, from instinct I suppose, but never knew why I did it or thought that others might not do exactly the same.
In the wild, parrots and other types of flighted birds (as opposed to emus and ostriches (that can’t fly) spend a lot of time foraging, often on the ground. All the rest of their time is spent in the upper branches of trees.
This provides the best cover from predators by preventing the things that want to eat birds from easily spotting them while the rustling of leaves alerts the birds to the presence of some creature in time to make every effort to escape the danger. The birds play, sleep and nest for the most part in the top one-third of the tree canopy.
Instincts from the wild carry over in our companion birds, no matter how many generations it has been since their ancestors saw the rainforest canopy. In their houses (my term for cages) they will go down onto the bottom of the cage to eat if their food source is placed low in the cage, to forage for dropped food, or if they are ill. Otherwise, companion birds still mostly stay in the top one-third of the cage when inside their houses.
Healthy companion parrots like to sleep on the top-most perch in a corner for security and to have less space to protect. If they sleep in a birdie bed, they want it to be as near the roof of the home as possible. They want toys in the upper reaches of the cage to play with while feeling as safe as possible; it’s just their nature.
When arranging a cage, place a perch or perches to provide easy access to the food and water service. Add perches at spaces moving up the cage, space so the bird has room to move easily toward the upper portion of the cage. A chain bridge or ladder can also be great for this purpose because these require minimal space.
On one side of the upper part of the cage, place a perch and arrange a “wall” of toys between the bird and the main part of the cage. This creates a privacy wall when the bird wants to hide for a little nap or quiet time alone. It also acts as a busy play station when the bird wants to play or forage.
This way the bird can come out of its hiding place to play with other toys in the more open space or hide, whatever mood it feels. Unless it is an emergency, do not invade the bird’s safe hiding spot. Leave this as the bird’s equivalent of your bedroom, a place you go for quiet time where you do not expect to be disturbed unnecessarily
If your bird has a birdie bed, it should be hung on the other side of the cage with an easy entrance perch. When the bird is in its bed, respect its rest time and do not disturb it, whether it is having a daytime nap or has gone in for the evening.
The rest of the top third of the cage should have toys, perches and swings interspersed around near the sides but not so close together or in mid-cage that the bird will hit its head moving around. Lots of toys are wonderful but an overcrowded cage where the bird has no space at all in which to spread its wings is not well arranged.
Remember to place foraging toys and puzzle toys in the arrangement so your bird will forage for food and keep its mind busy when it is confined to the cage while you are not home. Bell toys allow the bird to make noise and swings allow it to feel much like it is sitting in the breeze on a tree link. Preening toys should be interspersed with other toys to prevent the potential for over-grooming.
In the middle third of the cage, place a nice sturdy perch that is quite long or even as wide as the cage so the bird has an open space with a perch it can hold onto while flapping its wings for exercise. The cage should be wide enough to fully spread both wings at once and the open space should be tall enough to allow the wings to fully flap up and down without hitting any toys or other objects.
The perches you choose should be of various textures. Grooming perches are important so that your bird can do most or all of its nail and beak grooming itself, preventing the need to capture the bird for a pedicure — something almost no bird likes. I did know a cockatoo once that would hold its foot up while it patiently had its nails filed, but that is a rarity.
Concrete, mineral, java wood, manzanita and all types of perches should be included so your bird will have healthy feet. Be sure the diameter of the perches is correct for your species so that your bird will not develop arthritis or other foot ailments but also have some that have slight differences in diameter to rest the feet– after all a bird is on its feet 24/7/365 for all its life.
Your bird will likely choose one toy as it’s very favorite. That toy should not be moved except for cleaning and then it should be replaced in the same spot. But all the other toys should be rotated in their locations, changed for new ones, old ones added back in the mix so that the bird does not become bored.
A toy that has been out of the cage for a couple of months is just like getting a new toy for the bird. Always be adding new toys because the oldest ones will wear out and the parts can be saved until you have enough to make another DIY toy for your bird.
All parts of the cage canopy — top, middle and bottom thirds — should be checked for safety. Look for fraying toys that could catch a toe or entangle the head or wing. If it can safely be trimmed, trim the offending hazard. If that does not seem to make it fully safe, remove the toy and add it to the toy parts box.
Make your parrot’s cage as much like its natural environment as possible by using the cage canopy concept for your bird’s comfort and happiness. A little thought can turn a cage into an environment that is a real home for your bird.
written by Nora Caterino
approved by Mitch Rezman
approved by Catherine Tobsing