Arranging your bird’s cage: The Cage Canopy Concept

Mitch mentioned something to me the other day that I had never given any thought to the cage canopy. I had more or less arranged toys in the top part of the cage, from instinct I suppose, but never knew why I did it or thought that others might not do exactly the same. 

In the wild, parrots and other types of flighted birds (as opposed to emus and ostriches (that can’t fly) spend a lot of time foraging, often on the ground. All the rest of their time is spent in the upper branches of trees.

This provides the best cover from predators by preventing the things that want to eat birds from easily spotting them while the rustling of leaves alerts the birds to the presence of some creature in time to make every effort to escape the danger. The birds play, sleep and nest for the most part in the top one-third of the tree canopy. 

Instincts from the wild carry over in our companion birds, no matter how many generations it has been since their ancestors saw the rainforest canopy. In their houses (my term for cages) they will go down onto the bottom of the cage to eat if their food source is placed low in the cage, to forage for dropped food, or if they are ill. Otherwise, companion birds still mostly stay in the top one-third of the cage when inside their houses.

Healthy companion parrots like to sleep on the top-most perch in a corner for security and to have less space to protect. If they sleep in a birdie bed, they want it to be as near the roof of the home as possible. They want toys in the upper reaches of the cage to play with while feeling as safe as possible; it’s just their nature.

When arranging a cage, place a perch or perches to provide easy access to the food and water service. Add perches at spaces moving up the cage, space so the bird has room to move easily toward the upper portion of the cage. A chain bridge or ladder can also be great for this purpose because these require minimal space.

large california cage filled with toys and bird accessories

Wanna see before?

On one side of the upper part of the cage, place a perch and arrange a “wall” of toys between the bird and the main part of the cage. This creates a privacy wall when the bird wants to hide for a little nap or quiet time alone. It also acts as a busy play station when the bird wants to play or forage. This way the bird can come out of its hiding place to play with other toys in the more open space or hide, whatever mood it feels. Unless it is an emergency, do not invade the bird’s safe hiding spot. Leave this as the bird’s equivalent of your bedroom, a place you go for quiet time where you do not expect to be disturbed unnecessarily

If your bird has a birdie bed, it should be hung on the other side of the cage with an easy entrance perch. When the bird is in its bed, respect its rest time and do not disturb it, whether it is having a daytime nap or has gone in for the evening.

The rest of the top third of the cage should have toys, perches and swings interspersed around near the sides but not so close together or in mid-cage that the bird will hit its head moving around. Lots of toys are wonderful but an overcrowded cage where the bird has no space at all in which to spread its wings is not well arranged.

 Remember to place foraging toys and puzzle toys in the arrangement so your bird will forage for food and keep its mind busy when it is confined to the cage while you are not home. Bell toys allow the bird to make noise and swings allow it to feel much like it is sitting in the breeze on a tree link. Preening toys should be interspersed with other toys to prevent the potential for over-grooming. 

 In the middle third of the cage, place a nice sturdy perch that is quite long or even as wide as the cage so the bird has an open space with a perch it can hold onto while flapping its wings for exercise. The cage should be wide enough to fully spread both wings at once and the open space should be tall enough to allow the wings to fully flap up and down without hitting any toys or other objects.

The perches you choose should be various textures. Grooming perches are important so that your bird can do most or all of its nail and beak grooming itself, preventing the need to capture the bird for a pedicure — something almost no bird likes. I did know a cockatoo once that would hold its foot up while it patiently had its nails filed, but that is a rarity. Concrete, mineral, java wood, manzanita and all types of perches should be included so your bird will have healthy feet. Be sure the diameter of the perches is correct for your species so that your bird will not develop arthritis or other foot ailments but also have some that have slight differences in diameter to rest the feet– after all a bird is on its feet 24/7/365 for all its life.

white cockatiel feeds from plastic mechanical bird toy

Your bird will likely choose one toy as it’s very favorite. That toy should not be moved except for cleaning and then it should be replaced in the same spot. But all the other toys should be rotated in their locations, changed for new ones, old ones added back in the mix so that the bird does not become bored. A toy that has been out of the cage for a couple of months is just like getting a new toy for the bird. Always be adding new toys because the oldest ones will wear out and the parts can be saved until you have enough to make another DIY toy for your bird.

