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Wings 'n Things on PetLifeRadio.comSusan Chamberlain, host of Wings 'n Things

Susan Chamberlain
Bird Expert, Author & Columnist

Gimme Shelter...
Cages and Accessories to Rock Your Bird's World

We'll explore the basic necessities you need for your bird's home tweet home, from cages to dishes and play stands. During this segment we'll even get specific about bar spacing and cage size for different species. Caiques are like little clowns in bird suits! Learn about this lively, sassy species from South America in our Species Spotlight segment.

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Female Announcer:   So why do seagulls live near the sea?  Because if they lived near the bay, they’d be bagels!                                   
(Laughter and applause)
Female Announcer:     Welcome to Wings and Things where you’ll find real answers to real  questions about everything you want to know about pet birds,  care, feeding,  bird products , travel , and more:  everything to make your frequent flyer a happy camper.   From parrots to parakeets, cockateels to cockatoos, you’ll  have a bird’s eye view of everything there is to know about your fun feathered friends.  So spread your wings, and get ready to fly  with your Wings and Things host:   bird expert and author-- Susan Chamberlain.
Susan Chamberlain:    Welcome to PetLifeRadio.  This is Wings and Things, and  I’m your host Susan Chamberlain.  During this segment our topic is “Gimme Shelter: Cages and Accessories to Rock Your Bird’s World”.
Bird cages have seen many incarnations through the ages.  They’ve been plain, utilitarian boxes designed simply to prevent the occupant from escaping,  ornate jewel-encrusted palaces fabricated for status symbol pets, and Victorian wonders engineered and built for discriminating collectors.  The more elaborate cages weren’t very practical, and the practical ones weren’t very attractive.   It didn’t seem to matter much until the exotic bird hobby began to grow.
 In the late 1970’s, stores specializing in tame pet birds began to appear in metropolitan areas.   Captivated by the birds’ antics and friendly personalities,  people began to buy parrots, cockatoos, and macaws in increasing numbers.  Cockateels, budgies, and other small birds rode the tail feathers of their larger cousins to even greater popularity.  Most birds went home with new cages.   And then the fun really began!
 With the exception of flight cages designed for budgees and canaries, many of the bird homes on the market were unsuited to avian habitation.  Intricate scrollwork on some decorative models proved impossible to clean, and birds sometimes got their heads and limbs caught in the curves and curly q’s.   Cages for large birds were either difficult to find, had to be custom-made, or were of questionable origin.  Cages manufactured in developing countries often contained paint or welds tainted with lead or other harmful compounds. 
Basic square box-style cages for medium-size parrots were available, however.  Quality varied according to brand, but at least people had something in which to transport  their birds to their homes and for them to live in for awhile.   Then, something interesting began to happen. 
People began to complain about the mess emanating from their bird’s cages.  They complained when they discovered that the cages themselves were difficult to clean.  It quickly became apparent that large cages required casters so they could be moved for cleaning and convenience.   People realized that birds required space, comfort, and sanitary surroundings, and they began to demand that new bird homes meet the requirements of both owner and pet.  They also wanted something attractive.  
In their quest for better bird cage, many owners became designers and manufacturers.  It was the dawning of a cage renainssance!  Today, the sky’s the limit for great bird cages and accessories.  Durable, functional,  safe, and yes, even beautiful bird and owner friendly avian accouterments are readily available.   Following are some hints to insure the satisfaction of both you and your bird:
 Make it home tweet home.  Your bird’s cage is more than a container to thwart escape.  It is his safe haven within your home.  He’ll play, sleep, eat, and perhaps even raise a family inside that cage.  A suitable cage will protect your bird from other family pets and inquisitive children.  Confine him safely inside the cage when you’re performing  dangerous- to-birds-household chores like cooking or when you must open exterior doors.   Birds are quite territorial and often become very possessive of their cages.   This is a natural behavior.   In the wild, birds guard their nests and even their trees from invasion by predators and other birds.
 At night, your bird’s cage becomes his nest or roost.  He’ll feel safe enough inside to relax and sleep.   Covering the cage in the evening can also add to his feeling of security. 
