Should We Allow Our Birds To Live Cage Free?

Should We Allow Our Birds To Live Cage Free?

 September 21st, 2014
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Theo on the play stand that was her home for 22 years.

Theo, goffins cockatoo

Several years ago, back when I lived in Austin, I was contacted by one of my vet’s technicians about a goffins cockatoo that was in need of a new home. Her former owner, who loved her dearly, felt she was no longer thriving in his care. He did the right thing in making a hard decision that was for her benefit – even when it was clearly painful for him.

After talking, we made plans for Theo’s arrival to my house. He told me that he would bring all her belongings with him. He arrived with only a play stand.

“Where is her cage?” I asked.

“She has never been caged. She lives on the play stand.” he explained.

As it happened, I already had a cage that would be suitable for Theo, but I wanted her to have the familiarity of her own cage when she first arrived. I wished he had mentioned this me.

“So you work from home?” I asked.

“No, I’m gone most of the day. She stays on the stand.”

“How do you know she stays there?”

He pulled out one of her wings, the feathers of which were barbered down to the skin. This bird wasn’t flying anywhere. If she did jump from the play stand, there would be no way to for her to return to it without flight and he would know she had strayed.

After he left I prepared my spare cage for her – I was not comfortable with leaving Theo alone and uncaged for any length of time. However, she flatly refused to go into it without hysteria (her version of hysteria includes throwing herself to the ground and flailing wildly). I felt like I was stressing her out more than she could handle.

I continued my thought process – she was 22 years old and had lived with this guy and without a cage for almost all of her life. Maybe I should reconsider my position on insisting that she be caged. I decided to give the play stand a try.

But first, a test run. After double checking the bird-proofing in the house, I left her out on her play stand and ran out to the supermarket. I was so nervous I spent the entire time there trying not to throw up.

When I returned she was gone. I found her on the floor in a corner where she had utterly destroyed a large area of carpeting. Any notion of cageless-ness was abandoned at that point.

The moral of the story is this: ALL birds have the potential to wander the house while you’re away. MOST birds will. The few that stay put are in the extreme minority and it is a behavior that can change without any warning.

Theo really enjoys her cage now.

Theo really enjoys her cage now.

I think every bird owner has fantasized about keeping their birds cageless. Caging your bird feels like such an unfair thing to do. We love them, yet we confine them.

My feeling, though, is that a cage is not so much something that is meant to keep your bird in, as it is something to keep danger out. The human environment is full of things that can harm a bird.

Often the most dangerous things aren’t even on our radar when we are bird proofing. Who thinks to check what is hiding up on that highest shelf (my cockatiels found a tube of superglue)…or what is behind the refrigerator (like old insect traps-another cockatiel find)? A curious bird might find its way to everything we overlooked.

Bird proofing the house for a bird that will be hours without supervision is a daunting task. Have you ever paid attention to how many electrical appliances there are in your house? All of the power cords would have to be shielded. Are there cleaners and chemicals in your kitchen or bathroom cabinets? You don’t really believe that baby-proof lock is going to keep your crafty parrot out, do you? Do you have furniture? Do you like it?

Even if you were to completely empty a room your home so that your bird could have free reign in your absence, you may find you have a bird like Linus (my U2) who decided to tunnel through the wall from the living room to my adjoining bedroom one day when he escaped his cage. I am fairly sure that the only thing that stopped him from succeeding was the setting sun. Inside your walls is electrical wiring, insulation and “whatever else”.

I, personally, see no justification to risk allowing my birds to be uncaged when I am not there to supervise, but I do know that some people have done it for years without incident.

So, you have my opinion. What is your feeling on this topic?

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65 Comments on “Should We Allow Our Birds To Live Cage Free?”

Jacinta  10/01/2014 12:58 am

My boy Montselvat has never been caged. He has a cage he calls his own to sleep in that’s it. He has bird toys he is not interested in and flys where ever he likes in the house. He also has a ‘doggy’ door made high in a window with perches either side so he can access an outside cage that is 10 meters by 3.5 meters straight off the back of the house. He doesn’t chew cables or objects in the house, he loves playing with tennis balls and brightly coloured objects, he eats with us and at the end of the day he puts himself to bed in his cage inside as regular as clock work. We didn’t train him to do any of this and have never & will never clip his wings.

