Title - Cages Part 2: General Recommendations
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Price Guide
For a quality cage, expect to pay (UK) roughly around £40 at 2007 prices.
The cage you select for your budgie or budgies needs to be:
  • Spacious and safe
  • Comfortable and convenient
  • Adequate quality

This second page includes everything you may need to know about choosing a cage, EXCEPT for safety advice which is to be found separately, in Part 1: Cage Dangers!.

Size
Biggest is best - as long as the cage is not too heavy, and you can easily lift it high. This may seem an odd comment, and you are probably wondering why anyone would want to lift a bird cage up high -- right? Truth is, when your pet is out for exercise, and you need to get her back in, the easiest way is to fix the cage door open and lift it up to her, wherever she is sitting! It is a little trick that works great, so, unless you've got big muscles, think hard before you buy a excessively heavy cage!

As for dimensions, length and width are the important ones. Height matters less. The length should be enough for two perches, set well apart and well clear of the ends, say at least 17 inches (43cm). The width needs to be at least a little more than a budgerigar's wing span, say 10 inches (25.5cm). These measurements are minimal, and if you are planning to keep two budgies together, more space is definitely a good idea.

Two budgies in a cage
A cage fitted with a natural perch - note how the end is cut for the wire. At 9 ½ inches wide, this cage is a little narrow.

Perches
Regrettably, perches are normally plastic these days. For your bird's wellbeing, these really do need to be got rid of and replaced with wood! If you can find a cage on sale complete with real wood perches, so much the better, otherwise a little DIY is called for. Hardwood dowel of 1.25 or 1.5 cm (half or five eighths of an inch) is just the ticket, but real twig is even better. For fixing dowel, you should be able to buy perch ends from the pet shop, so that you only have to cut the wood off straight -- a very easy task. However, to fix a natural perch, (or dowel without plastic perch ends) you need to cut a length 2 cm (1 inch) longer than the width of the cage, then slit each end with a saw blade the same thickness as the wires. The two slots must be perfectly in line with each other, of course! It becomes easy with practise! For information on which trees are OK to use, see Safe tree information (These are species available in the UK).

A few plastic perches on toys are no harm, but it would be bad for your bird to sit on unnatural materials all day.

Cage Shapes
This is a matter of personal taste, but you may appreciate being warned about one kind of shape that makes extra work! Droppings fall down, right? If your cage narrows at the bottom, or if the plastic base has sloping sides to give a nice, streamlined appearance, you will have considerably more washing to do! A cage that is straight down from perch level to the floor, will minimize soiling.

Apart from this, it has to be said that round cages are a bad idea because, even if they look spacious from the outside, the occupant has no room to leap from perch to perch. The roomy appearance of tall, round cages is usually deceptive. This is not so much my own, obstinate opinion, as established advice, offered by many bird writers and bird lovers before me. In fact, the owner of one of my local pet shops refused to stock any round bird cages at all because she believed they sent birds mad.

Feeders/ Dishes
A single budgie needs at least two fitted dishes - one for seed and another for grit; two budgies need at least three, as it is important they have a seed dish each. Additionally, unless you have more than this minimum number of fitted feeders, you will also need something else for water - probably a tubular water fountain. To use any tubular feeder, there will need to be some vertical wires somewhere, as they don't seem to fit on horizontal ones.

As explained in Cage Dangers! clear/smokey dishes are unsuitable for water while a budgie is young, as some babies have drowned this way. So, again, you will need an alternative water container if the fitted feeders are clear and external in style.

You will be removing the dishes every day - and putting them back again - so make sure you find them easy. The seed husks will scatter less if the dishes are down in the solid part of the cage. Few cages have this once standard feature, but the popular Hagen Vision ll cages do! Opaque plastic is generally stronger than the clear or semi-clear, smokey material. If the cage you select has fittings that look as if they might break some time, why not consider ordering spares now?

Note: there are various styles of tubular seed feeders too, but budgerigars tend to treat them like toys, and empty the seed out just for fun! Also, they can block up.

Sand Trays
As with the fitted dishes, make sure you find the sand tray easy to use. Try it out. The sand tray arrangements in round cages can be very awkward. Is the cage base strong and durable?

Special Features
Some cage designs have that extra something. One excellent feature that is sometimes found, is the large door that opens out as a play platform, This is lovely when your bird is out for exercise. There should also be an ordinary, small door for you to reach in and attend to things. Check that the platform has no sharp edges, and that the large door fits snugly and safely when closed and fastens securely.

Another feature that I have found very useful is a facility for slipping the sand tray in at the bottom of the wires, above the plastic base. This allows you to shower your budgie without the bother of getting the base wet, and also means you can wash the whole base in the sink without letting the occupant out, should you need to. I don't know whether this feature is available today.

Divided Cages
The idea behind these is that you can keep two budgies in the same cage, yet separated by a wire screen up the middle. However, this is not a good idea because the sight of little toes poking through wires brings out the devil in any budgie: they can't resist giving them a nip! It is much better to either keep the two birds properly together, or else in completely separate cages

Stands
Cage stands are available for some designs, and may be worth considering.

Quality
As with other goods, you are likely to get what you pay for, and most of the cheap cages on sale are not fit for purpose. A cheap cage may start going rusty within a couple of years. Look for a guarantee, or information about the quality of the coating on the wires, if you want your cage to last. Was the cage manufactured in a country with a good reputation for quality?

Prices of bird cages have not kept pace with inflation: instead, quality, design and even safety have been sacrificed. In 1973, a roomy, modern, high quality cage would have set you back £20!

Accessories
Apart from toys, four very useful accessories are a cuttle grip, a night cover, a landing platform, and a hook-on bath. A cover can easily be made, using a rectangle of any breathable cloth, rounded at the corners. A door platform fits on the open doorway, and helps your bird know when the door is open for him to come out, also making it easy for him to fly back in. -- Make sure the platform you choose fits your cage doorway.

Alternative Cages
If you dislike typical bird cages, there are two other options. You can obtain a box cage of the sort used by many breeders. Most of these are ugly brutes that do not compliment the smart living room, but they can be nice and long, providing a specious home. The long ones are termed double or triple breeders, and comprise two or three end to end cages that can be made into one by the removal of dividers. Box cages need to be positioned to face the light. Indoor aviaries, like full height pet cages on castors, are popular (2007). They cost from around £100, and are not so specious as they appear as they offer height rather than length. Both these kinds of cage have the disadvantage that you will not be able to lift the open cage door to the bird to invite him back in when he is reluctant.

Happy Cage Hunting!

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© Helen Day 2003 and 2007.