Have you ever blown an entire week’s wage on a new indoor cage for your parrot and then discovered that it sucks? I challenge anyone who has done that to refrain from complaining about it!
About 6 months ago, that’s exactly what happened to me. I decided to ‘upgrade’ my male eclectus parrot’s cage. Stainless steel cages aren’t readily available in Australia, so his old cage was a powder coated one. Unfortunately, they only last a limited time before you start to get signs of wear in the coating, which leads to rust.
Unhappy with the range in my local pet stores, I had tried purchasing brand new powder coated cages on Ebay in the past but had got fed up with them arriving bent, missing bits or pre-rusted. So off I went to my favourite pet store hoping to find the best cage on the market. At least this way I could be sure they weren’t pre-rusted – right?
I chose the largest and most expensive cage that the store had available. There were two choices in the store in that price range and size. The deciding factor for me was an inbuilt external play station. In a house with multiple birds, the idea of Pepi having his own play space was definitely appealing.
I liked the cage for about 2 weeks. That was how long it took for Pepi to work out how to take advantage of the cage’s weaknesses. It was too late to return the cage as it was now ‘used’ so I found myself finding ways around the weaknesses.
My first problem with the cage was the main door lock. I had decided that a spring back lock system was a great idea because on the off chance that my parrot did work out how to unlock it – it would automatically spring back to the closed position. What I didn’t count on was the spring weakening after 2 weeks – so that the door opened with a gentle push from the inside. The spring effectively locked the door open allowing any parrot to easily escape. I had to use chains and padlocks to keep him in – a real pain on an indoor cage!
Undeterred, Pepi discovered a new method of escape. The grille and bottom tray slid into place. Nothing locked them in. If Pepi held onto the wall with his beak and kicked with his feet – they slid out enough for him to climb out from under the cage. I found myself positioning the cage against a wall and a table leg, so that there was no room for the tray to slide. The result was a pomegranate stained wall and table. I was starting to hate this cage.
The next problem that I had was with the screws that held the cage together. Every time I moved the cage they’d loosen and start to come undone. Playing with the loose screws really made Pepi’s day. He’d finish the unscrewing job making a whole cage wall fall off. I found myself using industrial strength cable ties to keep the cage in one piece.
It took 2 months for the first wheel to break, the others followed not long afterwards. Naturally, no hardware store nearby stocks a wheel that fits into that size steel tubing… I was forced to be creative and make my own fitting to go into the tubing.
The inbuilt play station meanwhile was an instantaneous flop. Like the screws that held the cage together, the screws that held the playstation’s perch in place came undone at the slightest vibration. They needed to be re-screwed EVERY single day at least once. Pepi meanwhile preferred the communal play stand and basically ignored the attached one. The most frustrating part was that this station took up valuable cage space. I would have done better with a rectangular cage.
The play station also caused internal perching issues. The bar spacing is designed for a larger bird like Pepi but he was too big to fly from the lower part of the cage to the upper section, so I was forced to find a curved perch that would allow him to climb from one section to the other. It was awkward and Pepi never seemed to be fully comfortable.
The cage had one redeeming feature that I liked. The food bowls each had a screw in place to stop Pepi picking them up and throwing them at the floor, the wall, the cat, the neighbouring birds, the dogs or me. I appreciate a good bowl locking mechanism! I also liked that they were accessible from the outside and that Pepi didn’t seem to be able to open the food bowl doors by himself. (This comes with the rotating feeding system from Cages by Design, which the Womachs LOVE.)
Needless to say, the cage annoyed me but it was hard to justify replacing my newest cage, when I had other cages that were aging.
So I put up with it and worked around it.
Last week the cage went from being annoying, to my deciding it was actually dangerous.
Pepi is currently going through a moult. He is moody and grumpy with it because he hates it if you accidentally touch one of his pinfeathers. At the moment he would rather be in his cage playing with his toys than with me. His left wing is particularly touchy as some of his primary feathers that are growing out are still partially encased in their sheath. It has put him off-balance and he is clumsier than normal.
Pepi fell off a perch and landed awkwardly on his hanging platform. He put his wings out as he fell and somehow managed to stick his left wing through the vertical bars of his cage. Panicking he tried to close his wing and twisted it around the bar. He screamed in pain and I dropped what I was doing and ran and caught him. I managed to get his wing back in and prevent injury. If I hadn’t been there, I have absolutely no doubt that he would have broken it as he thrashed. He was too panicked to work out that he could have just slipped his wing back through the bars.
I was worried and watched him closely but honestly believed it was a fluke. The bar spacing was the ‘correct’ (recommended) spacing for an eclectus and realistically it should have been safe as he should have been able to bring his wing back in.
Except it wasn’t a fluke. It happened again, but the second time I actually witnessed it. He fell as he tried to navigate up a forked perch to get from the lower section to the higher. Awkward at the best of times, he was just more clumsy than normal due to his wing moult. Again I caught him, but again it was a near miss.
Obviously, I pulled him out completely and put him in one of my emergency cages. (I keep large rectangle cages flat packed in my study for unforseen emergencies.) I gave him a very straightforward basic perch setup to allow him to cope with his wing moult more easily.
I now had an excuse to go cage shopping. Yippee – is there anything more fun than splurging on bird stuff?? I could now justify replacing my newest cage. Ok I’ve wasted a lot of money but at least I’ve learned from it.
Pepi’s new cage is the largest size that will fit through my door. It is rectangular – there is no space wasting play station. I have the option of putting one on the cage roof if I want, but the cage is so big I think that makes it a bit too high.
The door latch has no spring and actually seems to be bird-proof. The bottom grill has a locking catch. The food bowls have a locking mechanism. The bowls are stainless steel and aren’t too deep. The cage door is a decent size (makes it easier to get perches in). Unfortunately, I still can’t find a stainless steel cage supplier in Victoria, so the cage is powder coated but it’s the thick better quality powder coating. I don’t like the zinc-coated screws that hold the cage together but a stainless steel screw (same size) is commercially available. The wheels are heavier duty than the ones from the last cage but I’m still undecided about them. They may yet get replaced.
Pepi is extremely happy in his new cage. Morgy (my rosebreasted cockatoo/galah) also scored a new cage (identical) and she also seems happy. Fid (Blue and Gold Macaw) is also getting one, to replace his existing indoor sleeping cage, as it is deeper than his old. Turns out you get a better price when you buy 3!!! (Tax returns are a wonderful thing!)
There is a problem with Fid’s cage though. When I unpacked it one of the bars on the back panel was slightly bent. This isn’t unusual when you buy a flat-packed cage. Being somewhat handy – I have no doubt I could straighten the bar if I wanted. Instead I’m being a nightmare customer and I’m making the store order in a replacement panel. I want it perfect – well I paid for it! When I run my hand over the bent bar, I can feel a slight roughness in the powder coating which tells me that the coating is cracked and that it would get worse if I bent it back. A bird will find any ‘weakness’ and I can bet that Fid would pick at it. The cage is likely to rust in this spot in the future. So while I could in theory straighten it, I have a very good reason not to.
I tell you, (having bought three of them), if I decide I hate this cage in two weeks time –it’s going to take a mammoth amount of chocolate to make me happy!!!
Mel Vincent works as an animal rehabilitator out of Australia.