I am often asked whether it is advisable to cover a bird’s cage at night time. There are several opinions on this issue, and certainly no single one is absolutely correct all of the time, as the situation varies based on the personal lifestyle of the bird owner, the species of bird in question, and the location of the bird cage.
Personally, I believe in the importance of covering all of my bird cages. There are three main reasons for this philosophy:
- Just like brushing your teeth, changing into pyjamas and moving into the bedroom signals human brains that sleep is imminent, the bird cage cover is a signal to the bird that they should settle down for the night.
- Additionally, it is vital that birds receive 10-12 hours of darkness every night. If a family has lights or the television turned “on” in the evenings, the bird is being continually disturbed. Just like with human children, birds can become cranky if not given enough opportunity for sleep. My White-Capped Pionus, “Cody”, certainly needs his sleep. I know almost immediately if he has not had enough hours in the dark (often because I either forgot to cover his cage, or was out of the house late and left a light turned “on” accidentally). While he is usually sweet and social, Cody will be a bit uncooperative if he is tired.
- Covering the cage is equally important for the owner as it is for the bird. Humans love their morning sleep, while birds start their day as soon as the sun rises. If the bird is left uncovered, they tend to chirp and chatter EARLY in the day (how does a 6AM, call-time sound, anyone?). By leaving the cage covered, both humans and birds can get a full night.
So, with all of that compelling evidence, why would anyone advise against covering the cage?
Some breeders will argue that cages should always remain uncovered so that the bird can see enough light that they will be able to find a perch should they have what is commonly referred to as a “night fright” (similar to a nightmare in humans) that disturbs their sleep and causes panic as they thrash around in their cage. Some species are more prone to night frights than are others. Cockatiels, for instance, are well known to have night frights. In the case of a species such as this, leaving the cage uncovered is probably a safe option, however it still should be in a dark room so that the bird can get enough hours of sleep. You may also consider covering the cage, but leaving a corner lifted.