I just don’t do hills. I don’t like it when treadmills pretend you’re going up one, I don’t like them when I’m cycling, I avoid them when walking my dog and I’ve even been known to throw a tantrum when (thanks to a slight hill), my feet wound up about 3 cm higher than my head when sleeping in a tent. While 3 cm definitely lands me squarely in the category of “sook”,
I suspect most of you are right there with me in preferring your beds horizontal. Not surprisingly, we tend to unconsciously impose that preference onto our birds as well. In fact, we’re actively encouraged to do so. Think about every cage you have ever seen for sale, how many of them had horizontal dowel perches in them? Ok, many of us have learned that birds need a variety of perches, but just as many haven’t questioned their horizontal location.
If I actually stop and think about it, it would seem that my birds are at their happiest when they’re hanging upside down. Or, to be more specific, swinging upside down. I’ve had lorikeets swinging off my ponytail enough times to prove that!!!!
Morgy, my eldest female galah has a weight problem that I’m working on. She gets pressure spots on her feet as a result. I have noticed an improvement in these spots when she more regularly chooses to sleep on a branch that is on an angle rather than horizontal. Unfortunately, she often seems to prefer horizontal perches as for mostof her life, that’s all she has known. In contrast, my other younger galahs tend to choose branches set almost vertically to sleep on. They’ve always had the choice.
Similarly, I’ve seen some shocking foot conditions in wild rescued birds while they are in shelters, simply because their environment is too uniform. If I look at wild birds roosting, I see them perching on branches that I just can’t quite believe are strong enough to hold their weight, or alternatively are so thick they can’t grip them.
For this reason and if space permits, I try to ensure that all of my aviaries have both horizontal and angled branches in the highest positions. I also try to make sure that at least some of my perches can move. A tree branch doesn’t remain still in a breeze or when a bird lands on it. A bird needs to shift their weight in order to maintain their balance in the wild, which is a big part of why they don’t get pressure sores. If done carefully (to prevent injury), there is no reason why we can’t replicate this benefit in our homes.
I’ve found securing a branch on the thicker side only can provide a lot of entertainment for the average parrot. It bends under their weight, as it gets thinner, making them have to adjust their weight. If I leave smaller branches hanging downwards, my lorikeets spend hours swinging from branch to branch chasing each other. I also use chains and ropes to secure branches, instead of strictly attaching them to the side of a cage. This means that the branches swing when a bird lands on them, or alternatively Pepi my eclectus likes to pull a branch closer to him to get on it, instead of hopping. Basically, I look at anything that can make my FIDs environment more interactive.
I have also found that birds with longer tails (such as Alexandrines and Macaws) tend to like short perches that do not stretch the whole length of their cage. It makes it easier for them to turn around as they don’t have to swing their tail up and over the perch – instead they can simply swing it over the end.
Meanwhile, I also picked up another useful bit of information when I was taking photos of wild birds to go with this post. It’s common sense not to get within the firing range of a bird’s rear end but no one ever warned me to watch out for corellas with gumnuts. Try telling me that this wannabe feather duster didn’t give me a bruised nose on purpose!