We get a lot of inquiries about perches. We also get phone calls on a fairly regular basis that go something like this:
“Hi, I’d like to return the perch that I just got from you.”
“No problem why’s that, is it defective?”
“Yes it is, it’s too big and my bird keeps slipping off of it.”
“I’m sorry to hear that. We’ll gladly accept the return but I’m curious, when was the last time your bird had its toenails trimmed or its wings clipped?”
“Just an FYI – the trimming of your bird’s nails severely reduced its ability to grip everything and the clipping of the wings interferes with its overall balance amplifying its lack of grip on the perch.
Would you still like to return it or give it a few days for the nails to grow little and possibly become more effective in allowing your bird to stand on the new perch?”
And we never hear from the customer again until they place their next order.
The first image is of Popcorn our cockatiel standing on a 4-1/2 inch (11.4 cm) diameter varnished sleigh bed footboard. One of her favorite areas to land on in the morning while she helps me get organized for work.
If you surf the Internet for proper perch diameters what you’ll uncover is that perches with diameters from 1-1/2 inch (3.8 cm) to 2-1/2 inch (6.4 cm) are appropriate for the largest birds including Hyacinth Macaws and Umbrella Cockatoos.
So the image below clearly shows that the sum total of all the information you can find about birds and parrots on the Internet – is not exactly accurate. Who can you believe?
It’s not a matter of belief, it’s a matter of the understanding you have with your bird.
Knowing what your bird’s abilities and limitations are. Popcorn is a highly socialized bird who travels with us seven days a week weather permitting. She will compromise and adapt in order to achieve her main goal of being close to her mom and/or dad.
The picture below offers the counterpoint of two Sulfur Crested Cockatoos quite content taking a midday break while perching on a single strand of barbed wire!
Apparently one of the biggest problems we have is that our birds have no direct access to the Internet so they don’t know what is the most appropriate size perch for their feet.
I love the two images because of the enormous range of perch sizes and textures the two species of birds are able to reconcile with.
In reality, we would never recommend a perch so thin. These are wild birds and won’t be on the fence very long.
The danger here is the front toes poking into the back toe heels. Which is illustrating the versatility of parrots feet and the need to pay very close attention to them.
remember “zygodactyl” (feet)
A bird’s foot having the first and fourth toes of each foot directed backward and the second and third forward.
We can’t emphasize enough how important it is to have multiple perch textures, materials, and sizes (diameters) in your bird’s cage.
Because unless in flight, birds are on their feet 24/7 the more variable surfaces you offer the more exercise your bird’s feet get and the happier and healthier your bird will be.
We spend a lot of time talking about the perch your bird sleeps on because if you do the math your bird will sleep standing up (how they do that) for about 50,000 hours – gripping it tightly for 12 hours at a time – over the next 15 years.
Without a doubt, the perch that most people pay the least amount of attention to really needs to have the most amount of attention paid to it based on its overall use.
For the other 10 to 14 hours your bird is up and awake in its cage, soft rope perches offer versatility in terms of interior and exterior cage navigation.
Somewhere between soft rope perches and the single 3/4 inch (1.9 cm) softwood dowel rod extending across your cage usually between the feeder dishes (most likely the only perch that came with your bird’s cage) the category of hardwood perches consisting of manzanita and java a.k.a. coffee wood is your go-to source for cage-scaping.
Manzanita and java wood are ideal for bird perches because of their hardness. Hardness can actually be measured by something called the “Janka hardness test for hardwoods”
The Janka hardness test measures the pounds divided square inches required to embed a .444-inch steel ball to half its diameter in wood.
It is one of the best measures of the ability of a wood species to withstand denting and wear.
It is also a good indicator of how hard or easy a species is to saw or nail. Northern Red Oak, for example, has a Janka hardness rating of 1290. Brazilian cherry, with a rating of 2350, is nearly twice as hard. Values are obtained from multiple courses, & represent air-dried wood at 12% moisture.
Manzanita has a rating of 1460 and a rupture rating of 10,400 psi. Domestic coffee wood has a rating of 1390 with no rupture rating.
Our Manzanita supplier is a bit camera shy so I found this YouTube video of an interview with a Manzanita artisan who specializes in Manzanita wood spoons. It’s interesting to hear him explain how hard Manzanita is by saying that it wears out his chainsaw blades, usually less than an hour and he is changing them constantly. Need I say more about Manzanita?
Many of you have birds like Umbrella cockatoos and even Congo African grays, that fall into the category of “flying bolt cutters” (we call un-socialized smaller birds “scissors with wings”)
Video – manzanita artisan explaining his use
of manzanita for making kitchen utensils and home furnishings
Coffee aka java wood although available domestically is harvested and milled overseas for avian products in places like the Philippines and Vietnam (aren’t you glad I didn’t say China?)
The picture below of Gabby on her travel cage illustrates how the addition of two manzanita perches (one sandblasted and one not) creates an entirely new environment for her.
On the left is a sandblasted manzanita wood perch and on the right is a manzanita perch with bark. The 2 perches create an engaging play area for the bird in a relatively small space.
Feathered factoid: Red-fronted Macaws are the smallest of the large Macaws
Many caged bird keepers feel that when that long horizontal dowel rod that came with the cage wears out, they need to replace it with an identical perch.
The problem is we stock a lot of perches but because of the infinite number of widths of cages built from the beginning of time, it would be impossible to keep that large of an inventory of lengths & diameters.
The notched end of a 3/4 in diameter dowel perch that probably came with your cage
Not to worry. This is why we offer what we call “single end bolt on perches”, In other words, it only bolts onto any one side of the cage and can be anywhere from 6 inches to 18 inches long. This actually gives you greater versatility, now more than you ever imagined.
We advocate that after you get a new cage or if you’ve had your cage for a while (1 – 3 months) to remove that long dowel perch that goes from side to side.
We’ll tell you what to replace it with within a minute. That perch should become an essential tool in your caged bird keepers toolkit. It’s a perch that your bird should be familiar with and readily “step up” on to.
Situations, where it will be useful, are when your bird
is higher in the room than it should be and needs to come down
gets stuck behind a piece of furniture
is nippy and needs to come out of the cage
is hormonal and wants to be near you but will break skin if it gets too close
is ready for clicker training but is still an unpredictable biter
You get the idea. When your bird is frantic and stressed stuck behind the living room sofa it is not the time to introduce the “friendly” stick for the first time.
Much like a travel cage, your bird should see it as friendly, not a threat.
We’re going to replace that original cage perch with 2 perches. Next to the food dish, we are going to install a pedicure perch.
Pedicure perches should be slightly oversized so the bird’s nails are always being dragged across the surface of it.
While your bird is feeding, it will be very actively dancing back and forth across the perch and wiping the food particulate off its beak.
Because of the potential for foot damage if one’s bird sits or sleeps on manicure perches for extended periods, placing it low by a food dish means your bird will be on it for no more than about 15 to 20 minutes a day which is about all the time a bird needs to spend on an abrasive manicure perch.
For the water, decide if this is where you’ll install your manzanita or coffee wood perch. Your bird may spend just a few seconds on it, enough to grab a few beak fulls of water.
Many birds like to dump their food in the water dish and play with it for a while.
The uneven surface of a manzanita or coffee wood perch will provide lots of exercise for your bird’s feet on the many trips it takes daily to drink.
Beyond that, single bolt perches are useful for providing access to bird toys and accessories.
Hardwood ladders offer gateways to various areas in the cage and allow your bird to rest its feet on a relatively flat surface.