Providing the best environment for the inside of your parrot’s home is paramount to good health. Next to perching on his favorite person, your bird will spend the rest of his/her time on perches. There are a wide variety of textures and styles to choose from including natural woods, plastic, acrylic, dowel stock, and cement. Finding the right combination for your parrot’s cage is extremely important in order to prevent foot abnormalities from developing.
Size is a critical factor when choosing a perch. Your bird should be able to rest comfortably on his perch. Your birds feet should not wrap completely around the perch but rest on the top half as shown in the accompanying photo. Perches that vary in diameter will give your bird a choice as to the most comfortable spot to roost. Several perches of different sizes also exercise the feet while improving strength and dexterity. Improperly sized perches can cause medical conditions, such as arthritis and atrophy, to develop.
Natural branches make the best perches. They not only give the birds a comfortable perch, but provide a source for chewing. Parrots enjoy removing the bark and chewing the branches so they may need to be replaced often. Some of the safe woods that can be used to make perches are Apple, Ash, Beech, Birch, Cactus Wood, Cottonwood, Crabapple, Dogwood, Elm, Fir, Mulberry, Manzanita, Pine, Popular, and Willow.
Only use branches from trees that have not been sprayed with insecticides or pesticides. Clean branches using a 10% bleach to water solution. Leave bleach on for 10 minutes then, rinse well. Seasoned branches are safer but may be inhabited by insects. To kill insects: bake branches for 30 minutes in a 350 degree oven. For large branches: seal the branches is an air tight plastic bag for 30 days to kill any bugs.
Plastic perches are easier to clean than wood perches but they do not always offer the varying textures and diameters that natural perches do. Some plastic and acrylic perches are slippery, which make grasping difficult. Sanding these perches with a coarse piece of sandpaper will give the perch more texture making gripping easier. There are a few companies that are now offering textured PVC perches that vary in diameter.
Cement perches help keep nails rounded. They come in a variety of sizes and colors. They are a little pricey but they can save money by preventing your clothes from getting those little holes in them. Placing one cement perch near a food or water dish ensures that your bird will use the cement perch. Your bird will still need his/her nails trimmed, but cement perches can reduce the frequency of the need for nail trimmings. Cleaning cement perches does take some elbow grease. And placing them near food dishes does mean your bird will also use the perch to wipe his beak on, causing them to become dirty quickly. To be effective your bird’s foot must reach 3/4 of the way around the perch. Be sure to have non-cement perches in the cage as well. Birds who only have access to cement perches may develop foot problems such as arthritis.
Dowel stock is often used for perches. It is inexpensive and easy to clean. On the down side, they do not exercise the feet because of their uniform shape. Birds who only have dowel rod for perches may develop medical problems with their feet such as loss of grasping strength, arthritis, and atrophy. Use dowel stock perches in conjunction with other types of perches and vary their diameters.
Sandpaper perch covers are not recommended. They are too rough and can cause wear on pads and open sores on the bottom of your bird’s feet.
Several perches should be placed in each cage at different heights. Place a natural branch at the highest level in the cage for the roosting perch. Make sure the roosting perch varies in diameter so that your bird can pick the most comfortable spot to sleep. Using at least one hardwood perch in the cage will reduce the frequency of replacing perches. Do not overcrowd the cage with perches or toys. Leave enough room in the cage for exercise and wing stretching.
Clean and disinfect perches as needed. Do not allow your birds to perch and play on dirty perches. Parrots often use their perches to wipe their beaks on, so the perch nearest the food dishes should be a perch that is easily cleaned and disinfected. Placement of the perches can make a difference on how often they need to be cleaned. Try to install the perches so that they do not cross under or over another perch. If your bird is pooping on a lower perch then move a perch a few inches in either direction to prevent it from becoming soiled. Make sure that perches are completely dry before you return them to the cage. It is best to have 2 sets of perches so that you can always have a clean dry perch ready to replace a dirty one.
Stability is another important factor to consider when installing perches. Your parrot needs to feel secure and a perch that wobbles, or is slippery, may contribute to slip and fall accidents. Secure perches to cage bars with lag studs, washers, and wing nuts. Or cut perches 2 inches longer than the cage measurements and cut slits on the both ends to fit over the cage bar. Sand perches or router grooves in them to add texture to make grasping easier.
In conclusion, outfit your birds cage with several perches that vary in texture and diameter. Choose your birds perches carefully, considering all aspects of your birds behavior, size, and health and your bird will benefit from long term health and happiness.