Q: I want to get a bigger, better cage for my bird, but I am afraid that the change will stress him out. Should I just keep him in the one he is in or risk spending money on one he might hate?
-Robert F., Springfield, MA
A: One big mistake bird owners make is in the assumption that their birds are unable to adapt to change. In fact, they are surprisingly resilient, and we are doing them a disservice, and depriving them of a life rich in experience, if we impose this hypothesis on them.
It is true that birds are tightly-wound by nature. Being prey animals, it is in their best interest to be that way – the more alert a bird is, the safer it will be. But think about the many challenges a bird faces in the wild: a storm destroying their nest, drought limiting water supply, the death of a mate. A bird that is unable to adapt will not survive.
There is the individual bird’s personality to take into account, some come undone more easily than others. I believe that this behavior is, in part, the result of their upbringing. The more changes a bird has been exposed to that have happy results, the more likely he is to float from one new experience to another without stress.
A new cage for your bird is a big investment, but a good one. A high quality cage will last the throughout the life time of your bird. There is no reason to believe it would go unused.
If your bird leans toward being more timid in nature, construct and accessorize the new cage when he is in another room so that the noise and activity doesn’t cause him to be unnecessarily unsettled, and leave his old cage in it’s current postion. Walk him over to the new cage and let him have a good look at it, carefully watching his body language.
If he seems stressed, take him away and let him eventually make his own way to the new cage during his out of cage play time, even if this takes weeks. Once he is no longer eyeing the new cage with suspicion, he is ready to make the switch.
Some more adventurous birds will set out to investigate the new construction in the living room straight away.They might even claim both cages as their own, switching back and forth. Then there are some who will go effortlessly into the new cage without any fuss at all.
The key to getting the results you are after is in your method of introduction and your bird’s past experience with new things. I can’t think of a single instance where an emotionally healthy bird has refused the bigger, better cage.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.