A Clean Bill of Health
by Robyn Bright
July 1, 2011
Retailers and their staff need to be sure that customers understand how to clean cages, accessories and the surrounding area to ensure the health of their pet birds.



We all know that for any pet bird to stay healthy, the cage, accessories and the surrounding area must be kept clean. But do bird owners really understand what that means?

Retailers that sell pet birds should make it perfectly clear to customers exactly how the pet should be maintained and how to keep their habitats clean. This is extremely important for keeping birds healthy, as they are messy creatures that are also highly sensitive to their environment.

Retailers need to be prepared to explain the ins and outs of keeping a pet bird’s habitat clean, and they should be fully stocked with products to help bird owners accomplish the task.


The Basics
Cleaning a pet’s cage should start with removing dirt, poop, old food particles, water scum and so on with a soap or cleanser. While cleaning gets rid of the “dirt”, disinfectants must then be utilized to kill off any pathogens, such as bacteria and parasites. Both cleaning and disinfecting must be done at the store and home to keep pet birds from getting ill.

The cage, dishes and other accessories do not need to be sanitized, or disinfected, every day, although some items, such as the food and water dishes, may need to be cleaned daily. Basically, the rule is, if they are dirty, they need to be cleaned, and dirty dishes can spread disease quickly.

Dishes should be sanitized with a disinfectant, after they have been cleaned with soap, at least once a week in a store and every two weeks at home. Cage bars, grates and bottoms should be cleaned or spot cleaned as needed, usually twice a week at the store and once a week at home, and sanitized once a week in a store and once every two weeks at home. The litter or paper in the tray at the bottom of the cage may need to be changed everyday.

Note that when a retailer sells a bird, that cage needs to be cleaned and sanitized completely from top to bottom before it is used for another bird.

Cage accessories, such as toys, perches and so on, should be cleaned as needed and sanitized every two weeks or so in a store and at least once a month at home. It’s best not to let anything made of a porous material, such as rope or wood, get wet–unless that’s the only way to clean and/or disinfect it. Some companies label products, such as ropes, with instructions on how to clean the item, and customers should follow these directions.

Wooden toys and perches can be scraped and sometimes washed, but they must be completely dried before being placed back in the cage. This means that the objects may need to be put out in the sun or in an oven to dry, to prevent fungal or bacterial growth.

Retailers and bird owners must also keep in mind that even if a soap or disinfectant is considered safe to use around birds, products that give off fumes of any kind should not be used in the same room where the birds are kept. Fumes from burning Teflon, insecticides, scented candles/sprays, any aerosols and, of course, cleaning and disinfecting products can make a bird ill or even kill it with little warning. When an employee or bird owner cleans the cage or any accessories, he or she needs to put the bird in another room, away from the cleaning and/or disinfecting products being used.

Once an item is cleaned, it must be rinsed well in plain water. There should be no soap or disinfectant residue left behind, since birds can easily ingest any cleaning or disinfecting solutions in their habitat, making them sick or worse.

Stores should stock a number of different products, including a disinfectant known to kill disease-producing pathogens. In addition, bird cleaning products that contain enzymes to break down bird poop, which can seem impossible to remove once dried, can make a bird owner’s job a lot easier.


Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 35 years of pet retailing experience.