As a parrot owner, you’ve probably heard it said that birds are supposed to spend time outside their cage every day for their own happiness and well-being. I tend to be pragmatic and I like to have happy birds, so I don’t just go by the clock to determine how much play time they need.
A lot of experts say that the larger the bird, like an African Grey or a cockatoo, the more they should spend several hours out of their cage daily; smaller birds, like a budgie or a green cheeck conure, require less, but “less” still means a significant amount of time out.
Huge Time Out
I’m sure that YouTubers represent the bird keepers who love their birds and love taking care of them, so they may not be representative of most bird owners. Nevertheless I get inspired and amazed at times when I see the elaborate play rooms or jungle gyms that people build for their birds. They look like fun… for their birds- or for me! No doubt, these birds have a great time when they are out of their cage – and it looks like their homes are aimed at giving the birds a lot of jungle gym time.
It is wonderful to be able to give our birds the biggest cage, the coolest perch or play area and the best life possible, no doubt. If you are fortunate enough to be able to build your bird a playground, then you probably don’t even think about the time out they require. That is awesome and I’m jealous! For the rest of us, how much time is right?
Engage In Or Out Of The Cage
When you come home tired from work or school, how much time out does your fid need to stretch, fly or explore? Because you probably don’t have any (time or energy).
In my opinion, one of the coolest things about our ‘modern times’ is that people have more awareness about many things, including keeping pet parrots. In this video the Parrot Wizard talks about the fact that it’s not the time out that is key, but rather the quality of time. He makes a great point in saying that if your bird is out of his cage, but she is bored, then it doesn’t make a difference whether she’s in or out of the cage. Quality and engagement are more important that counting hours.
Feather Size Matters
A second factor to use in determining how much time you should give your bird out of it’s cage depends on their feather size. Yes, size matters because larger birds need more space to spread their wings and they need rooms or aviaries, not just large cages, to get a fair amount of exercise. Feather movement should be another factor: some birds, even within the same species, are more active than others. Younger birds, like human children, display more energy, curiosity and a greater desire to play. Adult birds tend to make less noise – in my experience – move around less and are easier to have out of their cage. An active bird needs more space.
Are You Saying Old Is Better?
I have found a bird’s age to make for an interesting factor- an older bird, maybe a re-homed bird- means you get to skip the terrible twos. At home we have re-homed birds and birds that we got as babies. The re-homed, older birds tend to be more mellow.
As nature would have it, some of the smallest birds are the quickest and the zip around the most. When they are out of their cage they can be very difficult to catch. The larger birds are on the other end of the spectrum. The larger (and older) the bird, the easier they are to spot (they can’t hide the way a budgie can) and the easier they are to catch.
Sure, that’s a generalization, but some of this makes perfect sense. In nature budgies out-fly stalking hawks because budgies can turn and dive with agility. Larger birds have a harder time keeping up with these movements. This means that by natural design, the smaller and younger the birds, the more active they are.
But Personality Should Determine it All
The bottom line is that birds should spend as much time either outside of their cages and engaged with you or have a companion; they should be in aviaries that provide sunshine, fresh air and room to fly around.
If you can’t live that ideal – maybe one day for me! – then you have to find what works best for you and your bird. Birds are amazing, intelligent creatures. I am a firm believer that having a parrot (or another kind of pet) provides companionship, love and a deep bond with uplifting physiological benefits. A happy, healthy bird means an inviting, loving home (for you both).