Happy Feet – Happy Bird, Do Parrot Perches Matter?
The Common Swift spends 9 min or less a day perching during their annual Europe to Africa migrations (Source: National Geographic). However, your Finch, Budgie, Cockatoo or Macaw spends virtually 24 hours a day on their feet. Whether your bird is playing, eating or sleeping – they are doing it while standing. Unlike the Common Swift, for most captive breeds perching is a natural majority of their lifecycle.
As a result, the overall health and vitality of your bird can be impacted by their feet. What is the most important thing you can do to provide happy feet? Provide variety. We will talk about the different types of perches you can buy, but in my opinion, the most important thing you can do is provide your parrot with a variety of perches. I don’t just mean three of the same perch – provide perches of different sizes, shapes and textures. We like to think of birds in the wild sitting in the Amazonian rain forest. In reality, parrots are often in urban surroundings, perching on buildings, wires and fences. Even if they are in the forest, they are not sitting on the same branch consistently. The point is, birds need to exercise their feet muscles by gripping different shapes and surfaces.
Imagine if you were only allowed one pair of shoes, and you needed to keep them on 24 hours a day. Not a healthy scenario, right? It’s the same for your bird, they need to have variety to keep their feet healthy. If the ideal perch size for your guy is 2”, provide that size, but then also add a larger and smaller perch. Make sure all your perches are not just perfectly round – look for perches that have different shapes and variations.
Here are some of the various types of perches available:
- Natural – These are perches made out of branches, usually from a hard wood such as manzanita. The obvious advantage to branches is that like in nature, no two perches are going to be alike. There will be different shapes, sizes and textures which is great for exercising and stretching feet muscles. Because of the cost and labor involved, natural perches can be more expensive. Also, because they are natural, you should expect imperfections and cracking. If your perch does have a crack, just be sure your bird does not catch a nail in it. Trees in the forest are not perfect either, just be sure your bird is safe.
- Molded – This is the most common type of parrot perch. Made of concrete or plastic, these perches come in a variety of sizes, colors and shapes. An advantage to concrete is that it can help keep nails filed as they grip the rough surface. Look for a perch that is has some contours or variations in it. There is a wide price range of perches available but look for quality here since this is the “home” of your bird.
- Play/Rope – Flexible rope perches provide a good climbing surface. They can be adjusted into a variety of shapes. Two areas of caution with these perches. First, if your bird likes to peck or shred, watch the rope surface for fraying. If the rope becomes shredded, it may become an entanglement hazard for claws or nails. It should be removed and replaced. Second, a rope perch can be more difficult to clean than a natural or molded perch.
So here are three perch recommendations:
- Provide a variety of perches for your bird. Different sizes, shapes and contours. Don’t just rely on the dowel rod that came with the cage.
- Since you bird probably has a favorite spot to perch in the cage, move your perches around each month. Birds will often favor the highest perch – so rotating your perches will help provide needed feet exercise.
- Don’t skimp on the perch. You most likely made a significant investment in your bird and cage. The perches that you provide are where your bird will live. Happy feet – Happy bird? I hope so.