All parts of the cage canopy — top, middle and bottom thirds — should be checked for safety. Look for fraying toys that could catch a toe or entangle the head or wing. If it can safely be trimmed, trim the offending hazard. If that does not seem to make it fully safe, remove the toy and add it to the toy parts box.

Make your parrot’s cage as much like its natural environment as possible by using the cage canopy concept for your bird’s comfort and happiness. A little thought can turn a cage into an environment that is real home for your bird.

written by nora caterino
approved by mitch rezman
approved by catherine tobsing


Help – my sun conure screams loudly when he cannot see me

Photograph courtesy of jmbead

from “comments” in a recent order confirmation email:

he is less than a year old and screams loudly when he cannot see me. I am hoping the calm herb will be effective when my neighbors are home. Or just gives me a break when i need it. I took him to my moms for christmas and she was not happy about the loudness. 🙁

desta baldwin – Order number: WCP-89743 Order Date: 1/15/2016

Hi Desta

I’ve got a couple of ideas but need a bit more info

what kind of bird ? – how do we know it’s a he? – flighted or clipped? – did mom yell “shut up” at the bird? – could you send a pic of the bird in it’s cage? – thanx mitchr

Read moreHelp – my sun conure screams loudly when he cannot see me

Are Himalayan Salt Lamps to Parrots what Coal Mines Were to Canaries?

Editor’s note: some of you may remember my journey enabling my mother’s return to Chicago Arlene (my mom) has been on five of the seven continents. Eight years ago at the tender age of 76 she spent three weeks traveling to China.

The Himalayas span five countries: India, Nepal, Bhutan, China (Tibet), and Pakistan, with the first three countries having sovereignty over most of the range. At the time, China had not closed the border to Tibet and she was able to spend three days there. According to mom the majesty, environment and the purity of the air you breathe in the Himalayas – cannot be understated.

Read moreAre Himalayan Salt Lamps to Parrots what Coal Mines Were to Canaries?

Is propane heat safe for my bird?

