Is Your Bird’s Room Clean?


Susan C.

Poisonous plants, tattered window screens, open fish tanks and electrical cords are obvious risks in your companion bird’s area, but what about the less obvious ones--- the ones that aren’t immediately visible or just sort of creep up on you? Dangers lurk in cleaning products, air fresheners, appliances and even the bird’s cage itself! Look around and see how many hazards you can spot!

What’s on the floor? Dogs, cats and humans track in dirt, bacteria and mold from outdoors. Birds fling fruit and other foodstuffs into the mix, and the microbial count soars! Dust and dander become embedded in carpet fibers. The solution? Keep your birds in a room with a hard, easy to wash floor. Protect the floor with washable throw rugs and launder them frequently. Do not permit your birds to walk around on the floor where they may pick up unsanitary or toxic materials.

Take a whiff! Fresh air is the best air purifier of all, but when you can’t open the windows, an electronic air filter helps reduce indoor airborne dust. With high efficiency units, you can even trap mold spores and some bacteria. Never rely on an air filter to remove toxins from the air. Don’t use non-stick cookware or appliances. Fumes emitted from heating these products can kill birds quickly!  Never mask odors with air, carpet or fabric fresheners, as your bird may be adversely affected by the ingredients in these products.  Launder cage covers and fabric bird ‘huts’ frequently to rid them of dust and bacteria. Forego the use of fabric softeners in the rinse water or the dryer, as birds may be sensitive to the perfumes in them.

Germs thrive in a wet environment. Use paper towels or a clean dishcloth to wipe your bird’s cage and accessories clean.  Dirty dishcloths and dish towels are notorious for harboring bacteria. Change yours every day!

Look up? Is your ceiling fan running? Make it a habit to turn fans off before flighted birds are permitted out of their cages. Be aware that some birds, especially cockatiels may still be able to fly quite well, even when their flight feathers are trimmed.

You’ve checked your house; now check your bird’s! The gunk in cage crevices builds up so insidiously that we almost fail to notice it.  What is that stuff, anyway? Dead skin cells, soft foods wiped from beaks, splashed fruit juice, projectile poop and atmospheric dirt all combine to make an unappetizing coating on cage bars and corners.  This organic glue provides a growing medium for mold, mildew and bacteria, an unhealthful condition for both birds and humans!  Power-wash the cage or put it under a hot shower for several minutes to loosen dirt. Spray the cage with a specially formulated bird poop remover or some white vinegar and water to break down the gunk further. Use a nylon brush or tough sponge to remove the crud and rinse the cage thoroughly. What you think is corrosion may only be dried on dirt. You’ll be amazed at the results!

Check out the bottom of your bird’s cage. Is the grating clean? Bird droppings and soft foods quickly build up on gratings. Dried droppings disperse into the air as dust and can spread disease and create respiratory problems among birds. Humans are also affected, especially if they suffer from asthma or allergies.  Make a date to wash your bird’s grating at least once a week.

Cage tray paper and litter can provide a friendly home for bacteria, mold and insects if it’s damp or not changed regularly. Flung food and numerous baths wreak havoc with even the cleanest cage.  Scoop poop and discarded food from the litter daily and change the litter entirely according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.  If you use paper to line the cage tray, change it daily or more often if necessary. Insert several layers of paper in the tray so you simply have to remove a sheet whenever you notice an unsanitary condition.  I like to put my birds to bed with fresh paper each evening, and I remove a layer of paper again each morning to get rid of accumulated dander and that big morning dropping!

We don’t always notice how dirty our birds’ perches get unless they’re peppered with droppings.  Birds often hold soft foods in their feet to eat and they wipe their beaks on their perches after eating or drinking, so much of the build up that accumulates underfoot is food rather than feces.  As with other soiled surfaces, dirty perches can host bacteria and even promote foot problems. Scrape, wash and replace perches as necessary. Do provide your bird with a variety of perching surfaces for optimal foot health.

Rope toys, fabric huts, cage covers and rope perches make our birds’ lives nicer, but it is up to us to make sure they stay in tip-top condition. Frayed and heavily soiled rope and fabric can result in injury and illness. Check your bird’s cage cover and fabric hut for loose threads and fraying. Locate rope accessories out of ‘bombing’ range. When rope perches and toys become frayed, clip the loose threads back or replace the item.  You may be able to wash rope toys and perches (check with the manufacturer for specific instructions). Make sure they are completely dry before returning them to the cage. Scrape droppings and loose dirt from rope accessories and replace them when they become heavily soiled.  

Wash the dishes! Empty and wash your bird’s dishes every day! Caked-on food and brackish water is not conducive to good health! Many birds tend to dunk their food in their water, thereby introducing organic matter that promotes bacterial growth.  Stick your finger in your bird’s water dish and run it around the bowl. Does it feel slimy? If you wouldn’t drink it, neither should your bird!  Keep an extra set of dishes on hand so you can switch them out easily.

Although many bird toys are meant to be destroyed, a periodic safety check is necessary. Broken, sharp edges, flaccid rope and bent or loose hardware can be dangerous, trapping or cutting toes, wings or beaks.  Inspect toys for small parts that may be removed and swallowed and for notches that may trap tiny toes. It’s amazing how dirty bird toys get! Hard plastic and acrylic toys can be easily washed and disinfected, while wood can be scraped and scrubbed with plain hot water.  Don’t risk your bird’s health and safety: Discard toys that have become dangerously damaged or hopelessly soiled.

Develop a routine that works for you, and assure your birds a safe, secure home.

Your Grandma’s Floor Covering is Back!

Linoleum, invented nearly a century and a half ago is coming back! Sheet vinyl flooring is relatively inexpensive, attractive and easy to clean, but it’s made of polyvinylchloride, a petroleum product that emits toxic fumes during the manufacturing process.  Linoleum, on the other hand is made of linseed oil from the flax plant, jute, cork and/or wood particles and rosin. The linseed oil even has some antibacterial properties, making linoleum a good choice for bird rooms.  Linoleum repels dust and has a much longer lifespan than vinyl flooring.  It can be purchased with or without a high-performance coating that protects the surface and maintains a sheen. The downside is that linoleum without the high-performance coating must be polished for shine, and we know that our birds may be sensitive to floor and furniture polish! Even when products are described by manufacturers as ‘non-toxic’, they may still be harmful to birds. Household products are not routinely tested on birds. Read labels carefully and consult manufacturers and your avian veterinarian for specific advice. Remove your bird from the room when using household chemicals and ventilate, ventilate, ventilate!

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