What’s In a Perch?
I am often asked which perches are appropriate for the bird species I breed, here at Welcome Wings Aviary. The short answer is this: variety is the spice of life. Like the human hand, a bird’s foot has essentially countless different possible positions and forms it can take. Whether completely flexed, flat on the floor, or balled into a tiny fist with toes piled on top of one another, the foot is comprised of an incredible set of muscles. In the wild, birds are exposed to a range of differently shaped “perches” — from narrow twigs on the highest peak of a tree, to the wide and sturdy branches at the tree’s foundation, to the flat forrest floor. In captivity, providing a variety of textures and thicknesses is essential, to give the bird’s feet the opportunity to go through a range of motion daily. Doing so promotes healthy blood circulation, strengthening and conditioning.
I recommend at least one natural branch in each bird cage. Maple, fir, apple wood, and lilac wood are popular branches as they are bird-safe, and readily available. Please make sure the branches have not been sprayed with any pesticides prior to use, and that you soak the branches overnight in hot water, or bake them in the oven at a low temperature for a minimum of 30 minutes to kill any microorganisms. Once thoroughly cleaned, it is easy to drill a hole into each end, then attach inside the cage using plastic cable ties.
As far as commercial perches go, I love the rope perches you can find in pet stores. They are brightly coloured, easily bend-able, and comfortable on the bird’s feet. Please replace these periodically, as bacteria can build up in the rope fibres over time, and the ends of the rope can fray, causing a safety hazard for tiny toenails that may become tangled.
Concrete, or “sand” perches are also very popular options. These do work to file bird’s toenails, however I recommend no more than one per cage, and that plenty of other options are also provided such that the bird can get away from the rough texture when they wish. Too much exposure to sand perches can cause sores to develop on the bird’s feet over time.
Finally, the original perch of the pet trade is the basic wooden dowel. These often come with cages upon purchase, however do not be fooled by the picture on the box which suggests no other options are required. Wooden dowels, like every other perch mentioned, are perfectly fine when used in moderation.