Most birds adapt readily to their new cages.  Set up and furnish the cage with toys and accessories prior to move-in day. If your bird seems apprehensive, allow him to observe this new enviroment for a day or two before you attempt to move him in.  Permit him to play on top of the new cage if possible.    He may then be curious enough to investigate the interior on his own.  Some species seem to adapt more readliy than others.  My four Amazons will barrel right into any new cage and never look back.  While it took my African grey, Burt, two weeks to garner the gumption to enter his new home. 
Size counts.  Purchase the largest cage you can afford and accomodate in your home.  The first cage a new bird owner buys often ends up being used as the bird’s travel cage.  Not that that’s a bad thing.  At the very least, the bird must have sufficient room to fully extend and flap her wings without coming into contact with cage bars.  Long-tailed birds like macaws and  conures and Asian parakeets require cages tall enough to accomodate their tails comfortably, and small flighted birds like finches, budgies and canaries must be provided with  homes that permit them to fly to and fro.  When judging cage size, do allow for the addition of toys, extra perches, and dishes,  a swing or a ladder, and other accessories.   
When choosing a large cage, consider your own living arrangements.  Measure  your doorways to be sure the cage can be moved through them.  Opt for a knocked down or disassembled cage rather than a welded model  if your doorways will not accomodate a single-unit welded cage.   Always assemble a large cage in the room where it is to be used.  It may not fit through the entrance otherwise. 
I learned this the hard way when I lived in Florida and I was assembling a cage.  I wanted to bring it out onto my porch.  I mean, this was a really big cage, and I had  nice big wide sliding glass doors.  So, my friend Sandy and I put this cage together in my living room.  And then, we uprighted the cage, and hey, it was too tall to get it through those doors!  So, here we are with this big huge cage.  We’re trying to get it through the doors, the cage is tipping over on us.  Luckily, my neighbor knocked on the door, and he helped us with it.  But, you know,  we had to lie it on its side and roll it out that way.  So, had we assembled it on the porch to begin with, we wouldn’t have had the problem.  But you may not be lucky enough to have a neighbor knock on your door at exactly the right time, so assemble that cage where you’re going to be using it.
Some suggested minimum cage dimensions are:  for budgies,  14” long by 14” high by 14” deep, or if you are using a round cage,  at least 13” in diameter.    Several small birds housed together will require a larger cage.  Small flighted birds such as finches and canaries require cages 24”-36” long by 20” high by 18” deep.  A single bird can be housed in a somewhat smaller cage.
Small conures, lovebirds, cockateels, and birds of similar size require cages approximately 16” long by 24” high by 16” deep.  Amazon parrots, African Greys, and small cockatoos housed singly need cages 20” long by 29” high by 20” deep. 
Large cockatoos and macaws, well, here’s it’s really the bigger the better: a  4’wide cage by  48” high by 28”-30” deep  is the minimum comfort zone for such a large bird. 
Please note that all dimensions are approximate.  An inch or two either way isn’t going to make a huge difference in your bird’s comfort, and if your bird is permitted out of the cage for a great deal of the time,  then maybe you can use a somewhat smaller cage.  But if you’re at work for nine hours a day and your bird only sees you for one or two hours a day, I would opt for a larger cage, so your bird has plenty of opportunity for exercise inside its cage. 
Bar spacing and strength are other considerations.  Cage bars must be close enough together so the birds cannot stick their heads between them.  Bars must be non-convergent to reduce the risk of trapping toes and limbs.  While small birds can be safely housed in wire cages,  medium and large-sized hooked bills require cages with adequately  welded steel or wrought iron bars.  Stainless steel seems to be the new black where bird cages are concerned.   It’s a great metal  and is used to fabricate bird cages that you don’t have to worry about rusting.  You can clean them very effectively.  They’re very modern, very attractive, and they won’t corrode. 
