As much as I like the cages I have selected for my birds, It seems to me that there is one major flaw in their design. Most birds primarily occupy the top half of their cage and, given this fact, it makes sense that the majority of the space should be in this area. Average inside dimensions for a large parrot cage are about 30″W X 42″L X 60″H. This leaves half of the cage, for the most part, unused. I often wonder why it is so hard to find a large cage that isn’t longer than it is tall, perhaps 60″L X 42″H X 30″W, with long legs to keep it high off the ground?
Custom Cages seem to incorporate this longer than taller thinking into their cage design, and they utilize the space below the cage for cabinet style storage. I applaud them for this, but why aren’t the other manufacturers doing the same? This shape of cage might be very large for some living rooms in the average home, but my feeling is that a large bird cage in any house is going to be obtrusive to some degree, so why not just go all out for the comfort of your best feathered friend?
A friend of mine who was working with a small group of young handicapped African greys needed just this type of cage for her little, footless charges. They were as yet unable to climb the bars of a cage to get around so she needed to give them a more spacious area to live, with just a short fall to the bottom should they misstep. Her solution? She tipped their tall cages on their sides and placed them on stands built by her husband. Brilliant!
The papers were placed on top of the side that was now the cage bottom and the wide door swung downward giving her easy access the the inside of the cage. The legs were cut off.
I have carried this idea with me for a long time. This would be an ideal space solution for Theo, my goffins cockatoo, who rarely ventures to the bottom of her cage. Imagine all the perching and enrichment opportunities in a cage that is 5′ or more wide! On the other hand, Linus, my umbrella cockatoo, occupies every inch of his cage, top and bottom. He would not benefit as much from this set up as he gets a great deal of exercise by climbing.
Before you run off into your birdrooms or living rooms to upend your cages, there are some safety factors you must take seriously into account: First, and most importantly, the designs of many popular cages, especially those with dome tops, playtops or tops that open out, or those with sides that hook together, rely on the weight of the tops and gravity to hold them together. These will not stay together when rested on their sides and in doing so might easily come apart and cause a side to come crashing down on your bird. A flat topped cage with sides that are bolted together is the safest bet.
Secondly, the cage has to be raised off of the floor and will require a sturdy make-shift stand. Birds choose to perch at the tops of their cages because that is where they feel most safe and secure. If you have a cat or dog that roams the floors, it could cause a great deal of stress to a parrot that views them as predators. Further, floors can be drafty. Think of all the storage space you would now have below the cage!
Just some possibilities to think about…
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.