The market for bird cages and accessories is strong, and retailers are reporting growth across the category, with quality enclosures that feature both aesthetically pleasing and functional elements in demand. Additionally, bird owners continue to seek out enrichment and unique accessories for their pets.
Many segments within the pet industry have seen strong sales growth in the past year, and retailers noted that avian-focused products are no exception.
“The demand for birds has been through the roof since the pandemic started,” said Joey Puorro, operations manager for The Bird and Reptile Connection, a pet shop in Walpole, Mass. “The price of cages has absolutely skyrocketed in the last year to two years.”
Meeting consumers’ needs for caging has become a challenge for some retailers, as issues with shipping and availability have made it difficult to keep shelves stocked.
“Birds have became more popular than ever,” said Eva Moreno, avian specialist for Birds and Beasts Pet Shop in Crystal Lake, Ill. “Everyone wants one now. The tricky part is meeting demand. So many people want the cages when they buy a bird, and because of COVID, it’s hard to get cages and other products from most companies. We usually have to wait a couple of months before a big order comes in. But we always try to have a lot of stuff on back order, or just keep overstock in boxes in the store, so stuff is available when customers come in.”
Customers are seeking cages that offer ample space for their pets.
“The No. 1 feature people are looking for is adequate space,” said Tom VonRitchie, owner of M&D Bird World Exotic Birds, a store in Harbeson, Del. “Most people will go for a cage that would almost be considered oversized. They want as much space as they can get, which is great for the bird. A lot more space allows them to do a lot more enrichment with toys and things like that. That helps us even more because as soon as they pick out a cage, they’re going right to the toy and perch aisle and filling the cage up with all of our other stuff.”
Manufacturers are seeing the same growth and report that price and quality are their customers’ top concerns.
“The trend is quality,” said Andrew King, CEO of Kings Cages International, a manufacturer based in East Brunswick, N.J. “Quality was the No. 1 consideration, and price was No. 2 in the 1990s. Then, in the mid-2000s until the late 2010s, price was the No. 1 concern and quality was No. 2. Within the last two years, quality is now No. 1 again. Our business has attended double-digit growth last year and almost triple-digit growth this year.”
The pet industry is booming, industry experts reported. Both form and function are top-of-mind for bird keepers looking to purchase a cage.
“All things pet have boomed during the pandemic,” said Jason Savitt, CEO of Prevue Pet Products, a Chicago-based manufacturer. “Function plus form is more important than ever to pet parents. People want their birds to feel safe and comfortable, but they also want their bird’s home to look great in their living space, too.”
Bird cages are coming out of bedrooms and into living rooms, and being put on full display as furniture within the home.
“After seeing a steady decline in ownership, birds as pets appear to be gaining popularity,” said John Gerstenberger, vice president of product development and sourcing for Ware Pet Products, a Phoenix-based manufacturer. “This is even more true in the past few months. In turn, [manufacturers of] habitats and accessories are seeing an opportunity to be more ‘fashion-forward’ and be more than something that is tucked away in a kid’s room.”
Demand for Design
Bird owners want cages that are both functional and attractive, as they incorporate caging in open areas of their living spaces.
“A lot of people like flare,” Puorro said. “A lot of customers want weird shapes that they wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else, such as circular cages, decorative cages and cages that look like houses. … Experienced keepers are looking for flat tops, or dome tops with good use of internal space so that they have room for accessories.”
Enclosures that offer opportunities for enrichment are increasingly important to bird owners.
“Play stands have definitely become more popular,” Moreno said. “Customers either buy a wooden play stand that they can put on their kitchen counter, on a dining room table or by a window. But then we also have some cages that already have play tops built in.”
Creating areas for birds to move around, explore and play in is a top priority for bird owners.
“Flight cages are doing really well,” VonRitchie said. “What we have been doing a lot more of lately are the more colorful cages. The greens and blues are popular, as opposed to the standard black-and-white or sand-colored cages. We’ve been able to get some of our more popular cages in other colors now, and they go fast. If our customers are trying to coordinate their cage with the décor in their house, they love the darker green colors and even the blues. They are really moving well.”
When it comes to cage accessories, enrichment is where it’s at.
“For a lot of our customers, the No. 1 type of accessories in demand are trapezes,” Puorro said. “I always try and push foraging and enrichment accessories, under the advice of our avian vets. Caitec makes a really nice foraging sphere. It’s an acrylic ball with slits in it. It works very well with Lafeber products, such as the Nutri-Berries and Avi-Cakes. I’ve actually used that method to help literally hundreds of customers get their birds eating dark, leafy greens.
