Increasingly, pet birds are spending more time out of their cages as bird ownership increases, and birds become “mobile companions”. Even so, correct cage selection and management are important, even if the cage is only used at night or as “home base”.

Cage selection

Buy the biggest cage you can afford, preferably the longest rather than the tallest. Tall, narrow cylindrical cages are inappropriate for most birds.

Ensure the cage is strong enough and has straight sides for easy cleaning.

If the cage is galvanised, scrub it repeatedly with a 50:50 solution of vinegar and water to neutralise the zinc coating, which can cause heavy metal poisoning.

Wooden barred cages should not be used for parrots or budgerigars. These are meant for canaries, but even then, they make it difficult to see the birds inside and hard to clean. Avoid them if possible.

Inside the cage

Overcrowding the cage with toys and swings isn’t such a great idea, especially if the bird is always in the cage.

Line the cage floor with newspaper, paper towels or clean sand. Don’t use woodchips, shavings, sandpaper, grit or sawdust. Some cages have a wire floor or “suspended” floor and this is fine, as long as the birds don’t have contact with their droppings.

Food and water

Food and water bowls need to be cleaned daily and placed away from each other in the cage to prevent the bird “dunking” its food. Hooded bowls are available, to minimise mess.

Bird baths or a fine spray of water are appreciated by birds for preening purposes.


Toys for cages need to be chosen carefully. Avoid hooks, wire clasps, removable bells and anything which may trap the bird or be swallowed. The best toys are often free – pine cones, seed sprays, gum nuts etc. Be aware that birds sometimes try to feed the other “bird” they see in the mirror and this can be mistaken for vomitting.


Perches should be natural native tree branches of various diameters, which are replaced instead of being cleaned when soiled. Metal or plastic perches should be avoided and only use wooden dowels if branches aren’t available. Place only two or three perches in a cage being careful not to place them over food or water bowls, to avoid contamination.

Sandpaper covers or perches can cause foot and toe damage and should be avoided.

Cage location

Cages should be placed at eye level or higher (never on the floor).

An outside aviary

When setting up an outside aviary, give consideration to all of the following:-

  • Aspect of facing direction – should be away from rain and wind. East to North is best.
  • Materials – don’t use treated pine or softwoods
  • Roof type and floor type
  • Shade
  • Pest (vermin) control
  • Quarantine area
  • Perches
  • Placement of feeding and water bowls
  • Parasite control
  • Aviary plants
  • Breeding records
  • Hygiene and disinfection weekly

We can advise on all these issues if you are considering building a backyard aviary.

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