Note: About.com and I hold no liability for the safety of any paint you choose to use on your bird cage. Please consult the company directly before painting your cage.
Birds and other exotic pets require safe and secure cages. Often times safe and secure cages for large exotic pets, such as birds, can be very expensive. To avoid incurring some of these costs consider repainting an older cage. Find out how to paint a bird cage, and the steps to take to make sure you get the job done right, here.
Preparing the Cage
So you have your cage. Perhaps it was donated to you or your organization, a yard sale find, or one you've had for some time that is just in need of a makeover. But regardless of the route of acquisition, your cage needs to be painted.
Before slapping some paint on that cage it needs to be prepped for it's new identity. The surface of all metal being painted needs to be clean, smooth and free of all rust. Use your wire brush to get all the rust flakes off the cage and your sandpaper to smooth the surfaces after using the brush. Any other rough or uneven spots on the metal should be smoothed at this point as well.
After getting rid of all the rough spots and rust with your wire brush and sandpaper you should clean the cage. Use your cleaning cloths or just give your cage a bath with some water to get rid of all the dust and debris.
The last step before actually painting your cage is applying a thin primer coat. Read more on choosing a primer and paint in the next section.
Choosing the Paint
Almost all store bought cages have been powder coated using thermoplastic material that is melted onto the cage at a very high temperature. Some owners feel powder coated cages chip more easily than painted cages while others feel they are easier to clean and the material is harder than paint. Whatever your opinion is on powder coating, it isn't an option for most bird owners to do at home.
The reason why paint is so toxic to birds is because of the possible lead, zinc, VOC's and other toxins the paint emits. If you remove these danger factors from the picture your paint should theoretically be bird safe. There are more and more brands that are now offering these "non-toxic," "zero-VOC," and other safer paints. Your best choice would be a paint that has zero VOC's, even after the tint color is added (you don't need to worry about the tint if you want to paint the cage white), is lead, zinc, and chromate free, and as all natural as paintly possible. The Green Seal Standard should be visible on the paint you choose. There are even water based, organic paints available which are probably your safest options or some homemade paint recipes. Make sure the paint you choose also bonds to metal and is fast-drying.
Painting the Cage
By now I would assume your bird isn't in the cage anymore. This is good. And he won't be able to be in his cage for some time. Depending on what paint you use, your bird may have to be in a temporary cage and room for about 2 weeks to allow the paint to cure.
After choosing a safe primer and paint for your bird cage, apply a thin coat of the primer. Allow at least 24 hours for the primer to dry before applying your paint. Three coats of glossy paint can then be applied to the cage with a 24 hour period between each coat of gloss. Make sure you keep your coats of paint thin and don't let it drip. Again, keep your bird out of the room, regardless of how safe the paint is. You can NEVER be too safe.
Returning Your Bird to the Cage
Solvent-based paints will take longer to cure than water-based paints so you may not be able to return your bird to his cage for a couple of weeks. If you can, always wait a little longer than required.
To discourage your bird from chewing on the newly painted cage try attaching perches, ropes, and other things your bird can grab onto on the sides of the cage using wire. These will act as "handles" for your bird to grasp with his beak while climbing up the cage sides instead of the cage bars. So basically, you are creating alternative cage bars on top of the real cage bars at different angles.