Thursday 2 June 2016

14. Cages, Toys & Equipment

This is a long post!! 

In this post, and one to follow, I want to tell you about the cages, toys and equipment that I have for the boys and tell you whether I have found them to be worth while or actually just a waste of money. There will be a few bits of advice (which I have read from the professionals) that I think are essential to know and should definitely be followed but mostly I will just write about my own experiences. This is a big topic so I have written in this post about what you should have inside the cage to help keep your bird healthy, entertained and safe. There is a whole lot that can be said about outside the cage time which I will post separately - watch this space! 

I usually only buy items once I have read reviews about them and compared them with other items of the same specifications. This has proved to be very useful, but it makes spontaneous purchases challenging! Please use this post as just another review to compare to what you might read elsewhere. There are many other cages and toys available and you might come across something fantastic that your birdies love (please share!). I think creating a fun cage environment is something quite personal between the owner and the bird and you will come to your own idea about what works well for your bird. I have updated Reggie's cage in the past and he's quite clearly been annoyed about the changes. 

1. First of all you need a cage (or a house as I prefer to call it)

Cage size - depending on where you read it!
Minimum recommended cage for 1 bird = 18 x 18 x 18 inches
Minimum recommended cage for 2 birds = 30 x 18 x 18 inches

Generally you would want to buy a cage that was wide rather than tall. Let you little birds stretch their wings and hop along the cage. You will find a lot of space isn't actually used when you have a tall cage. Birds like to perch and roost at the highest point, so be sure to use the rafters of your cage as well as the middle. 

It's sad how many birds are still being housed in round cages, and its even sader to see how many shops continue to sell them. Only last week was there a discussion on a Facebook page with someone advertising their shop. They said round cages were popular that's why they sell them. This is a terrible attitude and it's why bird owners need to do their own research and not trust these dodgy sales personnel. Pet shops cannot be trusted to sell you what is right, instead they will sell what makes them money, there is often little pride in providing adequate pet care and advise. 

Anyway - why are round cages bad? Several reasons:
1 - They are dangerous! Where the bars meet at the top, they close in and birds have been found hanging with trapped feet. Dead. 
2 - Birds like corners, they provide comfort and allow the bird to perch up high in relative safety. Round cages lack corners. 
3 - They have very little space. Bird cages need length not height. Round cages provide height and no length. They are so deceiving, they look spacious and they absolutely are not. 

Round cages are incredibly outdated, just because they were OK in the 70's, or they are used in countries like China, does not make them OK now. Aviculture has come an awfully long way and for the better. 

Reggie's first cage

Liberta Siam Bird Cage, 52 x 46 x 36cm (20 x 18 x 14 inches)

Image from - Item Liberta Siam bird cage

This cage doesn't quite fit the recommended minimum cage size for 1 budgie, however I found it to be more than adequate for Reggie and had I not gotten Buster I would have happily kept Reggie in it for a while longer. 

The Pros:

The doors: In my opinion, the best thing about the Liberta cages are the doors. There is a main door on a hinge that swings open - as doors tend to do. But it's the door that slides up, within the large door, that is the best feature. When you are hand taming your bird you need to get your hand inside the cage, but you want to prevent the bird from escaping. This little door is the perfect size to put your arm in to train your bird at step up, it also rests comfortably on top of your arm to seal off the exit. I didn't have to worry at all about Reggie flying free before I was ready and it removed that worry whilst I was working with him. 

The feeders: A little door slides up so you can take the feeders out without opening the main door and putting your hand inside. When training your bird you still need to give them seed and fresh water daily and these feeders allow you to do this without disturbing him too much. 

The tray: The slide out tray at the bottom was well designed and came out easily. Not too sure what more can be said about this as it all worked OK. Most cages come with a slide out cage as standard, if the cage you desire does not then I would recommend reconsidering it as they really are helpful to keep the cage floor clean. 

The Cons:

Erm.....OK this is hard to write any cons!!

The size: I've already noted that the size of this cage is not the recommended size for one budgie, and whilst I do think the bigger the better, this cage was absolutely fine for Reggie. Especially as a little baby who didn't actually do a lot, the room was fine. He was allowed out of cage time every day for about 6 hours so I was not worried. I also know a few budgies that live in little cages and are actually much much happier that being in a large cage. So size isn't a con lol.