Lee  10/01/2014 9:49 am

I have a quaker parrot, and a rainbow lorikeet. Both are allowed out of their cages when I am home only, as I also have three indoor cats, and just don’t want to take the risk. They all get along famously, with no chasing, or fuss. In fact the cats seem to be a bit afraid of the birds, and pretty much ignore them when they fly over their heads. I consider myself lucky, and would not generally recommend this living arrangement, but it is working for us. The birds have heaps of toys to keep them amused, including a clothes airer that is full of stuff for them. to play with. One problem is the quaker keeps raiding the fruit bowl. Otherwise, endlessly amusing and entertaining. in fact they’re throwing stuff around now. LOL.

Lisa  10/01/2014 1:12 pm

I have B&G who came with the cage. One day, she decided that she was no long going to go into the cage. This was ok, for a while…. that is until she made a mess of my dresser. I’m sure this is a unique situation to do this but we sectioned off part of the room and instead of making her go in a cage, we just built a cage around her. It’s more of a partial room. She can have her boings and orbits without the electrical wires. I’m not sure this would work with a heavy chewer (she is not). We haven’t been quite as inventive with the mini – mac, but he likes the option of his cage and fabric snuggle buddy.

Red B  10/01/2014 3:53 pm

I have a bird room with 5 cages. In the morning I bring out my Yellow Naped Amazon to a play stand in the living room. My Black Headed Caique to a window perch in the kitchen or a swing on the pool deck until she starts to get restless then she must go into a cage in my bedroom. My 3 African Greys stay in the boardroom with their doors open and are free to climb around. None of my birds play nice together so this is why they are separated when out all day. The Amazon and Caique will attack each other if they get close. They both have been known to go after my dogs 2 Italian Mastiffs and a standard poodle. Even the kitty is not safe from them. The Greys are much nicer – just get a little nippy with each other. At bed time everyone goes back into their homes in the bird room and doors are closed. I’ve had my Amazon the longest (27 yrs) but they have all been with me since babies.

pat  10/01/2014 9:13 pm

I have a 22 yr old goffin. He’s. My sweetie however I would not trust him alone for any length. Of time. He would distroy. The house. When I first got him as a baby I was told not to try and stop his chewing. It is a characteristic of the bird so I supply a lot of che toys for him. He is let out on hos perch when I’m. Home. We good for walks. And he stays on my shoulder. Wings are clipped. Enjoyed your article

Rosie  10/02/2014 10:11 am

I have two African greys, one is caged when I’m not there, the other I rescued when she was 11 was caged most of that time and she is a very nervous bird. If I close her in she panics and pulls her feathers so I give her a free reign. She stays on top of her cages and only goes in for food

Patricia  10/03/2014 3:29 am

I have a Citron cockatoo named Coca .she is 30 years old .I have never clipped her wings and have trained her about her dropings from when she was a baby .She has designated places where there are mats and she will fly from me to her places to poop .She is very smart and she is like a little person .she does have a cage but it is for her to use when she wants to take a nap with the door open .the top is round and I have a small canopy over it and a high perch that she likes to go on for her nap .She also has a sleep cage in another room where it is dark and quiet ,.she lets me know when she wants to go in for the night .I do lock her in at that time .I also lock her in the day cage if I go out .She does not mind that at all as I tell her I have to go out and she will say goodby .Other than that she is free .She goes outside with us as well I have a screened in pool area .She have three perches there to fly back and forth if she wishes ..she loves to be outside but I only allow that if I’m out there as well as I do not trust the wildlife .She takes showers with me and sits in front of the mirror as I put on my makeup .She is such a good bird .she has her own food table I made from a plant stand .She eats on it when we eat .She is just a pleasure to have very loving and cuddly as well .God can create such a wonderful species and I’m blessed to share my life with her ..

Margie Sandgren  10/03/2014 11:46 am

I have had a grey for over 40 years. Being military we have moved much and the few things that are consistent are being with us and her cage/home. She is rarely in her cage when I am home which is most of the time. When I leave the house, she is put in her cage without problem with a ‘goodby’ to send me on my way. My grey is notorious for eating things…baseboards, window sills, every one of my husband’s soccer shoes thru the years. She has catalogs, cardboard boxes, and wood to chew up and she does. Often I find her in her cage even with the door open. Her cage definitely appears to be her ‘safe territory’. We have cats and dogs and since she is most senior of the animals, she rules. All the others keep their space. Still, while I am gone I am more confortable with her in a cage as I know animal natures.