A new Product Question has been submitted to Windy City Parrot! 
Someone has posted the following question at your store.
Submitter’s Name: Lee
Submitter’s Email:
Would this be a good option for emergency heat when the power is out, single digit temp outside, etc.? Two quarts is a lot of water to heat with emergency fuel (without gassing everyone). What is the minimum amount of water that would be effective. Do you have suggestions for other heat sources? Thanks, Lee
Buy heating products for young & sick birds
Run for the hills Francis he’s about to start talking “science”
So here’s the problem Lee – it’s something called – Newton’s Law of Cooling
Newton’s Law of Cooling states that the rate of change of the temperature of an object is proportional to the difference between its own temperature and the ambient temperature (i.e. the temperature of its surroundings).
A beaker of water is heated to boiling point for an experiment in the physics laboratory. The water inside the beaker reaches a temperature of 302 degrees F (150 degrees C).
“hey, wait Mitch, water boils and becomes steam at 212 degrees F (100 degrees C) where the heck can you find 302 degrees F water?” – oy
You should have run with Francis when you had the chance – 
Superheated water is liquid water under pressure at temperatures between the usual boiling point, 100 degrees C (212 degrees F) and the critical temperature, 374 degrees C (705 degrees F). It is also known as “subcritical water” or “pressurized hot water.” 
back to the experiment-
After measuring the temperature, the beaker is removed from the burner and is then placed on the counter top.
The temperature of the surrounding air is measured to be 167 degrees F (75 degrees C). The beaker of water is left to cool for three minutes and then its temperature is measured to be 248 degrees F (120 degrees C). How many minutes more will it take before the water will cool down to a temperature of 185 degrees f (85 degrees C)? About 12.
Making my way on final approach back to reality and an answer to your question. Even if you had access to the flux capacitor from Back to the Future to heat the water hotter than you ever knew that water could be heated, Lee. Using two hours of emergency fuel to heat water that will cool in, realistically about 30 minutes because the water is surrounded by insulated rubber not conductive glass – would be inefficient and a waste of valuable emergency energy. It’s far more efficient to use two hours of emergency fuel to heat you and the bird which can be accomplished (without gassing anyone).
We advocate small catalytic propane space heaters. They are highly efficient. We have been using them for years – with our bird. How did I learn that propane would be safe for our cockatiel? Sometimes fact checking on the Internet is counterproductive. Researching the subject of propane safety and birds, once again proved the Internet is the best worst place for information.
About a dozen years ago, I was told by an avian “expert” that birds should never be exposed to propane heat. That always bothered me because I know many people throughout the country have no access to natural gas and rely on the propane distribution system by truck. 
We travel with our cockatiel popcorn to our travel trailer a fairly regular basis. One of the problems with travel trailers especially old ones are they’re terrible to heat because you’re basically in a tin can. We had insulation added in what we call a Hill William bump out with wood studs and drywall.
The problem was even on a moderately cool day when we arrived the trailer was always an icebox. For safety we used two electric heaters that took forever to warm up the trailer.
quaker parrot siting on a tree with snow
So one day I tried an experiment with an infrared propane tent heater from our tent-camping days. I turned on the electric heaters and then the propane heater to accelerate the rise of temperature in the room. I opened up one of the two ceiling vents of the trailer and brought Popcorn in, watching her very closely.
I kept a sharp eye on her throughout the evening and allowed the ceiling vent to remain open. It was getting pretty chilly out so I finally closed the vent still watching her – our trailer is not that big – a 25 footer. We were up for another couple of hours and she was none the worse for wear and I felt good about it. That was 4 winters ago.
Catalytic heaters like the Mr. Heater above will easily put out 30,000 BTUs and will run on a 1 pound $3 tank of propane for about five hours on high. That said, this miracle winter survival device can never come near a bird. Birds do not understand the concept of flame nor fire. So the judgment call you are faced with is determined by the length of the power outage. If news reports say that power will be restored in a few hours, keep it simple, play it safe – don’t let your bird out of the cage while the heater is in use.
If you are in a God forbid situation like last year’s horrific snowfalls on the east coast creating power outages for days and you are unable to evacuate, you’ll want to have a strategy for heater placement to allow some “out of the cage time.” For example in the trailer we would put a heating unit behind the stool under the kitchen table and if the bird was out she was not allowed to go to the floor. Capiche?
So you know me – the voices in my head start chatting and somehow come up with a recommendation that we should make our small travel trailer that’s permanently parked more “winter friendly”. Fast forward to this past spring and I now have two 10,000 BTU ventless heaters warming our 1784 cubic foot trailer It took two days to put in the heaters. It took six weekends to find where all the cold air was coming in. We even sealed up all but one jalousie crank window – jalousie windows are made of long narrow strips of glass that work like blinds and have no insulation value whatsoever.
BTW – our neighbor in Indiana smelled gas one night – he works for a company that distributes gas. Always trying to do the right thing I called Amerigas to report the issue. It was 10:30 on a Friday night. The AmeriGas driver pulled up in what was probably just a little over 30 minutes. They take ANY reports of a potential propane leaks VERY seriously. As it turned out the pipe dope around the threaded end of the meter on our 400 gallon tank had cracked and gas was in fact escaping. About two turns and it was fully tightened – it passed the the leak test (soapy water solution over the entire area). That was impressive.
So Popcorn is out of her cage as long as we’re with her in the trailer which keeps her happy and most importantly healthy. So much for an “expert” opinion.
head shot umbrella cockatoo parrot
But I would be a hypocrite to ask you to buy into this important safety issue via based solely on personal anecdotal information so I did a little digging and I found this on gofundme (a crowd sourcing site for raising money)

“I help run a small parrot rescue and sanctuary in south central Wisconsin. Feathered Friends Sanctuary & Rescue. We are in desperate need of help to pay for food for our parrotsand propanefor the coming winter. All our income is from donations, no one gets paid. Any and all help is greatly appreciated. Thank you.” Here’s an entire bird rescue in Edgerton Wisconsin, that is heated with propane. ’nuff said?