The perches: I am totally clutching at straws here, the perches are wooden doweling rods. They fit, they're secure, they're wood. Whilst they're not natural wooden perches with varying widths and textures, they're still a hell of a lot better than some of the plastic perches that are sold with cages. The boys current cage came with plastic and rubber perches which were immediately removed! 

Buster's first cage
Savic Cambridge Hamster cage 59 x 36 x 43cm (23 x 14 x 17 Inches)

I've confused you haven't I? 
Buster, in theory, was only ever going to need his own cage for a few months. We had a hamster cage going spare (RIP Natasha lol) and with a little customization I was able to convert it into a suitable budgie quarantine cage. 

I took out the platforms and ladders so it was just a cage. I then added one of the doweling perches from Reggie's cage, a swing, wooden branch swing, a ladder and a landing platform. I had to buy food and water bowls to hang from the side. The end result was actually pretty good! It worked really well as a budgie cage as it was long and had room for lots of toys and movement. Look how little he is in the photo! Had they not got along I actually would have been happy keeping Buster in this cage. 

Disabled budgies: There are many budgies that are disabled and cannot fly very well or at all. You might see budgies being sold as 'runners' - they actually have French Moult and the people selling them are really bad doing this without explaining what it is. Anyway, that's a topic for another post! My point is that disabled budgies need more length than height and rodent cages are very good places to house them as they can reach the floor. 

When the boys moved in together

Reggie & Buster's bachelor pad!
Ferplast Canto Cage with divider 71 x 38 x 61cm (28 x 15 x 24 Inches)

Image from Zooplus - Ferplast Canto Cage

I wanted the boys to have a slow introduction to each other, for various reasons, but mainly to ensure that they were happily getting along before they lived permanently together. Also, because I wanted to ensure that Reggie and I remained bonded to each other -  you can read about introducing new budgies here.
Anyway, so I researched cages with dividers and there wasn't actually a lot of choice. Thankfully this cage offered everything that I wanted. 

The Pros:

The divider: The divider allowed the boys to be in close to each other during the day and night, but not so close that they could fight. You simply slot it into the groove at the top and slide it down to the bottom. Easy peasy. 

Buster is a very domineering little boy and Reggie is very peaceful and relenting. I am pleased I got this cage because it allowed Reggie to have his own bed at night, his own food bowl, and a little bit of space as he had been used to. Not all budgies would need this, but he seemed quite keen on his own ladder for bedtime and would get a bit angry if Buster was on it. Now that the boys are best buddies the divider is never needed, but should I get a third I would happily split Reggie & B from the new one. 

The size: The size is great! Now the divider is out I can fit so much inside the cage for them to play on, but even as 2 separate cages they were adequate sizes. It fits on top of our 'pet' table perfectly and gives them lots of room without dominating our living room. 

The Feeders: They are fun little swivel trays that you turn around to remove. They're sturdy and hold a good amount. The birds did need to get used to sticking their whole head inside but that didn't take long. You must ensure the clips are secure or the birds know to swivel them and we found Reggie and Buster had gotten out one day (at our friends house!! They were climbing all over poor Stanley the budgie's cage!)

The tray: It's a tray, it works. 

The Cons:

The doors: This is a personal con, that probably isn't an issue for lots of people. As I said with the first cage, the doors were really helpful with taming as there was a lovely big swing door and a little latch door to get your hand through. This cage has 2 small doors at the sides, and 2 classic cage doors at the front. For me, they're nowhere near as good as the big swing doors and I genuinely think they hinder getting the boys back home (I say boys, I mean Reggie) as they act more like a trap door than a big glorious entrance to their castle. I am positive that if the cage had bigger doors they would fly in and out of it more often and feel less trapped. Maybe I am wrong. I wouldn't say this was a reason not to buy the cage though, it's just my feeling. 

I genuinely don't have any issues with this cage, its provided the exact home I wanted for the boys, and now they are living in it without the divider I have been able to make the most of the space and put lots of fun things in it. 

There are many many other cages available out there and there are lots that I considered. The cage is just a shell, it is what you put in it that makes it a home. As long as the outside is secure and safe, big enough, clean, made of good bird safe materials and you are happy with the look of it inside your home, you can't go too wrong.  

