Kili, Truman, and Santina got microchipped and this article is about the procedure and the pros/cons. First off, I'm a believer in leg bands. I think leg bands are the simplest and most effective means of bird identification. Except when medically necessary, I think it is better to keep pet parrots banded. If given the choice on a new baby to band or not, I'd take the band.
Santina came from the rescue without a band. I was told that hers was removed for medical reasons so I would not consider open banding her again. This is why I first decided to look into microchipping for Santina.
The reason that parrots should carry some type of permanent identification is so that if it is ever lost, stolen, found, rescued, or disputed, there is a means of identifying the bird. In the case of lose or found, a band helps provide readily visible identification and may help the bird be returned. A band can lead to contact with the breeder the bird came from and that could help connect the bird to the owner. I also feel that if ever questioned by authorities about a parrot, showing that it is banded can help simplify things quicker. If ownership of the bird is disputed, having records pertaining to the identification can help resolve legal matters. Lastly for a bird that drifts from home to home through rescue, a band may help figure out the age of the bird and other information that may be helpful in its care.
Since Santina came without her band, I will never find out what breeder she came from. That kind of information could be useful to learn more about how the bird was raised and to confirm the age. To ensure that Santina can be definitively identified and because of the higher potential to get lost (since I fly my birds indoors and out), I wanted to get her microchipped as soon as possible. I decided to get Kili & Truman microchipped as well while I was at it. The one case where having both microchip and band is best is in the case of theft where bands usually get cut off.
A microchip is installed by injection into the pectoral muscle under the skin. Old microchips required the bird to be anesthetized and a surgical procedure. The new kind that I got from Microchip ID Solutions is even smaller and requires nothing more than a localized anesthetic. The old chips used to migrate around the body but the new ones are supposed to remain in place. Many clinics are unaware of these new smaller ones so be sure to ask which ones they use or recommend they use this smaller one. The chips aren't expensive and the procedure can be done by a vet tech rater than vet so it is not that costly. A location for the micochip is chosen and a mark is made with a maker. An injection is made to numb the area and once in effect, the microchip is directly injected. The microchip can be identified by a microchip reader at any vet clinic.
Microchipping parrots has its pros and cons. These are both physical and practical in nature. The benefits of a microchip over a band is that it is unobtrusive, cannot be removed, is recorded in a nationwide database with your information, and doesn't cause discomfort. The down side is that nobody can see it and few can use a device to read it.
Only vet clinics and large scale cat/dog rescues are equipped to read microchips. And even then, most don't bother scanning a bird unless it was brought in and known to be lost. When is the last time someone scanned your parrot for a microchip? For all you know it has one and nobody ever bothered to check. This is the problem of a microchip compared to a band. It doesn't ever get checked unless a bird is found and brought to a facility that has a reader.
In a study conducted by Dr. Todd Driggers DVM that found that the new microchips (like the ones I had implanted in my birds), cause very little tissue trauma. In the study he says, "the CPK increased by approximately 300 mg/dl in each bird. In comparison, CPK can elevate with a single antibiotic injection to over 1500 mg/dl. Because microchips do not create muscle necrosis (like antibiotics can) the relative amount of tissue damage to the muscle is very low." He also suggests that local anesthetics are maximum precaution necessary and that these chips are small enough to implant in parrots as small as lovebirds. In 2 days, Dr. Driggers implanted 22 chips in various species and concluded that "no post implantation infections have been observed so sterilization of the chips and a refined implantation procedure has proven effective."
For these reasons I think both bands and microchips have their place and the ideal combination may be a combination of both. However, the most important and reliable measures are the ones you can take to ensure the safety of your bird in the first place. Wing-clipping is NOT a valid safety measure to keep parrots from being lost. Keeping doors and windows closed, a carrier/harness outdoors, and a safety minded approach are the most effective measures for keeping birds from getting lost. But accidents can still happen so for the very unlikely event of one, that's where having some ID on your bird is a great idea.
Let's talk about big birds and cages. I'm not doing this to make anyone feel bad but hopefully to inspire people to do better. I know I've made mistakes with cage sizes and want to help you realize some of the conclusions I have come to.
I'm gonna play novice bird owner/shopper. So I decide to get myself a macaw so I go to google and search for parrot cages. I pull up the first site I find and look how convenient, it says I can search by "breed" (breed, really?) for cages. Anyway, they have a Macaw breed so I know this must be the right kinda cage. I figure I won't splurge out and get the top of the line but I don't want low end either so I find something mid-priced of what they have. $550 gets me 40x30x66 in powder coat. Not the smallest nor the biggest macaw cage (although the biggest ones offered are barely bigger at 48x34x70) while the smaller ones aren't even 3 feet wide.
I don't know Santina's measurements yet but let's say from wikipedia it says Greenwings are up to 37" head to tail and 49" wingspan. Holy moly, a 49" bird in a 36 to 48" cage? Maybe if we trim off the wingtips a little it could just make it if it stands in the very center of its perch!? We think budgies get shafted with those tiny cages but they can hop and sort of fly in those! The big birds are the ones who really have it badly. Worse yet, those "macaw cages" usually can fit only a single perch (will be lucky if it's not a dowel!). The bird's tail is so long that if you put a perch lower its tail will drag and if you put a perch higher, it will hit its head.