Buy heating products for young & sick birds
Be it propane, natural gas or electric heat you still have to deal with winter. We offer the absolute best selection of bird warmers so you don’t have to worry about heating the whole house just to heat the bird. There we go solving problems again.
cuteness explosion warning
Silkie doves on a thermo perch
written by mitch rezman
approved by catherine tobsing
your zygodactyl footnote

Why are those feathers in the cage floor? Is it plucking, molting or over-preening?

We recently received an email from a subscribe of Sunday Brunch that I am sharing with you below:

I recently adopted a 15 year old Severe Macaw whose previous owner had a terminal illness. I could tell the Macaw had been taken care of meticulously from the written records of her care from Hatch Papers to recent complete blood panels however I never had the opportunity to question the previous owner concerning details of ‘Bandit”. I knew the moment I saw her that I wanted her as I owned a Severe 30+ years ago and have known several over the years but none as sweet as this little girl.

We spend at least an hour each day cuddled up and grooming each other, over the last month I finished assisting in the removal of cuticle from her new feathers and thought she was finishing a molt but in the last ten days she has begun to lose a large number of feathers from down, tertiary flights, a couple of tail feathers and everything in between. Some come out during our preening sessions but most are found in her cage.

She receives a well rounded diet of fruits, veggies, seed and pellets which I prepare twice daily along with four others who own my heart and soul, all rescue kids.

I m concerned about the beginning of a plucking problem since Bandit is new to our family even though she seems to be very well adjusted and happy.

Are there any Tell-Tale signs to differentiate between Preening with Molting and Plucking ? Any advice you can offer or things to look for that might settle my mind would be appreciated.

Thank You for your Time and Advice,

Carl B

This problem certainly is in the minds of other adoptive parrot parents and here is my advice:

Let’s look at the three ways parrots can lose feathers and how to deal with each.


When a bird molts, it loses feathers in a symmetrical pattern. This means that if a primary flight feather on the left side molts, the matching one on the right side will molt at the same time or within a day or so.

The tertiary flight feather, or inner wing feathers, molt first and the pattern moves out on the wing. Tail feathers will molt in the same pattern and then the contour feathers covering the body molt along with the down feathers, those fluffy inner feathers. Each feather is replaced quickly but at times the bird can look a bit ragged. There should never be a bald spot during a molt. All this is nature’s way of preserving the ability for the bird to fly while replacing feathers with new ones. The molt begins based on a complex combination of hormones and environment.


Popcorn the Queen o’ molting cockatiels


Every day a healthy bird spends time grooming its feathers. This removes dander and the keratin sheaths of new feathers growing in. Those birds that have a preen gland (the uropygial gland) located at the base of the tail will rub oil on their beaks and spread it over the feathers. The vast majority of birds commonly kept as companion birds have this gland. The oil on the feathers is what makes a bird nearly waterproof.

Some birds, especially when stressed or having a medical problem, will over-groom their feathers, creating a ragged look and likely breaking some feathers. This habit can lead to plucking, the last subject we will look at.

A parrot like Carl’s that has lost its human and been placed in a new home can mourn the missing human and experience stress due to the presence of other birds (if it was an only bird before). Some random feathers can be lost due to over-grooming but it is not likely to happen in the same pattern of feathers as in a molt.

Allo preening is when one parrot preens another

A parrot that is over-grooming should have support by daily giving a good multivitamin and mineral supplement as well as an anti-stress supplement like Avi Calm Bird Supplement. If the air is dry, frequent opportunities to bathe or shower can help as well as items to prevent boredom like foraging toys, climbing toys, wood toys to chew, shreddable toys and other attractive, interesting toys. Arrange the cage so that the bird has a screen of toys in one area to hide behind and arrange the other items in the cage so that the bird has space to move around but has something nearby to play with, or snuggle up to. Some parrots love to sleep in a birdie bed and feel secure at night using it. If the parrot seems to like television or music, leave this distraction on when the bird is alone during the day.

