The least favorite job of most pet owners and pet store personnel is cleaning the cages, aquariums, litter boxes and so on, but it is a crucial task. In order to keep our pets healthy, their environments must be kept unsoiled and fresh. Considering that birds are among the messiest pets we care for, products and tips that can help make it easier to keep the cage and area around it clean will be welcome by customers and employees alike.
There are a number of products available made specifically for cleaning bird cages and the droppings that seem to stick like cement at times. Allen Fox, owner of Bird Supply of New Hampshire, not only sells products, he has been a bird breeder for many years. Having to wash off a lot of poop has made Fox an expert in what products work well, and he has found that AviClean by Avitech to be invaluable “for easy poop removal.”
Jamie Whittaker, owner of ABC Birds in Humble, Texas, has also become proficient at removing bird droppings and recommends AviClean. “You just spray it on, and it just melts the poop away,” she says, adding that the product is odorless and safe to use around birds.
Another great cleaner with a name that says it all is Poop-Off from Life’s Great Products. Alan La Freniere, from Fins and Feathers Pets, Inc., in Chelmsford, Mass., recommends Poop-Off. I’ve used this myself and find it fabulous for cleaning both wet and dried poop off cage bars and trays, as well as from carpets, wood floors and sofas.
Note that if the droppings are really dried on, letting a cleaner soak in for a few minutes will make it easier to clean off. Remember to test cleaning products being used on any non-cage areas such as carpets, furniture or other materials first, to be sure it will not damage or stain the fabric.
Pet Focus, from Mango Pet, is another cleaner recommended by both La Freniere and Fox. In fact, Fox notes that he uses this product for cleaning and disinfecting, and uses Mango Poop Swoop wipes for quick cleanups. Bird cleaning products that are also disinfectants, meaning they will kill off pathogens that can cause disease, are great for bird owners to use at home because they are safe to use around birds. Many household cleaners and disinfectants, such as ammonia or bleach, give off fumes that can be very dangerous to birds and should not be used by bird owners at home.
However, it is appropriate for stores to use a bleach and water solution. La Freniere and Bill Bright of the Fish Nook Pet Center in Acton, Mass., find that a 10-percent bleach solution serves as a great and low-cost disinfectant for cleaning cages and accessories in their stores. Although employees should not recommend that customers use bleach at home, it is a good option for disinfecting at the store, provided that not too much bleach is used—10 percent is plenty. Just be sure that the birds are not placed near any bleach fumes and thoroughly rinse anything that has had a bleach solution used on it or has been soaked in it, so that no bleach smell remains.
Note that dechlorinators—which remove chlorine from tap water for fish and amphibian tanks—can be used to speed up the rinsing off of bleach solution, as it breaks down the chlorine in the bleach. Employees will still need to wash any dirt and droppings off the cage and other bird items first before disinfecting them with any product.
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Pet store personnel should always give bird owners advice to help make the job of cleaning the bird cage, accessories and area around the bird at home easier and less time consuming. Whittaker recommends that customers lightly mist their birds in the cages once a day, in the morning. The molted feathers and discarded food bits “will be just damp enough to clump” on the litter or paper in the tray at the bottom and won’t end up on the floor when cleaning, she says. This is good advice, especially for customers who have birds that give off lots of dander and dust, including birds in the cockatoo family like cockatiels, or birds such as finches that mainly eat seeds to prevent the hulls from spreading all over the place.
Using a cage skirt around the dish area of a cage with smaller birds also works well to keep the mess inside. For larger species of parrots, using a cage guard made of metal or other strong material can be very helpful. La Freniere advises customers who have this type of seed guard to “cover it with plastic wrap and change it as needed” to make cleaning up faster.
He also recommends bolting a piece of tough plastic to the back of cages “to protect the wall behind the cage” and cleaning small cages in the dishwasher, when possible, to save time. Having an extra set of dishes, so one set can go in the dishwasher while the other is being used, can also help make cleaning faster at home, plus it ensures that the dishes are sanitary.
Using paper liners in the cage tray can save time, and Whittaker recommends cage papers from Cage Catchers. “Cage papers are very clean to use and are precut to fit most cages,” she says. “You can put several layers down and roll the top layer up each day.”
Cage paper also has the advantage of allowing the pet owner to see the bird’s poop each day and notice any changes, which may indicate a health issue. Tell customers to never use any lightweight bedding such as shavings that can fly around like crazy when a bird flaps its wings.
Although birds are messy creatures, they are also entertaining, beautiful and fascinating pets, which definitely makes up for their lack of neatness. Setting up cages so most of the mess stays inside and using products specifically made to clean the cages, and more importantly the droppings that inevitably seem to get on everything in and around the cage, will make the job of cleaning much easier and less time consuming for bird owners. Any store that sells birds and/or bird products should stock at least a couple of bird-safe cleaners and disinfectants that customers need to keep things tidy. Your customers will thank you for it.
Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 35 years of pet retailing experience.
July 1, 2012
Retailers weigh in on the best methods and products to use for keeping a bird’s environment spic and span.