Housing a cockatoo

A cockatoo can be housed in a cage or an aviary. A cage is used inside your house. An aviary can be seen as a very big cage, usually partly outdoors, with an indoor space that is sheltered against rain, wind and the cold. There are all kinds of cages and aviaries for sale. You can also have your cage of aviary custom build to fit the needs of you and your bird(s).

Cage size

 cockatoo cage
possible cockatoo cage

A cage or aviary is never too big for a cockatoo. The more space it has, the better! If you can fit a larger cage in your house, please opt for this larger cage. Your cockatoo will be happier in this cage, making it a much nicer experience to have it as your companion. A larger enclosure will allow your bird more space to move and more place for toys and perches.

So there’s no maximal cage / aviary size, but there is certainly a minimum. It goes without saying that a larger species of cockatoo needs a larger cage than the smaller corella species. The rule of thumb is that your bird should be able to stand upright in it’s cage with wings spread without touching the bars of the cage. This is really the bare minimum, anything bigger is better.  To give you some numbers; for an Umbrella cockatoo a cage of 90 x 70 x 120 cm (breadth x depth x height) is a standard size cage. A smaller species of cockatoo, for example a Little Corella could be housed in a cage of 70 x 60 x 100 cm. For exercise and entertainment the cockatoos could be let out of their cages multiple times a day.

An aviary has no minimal size. If you keep multiple cockatoos in one aviary, every bird should have enough space to isolate itself from the rest. If the cockatoos in your aviary are not taken out of their enclosure to socialize with humans, they should have really a lot of space and at least one other cockatoo with them.

What you can put into the cage (perches, toys etc) can be read here.

Other requirements for cage / aviary

Horizontal bars are easier to be climbed on than vertical bars. If you have a choice, go for the horizontal bars.
Many cages have a metal grid rack at the bottom of the cage, separating the bird from the sand and droppings. This seems like a nice addition, but it is not. Walking on this grid is uncomfortable for your bird and he cannot reclaim any toys or food that fall through the bars. If you clean the cage daily, it is not unhygienic at all to not have this grid. If you don’t clean the cage often, it is unhygienic anyway so a grid won’t help that. Generally your cockatoo will stay away from droppings or fallen dirty food.

Choosing the best spot in the house

Where you choose to place the cage of your cockatoo will influences your birds well-being. A cockatoo likes to be part of the family life, so placing the cage in the living room is a good idea. Place the cage in a corner or against a wall, so the cockatoo always has one “safe side”: from the side of the wall no predators can approach him, making him feel more safe than in the middle of a room. Do not place the cage of your cockatoo in the kitchen, cockatoos can and will die from breathing in the fumes of non-sticky (teflon) pans.

Safety of the cage or aviary

Of course it is very important to have a safe aviary or cage. Unfortunately a cage that is sold as a parrot or cockatoo cage does not mean this cage is 100% safe for your bird. The most common problem is that the doors of the cage are easily opened by a smart cockatoo. When he escapes when you are not at home, he can get into all kinds of trouble like electrocution by biting electric wires, flying away and getting lost, getting caught by a cat or dog etc. Doors without a lock or pin (e.g. sliding doors) can be easily learned to be opened. A carbine hook can be used to close such a door.
Make sure there are no sharp edges in the cage, no plastic parts that can be broken by the bird into sharp edges and that there are no holes big enough for your cockatoo to stick its head through.

Java trees and parrot stands

a climbing tree

In many pet shops that are specialized in birds, you can find Java trees. These are wooden ‘trees’ in an irregular shape that are set in a heavy base. If you are at home, it is nice to take your cockatoo out of its cage and have it sit in such a tree. Unlike parrots, cockatoos generally will not be content by just hanging out in a tree. Often they will go and explore the house, try to reach you or play around instead of staying quietly in the tree. Java trees or parrot stands are very nice for your bird, but you should always watch them and not expect to have the bird stay quietly. A parrot stand or tree is NOT a permanent housing place for a cockatoo.

Inside a big cage or inside an aviary a Java tree is a great addition. You don’t need to buy a real Java tree, as you can make a tree for your cockatoo from any kind of non-treated non-poisonous wood. Make sure it is very firmly attached to the floor or to a heavy base.

Pro’s en Con’s of aviaries vs. cages

There advantages and disadvantages of keeping a cockatoo in a cage compared to an aviary. My personal opinion is that you should always choose an aviary if you have the means to do so. Any aviary must have an indoor and an outdoor area. A cage has to be indoors.

Advantages of an aviary

  • More space for your bird to move around
  • Better for housing multiple birds
  • More space for toys and perches
  • Sunlight and fresh air for your bird
  • More natural environment around the aviary

Advantages of cages

  • Easier to place because it takes less space
  • Easier to clean
  • Indoor housing prevents your bird from being to cold or too hot
  • Less expensive than aviaries
  • You do not need outdoor space (e.g. garden)
  • It’s easier to spend more time with your bird as you and your family are often indoors