I don’t know who started the trend of putting cheap castor wheels on the bottom of indoor bird cages but I think it’s safe to say that I have called that person every expletive I know (and a few I made up) on more than one occasion. I’m pretty sure that I’m not alone in this. The wheels that come standard on the bottom of most bird cages drive me completely mental. They’re not designed to roll smoothly over the items parrots throw at your floor, they’re designed to catch on that stuff and break at the most inconvenient moment.
Well I’m no handyman. Actually, I used to be mortally afraid of cordless drills. They jump off your workbench all by themselves and drill holes through your fingers when you least expect it. They’re almost as bad as power saws (they cut your head off). Ok, so I’m not exactly a girly-girl (I freaked out a first date when I pulled a pair of pliers out of my handbag and fixed my watch strap when it broke), but it was my parrots that pushed me into overcoming my fear of power tools. Fixing bird cage wheel issues has become an essential skill.
The easiest way to fix a broken wheel would be to buy a replacement wheel. That’s not as easy as it sounds around here though. I found that the only wheels available locally had different threads or were designed for different thicknesses of tubing than what my cages were made out of. Buying a replacement just wasn’t possible and so I found myself coming up with some extraordinarily dodgy methods of fixing my cages.
During my irrational “fear of all electric tools that have bits that move when you press a button” days, I discovered a type of clay that sets like metal. (A product called “Selley’s Knead It.”) So there was no need to conquer my fear of the welding gear that still sits in the corner of my shed. It meant that if I couldn’t match the screw-in part of a wheel to the cage, I could still use a wheel of the same size and just mix up some of the clay to attach it. I’d shove the clay into the cage tubing, stick the wheel in and wait until it dried. It looked terrible but worked well (until the next pellet or bit of parrot toy got caught in the replacement wheel and broke it all over again).
So think about how long it takes a parrot to chuck a pellet or bit of bird toy in the path of a rolling wheel and you can work out how quickly I snapped and forced myself to overcome my fear of electrical tools. I went to the hardware store and bought a cordless drill. Ok, the sales assistant wasn’t impressed by my request for a fluorescent green one. I think he thought I was nuts? Especially when I explained my theory that fluorescent green was less scary than orange, but not as girly as pink so it might still be a good one? As it happens I did get a good one (green and black) and I never looked back.
I’ve since found several ways to fix cage wheel problems but the biggest trick I’ve found is that in this case bigger is definitely better. Larger wheels seem to be a lot harder to break and they tend to roll over the stuff parrots throw at the ground a lot more easily than some of the smaller castor wheels on the market. The problem with larger wheels is that they don’t just slot into the metal tubing that most cages are made out of.
In an ideal world you can just attach the wheels by screwing them into the base of your cage’s stand. However some stands have thin legs and it’s necessary to build something to sit the whole cage on. This is where welding skills would be handy. I don’t have welding skills (yet) though. So my latest technique has been to put together a timber frame. Obviously timber isn’t the most waterproof option in the world but I figure it’s only a stand (so not something the birds are chewing on) and as powder coated cages are pretty much the best option that you can buy where I live… a timber frame lasts about the same amount of time that a cage will.
There is something to be said for getting a custom built cage if you can. I can honestly say my custom built cages have lasted better than any of my other cages and that may well come down to my request they be made with better wheels.
Stainless steel cages are notoriously hard to get here in Australia (hopefully that will change in time), so often it seems powder-coated cages are the best we can hope for. In the meantime, I’ve got my fluorescent green cordless drill to help me. Now all I have to do is work out how to stop my parrots from pulling on my ponytail if I happen to bend over near their cage’s wheels…
What alterations have you made to cages to make them more user-friendly? Let us know in the comments below or come and join the conversation on our Facebook page.
Mel Vincent works as an animal rehabilitator out of Australia.