Written by Karine, TaffywDuck
The most important bird accessory... the one thing that has to be primordial for the well being of the bird, yet is often overlooked by soon-to-be bird owners. The cage is the bird's private corner, its territory and safe place to be. It shares the purpose of house, dining table, bed and restroom and since a bird will spend a lot of time in his cage, the cage needs to be perfectly adjusted to the precise type of bird you get.
For a cockatiel, the cage should be minimum 20 inches square and for a pair, 24 inches square. Why can't you get that cute little round cage that sells for only 15$? Well because it is too small and also because round isn't good for birds: they need a safe corner to hide in and a round cage (without corners) will be a very stressful and not reassuring place to be. The best thing you can do is buy the biggest cage you can afford (remembering the minimum of 20 inches square) as long as the bar spacing is "cockatiel proof", meaning that a tiel cannot get his head (or any other part) stuck in between the bars. A maximum of 5/8 inches for bar spacing should be fine for cockatiels.
Now, even the biggest cage can be a boring cage if it's not well equipped. Of course you need a food and a water bowl, but you can also use a water bottle if you notice that your bird tends to spoil his water by pooping in it or throwing food in it (which happens quite often for most birds). My Baby spoils her water every 20 minutes so I had to switch her to a water bottle (making sure that the birds does know how to drink from the bottle before you remove the water dish) but Flamie never ever spoiled it so he kept his water dish.
A good cage should have several perches (not to many, but at least 3) and these perches should be different shape and sizes so the bird gets plenty of foot exercising. In my cages I have: 1regular dowel perch that came with the cages, 1 comfy perch (rope perch) and 1 natural branch perch (apple). Baby likes having a swing so she has one made of natural branch, but since Flamie doesn't like swings I didn't give him one.
Toys, toys and even more toys is the key to a happy birdie. Don't get me wrong and go stuff 200$ worth of toys in the cage at the same time (unless you have a really big cage!!). There should be a minimum of 3 toys in the cage at all times and they should be placed around the cage and not all in the same corner. Toys should be rotated every 2 weeks or so, so the birds doesn't get too used to them and looses interest in them. That's why a bird owner must invest in toys at first and even possibly learn how to make some himself (saves quite a few bucks). The toys need to be made of safe, non-toxic materials (beware of lead, plastic covered lead objects found in smaller birds toys like budgie's, wood that is easily destroyed and splints etc.). Mine especially like toys with leather treads (naturally tanned, no chemical used). For more info regarding toys, please watch out for the next article, which will be on toys, coming on March 1st, 2003.