While cages keep parrots safe from harm, all birds need regular exercise and mental stimulation. If parrots remain inside their cages for too long, they can become bored, stressed, and physically unwell.
Parrots should have scheduled out-of-cage time every day for at least two hours. You can stagger these times depending on your bird’s preference for being outside. Age, size, and personality are factors to consider when letting your parrot out of the cage. For example, shy or old birds are less likely to want to be out for long, as they get tired or scared. If your parrot is unable to get the exercise it needs, it’s at risk of obesity, joint problems, boredom, depression, and stress.
All parrots benefit from being outside of their cage, whether they’re young, old, shy, or curious. That’s why owners should set aside time each day to allow parrots to stretch their wings and legs.
How Often Should I Let My Parrot Out Of Its Cage?
All parrots benefit from being out of their cage. But because parrots come in a range of different shapes, sizes, and personalities, how much they need depends on the individual. This is for their owners to determine.
Some owners prefer to set a maximum value for their parrot’s out-of-cage time rather than a minimum. This allows parrots to be out for as long as possible and prevents impatient clock-watching. Of course, there are lifestyle constraints to consider, such as jobs and family commitments.
As a minimum, aim to have your parrot out of its cage for at least 2 to 3 hours a day. This doesn’t have to be in one go, but it could be staggered throughout the 12-hour daylight period. This is a better option for people who are busy throughout the day but have pockets of time to spare.
Similarly, allow your parrot to have long, extensive exercise sessions twice a week for 20-30 minutes. When you get your bird out of its cage all the other times, spend time interacting with it one-on-one. You can do this by:
- Holding and handling it
- Letting it sit on your shoulder
- Play with it using games and toys
- Letting it roam and fly around a parrot-safe room
- Teaching it new tricks
- Encourage foraging behavior
These boredom busters are a good way to keep your parrot entertained outside of its cage. However, there are other factors to consider that determine how long your parrot needs to be outside, including:
Larger birds need more space to stretch their wings. Even the biggest cages rarely provide them with enough opportunity to extend and fly fully, so they need exercise throughout the day to do this.
Smaller parrots, such as budgies and parrotlets, need time out of their cage too, but they’ll tire more quickly, so they are unlikely to need as much as their larger cousins. They do best with multiple short 20-minute bursts.
Some parrots enjoy their cage’s safety and security and prefer to stay inside it. While out-of-cage time is still vital, aim for short, sharp sessions to allow your bird a chance to stretch its wings. It doesn’t have to be out for long, so place it back in its cage once it’s had enough.
In comparison, curious, inquisitive parrots who don’t like being in their cage should be allowed several hours a day to roam and explore. Otherwise, they could get stressed from their environment.
As parrots get older, they become tired, losing the energy levels of their younger days. Though they’d benefit from short bursts of out-of-cage time, they’re less likely to be enthused about exercising and moving around.
Instead, older parrots who are bonded to their owners prefer to enjoy some one-on-one handling time instead of playing with games and toys. They’ll likely tired quicker, so they may benefit from longer periods inside their cage where they can rest.
On the flip side, younger parrots with lots of energy to burn should have as much time out of their cage as possible. This should prevent behavioral problems. They would also benefit from regular training and socialization and are more likely to pick up tricks.
Are Parrots Happy In Cages?
A common question that many people ask is: do parrots like cages? While they need to fly and forage, many captive parrots live long, happy lives as long as their needs and requirements are met.
Even though wild parrots can freely fly and carry out their instinctual behaviors, they’re at risk of predation, starvation, dehydration, and extreme weather conditions.
According to Scientific American, there’s no evidence that shows wild parrots not living in cages are happier than domestic, captive parrots. Parrots can be happy living in cages as long as they have access to:
- Regular food that contains the nutrients they need
- Clean, fresh water
- Comfortable conditions, including the right temperature
- Mental stimulation
By allowing captive parrots to express their natural behavior, such as flying and foraging, with regular periods of out-of-cage time, they’re likely to feel comfortable inside their cage. They might even feel safe and secure living in one.
Similarly, you must remember that parrots bred for the pet trade haven’t had the chance to live freely, so they don’t know any different.
On the flip side, some parrots may feel imprisoned in cages, particularly if the cage is too small and they don’t have enough room to feel comfortable. This is why parrots are prone to self-destructive and repetitive behaviors – their environment does not mentally stimulate them.
The truth is every parrot is different. Some thrive in cages, while others become unwell. Providing your parrot with a healthy, mentally enriched environment that includes plenty of out-of-cage time can help prevent these behaviors.