Ideally, the cage should feature some horizontal bars or supports to facilitate climbing.  Bar spacing recomendations for budgies, finches, parrotlets, canaries, and lovebirds would be 3/8th to 7/16th of an inch.  Cockateels, small conures, and other small parrot-types can be safely housed in cages with ½ to ¾ inch bar spacing.  Amazon parrots, small cockatoos, African Greys, Pionus parrots, Eccletus parrots, Ring Necked parakeets, and birds of similar size require cages with spacing no more than ¾ of an inch to 1 inch wide.  Macaws, large cockatoos, some large Amazons, and Eccletus parrots can be housed in cages with ¾ inch to 1 ½ inch bar spacing. 
We’re going to pause for just a moment for a break and we’ll be right back and talk about the finish line.  The different finishes on the modern bird cage.  So, we’ll be right back with Wings and Things.
Woman Announcer:  Sitting on a branch overlooking the parking lot, the pidgeons watched as a Mercedes pulled in below them.  “What do you think?” one bird said to the other.  “Shall we put a deposit on that car?”
(Laughter and Applause)
Woman Announcer:  Stay perched.  Wings and Things will be soaring back right after these messages. 
(Music and jungle sounds)
Man Announcer:  Thinking about buying a monkey, how bout a ferret, or a skunk?  Then check out the show that will answer the burning questions:  Where do you get them?  What do you feed them? How do you take care of them? And most of all, what were you thinking?  With exotic pet expert and author—Bob Tart.  Every day on demand from
Man Announcer #2:  Pets are part of the family and when traveling with your dog, there’s only one magazine to include when packing your doggies duffel bag, and that’s Fido Friendly. [Bark] The travel and lifestyle magazine for you and your dog.  Each bi-monthly issue includes hotels, the instate reviews, and doggy destinations to explore with your furry companion.  Fido Friendly magazine can be found at Borders, Barnes & Noble, Petsmart, Pet Boutiques, and Fido Friendly hotels nation-wide.  Or you can go online to subscribe at: www.  So get traveling with your pet today and leave no dog behind.  And remember, Fido Friendly’s the only magazine dedicated to the travel lifestyle of man’s best friend, and the one magazine your dog will thank you for.  [Bark Bark] (Music)
Man Announcer:  Let’s talk pets at PetLifeRadio.Com
Woman Announcer: A Frenchman walks into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder.  The bartender asks, “Where did you get that thing?”  The parrot replies:  “In France. There are millions of em.”
(Laughter and applause.)
Woman Announcer:   Don’t have a canary.  Wings and Things is back with more great words on birds with your host, Susan Chamberlain.
Susan Chamberlain:  Welcome back to Wings and Things.  I’m your host Susan Chamberlain, and we’re continuing with “Cages and Accessories to Rock Your Bird’s World.”  Down to the finish line.
If your bird does not actually chew on the cage bars or splash great quantities of water about, a quality cage finish will be quite durable.  With the exception of stainless steel, metal is subject to rust, discoloration, and corrosion.  The severity of the deterioration depends on the climate, the habits of the cages occupant, and the mantainance provided bv the bird’s caretaker.  That would be you. 
Painted or powder-coat (that’s a special durable paint process) surfaces may eventually chip, flake, or stain.  Some nicks and scatches are normal.  Birds do use their beaks to climb.  You can extend the life of the finish on most cages by cleaning the bars regularly with non-abrasive, non-toxic products and by wiping away water and other bird-flung debris. 
Never, ever use metal polish on a bird cage as the ingredients may be poisonous to your pet.  Do not purchase cages fabricated of dusty, dull bluish-looking bare metal wire as zinc which is toxic may be present in that metal.  Purchase cages only from reputable sources and ask for written quality assurances. 
Rock on with Style!  Cages for the new millenium are as stylish as they are practical.  Color is big news with hues available to suit almost any home decor.  Rectangular, round, oval, and house-shaped cages are available as are small replicas of Victorian homes.  Enjoy the variety, but make your ultimate choice based on practical considerations.  Forgo cages marketed as decorative by non-pet related retailers.  These are for the most part unsuitable and unsafe for pet birds. 