It is important to address over-grooming — the most likely thing Carl’s parrot is doing — before it becomes a real habit or progresses to plucking. It is much easier to stop at this point than it is if it progresses to plucking. It is also important to have the bird visit an avian vet to be sure a health problem is not causing or adding to the over-grooming.


Plucking is the act of a bird purposefully pulling out feathers. It is much like humans who cut themselves, because the pain caused by yanking a feather out releases endorphins in the brain of humans or birds. A depressed bird will feel different, possibly even happier, due to the release of endorphins so it can easily become like an addiction. Plucking will leave bare spots where the feathers were pulled out and can even result in a near-naked bird. Long-time plucking can damage feather follicles so that feathers will never regrow.

Plucking can be addressed in the same ways as over-grooming but it is a much harder habit to break. A plucking parrot should definitely visit a vet to see if health may be an issue. If not health problems are present, the second most likely cause is boredom, but in Carl’s case it may be depression due to feeling of loss of its former home and human. A plucking parrot needs the same supplements as an over-grooming bird, but should also have a supplement for feather growth like Featheriffic.

Santina Green-Winged Macaw – Opening Parrot Pin Feathers

Place a plucking bird in the area of the home where it gets the most attention and where activities occur. It could be a good idea to place the new bird away from any existing parrots until it adjust to its new home.
We wish Carl and his Bandit success in stopping the over-grooming which is what I think is happening. By looking at the feathers lost, you can in a few days see if a molt is the cause but even then adding vitamin and mineral support as well as a calming supplement is a good idea. From Carl’s email it doesn’t sound like Bandit is plucking — at least not yet — but she should be watched to see if you see the bird actually removing feathers forcefully.

Editor’s notes:

Catherine took a call today from a man who is concerned because his bird appeared to have failed at molting its clipped feathers. Her response was not all birds will molt their primary flight feathers every year sometimes they will skip a year – FYI.

Molting is an especially critical time for your bird health wise. They’re very busy preening and pulling feathers while in the background they are growing new ones – thousands. Those feathers coming in are called pin feathers. The one point I’d like to make here is, the growth of all those feathers (a cockatiel can have as many as 6000 feathers) places a strain on your birds metabolism. Calories normally targeted for general growth and health are diverted to new feather growth

Your bird may seem a bit subdued during this time and that is natural. Make sure he or she is eating a high nutrition diet. If it seeds only it’s important to supplement with an avian multivitamin.

written by nora caterino
approved by mitch rezman

I need a powder coated bird cage – but I’m not sure why

This question that came in recently is a reminder that we as a company should assume nothing.

“I have a dark colored copper cage that is about 25 years old. I am having a new cage bottom made. I would like to paint it with a powder coated paint. Do you have any products that would help me or do you know where I may purchase them”?

Regards – Mark

editors note – heard on the street: “I want a powder coated cage” “everyone is selling powder coated bird cages” “I don’t know what a powder coated cage is but I think my bird should have one”

Read moreI need a powder coated bird cage – but I’m not sure why

Fixing the my bird hates pellets but I love pellets – enigma

Some of you realize – many of you don’t. The majority of social media posts you read were programmed days or weeks before for “future distribution”. This means whoever is pushing the erudition out won’t be around when you’re reading their content to actually engage you in a discussion about this new important “message” from the person or brand you are following.

Water from a fire hose is fine for putting out fires, but you can’t drink water from a fire hose and you can’t water plants with a fire hose. Getting information from social media is like getting information from a fire hose.

