The Term "Cage" is Outdated

When is a Cage Not a Cage? When it's a Home.

Free Bird
It's More Than a Cage. It's Her Home. Louise Docker Sydney Australia/ Getty Images

Many people dislike the word “Cage.” It sounds brutal. It's an antique term that is out of date. And it isn't what a good parrot caregiver really wants to say when discussing the home they keep their cherished bird in. I call them a house or a room. It doesn’t change the shape or she appearance. But the intention isn’t to lock them up. It’s to keep them safe. 

What we as parrot caregivers are doing isn't  easy. Try and look at them as inside-out  play pens. If you look at a child’s play pen, it really is the same thing isn’t it? 

Decades ago, playpens were made of wood and had vertical bars around the entire pen. Play pens made in this era look to me like a large laundry hamper. The only difference between a child’s play pen from back then and a bird cage is that the playpen has no top and of course most bird cages are made of metal. If it was made of wood, it would be a dandy collection of toothpicks by now. 

But we never referred to a child’s play pen as a “cage” even though that is in effect what it is. It functions as a cage in that it effectively restrains the child from wandering around and possibly hurting himself. Isn’t that what a cage does for a bird? It prevents escape and prevents them from harming themselves. What is the difference?

The word “cage” a little offensive and doesn't really explain what it really is. This is not about sensitivity or trying to be politically correct. The word “cage” seems to be a rather harsh term for something that is a sentient being’s home. Many people call their birds’ cages, their “rooms’ or their “houses.” They simply seem more comfortable with that. 

The word “enclosure” is a term used most often by large organizations such as zoos. It is a more generic term that works for many species of animals that are not kept in a cage at all. Rather, they are kept in some sort of situation that has no bars and it doesn't look like a box. Many animals have large areas that are enclosed using methods other than bars. 

"Enclosure" seems to be the proper terminology for where an animal lives. They lived in “enclosures” as the term “cage" wasn’t exactly accurate as most of the areas the animals lived in had free reign inside of the enclosure. They are fairly spacious and they are built to appear very natural, reflecting the actual setting where the animal would live in the wild. Zoos are educational venues disguised as entertainment. So the word cage in a Zoo setting is considered archaic and outdated. And so it should be with the home setting birds live in at home. 

Ann Brooks, Founder of the Phoenix Landing Foundation (PL) loathes it when people refer to her operation as a “Parrot rescue” simply because it’s not accurate. PL does more than “rescue” birds. Ann’s non-profit organization is an adoption and education foundation and they do both very well. They conduct classes on a regular basis several times a month in various locations on the East Coast as well as foster birds ready for adoption and placement. So “rescue” simply doesn’t work for her nor is particularly descriptive of the work she set out to do and the work her foundation actually accomplishes. 

Perhaps thinking about reworking the terms we all use on a day-to-day basis to more accurately describe what it is that we are talking about in the world of pet birds. Sort of a “Taxonomy of Terms” if you will that gives us a vocabulary we are all use so we completely understand what it is we are referring to. 

In the long run, we’d all be better off. In the meantime, using the word “enclosure” from now on might be a better bet.