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Choosing the Best Cage for Canaries, Finches and other Small Birds

While working as a bird keeper at the Bronx Zoo, I cared for a number of finches that are commonly kept as pets.  Early on, I was struck by the amazing differences in the behavior of the same species when kept in large exhibits as opposed to small cages.  Along with increased activity and interesting behaviors came good health and excellent breeding results.  While few pet owners can keep their birds in zoo-exhibit sized cages, many do not give enough thought to just how much space their finches and canaries need.  Perhaps because these birds “get by” in small cages, and rarely exhibit the problems that afflict space-deprived parrots, they are often denied spacious living quarters.  But, because of their physical make-up and lifestyle, finches are poorly suited for life in cramped quarters…even less so, in some ways, than are many parrots. Choosing the best cage for these small birds is essential for their well-being and it allows you to enjoy more natural behaviors.

Painted Firetail

Uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Jim Bendon


Finch and Canary Lifestyles

It’s important to bear in mind that canaries and other finches do not climb about on perches and cage bars as do parrots.  Flight space is a critical point in cage selection.  Also, finches are only rarely let out of their cages for exercise and interaction with owners.  The vast majority spend their lives in a cage…in many cases able to only hop a few inches from perch to perch, day in and day out.

Some finch and canary owners balk at the price of large flight cages.  It seems not to “make sense” to lay out large sums to provide for a relatively inexpensive pet.  Related to this is the fact that many people are drawn to Zebra Finches and certain others because of their low price.  Such people may be unwilling or unable to provide a proper home.  Please remember – a bird or other animal’s purchase price has absolutely no bearing on its needs.

Benefits of Large Cages

Along with a large cage’s higher price comes a host of benefits to both bird and bird-owner. Simply put, your birds will have more to do, and you’ll have more to see. Wild seed-eating birds spent most of their free time foraging for food.  Pets, on the other hand, can fulfill their needs in several minutes.  A large cage allows us to provide our birds with a variety of “behavioral enrichment” activities…hidden food, a variety of foraging toys, fruit tree branches and dead leaf piles to search through, and so on (please see linked articles, and post below, for further information).  One can also be more creative with perching when using larger cages…natural tree branches and vines are especially useful when seeking to arrange a more interesting living space.

If ample space is available, some finches can be kept in pairs or groups, and breeding will be more likely.  Shy species or individuals can be made more comfortable by the addition of hanging live or plastic plants and other sight barriers.  Providing a variety of nest sites, an option not possible in small cages, will also increase the likelihood of successful reproduction.  While most softbills are best kept in aviaries several, including the charming Red-Vented Bulbul (please see article below), adapt well to large indoor cages.

Some Useful Models

Some cages come with removable dividers so that separate living spaces can be created. This is especially important when one is introducing potential mates.  Other features include storage shelves, wheels, large doors and a variety of color options.

Red Throated Parrot Finch

uploaded to Wikipedia Commons by Trisha Shears

I like the A&E Flight Cage because it is unusually tall.  Height is appreciated by most finches, and is critical to success with shy, arboreal birds such as the Nonpareil or Pin-Tailed Parrot Finch.  Measuring 40 x 30 x 72 inches, this cage will be well-used by canaries and nearly all finches, and can accommodate hanging plants, vines and several nest boxes or bowls.

The A&E Double Flight Cage measures 64 x 21 x 65 inches, and is equipped with removable dividers, a storage shelf and wheels.

Measuring 32 x 21 x 74 inches, the A&E Double Stack Cage features 2 spacious cages, one atop the other, and a storage shelf.  It is equipped with wheels and available in 6 colors.



Further Reading

Keeping the Red-Vented Bulbul

Parrot Toys for Finches

Finch Care: Species Profiles

About Frank Indiviglio

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I believe that I was born with an intense interest in animals, as neither I nor any of my family can recall a time when I was not fascinated by creatures large and small. One might imagine this to be an unfortunate set of circumstances for a person born and raised in the Bronx, but, in actuality, quite the opposite was true. Most importantly, my family encouraged both my interest and the extensive menagerie that sprung from it. My mother and grandmother somehow found ways to cope with the skunks, flying squirrels, octopus, caimans and countless other odd creatures that routinely arrived un-announced at our front door. Assisting in hand-feeding hatchling praying mantises and in eradicating hoards of mosquitoes (I once thought I had discovered “fresh-water brine shrimp” and stocked my tanks with thousands of mosquito larvae!) became second nature to them. My mother went on to become a serious naturalist, and has helped thousands learn about wildlife in her 16 years as a volunteer at the Bronx Zoo. My grandfather actively conspired in my zoo-buildings efforts, regularly appearing with chipmunks, boa constrictors, turtles rescued from the Fulton Fish Market and, especially, unusual marine creatures. It was his passion for seahorses that led me to write a book about them years later. Thank you very much, for a complete biography of my experience click here.
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