Look for the following features in your bird’s new home:  a large entry door to allow easy access to your bird and to faciliate cleaning inside the cage; a pull-out bottom tray for easy cleaning.  (Use newspaper or pre-cut paper liners inside the tray); a bottom grating to keep birds out of droppings and debris and to discourage paper shredding; a rigid apron or seed guard to direct bird-generated mess back into the cage tray instead of onto your floor; out-side access feeders to reduce risk of escape and bird bites. (These are especially important when a bird-sitter may be caring for your pet.  A sufficient number of feeders—at least three of them. One for water, one for seed or pellets, and one for fresh  fruit, vegetables, and other “people” food.); a secure door and feeder port fasterners to escape port and dish dumping are very important; and a handle for carrying small cages;  casters or wheels so large cages can be moved.
Look for a cabinet or a shelf beneath the cage so that you can store the cage cover and accessories underneath.  A cage top gym or play-area is very helpful if your bird will love to climb around up there.  And if you’re planning to attempt breeding birds, an opening for the nest box is important. 
Welcome to the neighborhood!  Locate your bird’s cage where he or she can observe household activities, but not in the middle of a maelstrom.  Place the bird’s home away from sources of extreme temperature fluctuations such as near exterior doors, in the kitchen, in front of a window, or next to a radiator.  Keep the cage out of beak reach of house plants, other pets, electric cords, and forbidden foods.  Unless some shade is available, do not locate the cage in direct sunlight.  Overheating or out-of- season molting may result if the bird is unable to seek shade. 
Accessorize!  Don’f forget the accessories.  Eat to the beat!  Part of the fun of setting up your bird’s home is furnishing it with all those neat accessories you’ve seen at the pet shop. 
An extra set of dishes is almost a necessity!  You’ll need at least three dishes:  one for seed and or pellets, one for water, and another for fresh foods.  It may be difficult to replace the original dishes if you need them later, some substitutes may not fit into the holders on your cage, so buy dishes when you get the cage.  Extra dishes are convenient too.  You can immediately replace soiled dishes with clean refilled ones.  The feeder ports will never be empty, and you can wash the used dishes at your leisure.
Dishes are available in a variety of sizes, styles, and materials.  Stainless steel and high-impact plastics are available in perch or bar-mounted sizes.  Ceramic crocks may fit into recepticles built into the cage, or set them on the bottom of the cage for convenience.  Locate them out of bombing range, and be sure that they are heavy enough to bear the weights of the birds that may perch on the edges.
Is your bird a water sprite?  Does her persist in bathing in his water dish or making bacteria soup by dunking his food in the water?  A drinking water bottle will provide your bird with clean water twenty-four hours a day.  Most birds learn to drink from bottles very quickly.  Check the bottle frequently to be sure your mischievous pet hasn’t clogged the nozzle with seeds or drained the bottle for a shower.  Do clean those nozzles and bottles reguarly with a bottle brush.  And change the water every twenty-four hours.  You can also boil those nozzles for a  few minutes just to make sure that they have been sterilized. 
Thwart fruit flingers!  (Say that fast three times... Thwart fruit flingers.  I can’t even say it twice!!) And tempt finicky birds by using rod-style feeders for dispensing fruit and vegetables.  These kabob-style accessories are available in sizes to suit small to large birds, and they require birds to actually work for their food.  Budgies and other small birds enjoy gnawing on chunks of firm fruit and vegetables.  Clip the produce to cage bars using plastic or metal clips manufactured for this purpose.  The clips may also be used to hold pieces of cuttlebone, millet, and other small avian treats. 
Dancing Feet?  Just imagine standing on your feet wearing the same pair of shoes for twenty-four hours a day!  Your bird doesn’t wear shoes, but clutching identical perches day after day can make his feet sore and lame.  Supplement the basic round dowel perch supplied with the cage with an oval or flat perch in slightly different diameters.  Concrete-blend perches are excellent for blunting the nails, but they will not totally eliminate the need of an occasional pedicure.  Another benefit of concrete perch blends is that birds will often use them for honing their beaks.  Never use concrete or sandpaper –covered perches as your bird’s sole perching choice as the abrasive surfaces may cause food sores.  Rope perches make fine, easy-on-the-feet cage accessories, but you must watch that birds do not unravel the string ends and become caught in them.  Supervise your bird with any new accessory and discard any heavily soiled or significantly frayed  rope toy or perch. 
