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Number of Perches | Perch Diameter | Perch Placement | Types of Perches

The type, shape, and arrangement of perches will help mold your bird's experiences. They will spend most of their time on a perch, whether sleeping, resting, hopping about, snuggling, preening, mating, snacking, or investigating. Because perches are such an integral part of the birds' daily lives, I try to offer as much variety as possible. Variety can be provided via perch thickness, perch type, perch angle, perch height, perch location, perch direction, and perch mobility.

Number of Perches
Click on the photo to enlarge. Notice the flight space provided between perches to encourage exercise. (This picture was taken before the aviary was completed).

I've heard that for each bird you need at least 3" of perch space. That's a bare minimum. I like to keep close to one perch or one branch of a perch for each bird. I believe that the birds need to be able to get away from each other from time to time, and having a whole perch to yourself can be necessary on occasion.

Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, however. A cage or aviary that is overcrowded with perches discourages or inhibits flight. If a bird can travel from one end of the cage to the other by hopping from branch to branch, there are too many perches in the aviary. It is important to encourage flight and therefore exercise by providing areas of empty space between perches. (The exceptions to this rule would be in the case of a handicapped bird that has difficulty flying, young fledglings who have not built up their flight muscles yet, and sometimes newly acquired birds who have been raised in a small cage and therefore never have had the opportunity to fly or build those muscles. Enough perches should be provided for him or her to get to the desirable places: a sleeping spot, a millet spray, a cuttlebone, etc.)

Perch Diameter
Ideally, the perch should be thick enough that the bird cannot get its whole claw around the perch.

Providing perches of varying thickness will help exercise the muscles in the birds' feet. Ideally, the perches should be thick enough that the bird cannot get its whole claw around the perch. However, I fail to meet this ideal in numerous places (the clothesline, the sundecks, and the smallest ends of some of the manzanita perches). I do feel, however, that the benefits of these different types of perches outweigh the disadvantages, since there are also numerous perches available of greater thickness. The optimum perch diameter range for finches, in my opinion, is between 1/4" and 5/8".

Perch Placement
Most of the perches are positioned at about the same height, with space above for flight. While in this photo it appears that the perches are very close together, that is an illusion. In the photo labeled Number of Perches above, you can see that there really is plenty of space between perches to encourage flight.

I like to position the perches in groups, with gaps between the groups. This allows the birds to hop around within a perch group, but requires them to fly to arrive at a different group.

Perches should be positioned carefully. When avoidable, a perch should not be placed directly beneath another perch (to stay out of the line of fire of droppings) and also should not be positioned above a food or water receptacle. If this is unavoidable, some type of roof or shield should protect the food and water from being soiled from above (this is a good idea anyway, as it will also protect against contamination from fly-by droppings).

Because the birds will undoubtedly prefer the highest perches, the majority of the perches should be placed at this high level, with only a few at significantly lower positions. If you place too many perches down low, you will most likely find that many of your perches are neglected by the birds, in favor of the higher, more favored locations. This is particularly true for nestboxes. The higher the nestbox, the more desirable it will be. Placing nestboxes at mixed heights will likely incur fighting over the highest boxes. To avoid this, place all nestboxes at or near the same height in the aviary. I don't use nestboxes, but I do provide bird sundecks, which many of my birds chose to use as sleeping places. All sundecks are positioned at the same height to discourage territory disputes.

While I recommend placing most perches higher up, some perches lower down are still necessary. An injured or sometimes even a molting bird may have difficulty reaching the high perch level. Also, new additions that have never been exposed to a spacious aviary may not have the muscle strength to fly high enough to reach even the lowest perches. The reverse can also be true. New additions who can successfully reach the perches may be leery of flying down to the bottom where the food is (but where they may feel more vulnerable). However, the availability of perches lower down will allow such birds to venture down in gradual increments, where they can further investigate without feeling so vulnerable.

I tend to hang the cuttlebone and the millet at perches that are not used as frequently. This will encourage the birds to get some use out of the less popular perches (the attraction of millet spray is much stronger than the attraction to a higher perch). It also keeps birds who are not interested in eating out of the way of the birds who are. I try to position millet spray near a multi-branched perch so multiple birds can eat at the same time. I also position the sandy perches at the highest locations in the perch zone to encourage frequent use (in the hope that nails will be kept trim without needing clipping).

I like to provide obstacle-free flight paths in my aviary. This means leaving at least 1.5 feet of perch-free space at the top of the aviary to be used for flight laps across the aviary (the clothesline swinging perches are the exception, since they must attach to the top of the aviary). (I also like to hang the clothesline perches parallel to the aviary front for best viewing of the "birds on a wire" phenomenon.) In addition, most of the perches are located close to the back wall so that the front of the aviary is open for flight.

Types of Perches

The following types of perches can be found in my aviary:

4 Large Complex Multi-Branched Manzanita Perches

Zach models the large manzanita perches for me. Apparently, they make good teethers too!
Natural branches are the best perches for the birds, offering limbs of varying diameters and angles. Branches can be collected from the outside and used as perches if sanitized properly. I have heard that baking for 10 minutes in a 350 degree oven will do the trick. Disinfecting with a bleach solution may be in order as well.Instead of collecting branches from the outdoors, I use the manzanita perches available from pet stores. These are made from natural manzanita branches, come in varied shapes and sizes, and include a bolt and nut for easy attachment to cage and aviary walls. While manzanita has a smooth bark and thus is not ideal for keeping nails trim, it is very easy to clean, having few ridges and crevices where poop can become embedded.I purchased 4 very large and branchy manzanita perches from a local bird fair. The most expensive was only $7.50, the equivalent of some of the smaller versions available in pet shops. Three of the four were too branchy to be used as is. The network of little branches were quite dense, which would make it difficult for the birds to access many of the limbs and making it near impossible to clean. Plus, many of the branches were way too thin to be suitable perches (even in my aviary, where thin perches are permitted). Thus, I had to prune them down to a more reasonable density.