I have often likened keeping a Green Winged Macaw in a "macaw cage" to keeping a cockatiel in a shoebox. Well my friend Ginger, who runs a rescue for Senegal Parrots and Cockatiels, did a little measuring for me. Turns out a Cockatiel's wingspan is about 14 inches and a typical shoebox about 12 inches long. That is a bird confined to a space smaller than its wingspan. Yet even the most modest of Cockatiel cages are 16-20 inches across. Ginger states that, "The cage most of the Cockatiels come in is the same kind from petco: 20 long, 16 wide, and 33 inches high but it's really not that much as it is a dome." Not that I advocate such a small cage for a Cockatiel, the bird still has more than a wingspan of width and 2-3 height levels it can climb to. This at least provides space for a modest variety of perches, wing stretching, and some activity.
Yet the cages marketed for macaws don't span up. I know $500 or $1000 on a cage sounds like a lot of money and that it must buy something fantastic. But price and seller offerings have nothing to do with what birds actually require. We're not even talking about getting a super roomy cage here, just the bare minimums.
Imagine being confined in a room or space small enough that you cannot stand up or extend your arms all the way? That wouldn't even be considered a room but more like a box! We take for granted having enough space to at least be able to stretch in any direction. Convicts, murders, and rapists have more space in their jail cells (typically 6'x8') than a perfectly innocent, beautiful, loving, and adored macaw has in its cage.
Without knowing Santina's actual dimensions yet, I can tell you that she takes up all of her 32x22x22 plastic carrier. She can travel in it but I would not expect her to be able to live in it. I cannot begin to imagine keeping her in a cage this isn't even double that size (most are 48x30x60 or less)! I'm not trying to harp on people who have macaws in cages just because I have Santina in a room. I haven't given this as much thought until now. This is more to discourage people from getting macaws in the first place without having sufficient space for an entire bird room or aviary and to encourage those who already have macaws to find ways to get them more space. The absolute maximum size macaw cage available really only meets absolute minimum size requirements.
We need to stop thinking of parrots just in terms of their body. We must also take into consideration their wingspan. I think because many birds are clipped and don't fly, people are not accustomed to seeing those wings in full but they still need to be able to stretch and flap in their cage. I do think that a lot of out of cage time, outdoor time, training, flight, enrichment, and activity can make up to a large extent for an undersized cage, however, the cage must still meet the following minimum requirements:
1) The bar spacing must be appropriate and safe 2) The bird must be able to open its wings in full if it wants to 3) The cage must be able to accommodate an absolute minimum of 3 different perches that the bird can access
These are the absolute minimum requirements for a long-term bird cage not to be animal cruelty in my opinion. We should strive to give them as much space as we possibly can but if a cage does not meet those minimums, it should not even be considered.
One problem I've run into when chatting with savy parrot owners is that it was difficult to impossible to establish baseline cage minimums with them. Everyone had a different opinion on the subject and many people would take whatever the minimum used to be and add a few inches and call that the minimum. I think it is well intentioned and I hope everyone strives to go well beyond the minimum. However, there has to be some kind of minimum in place below which it is just not acceptable and that is the one based on wingspan and perch quantity. Without this concrete minimum, it is hard to say and compare what kind of parrot personality requires what kind of size. All other personality/species differences can be added on top of this but no cage should ever be smaller (except perhaps in the case of a specially handicapped, baby, or injured bird). If you want me to make a general suggestion about what I think a good cage size is as opposed to the minimum, I would say double the minimum is a great place to be or the biggest thing above minimum that you can possibly accomplish.
Out of interest sake I measured Kili & Truman's wingspans for some comparisons. What is the wingspan of a Senegal Parrot? Kili is a below average sized female Senegal Parrot with a wingspan of 18 inches. Ever wondered what a Cape Parrot's Wingspan is? Truman who is a mid to large sized Brown-Necked Cape Parrot has a wingspan of 26 inches! Who would think it's so much just by looking at them. Folded up, these birds don't exceed 12 inches in any direction. Now let's see how their cages size up.
Kili's cage is 18x18x30 Truman's cage is 33x25x67 (though domed top)
I don't think Kili's cage is big enough but it's what I naively picked because I didn't know any better back then. I didn't find it worthwhile to throw it out to get something a little bigger so instead I focused on out of cage, aviary, and outdoor time. When Kili moves to my new place, she'll be getting a 25x22x63 aluminum dome cage just like Truman's. If Truman plays nice with Santina and I can leave them out together in the big room, Kili can have the entire little room with an open cage policy. If not, then Kili & Truman can have cages in the small room Santina currently occupies. These guys grew up in cages and are used to them.
Kili's cage works out to a full wingspan wide for her and she has 4 perches. So while unfortunately on the minimum end, I would consider this an acceptable cage (but hope for bigger). Truman's cage is 1.8 wingspans wide and has enough room for 5 perches, loads of toys, and still a lot of unoccupied space. That is a much better cage size for a Cape, Grey, or Amazon parrot. Ideally I would like a bit bigger but this is as big as aluminum cages come. The compromise for having an uncoated and corrosion proof cage is worth it.
Now that you've heard my thoughts about absolute minimum cage size, measure or research your parrot's actual wingspan and compare it to the cage size. If it is more than the size of the cage or the cage doesn't have a minimum of 3 different perches the bird can spend time on, get a bigger cage! If you're looking to acquire a big parrot (whether from store, breeder, or rescue), don't listen to them for a second about cage size if it doesn't at least meet those 3 minimum rules and really look for bigger. The time has come for savy parrot owners to take a stance and say it is not acceptable to keep birds in cages that they cannot fit in fully. Then take it one step further and provide the biggest cage or living space that you can. Your parrot spends more time in your house than you do so it's definitely worth it.
Check out Santina going back to cage room and climbing up: