The Importance of a Quality Bird Cage and Where to Find a Cheap One
Your bird's cage is the most expensive item you will purchase upfront for her. The larger she is, the more you'll end up spending. If you skimp too much on quality to save money now, you will only spend more in the long run when you replace it once or twice.
Budget Ahead of Time
This may go without saying, but a bird (especially a parrot of any size) should not be purchased impulsively. You should take plenty of time to plan ahead and set aside an adequate cage fund. Even though you are impatient and excited, use this time to do additional research, visit bird expos, and talk to breeders or retail pet stores. The size of your cage fund will depend on what bird you are purchasing.
Smaller birds—canaries through cockatiels—and even some small conures like greencheeks can be housed in low-end light wire cages with plastic bases. These can run between $20 and $100 at a retail store. The largest cages, with powder-coated metal bars built to withstand the beaks of birds such as greenwing macaws, will cost between $900 and $1500, possibly higher. No matter what kind of bird you have, a good rule of thumb is to purchase the largest cage you can afford, which is why finding a good price is so important.
Maybe this didn't really occur to you until now, but the absolute best price you will get is for a used cage. Used cages are much cheaper, allowing you to get that heavier-duty cage that will last a lifetime.
Do not buy used wire cages with plastic bases. These tend to break. The clips on the base that hold the cage in place wear out and snap after having to be repeatedly disassembled for cleaning. They are also a safety risk if you have dogs and cats in the house who would like nothing more than to knock your bird's home to the floor for entertainment and pursuit. These cages are not sturdy and easily come apart, putting your bird at risk. If you replace a cheaply made $100 cage for a lovebird once, you've already spent as much as you would on a quality powder-coated cage of similar size (retailing at about $150 to $260).
Search the newspaper ads, online classifieds, or auctions for used cages of the appropriate size. Many times you can find them for half as much as you would in a retail store. The powder-coated cages might need a little cleaning, but odds are you will never have to replace them. You won't have to worry about your bird's safety because these cages are very sturdy, and most have space for, or come with, a top play area. They are built to last.
If you live near a major urban area, odds are there's an annual bird expo within a reasonable driving distance. An expo can open doors to new and used cages and other supplies at a reasonable price. It also allows you to meet different breeders and explore different species of birds you may not have considered before. Not only can you find the right cage at an expo, but you may find the right bird. You can collect cards from different breeders to hold onto until you're ready for your bird. Some species will be available at lower prices than you'd find in a retail store and be better socialized.
My personal experience at bird expos has been wonderful. I have had three lovebirds, two of which were purchased a year apart from major pet store chains for roughly $70, and one that I got at an expo for $30. The two from the store were parent-raised. They tamed easily, but remained leery of people, preferring to snuggle with each other, and they just tolerated being out on my hand or shoulder. When I had to move back in with my parents for a bit, I gave them to a friend who enjoys them immensely. On my own again, I waited for the expo to find my next lovebird. It worked out beautifully. She was well socialized, bold, inquisitive, and fearless right from the get-go, nothing like the two shy birds I had owned previously. She is truly a large parrot wrapped in a small-bird package.