5 tips on decorating for parrots

When it comes to enrichment, the physical environment, i.e how we have built and decorated the habitats our parrots will be living in, is one very important aspect. By thinking about how we put it together, we can increase the chances of parrots in a group getting along (Social enrichment), encourage them to move around and explore, and much more. In this blog post i’ll give you some quick tips on what to think about: this is one area where details can make a difference!

Proper enclosure design is an important part of keeping parrots, whether they have their own enclosures or roam freely in our homes.

Proper enclosure design is an important part of keeping parrots, whether they have their own enclosures or roam freely in our homes.

First off is the the obvious factor: size. The bigger the enclosure, the easier it is for us to do a good job making it into a good habitat for our birds. Parrots are (should be!) very active birds, and they need a lot of space to thrive: even when you are not home. I do realize the definition of “a lot of space” differs depending on where you are in the world. In Sweden, where i live, the minimum cage size for a large macaw is by law 6,3 square meters. And that’s minimum! Many people with large birds therefore choose to close off a room or part of a room instead of going for a traditional cage. This is often much, much cheaper, and let’s you design the cage in such a way that it is much easier to clean. I’ve always built my own cages as well, and highly recommend it. (But that’s another post!)

Macaws in an 8m2 room that was rebuilt to house them during the days.

Macaws in an 8m2 room that was rebuilt to house them during the days.

Second: forget about dowel perches. Just toss them out or burn them; they’re completely useless! I realize getting fresh branches might be difficult if you live in a city, like i do, but most of the times we can work stuff out. My neighbors have become so used to seeing me drag everything from half a forest to bales of hay up to my third floor apartment, so they don’t even react anymore. If you don’t have a car, maybe ask someone to help you and stock up while you can. The reason for this is that natural branches are uneven in size and texture, and provides lots of exercise for their feet. It is not uncommon for parrots to develop gout from sitting on dowel rods. Natural branches also provide a lot of enrichment as the birds de-bark and chew them, and help keep claws trimmed.

This cage has been decorated in a way that allows the birds to fly, climb, and use all of the available space

This cage has been decorated in a way that allows the birds to fly, climb, and use all of the available space

Third: While you’re out in the forest, look at the trees! Ever seen one with branches that just shoot out from the stem in a 90 degree angle? Me neither. A good guideline is to try and mimic a tree as much as you can when decorating. Position the branches in different angles, fasten them so that they move a little as the birds use them. Ropes, swings and boings. This adds dimension to the enclosure and lets the birds move around in a way they have evolved to, using their muscles and their whole body in different ways, as opposed to just walking back and forth on a steady, horizontal surface all day.

A cage for two cockatoos, decorated with natural branches to encourage movement.

A cage for two cockatoos, decorated with natural branches to encourage movement.

Fourth: Don’t clutter. If the area is large enough, the birds should be able to climb as well as spread their wings and flying without hitting things in it. There really is no reason to hang toys, swings etc only from the ceiling and in the middle of the cage. By using SS eye-screws, you can hang toys from anywhere in the cage. This is also good because…

Fifth: scatter resources! A parrot has no reason to use all of the available space if you don’t give him a reason to.  Many people often assume that their bird doesn’t need a large cage since “they just sit there anyway”. Parrots are not mindless, winged zombies that just climb around aimlessly for lols: they want to explore and do stuff; important parrot stuff. By distributing toys, food and water, foraging devices and more, you are giving your parrot a reason to move around, explore, and make use of the space. This also provides healthy excersize and let’s them practice balance and coordination, if you have decorated properly! 🙂

Our birds should be able to move freely in their enclosure, without hitting toys and other items wherever they go.

Being able to move freely without hitting objects is important!

So here were a few tips, hope you found them helpful! It is always important to look at your bird, watch them interact with their surroundings and provide them with as many reasons as possible to make use of it in healthy ways, no matter if your birds live in cages or roam freely.

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3 thoughts on “5 tips on decorating for parrots

  1. I really love this blog post. I would love to know what material you use on the bottom of the enclosure so that it is easy to clean.

  2. Thank you, Lolly! Glad you do. 🙂

    In mine, the bottom is made of a kind of sealed, wet-proof plywood. Sorry i don’t know the name of it in English, but it looks like this: http://www.goda-rum.se/ImageVault/Images/id_3999/width_477/height_238/dpi_72/compressionQuality_70/conversionFormatType_Jpeg/scope_0/ImageVaultHandler.aspx
    This is used by a lot of friends of mine in their bird rooms etc, and has worked for everything from little budgies to the large macaws and cockatoos for many years.

    On top of that, i have a very thin layer of either aspen wood chips or hemp chips. That way it’s easy to clean every day by just sweeping poop/used toys/food from the floor that sticks to the chips (no need to bend down either: ergonomic!) and, if need be, i use a paint scraper to get off dried poop/veggies etc and then just mop it about once a week. I’ve stuck to this solution for many years now as it works great for me. 🙂

    Hope this helps!
    /Steph

    • Thanks for all that great information about the flooring. I love your blog and appreciate your willingness to share your experiences with other parrot people, like me. 🙂

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