Hi! I'm Gizmo! I'm here to talk to all my feathered friends about Cage Safety. Our cages are our homes and we must be comfortable as well as safe in them.
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Happy Huts/Sleeping Tents
Small, collapsible style travel cages are very popular for transporting birds. We all use travel carriers of some type to carry our birds to the vet or other places. Many of these cages are manufactured in multiple sections to provide for ease of shipping the cage by the manufacturer. The bottom section, containing the tray, often just "clips" onto the body of the cage in four or so places. There have been accidents where these have fallen off while transporting birds and the bird has escaped. Please use cable ties to securely fasten the cage parts together so that they don't accidentally fall apart. If you have travel cages that you never intend to break down for any reason, cable tie the parts together and leave them that way. That way, when an emergency arises, you won't need to rush around and secure the cage before traveling.
There are so many different food bowl/feeder systems in various cages today, and just as many birds who will find ways to make them dangerous. Please make sure when introducing your bird to a new cage to watch them carefully and make sure that you look at all facets of the systems carefully to see that there is no inherent dangers, and that you use only the bowls designed for the holders.
Cage Materials and Construction
There are many different manufacturing methods to make today's bird cages. It is important to furnish your bird with a home that is of quality workmanship and not pose a serious hazard to your bird's health. Many of today's modern cages are wrought iron with a powder coated finish. The wrought iron is "roughed up" by either an acid wash or sandblasting and then a powder type paint is applied, the cage is then electrostatically charged which makes the powder paint flow evenly over the surface of the iron and adhere to it, thus giving it a very long-lasting, durable finish. There are many "flight cages" that are sold, in addition to merely using "chicken wire" to make a homemade cage that can be EXTREMELY DANGEROUS to birds. These materials can cause zinc poisoning if a bird is at all inclined to chew on the cage material.
Brass is another material made for some cages. Brass is made with zinc and can lead to zinc toxicity. There are some cages that "look" like brass but aren't. Make sure you know what materials your cages are made of.
Another problem in modern cage manufacturing is problems created by the new drilled tubular construction found on many of today's most popular cages. While this process eliminates individual welds that might break, the cage very often is left with "gaps" where the cage bars go through the drilled holes in the frame. Sometimes manufacturers try and cover these gaps up with welds, but some do not, and since the welding process is done by robotics very often these gaps remain. This not only leads to bacteria forming inside because of dirt and food collection, but also leads to rusting of the cage, which would be bad news if birds were to eat the rust. Below is a picture of a one-month old "top-selling" brand of bird cage (click to enlarge).
There is a problem with the "welded-bar" construction as well. If you have a bird that tends to chew on bars, the paint comes off some of these cages very easily where the welds are, and larger birds can actually pull the bars off the frame. We personally have a cage by a top name manufacturer where one of our conures chewed off the paint on the welds that were used to attach the "curly-Qs" on the top of the cage. The bird went through about 10 welds in two days!
There is a new form of construction that uses the "pre-drilled" construction with the bars in the frame but also has drain/air holes on the bottom of the frame. This allows water and other materials to drain out and dry out more efficiently. You still have the problem of food getting down into the small gaps, but we feel that for many birds this is an ideal construction type.
Still yet another consideration is the zinc levels in the powder coat paint itself. Some cage manufacturers use paints that contain varying amounts of zinc. We are currently researching this issue, but the information that we have now that most of today's more popular cages with a powder coat finish contain from 0-50ppm of zinc. Some older powder coat cages do have zinc levels of up to 1,200ppm, so if you have an older cage, you might want to take this into account. Or if you are purchasing a new cage you might want to make sure that it is not an older model that the retailer has had in stock for a while. Ask the retailer for more information. We are currently gathering information on cages and their zinc levels and will be posting them soon. On that page will we list a lab that will conduct a test for you on a particular cage. Note that a cage's zinc level of, say, 40ppm does not equate to a zinc serum level in a bird on a one-to-one basis. If you suspect you have an older cage that might have a zinc problem, feel free to contact us and we will do what we can to assist you.
Also beware of spring-loaded latches that some birds can get toes caught in. These are on many brands of popular cages. Another problem are the "curly-Qs" on the tops and bottoms of some cages that birds can get their lower beaks caught on if climbing on the cage.
Perches are an important part of your bird's cage. However, like toys or anything else, your bird is an individual and something may cause a problem for them. They may chew and ingest wood from a dowel perch, they may chew of pieces of a grooming perch. If your birds at all "mouth" the hardware on perches, replace with stainless steel hardware. Zinc hardware can lead to rusting and zinc toxicity problems. The key is to be observant of what your bird is doing and inspect everything in cages on a regular basis and watch for changes.
Cages are not only a home, but provide protection, and one of the things that they need protection from are other animals in the home. Cats are especially dangerous to birds, but dogs and other animals as well can be very dangerous. Try to keep other animals away from bird cages, if at all possible.