Part IV: Cages
by Doug Bedwell
Cage sizes and styles are
often as different as the people who make or buy them. There is no
consensus on the "right" size cage for breeding lovebirds. The
principle that "Larger is Better," probably holds true, but there is
enormous disagreement on how large is large enough. As I've mentioned
elsewhere, my experience is with indoor aviaries in the American
Midwest. Obviously an outdoor aviary can accomodate larger cages, and
in most situations the available space will place some limits on cage
size and design. See the article on The Aviary
for more on this topic.
I do not colony breed my birds. I set up my
caging so that every breeding pair has its own separate cage. There are
many advantages to this system. For one, there is no question as the
the parentage of chicks that are produced. This is important for
several reasons. When I am working with color mutations, it is easier
to keep track of which chicks carry which recessive mutations. Also,
when I am breeding successive generations, I am able to avoid
uneccessary inbreeding. Another advantage of the one pair per cage
system is that it reduces the potential for violence in the aviary.
Tempestuous birds can’t get into fights withl each other if they
are in separate cages.
A disadvantage of the one
pair per cage system is that it takes more room, more cages, and
requires more maintenance time than a colony situation. Still, I feel
that the advantages of a one pair per cage system greatly outweigh
My breeder cages measure 30"
long x 14" high x 14 inches deep. I have two six inch square doors on
the front. A water dish hangs on the inside of one door, a seed cup on
the other. Having the cups on the doors provides two advantages. First,
it makes maintenance simpler, since I rarely have to actually reach
into the cage. Secondly, by hanging the dishes so that they are closed
in the door, I can make it (nearly) impossible for a feisty bird to
pull them down and dump out the contents.
Now, I’m certain some
of you are thinking "30 inches long? That’s TINY!" While others
of you are probably thinking "30 inches long? That’s HUGE!" All I
can say is that this size cage has been successful for me. I know
breeders who keep their birds outdoors in cages 6 feet long, I know
others that use breeding cages less than half the size of mine. I like
a 30" cage because it is a manageable size for an indoor aviary, but
still provides room for the birds to actually FLY from one end to the
other. Certainly the birds have several perches and toys to climb on
and around, but lovebirds are excellent flyers, and having enough space
to fly is, I feel, beneficial to their health in both the short and the
If you plan to make your own
cages, it is important that you get suitable wire. I make my cages from
1"x1/2" steel wire mesh. Some books will tell you that 1"x1" wire mesh
is "ideal" for lovebirds. Do not believe them. A lovebird can get its
head through a 1" square hole, though it cannot get its body through
one. In that sort of situation if a bird becomes startled and tries to
get away quickly it can very easily break its own neck in the wire.
Birds can also get themselves lodged in the wire, or bruise themselves
struggling to get out through an opening that is just slightly too
small. It is very easy for a lovebird to seriously injure or kill
itself on cagewire that is too widely spaced.
danger to many birds is the zinc coating used to galvanize most wire
mesh. Most wire mesh is galvanized by "dipping" the steel mesh into
molten zinc. This process is called "galvanized after welding" because
the wire is welded into a mesh first, then galvanized. This creates a
thin coat of zinc over the entire mesh, seams and all. This sort of
wire poses a threat to birds, because the zinc coating can crack and
flake off of the steel wire, and be ingested by the birds. It is very
possible for a bird that chews on its cage wire to ingest a lethal dose
of zinc in a very short time.
The type of wire to use for
building breeding cages is what is called "galvanized before welded"
wire mesh. In this type of wire, the individual steel wires are
electroplated with zinc before they are welded together. This leaves a
microscopically thin layer of protective zinc on the wire. This layer
is actually bonded to the steel, and will not flake off like dip
galvanizing, and does not pose a threat to birds.
If you are purchasing wire
for birds, inspect the type of wire you are buying. If you can see
where the seams in the mesh were welded, it’s galvanized before
welded wire. If you can’t see the seams or the welds, you are
dealing with dip galvanized wire, and it is probably better avoided.
If you really want to
minimize the time you have to spend with your daily cleaning and
feeding routine, and price is not an object, then purchasing cages is
probably the way to go. Most of the cages sold in pet stores are
alright for birds in a pet situation, but really aren’t ideal for
breeding. Breeder cages are available in a variety of sizes, can be
stacked and secured together into large racks and will typically be
expandable, so that you can connect two or more small cages together to
make a larger cage. Also, unlike most pet cages, they will be designed
to accomodate a nestbox.
Good quality breeder cages
are available by mail order from a number of different aviary
suppliers. Many of the vendors advertise through the major bird
magazines. Price, size, and quality vary widely, so take some time to
shop around. I would recommend that you try for cages that are at least
24" long and 12" square, and larger than that if at all possible.
Although cages become more expensive as they get larger, you will be
rewarded with stronger and happier birds.
In addition to your breeding
cages, you will want to have some larger "flight cages" to house groups
of birds that are not in breeding situations. I will typically house
juveniles together, because juveniles tend to get along better than
adult birds. I do know breeders that segregate their flights by gender,
which may reduce the potential for conflict as well. I do not sex all
of my birds, and will usually put a group in a flight together and let
their behavior tell me which are hens and which are cocks. In either
event, a larger flight will give your non-breeding birds a larger
flight space, and an opportunity for more social interaction than in a
breeder cage. I have several flight cages in a range of sizes, but
30"x30"x24" is probably about the average size. Again, some breeders
will have much larger cages than this, others will have smaller, and
others will have no flight cages at all. I have found that flight cages
are a convenient way to house and care for a larger number of birds,
your time when shopping for a bird cage. Shop around your local pet
store or search for bird cages
Do I Really
Want To Do This?