2. What to put inside the cage - the essentials

I won't go into too much detail about each one, but the key items to have inside the cage are:
  • Food and water dish/dispenser - there are lots of varieties available, most cages come with them but you can upgrade if desired. It is best to have a food bowl per budgie to avoid fighting. Reggie and Buster have one each however Buster the little bully just goes to the one Reggie is at and shoo's him away.
  • Cuttlebone - a source of calcium when the budgie needs it, also something to chew on.
  • Mineral block - an alternative source of calcium. You might find that your budgies don't touch the mineral block or cuttlebone, that's OK. just leave it in there and if they want it they have it. Ensure they're not in unreachable positions obviously.

  • Perches - big, small, flat, twisted, long, short. All sorts! The key thing about perches is to offer variety. As I mentioned above, I removed the wooden doweling perches from Reggie's cage and replaced them with a variety of others. They are not bad perches, I did actually keep one as the main perch, and they are at least wooden, but a cage full of doweling perches offers no variety with size or texture. As well as being something to stand on, perches help to keep the birds healthy; claw length is maintained, beaks are kept smooth and sharp, and they also act as exercise machines. As the bird has to adjust its balance and footing for each different location his little muscles are working to keep him sturdy. Imagine jumping from a wall, to the floor, to a railing, your legs and feet are working different muscles on each one to keep you on it. If all of the perches are the same size then the same bits of the birds feet are touching the perch at all times, which can lead to sores or bumble foot.

    Bumble foot/sores
    Photo from

The best material to use is wood. Ideally you want to have natural wooden perches, you can get these from a pet shop, or you can make your own. I have pet shop perches in the cage, and I have a play stand that is made out of Beech Tree branches which I collected from a forest. Please read here for a list of safe and harmful wood for budgies and be sure you know how to identify the wood you collect. Wooden perches don't have to be stationary boring perches, I have colorful wooden ladders, wooden swings and a long branch like swing with twigs sticking out the side.

> Rope - these are fun! My boys love their rope perches. They can be twisted into different shapes and they can be put all over the cage in different positions, inside and out. They can really help to make the cage fun and entertaining. I've recently added a long rope perch through the center of the cage and the boys hop on and off it all the time. There does need to be caution, check for loose threads daily as these can either be swallowed and clog up the crop (where budgies keep seeds) or their feet can get caught in them trapping them, but generally I really like them.

> Plastic perches - I do not understand why cages are still sold with plastic perches when they can be sold with doweling perches. The odd plastic perch inside a cage is OK
, but if this is all you have then please provide something different. Plastic perches are one of the key causes of bumble foot, a bacterial infection, because they offer no variety or encouragement movement around the cage. 

Sandpaper perches/covers - these are really not great for your budgies feet and they are not recommended at all. You might read that they are good for keeping the claws trim, maybe they are, but imagine what they are also doing to the soles of the feet. Varietyis key, and mixed sizes and textures of wooden perches do every thing you need. 

  • Cage floor lining - You will probably read that you need to use sandpaper lining. Incorrect. This is a waste of money and I bought into it at the beginning too. Now I use newspaper which lots of people don't recommend as it has the print on it, but the boys really don't go down on the floor of their cage often so this isn't something that worries me. If you have birds that do forage at the bottom then I would use brown packaging paper, paper towels, plain paper, whatever you have that is disposable. It is purely to help you maintain the hygiene of the cage.
  • Cage cover - used to put over the cage at night time. It is a piece of breathable clean material which you place over the top of the cage and it blocks out the light. You can buy fitted ones for your specific cage, or you can do as I do and just use a blanket. I have listed them as essential because for us one is, however I know many people do not use one. So why do we? I like that I can put the cover over the birds and there is almost instant peace. This is great for them to settle down at night and prepare for bed (they actually get in their beds when its put over them) and it is FANTASTIC for us as we can shut them up. Budgies make a lot of noise and I am not ashamed to say they are bloody annoying. In the morning you have the control to say 'Good Morning!' here is the light. This keeps them quiet until we decide they can begin their day of shouting, constantly, all the time, budgies are noisy!! It is partly a selfish act having a blanket, however it is my house too! But being serious, for us it is good for them, they get to calm down, and importantly for Reggie, Buster stops being annoying when the cover is on. Covers can also help to control night frights as it blocks out and light or movement from outside the cage. Some birds can get injured quite badly simply by spooking themselves in their cage in the dark and then having a major freak out.
  • Grit - NO! This really isn't needed for budgies. Grit is eaten in the wild by birds to help break up and digest their food. Parrots and parakeets break the husks off their seeds and so they do not need the assistance of grit to do so. In fact, grit can be very dangerous for budgies as it gets trapped in their gizzard. I understand you may read on many websites that grit is needed, I bought it at first because I thought it was, but Reggie and Buster do not have any grit and they are digesting their food perfectly fine. I personally will not give my budgies this, but if you chose to then OK, but I doubt you will ever see your birds eating it.
  • TOYS! Of course we have to talk about toys!
    I'm going to start on a bit of a negative and put some details about the toys you should watch out for, not necessarily avoid - these are not my own opinions, they are what I have read over and over again. What you have to remember is that NO TOYS ARE SAFE, this isn't me exaggerating, this is a fact. Everything has its dangers, naturally, and you need to assess which toys you deem safe enough to allow your bird to play with unsupervised in the cage, and which can be used for out of the cage time where you can keep and eye on them. There are no regulations when it comes to bird toys, therefore anything can be made and sold as one. Just because it is in a pet shop does not mean that it is safe. Check each toy over before you let your bird play with it, keep them clean, and check for damage frequently.


