Bird Cages Are Not Evil.

I have heard it said that bird cages are evil. Look at the stunning parrot, a prisoner, when he should fly free.

First, I like to remind these people that they are looking at (hopefully) captive-bred animals that have never been wild, and would therefore swiftly die if released there.

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There are no ring toys in the wild, and ring toys are Mavi’s favourite.

Second, when people utter this sentiment, I am swift to point out how happy the birds are in their cages. Mind you, if you approach the door with any apparent intent of opening it (or offering food/attention) they will rush to the front perches in excitement.

If I am working in the room, however, they are happy to play and forage and self-entertain (that’s assuming that they’re not out with me). My flock are not so dependent on me as to demand every moment of my attention – and yet they still value our time together.

All of our birds spend a great deal of time out with us, and that’s where cages stop being prisons and become instead sanctuaries, where a pet can retreat if it feels tired, nervous, overwhelmed, or just in need of a quiet snack. If a bird spent all day there, every day, sure, I think cages would be bad. That goes for every animal.

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Mishka retreated for a nap. Half her cage is always covered for privacy.

I also feel it’s important to note that not all cages are good. For instance, round cages are not suitable for any creature. Similarly, a too-small cage is just as bad. Unhappy parrots will scream, bite, or pluck, so unless your bird objects to the extra space, bigger is better.

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The cage Charlie and Pip came in. You can see immediately why we moved them to new ones.

When we first bought Charlie and Pip, our canaries, we, too fell prey to the false, old-fashioned image of songbirds singing happily from a round, pretty cage. The pet shop owner assured us that the one they came in was suitable for the pair.

However, looking at it once we got home, we realised our mistake and managed to get two bigger cages relatively cheaply.

A quick guide to choosing a new cage: common sense should be your first guide. If it looks too small and you have doubts, or if your bird can’t spread his wings out comfortably, he won’t be happy. Avians of all kinds like corners, as these help them feel safe, so buying a square or rectangular cage is ideal. Longer is usually better than tall, too, as it encourages flight.

A few more things should factor into your decision:

  • Material. Stainless steel is expensive, but will last the longest, and is safest. Although powder-coated metal is okay, it can rust or flake.
  • Practicality. Does it have wheels? Space? How large is the door?
  • Bar spacing. Bigger cages often have wider bar spacing – and birds can wedge their skulls through these, possibly breaking their own necks when they try and escape. It is possible to find large cages with small bar spacing.
  • Construction. Don’t doubt your bird’s ability to unscrew screws and open doors. Check the way it’s put together, and the way the door closes. Also have a look for sharp edges and general sturdiness.
  • Grates. These metal grids keep birds off the bottom of the cage, where all their waste falls. Even if you’re very on top of bird chores, a grate is still a good idea.
  • Secondhand? A great way to save money, but make sure you sanitise everything and air it well, first.
  • Access. Finally, how are the food and water bowls accessible? Ones that you can get at from the outside can be a lifesaver.

I think it’s important to remind people that the cage plays an important role in safety, too. Obviously, our companions have to be left on their own at some point. Even if you own an outdoor aviary (and that is absolutely ideal, but not often possible), your bird will probably still have to spend time indoors without you.

Then, in a human world, the cage becomes a refuge from wires, chemicals, and everything else dangerous to a pet bird.

That’s where some would make the argument, ‘Well, that’s why birds aren’t suitable pets. They’re not meant to live in houses.’

And I say yes, but these animals already exist. You can’t make them go away just because you find it sad that they have cages. If you want to make a difference, adopt or re-home a parrot and build aviaries, so that they can live in something closer to wild living.

If your objection is solely to the cage – and so often it seems to be – then please, know that I do my best to give my flock good lives in spite of captivity… and so do other owners. Aviary living is absolutely ideal – the best accommodation for any parrot – but not possible for most owners. So rather than see a bird homeless, I would always rather have it placed in a home… with a cage.

That’s all there is to it.

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Happy birds have a cage, and spend time out.

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14 thoughts on “Bird Cages Are Not Evil.

  1. Very well-written article & I agree. I find that people in general are ignorant to certain captive animals. When I’m on lecture with my Amazon Parrot, he’s in a small travel carrier and I’ve been asked if that was his living cage. Of course not! His cage is a large powder-coated on wheels with a play-top and it hasn’t rusted or flaked, yet. But it’s only been 2 years. My Amazon has full flight and that’s how we exercise. However, a bird that is free to fly around can hurt himself if startled and fly into the wall or ceiling fans or even land on the stove. Not to mention the bird will poop any where they want. So, I don’t think being free 100% of the time in a house is healthy. Also good to note that many will nest at sleep time & require a nesting box or spot. They should be covered for darkness to allow for the adequate number of sleep hours. This is where a cage is handy.

    • No, I think it’d take a pretty brave soul to try cage-less living. I don’t have any problem with my flighted birds running into walls or windows, but we did take quite awhile to bird proof the house for them as much as possible. I would love to learn to free-fly Mavi, our Senegal. I think it’d be really good for him – and if I could educate people with him, that’d be even better. It’s amazing that you get to do that! As to nest boxes, we don’t provide them personally – they do make the hormones go mad… but the cages are always half-covered during the day, and fully at night. The birds really seem to appreciate that. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Great post!! And beautiful birdie pics!!! My dad has three parakeets that freely fly around the room all day and their cages stay open all day and very often, all three choose to go in their cages on their perches and to swing and play with their toys or just to sit and do nothing. They really do love their cages. And they have very happy lives. One cage is very large while one is smaller, the one my dad used to bring one home in and they love both. At night we keep them all in the large cage and close it so they get proper sleep. I agree with your counter arguments against the arguments that birds shouldn’t be kept as pets. People make the same claims about cats, arguing that since they have wild ancestors they still have wild impulses and should never have been domesticated but since they *are* now domesticated they are better kept as pets than let loose out into the wild or on the streets where anything horrific can and does happen, just like birds.

    • It’s wonderful that your dad’s birds fly free! The cage is a good, safe place for birds, though, and it’s good to hear that more and more people appreciate that. Thanks for reading! 🙂

  3. well said. if a “home or a room” is a prison then what do we live in? It is only a prison if they are not allowed to get out of it if they need to (not all birds need to have free roam of the world).

  4. Ya know, I used to think bird cages were evil. Then the Macaws ate my sofa and tore my father’s oxygen airlines up when he was sleeping. One of my Greys chewed part of a drawer off in the kitchen. A cockatiel flew into a mirror and died of a broken neck. I realized that stands were not a great permanent solution for all birds. I have an Amazon that is out of his cage all day, and he is PERFECTLY BEHAVED…he doesn’t chew, bite, scream, or take off from me. However, he has the basic expectation to return to his cage every night for dinner and sleep. We all need stability. Birdies, included! 🙂

    • Yeah, the destruction to your property is probably the number one reason to have a cage at least somewhere in the house… Your poor little ‘tiel. 😦 I’ve never had any trouble with mirrors or windows – touch wood! – but I think the flock generally knows to avoid them, even in a panic. Like I said, I hope, anyway!

  5. Pingback: Seven Reasons Why Parrots Are Not Good Pets. | Students and Birds

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