PVC or (Poly –Vinyl-Chloride) perches  fabricated from the white pipe material in pumbing and white outdoor furniture make durable footholds for pet birds.  Sanded, scored, or molded for firm grip, the latest PVC style can be easily cleaned and disinfected. 
Wood is the most natural perching material.  It does not conduct heat or cold, and it offers secure footing.  Most wood perches awre made of milled hardwoods, but natural wood perches with the bark left on are frequently available in pet shops.  Manzanita is often used to make wood perches.  It is an extremely hard wood, and is a good choice for extremely hard chewers. 
Now we’ll talk about the swing generation!  Swings and ladders are important cage furniture as they can be counted as perches when you are looking for variety of perching surfaces.  The motion of a swing mimics the sway of a tree branch, and encourages both large and small birds to exercise and play.  If space permits, install two swings in flight cages for small birds.  The little guys will enjoy flitting from swing to swing.  Many swings are trimmed with toys and chewy chunks of wood for added avian interest. 
Ladders encourage climbing and even acrobatics when birds learn that they can easily flip themselves  through the rungs.  You’ll love watching your hook-bills tote food and toys to the top of their ladders.  Try installing a ladder horizontally to make a multi-perch swing in a small bird flight cage. 
How about a toy story?  Bird toys provide both mental and physical stimulation.  Avian playthings may be fabricated of wood, plastic, rope, leather, acyrilic, seashells, metal chain, and other materials.  Its easy to select the toy on the basis of eye appeal, but safety is one of the most important features to look for in these all-important accessories.  Look for smooth, totally finished and welded chain with links large enough to prevent trapping toes.  Jingle-type bells can trap toes and beaks.  Choose cow-bell  styles instead.  Make sure the clappers are securely attached or remove them yourself so birds cannot detach them and swallow them.
Avoid toys with small removable parts that can be swallowed.  Hanging toys must be equipped with safe hardware.  Dog-leash style snap hooks and curtain hooks are unsafe. Observe your bird to be sure that your bird isn’t actually eating toy parts or materials.  Never use toys with dyed-leather parts.  Leather used in the fabrication of bird toys must be undyed and vegetable tanned.  Tailor the size of the toy to your bird.
Cover me.  While a cage cover,  won’t raise the temperature inside your bird’s cage at night.  It will offer some extra insulation and protection from drafts.  While not 100 percent necessary, cage covers  afford many birds a sense of security while at rest.  Think about its nest.  You know, at night birds retire to their nest or the hole in the tree,  somewhere where they feel safe.  If your household is active in the evening, covering your pets cage, will often allow your bird to get its necessary allotment of sleep.  Use a dark-colored cover and your birds will be quiet a little bit later in the morning giving you a little more shut-eye.  Cage covers can also provide some protection from nocturnal flying insects.  Choose a cover made of a smooth fabric such as woven cotton.  Nails may be caught in napped or looped fabrics like terry-cloth towels. 
Stand by me—a free standing gym or t-stand is an important avian accessory.  It gives you a place to park your citizen while you answer the phone or let the dog out, and it provides neutral territory for training sessions.  Stands and gyms also give your bird a place of its own outside of the confines of the cage.   There are lots of styles and sizes available, so check them out. 
Now that you’ve outfitted your birds cage and environment, it’s time for both of you to have some fun!  So, rock on.  We’ll take a brief break. (Say that fast three times: a brief break,  and we will be right back with a word on Caiques.

Woman Announcer:  Sitting on a branch overlooking the parking lot, the pidgeons watched as a Mercedes pulled in below them.  “What do you think?” one bird said to the other.  “Shall we put a deposit on that car?”
(Laughter and Applause)
Woman Announcer:  Stay perched.  Wings and Things will be soaring back right after these messages. 
