Grooming perches, also known as abrasives, are made of a concrete-blend or composite. These are solid manicuring perches, as opposed to thin, sandpaper covers. The composite consists of a wood core with a well-adhered, textured surface. These perches groom a bird’s nails as the bird steps on and off the perch. Experts suggest placing only one grooming perch within the cage; abrasives can take a toll on feet.
“Sandy perches, textured perches — these are not meant to be primary perches. Don’t put them where birds play as much,” said Jan Graham of Texas perch manufacturer Busy Beaks Bird Toys. While these perches may be beneficial, proper placement is crucial.
Run-down Of Perch Types
For sleeping, comfort remains the primary concern. “No abrasives in the roosting zone,” is Colorado avian vet Dr. Lisa Paul’s perch material mantra. “The bottom of a bird’s foot will get red and raw. Abrasives can be placed near the food and water, where birds will spend enough time, but not too much.”
Grooming perches can also keep beaks in good shape. Dr. Larry Nemetz, an avian-only vet in Southern California suggests an elliptical-shaped perch that’s smooth on top. He also says to beware of over-groomers, birds that wear away their beaks by routinely rubbing them on the abrasive perches. “African birds are susceptible to this,” he said
Sandpaper covers are not recommended; these can cause birds to slip and fall, and as far as beak grooming goes, they are more likely to be shredded and ingested. “Not only do these not groom anything, they can be dangerous,” Dianalee Deter, owner of Good Feather bird store in Colorado said.
Natural perches refer to those made of wood, either purchased from a store or collected from untreated trees and sterilized. To sterilize branches, wash with a half cup bleach to 1-gallon water solution and dry completely, or wet the wood and bake in the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit until dry. Only use bird-safe, unsprayed and untreated wood branches.
Manzanita and cholla (pronounced choy-ah) are common store-bought picks. Manzanita gets praise for its indestructibility; cholla, because it has a porous surface with holes large enough for bird toes to grip through. The life of a cholla perch may be limited, but vets and breeders both agree that this is a comfortable option to place within the cage. The multilevel texture has the extra benefit of exercising bird feet.
According to perch maker JoAnne Stuckey of Parrotopia Perches in Oregon, “The natural warmth of the wood helps keep bird feet comfortable.” Comfort also comes from choosing the width that is most comfortable to the bird; natural branches and perches often have varying diameters, that allow for a choice of a sitting spot.
The toughness of manzanita is ideal for many bird owners. Some owners of macaws and cockatoos, which are prone to splintering most wood perches, like the longevity of this hard wood. Other owners prefer something that birds can destroy. “It’s not a big proponent of strong wood; I like to let ‘em chew the bark,” said Hamilton Aviary’s Chris White. “Our birds are inside during the winter and they get cabin fever, so we just let ‘em chew the heck out of it.”
Polymer perches and PVC tubing are easy to clean and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many playgyms and portable perches are made from these man-made materials. Although polymer perches, and even some smooth wood perches, are chosen for easy cleaning, the same smooth surface that facilitates this ease also lends itself to slips and falls, particularly when it becomes wet. When your bird cannot securely perch, it’s in trouble. Falls from perches occur often and lead to broken legs, night frights or both, according to Dr. Nemetz.
Graham recommends sanding polymer perches to give them texture for better gripping. Do not sand PVC tubing, however. This will expose the hair-like fibers of the PVC material, which will leave them prone to picking and ingestion. Choose PVC perches that have been scored or otherwise given texture. Some perch manufacturers may offer to sandblast a perch. This process utilizes a high-powered burst of sand to give the targeted material a very rough texture.
Another option for well-groomed birds is rope and sisal perches. These are comfortable on birds’ feet, and the variations in texture allow for foot exercise. They’re also useful with handicapped birds, or those needing extra comfort as they age. Careful with those untrimmed toenails, though. These can snag on the material and trap a bird on the perch or leave it hanging, literally.
Another precaution with rope perches applies particularly to Australian birds. Cockatoos and cockatiels have been known to ingest the fibers, which become impacted in their stomachs and require surgery for removal.
Heated perches are now available. Safe, polyvinyl-covered, multi-diameter perches with a low electrical current running through them offer a warm-up for birds in cold climates. Not to be used exclusively, they can be a nice rest stop after a bath on a wintery day.
“Swings and boings can be considered perches, too,” Graham said, expanding the concept of traditional perching. She also encourages people to think outside the box. “Maximize your real estate; put perches on the outside of the cage, extending the play area.”
Perch possibilities abound outside of cages, too. Size playgyms and playstands for comfort if birds use them for extended periods.
Don’t forget about the shower perch. “Birds that don’t get their feet cleaned in the shower wind up with cracked, craggy feet, too,” Deter said.
Perch Life Span
Schedule your own perch checkup today. Monitor the condition of rope and natural perches, for frays and splinters, each week. Clean all surfaces, especially of visible debris — birds that clean their beaks on perches after eating can be collecting droppings as they do so. Spot clean perches when you change cage liners or newspapers; thoroughly clean when you conduct weekly or biweekly cage cleanings. Rotate perches and swings so your bird can move around the cage in a different way and get exercise. Finally, replace old perches when they begin to show their age. Naturals may last less than a month, and even polymer perches will show wear and tear in time.