Reusable foraging toys sell well and keep customers coming back, Puorro noted.
“I can hardly keep them on the shelf,” Puorro said. “If I can suggest foraging toys to every customer who’s shopping, I can bring them back in. I have had more return customers this year just through this method than I probably had in the last 13 years I’ve been here.”
Perches are always in high demand, and java wood products are doing well in the segment.
“Java wood perches are popular for the bird due to the variation of the thickness of the branch,” King said. “These are better for parrots’ claws, instead of gripping on the same diameter perch all the time.”
Toys that focus on encouraging foraging behavior further support birds’ need for stimulation, and cage accessories that meet this need are in favor.
“Foraging toys are definitely very popular and indestructible toys are very popular,” VonRitchie said. “Java branches are also popular right now. I have trouble keeping those in the store. Not so much the java trees—the real big ones are on the rolling stands—but the branches that customers can attach either inside or outside of their cage. But the java wood is very popular right now overall.”
On the Market
Cages and Other Collections
Demand for attractive, well-made cages and accessories has led several manufacturers to expand their lines and offer new cage configurations.
Kings Cages International reintroduced aluminum cages, which the company had originally offered in 2010, last year.
“These are very complicated to manufacture,” said Andrew King, CEO of the East Brunswick, N.J.-based company. “They’re designed to be lightweight, will never rust, and we offer them in anodized colors, which are designed to not chip.”
Manufacturers offering more color options is helping customers find cages that fit into their home décor, and a variety of hues are increasingly favored.
“We’ve introduced a new color line, coming out this fall for our Playtop Bird Home,” said Caterina Novotny, vice president of sales and marketing for Prevue Pet Products, a manufacturer in Chicago. “This home is designed for medium to large birds, and our new blush color won second best at Global Pet Expo this year.”
Prevue is also offering new in-store header cards for its Playfuls and Naturals Bird Toy lines, which are designed to be both aesthetically pleasing and packed with information to educate and guide customers when buying toys for stimulation and enrichment, Novotny said. The cards are also meant to help pet stores and departments organize and simplify the curation of bird toy displays.
Demand for accessories is also surging, and several sought-after items continue to see growth in sales.
“Ware Pet Products’ Nesting Box … [features] a natural wood finish,” said John Gerstenberger, vice president of product development and sourcing for the Phoenix-based manufacturer. “Each box comes with a perch area and easy-access door. The Nest Box is made in cockatiel, lovebird, parakeet and finch sizing in both regular and reverse orientation.”
Ware also offers its Birdie Bark collection, made from bird-safe twigs. The line is designed to satisfy a pet bird’s instinctual need to chew. This line helps reduces stress and creates a positive outlet for excess energy, Gerstenberger stated. The collection includes the Birdie Bark Climber, Ladder, Branch Perch and Playground.
Make Effective Use of Space
Bird cages often take up a significant amount of space on any pet specialty retailer’s showroom floor. Using space effectively and setting up displays to maximize visibility is key, industry insiders reported.
“Creating and displaying a vibrant habitat for a bird allows for customers to envision what’s possible regarding enclosure aesthetics,” said Jason Savitt, CEO of Prevue Pet Products, a manufacturer in Chicago. “It is also an educational opportunity to show bird parents what their bird needs to thrive, and why. Additionally, it sets brick-and-mortar stores apart from online competitors by adding value to customers and by becoming a full-service resource to shoppers.”
Often, focusing on stocking product lines that customers may not find elsewhere can help retailers differentiate themselves and retain repeat business.
“Bring in products that [big-box competitors] do not carry,” said Andrew King, CEO of Kings Cages International, a manufacturer in East Brunswick, N.J. “Customers who walk into [independent pet] shops want service. They want attention. If the stores provide it, they will be doing very well, and their reputation will grow.”
Helping customers to integrate their birds into their lives, and making sure their cages meet their aesthetic needs, is a recipe for success in the segment.
“Studies have shown that the companionship pet parents get from pet birds can mirror some elements of human relationships that are known to contribute to their health and well-being,” said John Gerstenberger, vice president of product development and sourcing for Ware Pet Products, a manufacturer in Phoenix. “It only makes sense that pet ownership will see an increase as the world spends more time at home and people transition to working from home. Bird parents are looking for cages and containment options that allow their pet to be a part of the family.”