Is It Cruel To Keep Parrots In Cages?
While there’s much debate over whether it’s ethical to keep parrots in cages, it’s cruel to neglect their basic needs. For example, feeding them an unhealthy diet of only seeds and nuts isn’t fair, as this causes nutritional deficiencies.
Similarly, leaving parrots in their cage 24/7 causes parrots harm. That’s because they require mental stimulation to keep their minds sharp. Without it, they deteriorate into a poor mental state. Their joints and limbs are also at risk of not growing and developing properly.
However, as we’ve already mentioned, some parrots fare far worse in the wild and benefit from living in cages. That’s why it’s their owner’s responsibility to provide a healthy diet and mental stimulation to prevent common captive parrot problems.
Is It Ethical To Own A Parrot?
While this is a source of conflict, most people agree that it’s cruel to keep parrots that have been snatched from the wild. Parrot numbers are dwindling because of the illegal pet trade, and taming free birds is nearly impossible.
But whether or not you believe it’s cruel to own a parrot or not comes down to your individual beliefs. There will always be people on both sides of the argument.
Do Birds Go Crazy In Cages?
According to a study on captive animals by the University of Guelph, research shows that parrots exhibit abnormal and repetitive behaviors when they’re denied the chance to forage and socialize.
In comparison, wild roaming birds don’t exhibit the same behaviors, so this is a captive bird problem. For example, there are no known reports of wild parrots plucking their feathers. Signs of stress and boredom include:
- Feather plucking
- Self-mutilation, such as chewing on muscle and bone
- Excessive vocalizations, such as screaming and tongue-clicking
- Biting and aggression
- Decreased appetite
- Stereotypical behaviors, such as toe-tapping, pacing, and head bobbing
- Stress bars
The stress caused by claustrophobia and boredom from being in a cage all the time is serious and can lead to a range of behavioral and physical health problems. It can also make existing conditions worse, speeding up their harmful effects.
Sadly, in the worst cases, parrots can die from cage-related stress. That’s because when parrots experience a large surge of adrenaline, it enters the bloodstream, raising the blood supply, emptying the sugar supply, and dilating the muscle’s blood vessels. This causes the adrenal glands to become exhausted, causing sudden death.
Advantages of Keeping Birds In Cages
Parrots cages are the preferred choice of housing for many owners. While some people don’t like them, they help keep parrots safe and provide them with protection. There are also other reasons, including:
Prevents Parrots from Escaping
Parrots are escape artists if given a chance. Leaving them loose to roam around the house is dangerous because they’re more likely to find their way outside. And when they do, it’s hard to get them back. If this happens to you, you could try to get your parrot back by:
- Call it, as the sound of your voice might guide your bird home
- Placing its cage outdoors so it catches the scent
- Leaving out meaty treats, as the smell will attract them
- Using a bird net to catch them
Unfortunately, when parrots get out into the open environment, they’re unlikely to survive. At a maximum, it’ll live for a few days before it succumbs to either starvation, dehydration, or predation. They’ll also be vulnerable to the weather, especially if you live in a cold, wet climate.
That’s why a cage keeps parrots safe and away from harm and external dangers and prevents parrots from escaping out into the open.
Protection from Other Pets
If you have other pets in the house, a parrot cage is a must. Cats are most likely to hunt your parrot purposefully and will kill it if they get the chance.
Similarly, dogs can also pose a problem, particularly if they’re large and don’t know their own strength. Dogs are more likely to want to play, but they can easily harm smaller birds.
At least with a cage, other pets can’t get to the bird. Similarly, by providing a nesting box, the parrot can hide inside it to feel safe. This helps with both its stress levels and safety.
When choosing a place for your cage, put it in a room that your other pets can’t access. That way, they can’t upset the parrot by stalking it.
Whenever you let the parrot out of the cage, secure it from other animals and keep the door firmly shut, not allowing your bird the chance to escape to a room where your pets are likely to be lurking.
Basic Living Quarters
Without a cage, parrots don’t have the necessary living quarters they need to sleep, eat, and drink.
Parrots need around 12 hours of sleep each night, so putting them in their cage during your natural sleeping hours encourages them to get some rest. A cage will also make them feel safe and secure, allowing them to get all the sleep they need without worrying about predators and other environmental dangers.
Similarly, a cage provides the ideal base to feed and water your parrot from. This creates structure, especially if you keep to a regular feeding pattern.
Protects Your Home
Not only do cages protect parrots from environmental hazards, but they keep your home protected from parrot poop, urine, and other unsanitary fluids. That’s because cages allow parrots to do their business in a confined area.
