Most parrots spend as much as 24/7 on their feet. Just image if you spent 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year, for a total 365 24-hour days a year. Whew that's a lot of pressure on those birdie feet.
Sometimes it's easy to spot the problem of foot fatigue in a bird such as lameness, sores on the bottom of feet, toes that curl oddly due to no known injury, a bird who leans forward on the perch often as if trying to flatten out, and other slightly noticeable signs. Other times it is so subtle you may not know your bird is having a problem with a foot until it has become a medical issue. A bird who constantly shifts from one leg to the other may or may not be having a leg or foot problem since most birds quite naturally shift from one leg to the other during rest or sleep times.
In the wild birds spend their time perching on many different types and sizes of branches and landing spots. Therefore they are naturally fully stretching their feet and toes on large tree branches and tree stumps, or clutching tightly to tiny twigs as they hang on to play and reach for food. Small branches sway in the breezes and birds perching on them are clenching and unclenching their feet and toes as they are one with the motion of the branch, therefore exercising their feet naturally. Some birds rest at night in tree cavities which give them a flat platform area to rest upon.
Here are some suggestions of various types of perches, and how you can provide an environment that will help your bird keep those little birdie feet in the best condition possible. As they say, "variety is the spice of life".
Suggestion 1 - Wood Perches: Providing differing sizes of wooden perches for your bird is very helpful in exercising the feet. Wooden perches that come with cages are fine, but often are on the small size in diameter. A small diameter perch can be okay, but think big perches too. If you can provide safe natural wooden perches also that's even better. Nature's perches are imperfect in sizes and shapes and that's a good thing. Wooden blocks large enough to perch on and wooden platforms enabling toes to stretch out, wood ladders to climb upon are all alternative perching tools. Manzanita wood is a very hard wood and lasts longer with large birds such as Cockatoos and Macaws. However be aware that manzanita is often very smooth and almost slippery for smaller birds who may have a harder time safely perching on this particular wood.
Safety Tip 1: Cholla wood perches seem to be popular and sold in many stores, however I have experienced first hand a small bird's toe becoming trapped in a hole in the cholla wood, who then panicked trying to get free. Luckily I was there and able to calm the bird so that the toe could be removed without any injury to the bird. It could easily have caused a broken toe or leg. Therefore I am not a fan of cholla wood. I you choose to use it, please monitor closely.
Safety Tip 2: Use only safe woods for natural perches and take steps to prevent any insects that might be hitching a ride, or wild bird poop that can carry disease. A list of some safe trees can be found HERE.
Suggestion 2 - Various Perch Materials: Providing different materials and types of perches such as 100% cotton ropes, bungies, or swings, sisal, seagrass, and palm leaf perches, bird huts/condos which allow a bird to rest without any gripping of the feet, also give textured relief for feet.
Safety Tip: Rope, sisal, seagrass, cloth, and other such natural fibers should be checked daily for any signs of wear and tear to prevent fibers or strings from entangling toes.
Suggestion 3 - Flat Perches: Platform type perches usually are made of wood and/or metal and come in various sizes. Wooden platforms usually provide a solid top for perching, and metal platforms are often made with a grated-like top. If needed the metal perches that do not have a solid top can be easily wrapped in vet wrap or similar material to provide a full flat solid surface as well. The wrap can be easily removed and changed as needed.
Safety Tip: Platform perches can be a great help to birds with handicaps as well, or senior birds who may not be able to grip rounded perches as they did when younger.
Suggestion 4 - Rough Surface Perches: Nail trimming concrete, sand perches (not the sandpaper covers), and other rough textured grooming perches, can be helpful for nails and beaks as well. I always recommend purchasing the proper size for your particular bird species. As these types of perches can be more costly, sometimes a customer will buy a smaller size due to the cost thinking that it will still be helpful. The problem occurs when the bird decides he or she likes the perch a little too much and then prefers to sit upon it most of the time. The bird often wraps the foot tightly around the too small perch and this may cause sores to appear on the foot. Having the proper size of a rough texture perch for your bird helps prevent this from happening as the foot should not be able to wrap completely around the perch with toes meeting toes.
Safety Tip: I personally prefer nail trimming perches that have a rough side for nail trimming/blunting, and a smooth top for the pads of birdie feet to help prevent sores. If yours doesn't have the smooth part, just make sure your bird is not using the perch exclusively. Sandpaper perch covers are an absolute no-no as there are plenty of cases of birds actually eating the sandpaper and creating crop impactions.
Some Final thoughts:
If you have an older bird or a handicapped bird, or even a very young clumsy bird, providing platforms, rope perches, and ladders, can help your bird enjoy life while helping prevent falls and allowing those delicate feet better traction, and a restful place to perch.
Don't forget your bird uses those feet not only to stand on almost all of the time, but as a useful tool for grabbing, climbing, holding things, and playing. So be kind to the feet and provide perching of different shapes, sizes, and textures, and you will find you are enriching your bird's life environment for your bird's mind and body.
Please check out our selection of varying perch styles by clicking HERE.