If there is one thing bird owners can count on, it is that their pets will eat food and generate waste. Dealing with the mess involved does not have to be difficult or labor intensive, but it does have to be consistent and done in a way that keeps the animal healthy. Keeping a bird’s cage clean is extremely important, and the two main areas to deal with are the food dishes and the bottom of the cage.
Food dishes need to be cleaned with soap and water at least twice a week, and water dishes should be done at least every other day, especially when it’s warmer. Dishes should also be sanitized every two weeks or so, which can be done using a five-percent bleach solution. The dishes should soak in the solution for 10 minutes after being cleaned, and then rinsed until all bleach solution has been removed. At home, customers can be even more efficient, if they have at least one extra set of dishes. This way, they can put one set in the dishwasher, where it can be cleaned and sanitized while using the other set, and then switching as needed.
Birds are messy eaters, so the types of dishes used and their placement can help keep the area around the cage—and even the cage itself—cleaner. Some dishes that come with cages have covers, although customers should be aware that these usually solid-colored covers might keep the birds from eating if they are not used to feeding from them. A number of manufacturers, including JW Pet Products in Arlington, Texas, make dishes with a clear cover on the top. There are also dishes that are completely surrounded by a clear-plastic box that helps keep the food or water inside the dish area.
According to Caterina Novotny, director of marketing for Prevue Hendryx Pet Products in Chicago, placing bird skirts—a band of material that has elastic in the edges that goes around the dish area—will also help keep the food inside. Prevue makes three sizes (small, medium and large) that can cover cages with a diameter from 26 inches up to 100 inches, and they are made of mesh, so the bird can still see through the skirt making them feel more secure.
Cage guards, which flare out from the cage at the bottom, are also great at keeping food in the cage. Many manufacturers offer models with built-in guards, such as Prevue’s appropriately named Clean Life line of bird cages. While most cages with permanent cage guards are made for larger parrots, Prevue’s Clean Life cages are available in sizes that are perfect for small- to medium-sized birds. They include a pull-out grate and cups located at a lower level to keep the cage and area around it even cleaner.
If the cups that are used in a cage are on a post that screws into the cage bars in different places, a product from First Prize Pet Products—a subsidiary of Pearce Plastics, Inc., in Pasadena, Calif.—has the perfect solution for keeping food from falling out onto the floor. The Smart Guard Quick Locking Shield is a large disc made out of a tough, non-toxic plastic that can be simply and securely fastened behind the dish. Another way to keep the floor cleaner is to place food dishes at the bottom of the cage when possible. Customers must be sure that there are no perches above the dishes, so they will stay clean and not be pooped on by the bird.
The bottom of the cage usually includes a tray and a grate above the tray, as well as the full bottom piece itself. These should be washed as needed—with an emphasis on the grate and tray, usually at least once a week. The bars of the cage should be cleaned as well and most of the time this is done at least once a month.
Considering birds have a highly sensitive respiratory system, any cleaner used around them must be completely non-toxic. AviClean cage cleaner, manufactured by Avictech, based in Frazier Park, Calif., is known to be one of the safest and best cleaners for bird cages on the market—so much so that many pet stores not only recommend this product, they also use it in their own stores.
Besides being safe, a good cage cleaner needs to work well without a lot of effort. “Our AviClean is the most effective cage cleaner on the market at present because it has the most enzymes of any cage cleaner,“ says Janelle Crandell, president of Avitech. “Even the most difficult clean ups are easier and faster. Instructions for use are to spray, walk away and wipe off. No scrubbing, no hours of labor, which leaves the customer more time to enjoy their birds.”
San Francisco-based SeaYu Enterprises’ Lean+Green line includes a product specifically made to clean bird cages. It is a safe cleaner and odor remover that uses natural ingredients to remove bird waste instantly and easily. It is important that retailers always offer safe cleaning products that will make cleaning a cage easier for bird owners at home, otherwise they may not clean the cage as often as necessary.
Recently, I noted a disgustingly dirty bird cage being cleaned in the back of my father’s store. It was obvious the bottom had not been washed out for months, and it had a foul odor, which is not typical, as birds rarely smell. When I asked the employee cleaning it if this was a boarder coming in, he said that it was a customer who just brought their birds and cage in to have the cage cleaned, and that it was not the first time. This is obviously not a good idea, as the birds’ chances of getting sick were quite high considering that they not only have to deal with a dirty cage but they also bear the stress of being brought into a new place. I told the employee to tell the bird owners that they needed to do some cleaning at home more often if they expected their birds to live a long and healthy life.
Robyn Bright has a master’s degree in parrot biology and more than 35 years of pet retailing experience.