Pet Store Variety Manzanita Perches

This is a typical pet store manzanita perch. They can be acquired as branched perches like this one, or straight, single branch perches.
In addition to the more complex manzanita perches discussed above, I also use a number of smaller manzanita perches purchased from the local PetSmart. I purchased 10, but only saw the need for a few once the aviary was built. This type of perch is available at most pet stores that sell bird supplies.

Sandy Perch

A Sandy Perch

I also have 2 finch-sized Sandy Perches purchased from When the aviary was first built, one was installed in the aviary. is the only site (to my knowledge) that offers these perches in a finch-appropriate diameter. They are basically manzanita branches with a colored sand bonded to them. They are supposed to help keep nails trim without causing the pressure sores associated with sand-paper or concrete perches.I gave the Sandy Perches a try because some of my strawberries have nails that can grow out of control. Most of the other birds have not had a problem with this. I had hopes that the Sandy Perches would decrease the number of times the strawberries needed to be caught for nail trimming.

Unfortunately, they were very difficult to keep clean. The rough texture allowed droppings to embed between sand particles, and scrubbing and dishwashing could not get them clean again. I didn't really notice much of an improvement with regard to the strawberries' nails, so I replaced the Sandy Perch with a fir perch (similar to manzanita perches but with a coarser bark). Perhaps the strawberries did not use the perch enough, I don't know. I didn't have much luck with it. If you choose to use Sandy Perches, do not use them exclusively. In addition to being expensive, I believe that too much exposure is not good for a bird's feet.

Clothesline Perch

Plastic clothesline was installed across the depth of the aviary to create a swinging perch. It is a favored spot of my blue-caps.

A swinging perch was made from plastic clothesline, attached at both ends to the aviary wall/front near the ceiling. Swinging perches provide good exercise for a bird since they must maintain their balance as the clothesline moves. Plastic clothesline was used instead of cloth/rope clothesline so that nails would not become entangled in rope fibers and so cleaning would be easy. The drawback to these swinging perches is that the clothesline is not quite as thick as I would like it to be.

Alternatively, swings can be purchased from pet stores. I preferred the clothesline approach because it allows more birds to swing at a time.

Numerous Bird Sundecks

Bird sundecks - Jade (left) and Evel (right) sleep on this sundeck every night. The male societies and Bucky the pied zebra also favor the sundecks.

Bird sundecks were obtained from Hornbeck's (now owned by Drs Foster and Smith). These sundecks are provided to my birds for use as a non-breeding sleeping spots in place of nestboxes. Without nesting material, it is impossible for a bird to lay and incubate eggs on the sundeck. It is, however, a more comfortable place to sleep than a single perch (well, atleast, I would think it is, never having slept on one myself). And it is also very easy to clean. My societies, zebras, and masked grass finches have all chosen to use a sundeck as their sleeping place in lieu of having a nestbox.

Although the sundecks are all placed at the same height (relatively high), they are not the highest perches in the aviary. This is because I want to discourage their use as a perch during the day, since the bars they are built from are not very thick. Also, I am starting out by including more sundecks than would be needed (so that everyone can pick their chosen location). But once everyone has claimed a sleeping spot, I will remove the other unclaimed sundecks to encourage use of regular perches during the day.


Other Perch Types (not used by me) include the following

Dowel Rod

Dowel rods are also frequently used as perches, most often in cages, but also in aviaries in the form of a swing, a hanging rod with dowel perches sticking out, or a parrot play gym that sits on the floor. I don't use dowel perches because I find them hard to clean. Were I to use a dowel perch, I might try painting it with a gloss or semi-gloss paint first (latex-based), in an effort to make clean-up easier.


Another common perch type is a thick braided rope perch. I prefer not to use rope perches because nails can become caught in the fibers and because poop can become embedded in the strands, making it less sanitary.

Plastic Perches

I don't use plastic perches because I don't believe they are a good surface for bird feed. However, plastic perches are easy to clean and can be sanitized in a dishwasher. Plastic perches should not be used as the sole perch type in the cage or aviary.

Sandpaper or Concrete Perches

Sandpaper and concrete perches are used to help keep a bird's nails trim. However, they can cause pressure sores on the birds' feet. In my experience, concrete perches are generally preferred over sandpaper perches; but sandpaper perches frequently make use of a sandpaper cover that can be replaced regularly, making clean-up easy. If used, there should really only be one (or two if the aviary is spacious) such perches and they should be the highest perches available. I have tried Sandy Perches instead, but found them too difficult to keep clean and not as effective as I had hoped.

Natural or Artificial Plants

Another excellent source of perches are natural or artificial plants. If natural plants are used, first check to ensure that they are on the safe plants for birds list. Artificial plants are safe to use around birds, but plastic branches are not as good for the birds as natural ones. Plastic plants can also be a challenge to clean. For this reason, the artificial greenery is limited inside my aviary.

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