If you check any list of unsafe bird toys, many of yours, and mine will appear on them. Please just use your head. I am writing about what I have read about, but that doesn't mean I follow this advise to the word. I judge each toy according to my own standards. I have links, plastic, metal etc, but I know the dangers each pose. 

> Mirrors - They are not terrible toys but you must be cautious. Budgies are super clever and super stupid at the same time. Whilst your budgie might be able to churn out word after word looking in a mirror, he doesn't realise he is talking to himself, he thinks he is talking to another budgie. This behaviour is dangerous and can lead to many different mental issues, including aggression towards you as an owner. I have never had mirrors in the boys cage, even now they are together as a pair I won't add one. I do not want them to become fixated. This isn't me being selfish, this is to ensure that the mental health of my boys is not compromised. I've witnessed both Reggie and Buster sit and talk to their reflections in the door handle and the leg of the TV stand. They love it and almost go into a trance so it is very reasonable to limit the exposure to mirrors. BUT, I do let them talk to their reflections now and again, and I have recently purchased a disco ball which they love. As with most things, everything in moderation.

> Certain materials can be dangerous for birds. I have already mentioned that you need to check the threads on your rope toys and if there are lose ones cut them back, or dispose of the toy. Dangly synthetic fibers can be swallowed and they can clog up the bird inside.
Metal is generally not advised. This does seem extreme doesn't it seeing as most toys are made of metal, but stainless steel or nickel plated are the advised metal.
Some plastic 'toys' are not toys and they are not safe because if ingested they could be toxic. 

Links, hooks and clasps - just be sure that all of them are done up tightly so that little beaks and claws cannot get trapped. Watch how your bird plays with them, if they have a fascination with sticking their beak in a small chain, take it away. Why not recycle the toy and break it up into something knew, removing the dangerous parts and using the fun bits? I have done this many times.

> Bells
- Birds love bells!! There's no denying that, and I am certainly not telling you to refuse your budgies bells to play with. But just have a think and a check: Jingle bells, the round ones, quite obviously pose a threat to little feet and beaks getting caught in the gaps. The classic bell which has the little dangly bit inside can cause a choking hazard as they are often very loosely attached and budgies seem obsessed with getting their beaks on those bits and becoming ''bell face'' as we call it. 

> Moving parts - Lots of fun toys have lots of bits, and between these lots of bits, heads and feet can get trapped. These three toys are very common, the boys have a similar one to the Ferris wheel. Just be sure to watch how your bird plays with them. If I saw Buster sticking his head through some of it I wouldn't let them play with it unsupervised, it is not worth the risk and they have multiple other toys to play with. 

I am going to finish this post now as I have written LOADS! I haven't covered nearly as much as I would like to so I will write another post which covers play time outside of the cage and what the boys have. They are mega spoilt! This will include their play gyms, purchased and home made, and any other toys which I think are good recommendations. 

Please read this post as food for thought, rather than telling you what you can and can't use for your birds (although I do strongly advise against sandpaper perches!). As I said, I have many toys for the boys that appear on unsafe lists, but then almost every toy has its dangers as they are not regulated. Keep an eye on your birds as they play and inspect their toys. The more variety and fun you can provide the less likely they will probably get fixated on one toy and get into trouble. 

Images: All of the images of toys used in this blog are from