Proper Perches For Small To Large Bird Cages


Perch Selection Tips for the Small to Large Bird Cage Range

One Perch Does Not Fit All

While many bird owners understand the health benefits of selecting large bird cages for their parrots, they may not realize the importance of choosing the most appropriate perches. Birds use perches for standing, grooming, chewing, surveying and sleeping. The composition and arrangement of perches within either a small or large bird cage establish daily comfort and proper foot health. If not chosen properly, they can also promote pain and increase vulnerability to disease. Birds spend their entire lives on their feet, even when they sleep. The wrong perch for a bird is more uncomfortable than an ill-fitted pair of shoes is for its owner. In nature a bird can select the perch that is most suited to themselves. In captivity, that's the owner's job. So when an owner selects perches for a large bird cage, he should consider size, material and placement.

The Different Perching Options, Suitable for either a Large Bird Cage or a Small One

Wood perches can be purchased in a store or harvested right from nature.  Natural wood perches often work best since they offer birds varying degrees of thickness for perching. Wood perches help keep the birds from forcing them to put pressure on the same area of their feet, and thereby allowing them an opportunity to find their own perfect comfort zones. Smaller birds can enjoy wood branches from fruit or eucalyptus trees.  However, anyone looking for their own wood perches should check a list of potential toxic trees (including oak, cedar, and cherry, for example) and be careful to avoid any that have been sprayed with dangerous chemicals.  Since birds like to chew on their perches, treated wood can pose a health threat to them. All branches harvested from outdoors should be scrubbed in a detergent, dried in the sun, and heated for 45 minutes at 200 degrees in an oven to kill any insects.  A large bird cage should have at least one wood perch with many different diameters.  Some large bird cages come equipped with wooden dowel perches; however, these may not be ideal because they are too uniform in diameter and may have a slippery finish.

Rope perches double as supports and playthings.  They are soft on bird feet and provide great texture for gripping.  Another benefit to rope perches is that they are easily cleaned in a washer and dryer.  The downside to rope perches is that they may become hazardous when they fray, especially if a bird is prone to chewing it.  Frayed rope can entangle a bird's feet or cause illness if swallowed and thus should be replaced as it begins to show signs of wear. The choice of materials can be an issue as some “man-made”fibers such as nylon may be more slippery than natural fibers. (See the note on “plastic” perches below.)

Mineral perches, also called cement or concrete perches, are grooming staples to every large bird cage.  The rough surface of a properly-sized mineral perch helps keep their nails trim, and birds will use them to clean their beaks.  A mineral perch diameter should be large enough that the tips of a bird's nails will touch its surface, otherwise it won't be useful for trimming.  These perches provide the right amount of abrasion without damaging a bird's feet. 

Plastic perches are popular because they are durable and easy to clean.  The downsides of these perches (either PVC or acrylic) are that they may cause harm to birds if they are chewed, and they may not be the most comfortable.  Plastic perches can be too slippery, especially for larger birds, or have a uniform diameter, thus an owner should make sure that these are not the only type of perch available inside of a large bird cage.  Owners can also scuff the surface of plastic perches with sandpaper to give their birds better traction.

Size and Arrangement Considerations

Because not all species have the exact same size of feet, perching decisions should be based on individual assessments.  Many avian experts recommend that a bird's foot should be able to wrap around 75% of the diameter of a perch in order to rest comfortably.  If a bird's foot is too difficult to measure, owners can estimate while the bird tries different perching options, maybe even taking close up photos of the bird’s feet for later examination.  A correctly-sized perch will relieve pressure on the proximal tarsometatarsus (the bones most used for perching) and prevent sores.  These bones should not be sitting flat on a perch at all times. There should be at least one perfectly-sized perch in each large bird cage that is placed in the highest corner.  This is where birds prefer to sleep, and they will spend the majority of their day here.  But perches of varying diameters are also needed, such as a larger one for beak and nail grooming and a smaller one for acrobatics and exercise.

Some experts suggest three as a magic number for perches.  This gives birds a varied environment without overcrowding their cages.  Even a large bird cage can restrict movement with too many perches.  A bird should be able to perch anywhere in a large bird cage and move around freely without bumping into another nearby perch or the bars of the cage.  The perches should be placed at different heights to offer birds opportunities for climbing and reduce boredom.  Owners should also avoid placing perches directly above food and water dishes to reduce elimination hazards.  Instead, having a perch near dishes will offer a comfortable eating area and prevent them from having to perch on the thin plastic edge of a bowl, which may be difficult for larger birds.

The Wrong Perch Can Hurt Your Bird

The wrong perch not only causes birds discomfort, but it can also adversely affect their health.  Small or large bird cages typically have space for many different perching options.  However, owners must still consider the size, material and placement of each perch.  Perches that are either too large or too small in diameter can contribute to arthritis, a condition that is much easier to prevent than treat once it becomes a problem.  Additionally, perches made of sandpaper should never be used inside of a small or large bird cage.  This material is too abrasive for bird feet and can cause sores.  If this is the only perching option they have, birds will be forced to continue standing in pain, creating constant open sores that will leave them vulnerable to infections.  Uncomfortable birds are unhappy birds and will likely try to communicate this discomfort to their owners. 

Variety is essential in perch selection best practices.  Varied materials and sizes will keep birds happy and contribute to proper avian health. can outfit any large bird cage with perching options for all types of bird sizes and species.

The BIG 3 Bird Feeding Links!
Play Stands
Window Seats
hand feeding of new cage birds can be done by pet bird owners
Many avian experts agree that natural wood perches offer the most value for birds; however, whether a large bird cage or a small cage, either should contain several perches of different materials and sizes for optimal bird health.

Nina Playtop

While a branch from outside may be used as a perch, there are reasons ranging from sanitation to potential toxicity that may turn bird owners toward a "purchased perch" from a pet supply.

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