The parrot cage should contain a variety of perches. Different textures and different widths are good, as the birds' feet will be holding onto the perch for much of the day. Rough textures are good for helping keep toenails down to size, so stone or concrete perching spots are a great addition to the cage or aviary. These act as "pedi-perches" for the parrots' feet. Birds in the wild don’t need to install manufactured pedi-perches - and you will indeed find these items in the pet store - as the rock, bark and wood perches and ledges provided by nature do the job.
Pedi-perch? This Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot is chilling out on a perch with a stimulating texture
A smaller cage can easily become crowded if you install too many perches - the parrots need free space to flap their wings and fly. Make use of high-up areas and ground level to vary the perching textures - with a flat perching space above and some concrete or stone pedestals below.
A homemade perch can be a simple stick or branch, cleaned up and installed. Wild-sourced wood should be scrubbed first, with hot water, and no detergent.
This Solomon's cockatoo will enjoy chewing through wooden perches
Over time a wild-sourced branch will need replacing. Parrots like to chew wood, and they will, over time, chew through the perch. The larger the species, the shorter the life of a softwood perch!
Perches for Large Parrots
Large species such as macaws and the big cockatoos need sturdy branches. These birds are usually kept for long periods outside the cage too, so will require a suitable roosting pole - the kind of thing you see in zoos or larger pet stores. These can be made from wild wood, or you can buy a ready-made perch and stand in a pet store. These purchased stands will have food and water bowl fittings too, with perhaps a waste tray beneath to catch all the mess.
White Cockatoos and other large species need big perches
Safe Wood for Perches
The following list includes trees commonly found in the USA with wood that’s safe for parrots:
- Grape Palm
- Ironwood Larch
- Sweet Gum
- Tree Fern
- Umbrella Tree Vine
- Walnut Willow
Parrots need perches made from non-toxic wood
These common species are NOT safe to use:
- Bis d'arc
- Box Elder
- Crepe Myrtle
- Chinese Popcorn
- Chinese Snake Tree
- Chinese TallowCherry
- Horse Apple
- Horse chestnut
- Pitch pine
- Sitka cedar
- Witch hazel
- Yellow cedar
A Maximilian's Parrot road-tests its perch
Store-bought perches are usually made from untreated pine, which is fine. But avoid fresh pine, as its sticky resin can gum up the parrot's feet and feathers.
Avoid any treated woods unless obtained from a reputable pet dealer. Driftwood found on a beach will always be tempting as a cage ornament, but because you can’t always tell which species the wood came from, nor the toxic things it might have been in contact with, it’s best to avoid introducing it to cages.
Positioning Perches in a Cage
Parrots like roosting in a high spot in the enclosure, as they feel instinctively safer when they're looking down from above. Placing roosting perches or flat roosting areas high up is therefore a good idea. If you only have a relatively small cage rather than an enclosure or bird room, position the cage sufficiently high for at least one of the perches to be above human eye-level.
Alexandrine Parakeets all cosy on their perch
Rope Perches and Chain Perches
Ropes and chains should only be used in cages containing larger parrot species. Anything smaller than a cockatiel can snag toenails in coarse rope. But anything larger than a cockatiel (or cockatiels themselves) get lots of stimulation from a rope perch. In any situation, avoid using man-made fibre ropes, as these can be pulled loose but not chewed through (at least, not by smaller parrots). This can lead to loops and snags that can catch legs, beaks or even necks. The same applies to chain or wire perches - avoid anything small enough to snag toes or large enough for heads or legs to get caught.
A Moluccan cockatoo with a sturdy rope perch
Opt for natural fibres, and, if room allows, provide rope swings and ladders in addition to rope perches. Make them different widths and lengths. Store-bought rope accessories often have a wire core, so the perches can be bent to form interesting shapes and angles.