Housing Large Birds

Large birds such as cockatoos, African greys and Amazon parrots have special housing requirements. The size of the cage, type of perch and accessories for the cage are important.

What size cage do I need?

For large birds, the bigger the cage the better. Since these birds spend a lot of time flying in the wild, the cage must be big enough to provide opportunities for exercise and entertainment. Your bird should be able to fly from perch to perch, as well as stretch its wings without hitting the sides. A long, rectangular cage is much better than a tall one since birds cannot fly directly up and down.

The cage should be made from metal, as large birds can quickly chew through wooden cages. Wooden cages are also impossible to clean and disinfect.

A minimum size for cockatoos is 90cm x 90cm x 120cm. For African greys and Amazons, a minimum size is 60cm x 90cm x 120cm.

What should I use as perches?

Tree branches make the best perches. Putting the branches in an oven at 150ºC for at least half an hour will kill insects in the wood. Natural branches have differing diameters and textures, giving good exercise for the feet. They also help to wear the nails naturally, so they do not require clipping. Replace the branches every couple of weeks since they cannot be cleaned effectively.

Concrete perches are also good for wearing the nails.

Birds also tend to maintain the natural shape of their beaks by cleaning them on the perches. Try to avoid having perches directly below one another as this results in soiling with faeces.

Cotton rope perches are generally not recommended, particularly for birds that chew. If you do use cotton rope perches, ensure you inspect them regularly and dispose of them as soon as they start to show wear or fraying. Natural hemp rope perches are a better option but still need to be replaced regularly to ensure hygiene.

What else do I need to put in the cage?

Food and water containers should be attached securely to the side of the cage, in a position where they cannot be soiled. Containers need to be cleaned daily, so they should be made of a sturdy, non-porous material such as stainless steel.

Birds need toys for entertainment. Remember that large birds have powerful beaks that can break some toys, so be careful with bells and chains, avoid toys containing glass or rubber, and don’t place mirrors in the cage. Polished stainless steel can provide a reflective surface for entertainment.

Clean all washable toys regularly in a bird-safe disinfectant or diluted white vinegar, rinsing well afterwards.

Some birds like exploring paper bags and boxes, so experiment with a few different toys. If your bird seems apprehensive of a new addition, leave it outside the cage for a while, then gradually introduce it.

Contributors: Dr Julia Adams BVSc, Dr Rebecca Bragg BVSc  
By Provet Resident Vet – Last updated 1 October 2016
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