Making sure that you provide the best possible "house" for your bird is a key element to having a healthy bird. When your bird is in it's cage, it is inevitable that it will be on a perch! Thus, perches need to be made comfortable for your birdie whether it is Manzanita, a wooden dowel, acrylic, plastic, Eucalyptus, etc.
Making sure that your bird has perches that he can fit his foot comfortably on is a must! The bird's foot should not be stretched and it should not be touching underneath of the perch. Make sure that your bird has different size perches. If he is always on dowels or on the same size perch, his feet will cramp into one position and arthritis or other diseases may occur. A perfectly round dowel is bad for your bird's feet. Make sure your perches vary in diameters and in hardness of the wood or material they are made out of. Parrots actually "rest their feet" by gripping perches of different diameters. The tree branches that they perch on in the wild are not all the same diameter. Even on one limb, there is a variance in diameter...some parts being thinner, others wider. Rarely are they the same size from one end of the limb to the other. Just like our feet get tired during long shopping trips and feel better when we change shoes, our birds' feet feel rested by changing perches because the grip is different for different size perches. To help with this, you can look for "orthopedic perches" that are made with various sizes on the same perch. Using different perches gives your bird the variety he would find in the wild.
For more information, visit http://www.aviannetwork.com/newbirdowners/perches.htm
Cleaning the perches is critical. There are many safe sprays to clean with including: Poop-off, Kennelsol, bleach water, Avimate, VirkonS or Chlorhexiderm (Nolvasson). A wooden perch is harder to clean than a plastic perch, but wooden perches also give the bird different diameters of perch to exercise their feet on.
Living like we do (on 2.5 acres with probably 40 trees!) our birds get natural branches for perches as well as "concrete" or "sandy" perches. We have found that Eucalyptus, Cottonwood, Fruit trees (such as Apricot, Peach, Plum, Apple, etc.), Manzanita wood and Grape vines make the best. You can use other kind of wood including: Ash, Beech, Birch, Cactus Wood, Crabapple, Dogwood, Elm, Fir, Mulberry, Pine, Popular, and Willow. We like the natural branches because the birds like to chew on them. They will destroy branches, though...so have a lot handy . BEFORE YOU PUT THE BRANCHES IN THE CAGE, MAKE SURE THAT THAT TREE HAS NOT BEEN SPRAYED WITH INSECTICIDES OF PESTICIDES!!!!! We use a 5 gallon bucket with some bleach/water mixture to clean the branches. Make sure that they sit for 20-30 minutes in the mixture. When you are done soaking them, put them in the sun to dry...our hot AZ sun will kill any remaining bacteria.
One of the best lists I have found on which branches are listed for their toxicity is at this link http://www.mdvaden.com/bird_page.shtml , which is within the landscape website www.mdvaden.com
This site also has a link that is very descriptive on how to make perches for your birds http://www.mdvaden.com/bird_perches.shtml and he even includes a blurb on how to tell stainless steel from the dangerous zinc washers.
In each of our birds cages, we have at least one cement perch. They are also called "Sandy perches" and they help keep their nails short. There are some concrete perches that are twisted.
The "twisted effect" helps make it so that they are "exercising their feet" by gripping different holds. They come in all different sizes and colors. They are rather expensive but we love them and they sure help the birds.
The birds instinctively go to the highest perch in the cage, so you may want to put your concrete perch highest so that your bird sits on it the most. I have also heard that if you put it in front of the food/water dish, they will have to stand on it. Don't get me wrong, the bird will still need their nails clipped but if they have a concrete/cement/sandy perch, you won't have to do it as often. They are extremely hard to clean and if you have one by food or veggie dish, they will get dirty quickly. In order to really work well, the bird's foot needs to reach at least 2/3 to 3/4 of the way around the perch...not touching front toes to back toes or you need to get a bigger perch. However good the cement perch may work, you need to have other perches in the cage, too....it would be like standing on sandpaper all day...it would start to hurt!
We do not recommend dowels, they
do not exercise the feet enough due to their conformity in diameter and will likely as not cause arthritis!!!