Jerome Adriaanse  10/03/2014 12:04 pm

Hi Nel, I read your comments and yes, parrots or any animal irrespectively are intelligent and clever and we as owner’s need to take care of their needs and safety. With regards to your upcoming holiday……you could check with your local pet centre if they have a care facility for animals while the owner’s are away. I have one not to far from where I live and charge a small fee for this service. Hope this could help you to go on holiday with a peace of mind.

Enjoy and regards,
Jerome Adriaanse

T.Jurmu  10/07/2014 3:31 pm

My Quaker “Peanut” has full flight and is cage free. She prefers to be on her perch but liks fly from room to room to check on the rest of her flock.(Family)
She Fly`s outside too witch I don`t like do to the fact here in AZ we have many birds of prey. but she knows how to find her way home every time.
Peanut is very smart and a very happy bird and that is what is important to me.

Toni From Tasmania  10/08/2014 1:53 am

I have 11 birds, 2 major Mitchell’s, 2 Galahs, 3 Eclectus, 4 love birds & a Rainbow Lorikeet. I covered my outdoor deck in Laser-lite and made big doors. This is now Their room where they can play all day BUT they ALL have a cage or small aviary they go to for sleep time or when I am not home. Makes sense to allow both as when they do feel tired or uncomfortable or are fighting they always retreat back to THEIR cage… Best of both worlds really!!

Randy  11/09/2014 7:53 pm

My opinion is somewhere in the middle. The personality of the bird is an important factor in addition to traffic patterns in your home. I let my cockatiel fly around for exercise every night but only when all the doors and windows are locked or otherwise covered. After a few laps around the living room, he’s quite content to sit on a perch at my side until bed time. At that point he either flies back to his cage or I carry him there on my finger where he climbs in, has a little nibble to eat or a sip of water, then I cover him for the night. I understand the dangers of letting a bird fly freely when there are open/uncovered windows, mirrors, ceiling fans, or people coming and going through open doors, but I make sure the home environment is safe for him to “get his flap on”. I just wouldn’t feel right about keeping him locked up 24/7.

Nancy  11/13/2014 8:29 am

Our Sun Conure is probably 20+ and is only caged when people have to be in “his” room (the living room–he attacks new people) or when the vacuum is on. My partner is with him most of the time, but he is never caged. He has a sleeping nest he goes into at night. He works hard during the day chewing toys and building nests and watching the alley outside his window. He’s also an incredibly happy bird. I have cats (locked in the other half of the house with three sets of doors between them). They are indoor cats. Their quality of life is not as good as cats that are indoor-outdoor cats. I think there are tradeoffs on this issue and all birds are different. We won’t be caging our bird based on this article.

Anita Mastracci  11/19/2014 12:11 am

Our 7 yr old quaker & 6 yr old blue front amazon have always roamed freely. Each has an open cage ( called ‘house’ ) where they eat, sits or sleeps on a perch, or stands on the top of their house. They walk to another room’s 3 attached gym / play sets & toys or climb onto their dish stand. The best of all these free times is when they go to wherever we’re sitting & stay with / on us – occasionally even roam onto our bed at night. They also love our car rides & walks in their enclosed ( for safety from predators only ) pet stroller. They’re content & relaxed by remaining loose & behave as members of our family of the 4 of us together.
I could never keep another pet caged – ( nor did years ago to our 5 yr old dwarf bunny either at home or traveling in our motor home ).

Ash  01/20/2015 8:06 am

I does the same with my ringneck and cockatiel as Anna-Marie Groenawald does, but instead of the kitchen I close them in their own birdroom. I also used to let my first ringneck spend time outdoors and let her sit for hours in the high acacia tree, so stupid was I. No more am I doing such things to my beloved birds. I lost that one to a stray cat. I was very inexperienced regarding tame birds when I got my first one. Now I’ve learnt and know better. They do need some cage time for their own safety and goodness, afterall they are not forced to stay in the cage. They go in happily so I don’t find anything wrong in keeping them caged for some part of the day. I also believe they were made to fly so I do not clip them. They can fly around my house when the doors and windows are shut.