Friday, March 11, 2016

Antique Bird Cages

I used to raise canaries and finches for years and years.  I started out with a pair that I kept in the house.  Since I was an avid antique lover, I wanted my birds to live in a beautiful AND antique cage. The first batch of babies hatched also hatched my life long love of birds and cages.
There is no denying it, having birds in a house is a messy business.  They love to take baths in their water and splatter; they split open their bird seed and the shells land - well everyplace.  But the songs and endless enjoyment you get out of them is worth the mess.
One season of babies, lead to bigger cages until eventually, Frank built me a beautiful aviary outside of our Nevada City house, off the patio.  The wonderous sound of canaries singing and singing all day long was heavenly.  Of course, I never stopped looking for antique bird cages until I had a sizable collection of all sizes.  Unfortunately, when we sold our house in Nevada City to downsize, many went to other lovers of bird cages.  And so did the birds.  The special cages I kept for myself that I couldn't part with, eventually were lost in a fire of our new house in 2005.
Old habits do not die though.  Once we moved to Gridley and I started decorating our 1920s Arts & Craft farmhouse, I had to have a few cages.  But by then, what I used to purchase for $5-$10 are now in the $100s+.
I seem to be drawn to the wooden cages.  I read and was told when we lived in Nevada City, these little wooden cages were used by the gold miners.  They would purchase a canary and cage to take down into the mines to detect gas leaks.  I love the size and the primitive and simple design of them.
Sometimes, you get surprised at what you find.  
There is a local "tent" antique sale in town, called The Hazel Street Vintage.  The co-op of dealers are only open 3 days a month and it always yields wonderful surprises.
A few months ago, one dealer had 4 of these adorable green cages.  They are small so could be used for antique bird shows and sales; or for dealers in market places selling birds.  In the Victorian times, it was quite common for people to have birds in their houses.  One cage manufacturer was Hendryx.
 I had several of these brass Andrew Hendryx cages when I had my Nevada City Collection, the name would be embossed above the bird door and sometimes would even come with a fabulous and intricate bird cage hook.  The company started in 1874 in Connecticut due to the popularity of birds as pets.  There would be pet stores and these ornate and beautifully made cages would be used in stores and homes for all types of birds.
Yes, even the hangers and hooks of antique cages are a prized possession.  They have a large spring and sometimes fancy hooks.  I recall once at a sale, a modern cage, stand and hook were for sale, the cage was new but the stand and hook were old.  I purchased it just for the stand and hook and gave the cage to the thrift store.  
The seed and water containers for the cages are as collectible as the cages.  Mostly because of the porcelain, milk glass, or pottery they are made from and because of their design and beauty.
My mother had a collection of these closed milk glass water/seed containers for years and had a whole display cabinet of them like art.
Cages come in all styles, shapes, materials.  If you are collecting antique cages, I would love to hear what you collect.  Or if you are thinking about collecting them, my advice would be to find the style you like or the era of cages you like.
 One of my friends in Nevada City had a large Victorian home and had a huge twin tower Victorian cage on a stand.  It was fabulous and she had doves in them in her "parlor".
Speaking of doves, I recently purchased an antique  wicker cage for birds.  I believe they were to carry doves or pigeons in them.  I knew what it was when I saw it, I was at a booth at the same Hazel Street Vintage and she had 5 of them, all different.  People were swarming around them and it was the last one available.  The handles were gone and closure not working.  But I purchased it and love it.  I believe doves or pigeons were carted to bird events in them.  Pigeon raising was very popular always clear back into early European times.  Not only were pigeons and doves raised to eat, but their droppings were used in gardens and fields for fertilizer.  Some large estates had huge buildings called pigeonnier or dovecotes.  Another story for another day.
Check those out on Pinterest or Google sometimes, fascinating.

Hope you enjoyed my antique collections of bird cages.


Becka Silva said...

Good morning Paula -

I'm sitting by the woodstove having a cup of coffee on this stormy morning, and what a lovely surprise to see you have a new blog post.

I love the information you've shared about the cages and birds.

I have a coupe older cages, I don't think I'd call them antique, that hang on the swing hooks off the tree house. Beth has a few too, including a very nice older wooden one.

I'm saddened to hear you lost your previous ones in a fire.I would have loved to see your collection, as well as your finches and their babies.

I had a Love bird for many years, and I adored him. He lived a good long life here with us, before moving on to 'birdie heaven'. I've been considering getting another one, but as we know they are messy and I have a small home.

I see our kindred spirits have been sharing the same thoughts again.
Until next time.....��

The Slipcover Maker said...

Paula -- I have always loved vintage bird cages, too. Don't own one but whenever I go to a flea market or estate sale I'm hoping I will find a cutie. Thanks for sharing your collection...they are lovely.