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Don't Wing it: Bird Supplies 101

Welcome home! As a new bird parent you may be wondering where you can find a comprehensive list of bird supplies. From a habitat, to a habitat liner, and finally perches, let this article serve as your one-stop-guide to shopping for bird supplies.

Go Big AND Go Home:

Buying a Habitat for Your Bird

A habitat is your bird's home, and size matters. As a bird parent, you want to provide the best and largest home possible. As a general rule of thumb, try to buy the largest habitat within your budget. The number one item to note is that the habitat should be big enough for your bird. Your bird will be in their new home a majority of the time. Habitats come in a wide variety of styles, shapes and sizes. Here's all you need to know:

Before shopping:

  • Know your bird

    Some birds want to be able to fly in their habitat (e.g. finches and canaries) while others like to climb, and need a tall habitat to exercise (e.g. budgerigars and parrots). This will determine if you purchase a wide or tall habitat.

  • Know your bird's size

    Most birds are full-grown when purchased or adopted. When finding the right habitat for your new friend, your bird should be able to fully spread both wings without touching the sides of her habitat at the very least. If you adopt a bird that is unweaned, they may still have a bit of growing to do.

  • Know your parenting habits

    Will your bird be in their habitat at all times, or will they be allowed out?

Consider the following safety points when shopping for a habitat:

  • Stability: Shake the habitat to ensure it feels solid and sturdy. Consider how the habitat will work in your home environment; if you have small children, if the habitat will fit in the area you'd prefer, etc.

  • Finish: Check the habitat for any sharp edges, rough welds or unfinished metal that could cut your bird (or you).

  • Small parts: Some habitats are designed as "knock-down" habitats. These habitats can be disassembled and flattened for storage. The hardware used to assemble them may become loose, risking the swallowing of a screw or bolt.

  • Latches: There are habitats designed specifically for escape-minded parrots. These have closures that are impossible for birds to open. Most parrots will play with latches, and if your habitat does not have such a tamper-proof latch, a padlock can be added to solve the problem.

  • Bar spacing and orientation: Ensure the width between the bars is narrower than the width of your bird's head, or they could get their head caught between the bars. Bars that are too close together can injure birds by trapping their feet. Horizontal bars are best for climbing, while vertical bars are less damaging to tail feathers.

  • Sanitation: For the sake of cleanliness and health, select a habitat that keeps your bird's droppings out of reach. Ensure also that the habitat has a pull-out bottom tray for easy cleaning.

Remember these stylistic notes:

Bird habitats range in style and material, depending on your bird's needs. Habitat style is completely up to you, as long as it is large enough, sturdy and safe for your bird. Habitats are made of aluminum, stainless steel, brass, wrought iron, wood, wire, plexi-glass, acrylic or a combination of materials, and each has a different features. Stainless steel is expensive, but it's the most durable, strongest and easiest habitat to clean. A stainless steel habitat generally lasts a lifetime. Transparent, acrylic habitats with air filtration systems have the advantage of retaining your bird's mess. With enough space and enough "toys" to promote climbing and exercise, these habitats compare well with more traditional habitats.

“Regardless of the requirements, it's usually pretty easy to find a habitat that is safe for your bird, within budget and matches your home décor.”

Minimum size chart:

Type of Bird Habitat Width Habitat Length Habitat Height
Type of Bird Cockatiel Habitat Width 30 inches Habitat Length 30 inches Habitat Height 36 inches
Type of Bird Amazon Parrot Habitat Width 30 inches Habitat Length 30 inches Habitat Height 36 inches
Type of Bird Love Birds: 1 per cage Habitat Width 18 inches Habitat Length 18 inches Habitat Height 24 inches
Type of Bird Love Birds: 2 per cage Habitat Width 36 inches Habitat Length 30 inches Habitat Height 36 inches
Type of Bird Budgerigars Habitat Width 18 inches Habitat Length 18 inches Habitat Height 24 inches
Type of Bird Finches Habitat Width 24 inches Habitat Length 14 inches Habitat Height 18 inches
Type of Bird Canaries Habitat Width 24 inches Habitat Length 14 inches Habitat Height 18 inches
Type of Bird Macaws Habitat Width 36 inches Habitat Length 36 inches Habitat Height 60 inches

From the Top to the Bottom

Habitat Liner Maintenance

Habitat liners catch bird droppings to keep your bird's home clean. Habitat liners should be changed daily. Selecting the lining for the bottom of your bird's habitat is an important decision when it comes to safety. While habitat liners should be kept out of your bird's access on a regular basis, birds are known to be curious and reach for the liner regardless. Lastly, as a pet parent, it's important to assess the state of your bird's droppings when you clean the cage. Irregular bird droppings are an early sign of a potential illness. Staying on top of cleaning will also help you stay on top of your bird's health.

A variety of habitat liners are available.

Common materials for habitat liners:
  • Paper products: Available, inexpensive and safe for your bird. Newspaper, paper towels, plain paper and brown paper work best. Do not use glossy paper or paper printed with colored ink as they could contain harmful chemicals. Using paper products as cage liners makes it easy to examine your bird's droppings.
  • Select shavings and pellets: Generally considered safe to use, one drawback to using them as a habitat liner is they make it difficult to examine your bird's droppings, as they tend to fall between the shavings and become absorbed.
  • Cedar shavings: NOT recommended as habitat liners because they may be damaging to birds, producing symptoms such as dermatitis, allergies and digestive problems.

Perches: Your bird's home base

Birds avoid most predators by their ability to fly. When not in flight, birds naturally perch in trees or on lofty structures, out of harm's way. Perches in your bird's new home, therefore, give your pet a sense of security. In fact, the higher the perch, the safer they'll feel. A perch also helps with your bird's exercise routine. Perches with different shapes and sizes keep your bird's feet conditioned. It's healthy for your bird to clutch in many different positions, and on different materials. As for sizing, a perch that can be totally encircled by your bird's foot so that the toes overlap is too small. Your bird's feet should only be able to get three-quarters of the way around the perch. Don't know which perch to purchase? See below, and take your pick or ask for advice at the nearest Petco. We offer a wide variety of bird perches for home use.

Manufactured perches

Manufactured perches are available in wood, mineral and plastic and in different sizes and shapes.

  • Wood perches: generally made of a hardwood dowel and may be round, oval or square. Because many birds chew wooden perches, these may need to be replaced periodically.
  • Mineral perches: helpful in wearing down the nails and beaks of birds, preventing them from becoming overgrown. These perches are also comfortable and relatively indestructible.
  • Plastic perches: not recommended, because the plastic can hurt a bird's feet.
  • Sandpaper perches: do not purchase - the sand may cut your bird's feet.
Natural Perches

Branches automatically come in the varied sizes and shapes that provide healthy perching for your bird.

  • Commercial natural perches: Rather than risking the health of your pet by introducing a cut branch into their habitat, you can purchase commercial ones for your bird, such as Manzanita perches.
Additional Perch Perks
  • Multiple perches: Although it's a good idea to have several perches of different sizes and shapes to provide exercise for your bird, do not have so many perches that it interferes with your bird's ability to move around.

Positioning of perches: Never position perches over feeding or drinking dishes, directly over one another or so close to the sides of the habitat that your bird's tail rubs against the bars. Try to maximize flying space within the habitat.