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Spotlight Birds: Cage Hygiene

Cage Hygiene in Birds

What do I clean my bird’s cage with?

Birds living in cages have the misfortune of eating in their bathroom and defecating in their kitchen, since it’s all the same place; therefore it is essential to keep a bird’s environment as clean as possible. The bottom of the cage should be lined with a disposable paper such as newspaper or paper towel that can be thrown away every day. Newsprint is now free of lead so should be of little concern. White birds that insist on playing in the newspaper may get grey newsprint on their white feathers but this is easily washed off. The sandpaper sold in the pet stores to line the bottom of the cage is of little beneficial value and more expensive. Wood chips andcage_hygiene-1shavings, clay, shredded or recycled paper and corncob bedding are not highly recommended for many reasons. The dust can be a potential respiratory irritant, especially aromatic pines and cedars. Many owners neglect to change the cage daily with these products (since it becomes more expensive to throw out daily) leading to increased contamination of the bird’s environment. Also, is virtually impossible with these particulate cage bottom coverings, to monitor the color, consistency and wetness of the feces that can be an important reflection of the health of the bird.

Dirt, dust, fecal matter, bits of food and feather dust accumulate constantly on the cage and everything in it. The entire cage should be scrubbed down at least once weekly with soap and hot water plus a good disinfectant. Most disinfectants should be allowed to sit wet for 30 minutes on the surface being cleaned. A thorough brushing followed by a fresh water rinse is always advised after application any soap or disinfectant. Food and water dishes should be cleaned in the same fashion and should be washed and rinsed well daily.

Wood, wicker and bamboo are porous materials that are impossible to sterilize. Dirt and bacteria can penetrate these substances very deeply; therefore, it is advisable to replace these items every 6 – 12 months. Thorough cleaning and disinfection should also be done weekly or as needed as described above.

What disinfectants are safe to use?

Many different kinds of disinfectants are capable of killing a variety of germs including viruses, bacteria and fungi. For home use, most general disinfectant-deodorizer products are quite adequate. One cup of household chlorine bleach in one gallon of water is considered effective against many organisms. To be most effective, disinfectants should be applied to a washed surface. For aviary or flock situations, a broader range disinfectant may be more beneficial. Discuss your specific needs with your veterinarian.

Many disinfectants need to be used with great care and may release toxic fumes. They must be used with proper ventilation, and the bird should not be present while they are being used. Remember to rinse well whenever you use a disinfectant.

Rick Axelson, DVM
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