Read moreFixing the my bird hates pellets but I love pellets – enigma

The Coconut Oil Video Guide for Birds, Beards & Beings

It’s rare to find a product that benefits multiple species but Coconut oil is one of them. Are all coconut oils the same? No. the coconut oil we sell Coco Loro virgin coconut oil which is cold pressed from the meat of fresh coconuts. It is never cooked or smoked. It is also certified organic and is human food grade.
Here’s short list of coconut oil’s benefits:
add to food or drink for energy – assist in healing of skin injuries – combine with salt to rub on cracked heals – eliminate baby cradle cap – facial moisturizer – hair/beard dressing – lightens age spots – make up remover – massage oil – mixed with apple cider vinegar as a lice remover – mix with a drop of oregano oil for improved gum health – mix with sugar to make a body scrub – mouthwash – natural chap stick – nursing nipples to soothe irritation from nursing – put in food and drink for energy – reduces stretch marks while pregnant – shave cream – skin cream – smooths psoriasis or eczema – softens cuticles – sun block (spf 4) – use it as a cooking oil, has a high smoke point. Baking too! – yeast infections
Great for all species of birds
Avitech is the only FDA inspected facility dedicated solely to bird care products
Coco Loro virgin coconut oil is cold pressed from the meat of fresh coconuts. It is never cooked or smoked. It is also certified organic and is human food grade.
Coco Loro coconut oil can help support the immune system, maintain an active metabolism and provide inexpensive antimicrobial protection. Coco Loro is packaged in special Nalgene® bottles containing no PBA’s.
Coco loro coconut oil can provide the following benefits for your bird:
  • Weight loss if needed
  • Immune system support
  • A healthy and active metabolism
  • An excellent quick energy source
  • A healthy supple skin and lustrous feathers
  • Inexpensive antimicrobial protection
  • A pleasant taste and aroma
  • Can assist in the palatability of Red Palm Oil
Technical Specifications:
Color- White, Odor- Penetrating coconut aroma, Free Fatty Acids- 0.07%, Moisture- 0.06%, Peroxide Value- <0.1, Non-Saponifiables- N/A, Saponification Value- 252, Iodine Value- 7.0, Specific Gravity- 0.9, Melting Point – 77-79 degrees, Nutritional Profile (per 14 gm), Calories- 125, Fat- 14 gm, Cholesterol- 0 mg, Sodium- 0 mg, Carbohydrates- 0 mg, Protein- 0 mg
Fatty Acids
Caprylic- 5-9%, Capric- 6-11%, <spanstyle=”color: rgb(105,=”” 105,=”” 105);=”” font-family:=”” arial;=”” font-size:=”” 10pt;”=””>Lauric- 42-52%, Linoleic- 14%, Myristic- 13-20%, Oleic- 3-12%, Palmitic- 8-14%, Stearic- 1-3%
More Information:
Coconut oil has been an important part of diets in many parts of the world for centuries. Recent research has found that coconut oil has antimicrobial properties. It does not promote cardiovascular diseases and may be beneficial in their prevention and treatment.
A major constituent of unrefined coconut oil, lauric acid, has been found to be responsible for its antimicrobial effects. Lauric acid is also present in breast milk and is important for protecting infants from viral, bacterial or protozoal infections. Researchers looking for an inexpensive way to fight Candida infections have found coconut oil to be more effect in-vitro than Flucanosole, a potent prescription drug. Since Candida Albicans is the organism responsible for yeast infections in infant birds, a small amout of coconut oil added to hand feeding formula may provide some extra protection.
Unrefined coconut oil has been found to reduce cholesterol in high cholesterol individuals and improve cholesterol balance by increasing HDL and reducing LDL cholesterol. Coconut oil stimulates the thyroid gland and thus increases metabolism to consume more calories. Therefore, birds that are prone to become overweight on seed and nut diets (such as Amazons and African Greys) may benefit from coconut oil supplementation in their diet. 
The weight-loss effect was noted many years ago when farmers tried to fatten animals more quickly by feeding coconut oil. The animals actually lost weight and became more muscular. The farmers raised fatter animals by switching to corn and soybean feed.

Meet the Avitech “family” of high quality nutritional supplements for birds. Our nutritional supplements address a wide spectrum of needs from feather conditioning to general nutritional supplementation and aids to prevent feather picking.

All of our products are bottled in our own plant to assure cleanliness and quality control.


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