As long as you keep the bottom of the cage clean by using newspaper or shredded paper that you can easily remove, these bodily substances won’t harm your bird.
Unfortunately, if parrots are allowed to roam freely, your home would become a hotbed of bacteria and festering feces that can make you and the rest of your household unwell. They’re also like to destroy your furniture and soft furnishings by biting and pecking at them. This is just something curious birds do.
By keeping your parrot in a cage and letting it out during supervised times, you can keep an eye on what your bird’s doing at all times, which is something you can’t do if you forgo a cage.
Why We Should Not Keep Birds in A Cage
While most parrots need to be in their cage for certain periods of the day – at night, for example, there are multiple reasons why they should be allowed out for extended periods. Some owners even prefer to allow their parrots to live in a parrot-safe room, forgoing their cage altogether.
Whatever you choose to do, these are the reasons why being inside a cage for too long is unhealthy:
Inability To Fly
One of the most apparent problems with cages is that they prevent parrots from flying. According to the IAAB Journal, captive parrots that are allowed to fly are more likely to be fit.
Similarly, climbing and walking aren’t enough alone to keep parrots healthy. While these are things parrots can do inside their cage (as long as it’s big enough), being inside It for too long is harmful and leads to health problems.
Not only that, but regular daily flights are what parrots are naturally programmed to do. They need to fly for both their physical and mental well-being.
Owners that are out of the home for long periods of the day naively deprive their birds of carrying out this basic behavior, causing them to become stressed and unhappy.
Minimal Mental Stimulation
While parrots enjoy playing with toys and using climbing frames that you can put into their cages, they’re not enough to stimulate parrots for long.
Parrots are intelligent creatures that have similar brains to ours. They can remember objects and paths, meaning they quickly suss out how to complete their games and toys. As a result, parrots get bored with them after a while and need an alternative source of enrichment.
On the flip side, the possibilities outside their cage are endless. They can forage, fly, and discover new rooms (as long as they’re safe).
Parrots move around different environments in the wild, so there’s always somewhere new for them to explore. Replicating this helps to keep parrots mentally stimulated, or in other ways, happy.
Weight Gain And Obesity
Parrots are more likely to become overweight if they’re not allowed out of their cage. Weight gain leads to obesity, which can cause joint problems and fatty liver disease. Fat parrots are also more likely to develop bumblefoot as their legs and feet get put under too much strain.
All of these things can affect your parrot’s quality of life and, in the worst cases, speed up death.
Regular out-of-cage exercise can help prevent this. When parrots are able to fly and exercise, their fat and cholesterol ratio remain inside a healthy range. They’re also less likely to suffer from heart, liver, and kidney problems. The parrots most likely to be obese are:
- Amazon parrots
- African grey parrots
They need more out-of-cage time than other parrots, as a sedentary lifestyle is worse for them than all other species.
Sadness And Depression
Being able to move about freely means that parrots can burn energy and produce endorphins. This isn’t only good for the body – it also balances their mood. Being inside a cage makes parrots depressed.
If parrots are depressed because they’re unhappy with their cage environment, they’ll display the following signs:
- Lethargy, or staying in one spot of the cage for long periods
- Changing sleeping habits
- Loss of appetite
- Reluctance to fly when they do leave the cage
- Lack of interest in their toys and games
- Changing vocalizations. They might make fewer or more sounds
- Irritability and aggression
Once parrots are allowed out of their cage, their depression should subside, but it might take them a little while to get used to their surroundings and feel comfortable outside their cage.
This is also a tell-tale sign that it’s time to upgrade your parrot’s cage to something more suitable.
Parrots that are unhappy in their cages are likely to become destructive and misbehaved. This is a common sign that they’re unhappy with their environment. When parrots don’t have enough to keep their minds occupied, they divert their energy into attacking what’s around them.
As a result, they’ll bite and claw at the cage to escape. They may also begin to self-mutilate, plucking out their feathers and chewing their skin, muscles, and bone. This only really happens in the most serious cases when they’re never allowed out of their cage.
Destructive tendencies subside with the right environment. Providing mentally-enriching out-of-cage time should be enough to help your parrot move past this worrying behavior and encourages it to adopt better habits.
Allowing parrots out of their cage every day is essential. It not only benefits their physical health but their mental wellbeing too. Stress is one of the leading causes of death amongst parrots. Captive parrots must also move as much as they can to keep their bodies fit. And not only that, but interacting and handling your parrot is part of the fun and helps improve your bond.