(Music and horse neighing)
Woman Announer #2:  Stop what you’re doin’ and start horsin’ around every week on Petlife Radio.  Horse expert and award winin’ writer Audrey Pavia will trottin’ out great tips on feedin’, breedin’ and more on  everything equesterian.  So set a spell and say hey to Audrey.  Get ready for a darn tootin’, gallopin’ good time.  Every week on Horsin Around.  On demand only on Pet Life
(Neighs and gallops)
Male Announcer:  Let’s talk pets on
Woman Announcer: A Frenchman walks into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder.  The bartender asks, “Where did you get that thing?”  The parrot replies:  “In France. There are millions of em.”
(Laughter and applause.)
Woman Announcer:   Don’t have a canary.  Wings and Things is back with more great words on birds with your host, Susan Chamberlain.
Susan Chamberlain:  Welcome back to Pet Life Radio.  I’m Susan Chamberlain, and this is Wings and Things. And, our species spotlight for this segment is all about Caiques.  If the yellow-naped Amazon is an amusement park with feathers, Caiques have to be described as a circus with feathers.  These  friendly little 9” clowns make up for their marginal talking ability comical antics and agreeable personalities.  They’re constantly active.  Never leave a Caique unsupervised outside of its cage.  You’d just be asking for trouble.  They tussle with their cage mates and toys.  They perform acrobatic feats on their swings or ladders.  And they love interacting with family members.  Finnegan, a friend’s black-headed  caique enjoys hair surfing, a feat he enjoys by getting onto someone’s head, and rolling and surfing in the hair.  Caiques love being part of the action and do well in stimulating family environments.  They’re moderately noisy but quiet down when provided with enough activity and attention. 
Buy your Caique the largest cage possible, and make sure it has a floor grating.  These little guys love to roll around on their backs as they play.  Caiques thrive on diets consisting of pellets, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables-- you can use defrosted frozen vegetables for  concenience,  some cooked rice, peas, beans, and preservative-free table food.  Their generally good eaters.  They require lots of good to maintain their high energy levels. 
The black-headed caique, (the Pionites melanocephala) and white-bellied (Pionites leucogaster) are the only two seperate species in this genus.  Captive breeding successes ensure continue availability on the pet market although they are not common.  The yellow-thighed caique is the most readily available sub-species of the white-bellied caique. 
And if you share you home with a caique, you know, these are bossy little birds!  Their gonna demand your attention.  They are sassy.T hey are not afraid of anything.  If you have other pets in the home like cats or dogs, make sure to keep them well away from your caique because the caique will tease and torment them.  And, the cat or dog may lunge at the caique with tragic results.  So, make sure you keep them seperate.
Caiques don’t know they’re little.  They don’t know they’re only 9” tall.  They think they’re the size of a giant condor, and they act it.   They are just little sassy clowns in bird suits.  That’s what they are, so go visit a caique in your local pet store.  They can be a little bit nippy too, you know, because they are so dominant.  They do have very, very dominant personalities, but they are an awful lot of fun.  They’re very cute.  They can play independently.  You know, if you’re at work during the day leave a radio or a tv on for your caique, provide him with toys, give him a room with a view and he’ll be fine until you get home.  But when you get home, you better be ready to pay some attention to this little caique because they are going  to definitely demand it. 
Well, that’s about it for this segment of Wings and Things on Pet Life Radio.  I just wannu tell you to continue to tune in And,  if you have not joined a bird club,or investigated joining a bird club,  why don’t you do it this month?  It would be a good month to look up your local bird club. 
You can go online and just google bird clubs and attend a meeting and see what its all about.  It’s  a great way to socialize with other bird club members—other bird owners and a great way to learn about birds.  The networking opportunities are great.  Many bird clubs have world-renowned speakers at their meetings or events, and you can certainly learn a lot.  It’s a great resource.  And it’s a great place to find a potential bird sitter as well.  So, please have fun, join a bird club, read your bird magazines, Don’t forget to tune into Wings and Things for new episodes and if you have questions or stories you’d like to share, please email me   And that’s all for now, Thank you for listening to Wings and Things
Woman Announcer: Join us every week on Wings and Things with your host Susan Chamberlain and get a bird’s-eye view of everything there is to know about pet birds and how to make your frequent flyer a happy camper!
Wings and Things only on!

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