Out of all the pets retailers sold in pet stores, the messiest by far has to be birds. Puppies come close, of course, but their messes are generally contained to their kennels. When keeping birds, it is not only the cages but also a wide area around the cages that needs to be cleaned every day.
Parrots have no table manners and will fling food out of a dish, and many times out of the cage, without care or worry. Finches and other seed eaters will husk seeds and then flap their wings, causing the husks to go all over the floor around them. This can all be a turn-off for customers when considering owning birds as pets.
Designed to be Clean
Keeping the bird area clean should be a top priority for a pet store. This may mean vacuuming two or three times a day to ensure that the birds–and not their messes–are the focus of attention. There are also other things pet stores and bird owners can do to keep the cage and surrounding areas clean. First, they can use or sell cages that are easy to clean. While this may seem obvious to those who work in the pet industry, the design of a cage can make a huge difference in how clean the area around it stays.
Avoid cages that bow out on the sides, with no tray underneath that part of the cage. This allows for more mess, especially with parrots, which sometimes take food up to their perches to eat, dropping bits of it everywhere. Trays should be deep and easy to pull out. Bedding used in the trays should not be lightweight, as shavings. Flapping wings can cause shavings to scatter all over the floor.
Some cages include a grid or grill located just above the tray, helping to prevent messes. This part should also be easily removable for cleaning. How often the tray, grid and bottom of the cage need to be cleaned will depend on the size of the cage, the size of the bird, how many birds are in the cage and the cage’s set up.
Placement of the perches and the dishes is critical to keeping the cage and bird area clean. Perches must be placed in a way that if the bird poops from a perch or drops something from it, the waste will go straight into the tray and not hit another perch, toys, dishes or the sides of the cage bars or bottom.
If the bottom of the cage sticks in a bit from the sides, position toys, cuttlebones, beak conditioners or other items where the perch meets the bars to prevent the birds from standing at the very end of the perch. This way, the poop falls into the tray and not down the side of the cage’s bottom, which is harder to clean.
Most cages are sold with two bird cups that slide in from the outside through small doors. Although this makes it easy to get the dishes in and out of the cage, it can make more of a mess, especially if the food cup is placed right up against the bars. Some manufacturers include a cover with a hole in the front to help keep the food inside the dish. This does help a great deal, but be aware that sometimes birds will not use a dish with a cover on it at first, or at all.
Owners must be sure their birds are eating well out of any new dish, especially one that has a cover on it. This is also the case when using water bottles, as birds will not automatically understand that they can get a drink from a bottle. Bottles are also hard to keep clean on the inside and don’t allow a bird to take a bath. On the other hand, water bottles are certainly great for minimizing mess and are perfect when traveling.
Using seed skirts, protectors or cages with guards at the store may be tough to deal with day in and day out, but from a marketing standpoint, stores should use them to demonstrate how effective they are at keeping the bird area clean. In fact, all bird cages sold at a store should automatically be sold with a cage skirt or guard. It should be considered a necessary item and not an add-on, for the simple reason that it will make the bird owner’s job a lot easier. Just wrapping a seed guard around the dish area will help keep most of the food in the cage and off the floor.
Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 35 years of pet retailing experience.