Dear (new) bird lovers,
Have you decided to get your first bird? Congratulations, you’re in for a treat! If you’ve never had a bird before, you’ve probably been doing a ton of research on everything from general safety hazards to breed specific peculiarities for whatever type of bird you’ve decided on.
Slow down though! Before you get your new feathered buddy home, you need to get to work setting up a bird cage (or aviary). Luckily, there are only four basic things you need to get your bird’s habitat started. Of course, you can add more things as you go, but these are the bare bones, must have items you need to start your bird of happy and healthy in their new home.
I have an infographic here for you that shows the four most important things you need when you’re setting up a bird cage. Be sure to keep reading after the image for a more detailed look at each item!
4. The Cage
This one may seem obvious in an article about setting up a new bird cage but you should definitely take a minute to carefully consider the type of cage you get.
Firstly, if you have a round cage for your bird, throw that thing away! Round cages can be dangerous for birds. The way they’re built means that the wires at the top of the cage angle toward each other, this creates a smaller opening that your bird’s wings, beak, or foot can get caught in. As if the fact that they could be hurt wasn’t enough, round cages can even be psychologically damaging to some birds!
When deciding on a cage, make sure to get one that has appropriately spaced bars for the species of bird you’re bringing home. For small birds the spacing needs to be about 1/2”, for medium birds ¾”, and for large birds, they can be a full 1” apart. The right bar spacing is vitally important to the health of your bird. A bird should never be able to fit its head between the bars, or it could injure or even accidentally kill themselves trying to get their heads back out!
The material is another important factor to consider when deciding on a cage, I usually favor stainless steel for a number of reasons, but wrought iron cages and even wood aviaries can be appropriate depending on your situation. I would steer clear of powder coated caged though, especially if you’re bringing home a large or particularly destructive bird.
Check out this article for some more in-depth information about choosing the right bird cage.
3. The Perch
Now that you have your cage picked out, you can move on to filling it with all sorts of fun things for your bird to interact with!
When you bought your cage, it probably came with a completely smooth dowel of some sort for a perch. Do your bird’s feet a favor and throw that thing away! Or, if you don’t want to get rid of it, at least get 2 or 3 other perches to supplement it.
You see, a bird spends a lot of time just standing around. They can’t sit on their behinds like we can, so when they aren’t flying they’re usually on their feet. A birds’ foot requires variation in the texture and width of the things they stand on in order to remain healthy. Not having enough variety in their perches can lead to a nasty bacterial infection called Bumblefoot.
Bird’s feet evolved to stand on natural branches, so that sort of perch is generally preferred. If not a natural wood branch, then at least something varies in diameter similarly to a natural branch. Just be careful if you want to use a branch you find yourself! Some types of wood are toxic to certain breeds of bird. You also need to take some time to prepare a branch you find yourself. It needs to be thoroughly cleaned, dried, and baked to remove any insect infestations.
You can read more about what makes an ideal perch for your new bird in this article right here.
2. Food and Water bowls
It’s the best practice to include at least two sources of food and two sources of water for a single bird and to add an additional food and water source per additional bird.
It might seem like overkill to you, but your bird likes to have some options! Variety is going to be one of the key things that you’ll need to provide your bird to keep them engaged and healthy, and that’s just as important with food and water as it is with perches and toys.
Try placing your bird’s food dishes at varying elevations or near a few different types of perch, you may find your bird prefers eating in a certain area. It’s even more important to have more than one sort of water source for your bird.
An open container can be a good water source, but it can easily get dusty or dirty, especially if your bird likes to take a bath in it! You’ll need to change an open dish of water pretty frequently to keep it fresh. You can also get a bottle specifically made for birds to use that attaches to the side of the cage.
A water bottle is a great water source because it doesn’t get dirty like an open bowel. However, some birds don’t like using a water bottle and they can get clogged, so never rely only on a water bottle as your primary water source.
Toys are probably the most fun thing you need for your bird’s cage, but don’t think of them as a luxury! A healthy bird needs a variety of toys to play with almost as much as they need food and water. Without a lot of interesting toys to interact with, birds can develop severe behavioral issues like depression and anxious feather-plucking.
Be prepared to buy (or make) quite a few toys for your bird over its lifetime. Not only do birds tend to destroy some of their favorite toys over time, but they also get bored with them. In order to keep your bird mentally stimulated it needs to have a rotation of new and interesting toys.
Making sure the toys you find online or in stores are safe for your bird, deserves a whole article by itself, but I will say that you should steer clear from anything that has loose strings or ragged edges, as they can be dangerous for your bird.
Always closely monitor your bird’s toys, especially anything made of plastic or cloth. Birds love to destroy their toys, and they’ve been known to eat the little bits of a toy they can tear off. Plastic and cloth particularly have been known to impact a bird’s crop, leading to the need for immediate medical intervention. Replace any toy that has become too damaged to be safe for your bird.
Toys are where you can have a lot of fun though because they come in some many varieties! You can use toys to play with your new bird which is twice as fun as just watching. A variety of toys is also important to keep your bird from missing you too much when you need to leave the house. Make sure they have plenty of fun ways to keep themselves entertained when they are by themselves.
Read this article before you decide to give your bird a toy with a mirror on it. Most birds are fine with mirrors, but others can react badly to them. It’s important to know what warning signs to watch out for before you decide to give your bird a mirror.
A Fine Home
It doesn’t take much to set up a great starter home for your bird, only about 4 things actually! It’s not hard to set up your first cage, but it’s the attention you pay to the details that will make it a safe home for your bird to enjoy for years to come.
As you start your life with a new friend, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by all of the new information you need to learn. I’d like to invite you to take the time to look around this site a little more. Many of the articles are written specifically with new bird lovers in mind and I’m sure you’ll find a lot of useful information.
Keep in mind that your local avian vet is a valuable resource, share any of your questions or concerns with them, they’ll be glad to help!
Good luck on your new adventure, have fun setting up a bird cage, and remember to keep you and your bird safe!
Until next time Bird Lover new or old,
P.S. Follow me on the social media links below for more great content, or leave a comment below telling me about your first-time bird experiences, I’d love to hear about it!