Cage size has a direct impact on pet bird health and quality of life. This fact is well-recognized by experienced aviculturists…zoos in the American Zoo Association must adhere to strict exhibit size requirements for all species they maintain.
Oddly, smaller birds sometimes fare worse than larger species. Most people realize that large birds need large cages. They often assume, however, that finches and budgerigars can get by in tiny cages because they are “small”. But size is relative, and each bird’s particular lifestyle must be taken into consideration.
Actually, many of the tiniest finches are quite high strung and, having evolved in a world where even large spiders are potential predators, are stressed by limited quarters. Also, because they do not climb about as do parrots, most cannot use “as much” of their cages as can parrots, and need comparatively larger living quarters.
Cage Size and Health
Providing your bird with a larger cage is one of the most important steps that you can take in ensuring its good health. Although an expense in the short term, it usually pays off in terms of reduced health care costs.
It is important to bear in mind that “survival” does not indicate that a bird is healthy or enjoying an appropriate quality of life. Unsuitable living conditions are a primary source of stress in captive birds. Stress weakens the immune system, and can leave birds open to attack by microorganisms (i.e. Aspergillosus fungi) which are of little concern to properly-housed individuals.
Birds should be able to “stretch their wings” each day…ideally, their living quarters should be large enough to offer reasonable exercise opportunities. You will need to think carefully when deciding upon a cage purchase or upgrade…unfortunately, birds usually offer little indication of their needs in this area. And, no matter how smart your parrot is, he or she will not tell you that the cage is too small (but if it does, by all means let me know!)…so please write in with your questions.
Improving Life for Bird and Bird Owner
Larger cages allow our birds opportunities to explore and engage in natural behaviors. It is easier for us to hide food, add a variety of bird toys that encourage foraging behavior, alternate perches and otherwise improve their lives and add to our own pleasure in keeping them in our homes.
Training is also greatly simplified, as personalities usually improve when additional space is provided. A bird stressed by tight quarters is nearly impossible to interact with.
When it comes to reproduction, a comparatively large cage is a necessity for most species. Often, a move to larger quarters will actually stimulate breeding activity.
One caution … sometimes increased space, and the possibility of establishing a territory, leads to aggression among birds that co-existed in close quarters. I learned this when I gave a group of laughing jay thrushes access to larger quarters without monitoring the situation…two of the five were dead the next morning. Please write in if you feel this may be a concern in your collection.
Next time I’ll introduce a variety of caging options for those of you seeking to provide you birds with additional space. Until then, please write in with your questions and comments. Thanks, Frank Indiviglio.
You can read about the effect of cage size on finch behavior at http://www3.sympatico.ca/davehansen/finbehav.html.