What do I clean my bird's cage with?
As birds both eat and defecate in their cages, it is essential to keep their cages as clean as possible. The bottom of the cage should be lined with a disposable paper such as newspaper or paper towel that can be thrown away every day. Newsprint is now free of lead so it is non-toxic to birds even if they chew on it. White birds that insist on playing in the newspaper may get grey newsprint on their white feathers, but this is easily washed off.
The sandpaper sold in the pet stores to line the bottom of the cage should not be used to line the cage, as birds may pick off the sand, ingest it, and develop gastrointestinal tract obstructions. Wood chips and shavings, clay, shredded or recycled paper, and corncob bedding are not recommended for many reasons. Most importantly, if birds ingest this particulate matter, it is indigestible and can cause impaction or obstruction of the gastrointestinal tract, like sand. In addition, dust from these types of bedding can be potential respiratory irritants, especially from aromatic pines and cedars. Furthermore, many owners neglect to change the cage daily with these products (since it becomes more expensive to throw out and replace every day) resulting in the accumulation of stool and food waste on the bottom on the cage. Finally, it is virtually impossible with these particulate cage bottom coverings to monitor the color, consistency, and wetness of the feces – all of which can be important reflections of a bird’s health.
"The bottom of the cage should be lined with a disposable paper such as newspaper or paper towel that can be thrown away every day."
Dirt, dust, fecal matter, bits of food, and feather dander accumulate constantly on the cage and everything in it. The entire cage should be scrubbed down at least once weekly with a non-toxic disinfectant soap and hot water. Most disinfectants should be allowed to sit wet for 15 minutes on the surface being cleaned. A thorough brushing followed by a fresh water rinse is essential after application of any soap or disinfectant. Food and water dishes should be cleaned in the same fashion and should be washed and rinsed well daily. All chemical residues should be washed off the cage, accessories, and feeding utensils before the bird is exposed to them.
"A thorough brushing followed by a fresh water rinse is essential after application of any soap or disinfectant."
Wood, wicker, and bamboo are porous materials that are impossible to sterilize. Dirt and bacteria can penetrate these substances very deeply; therefore, it is advisable to replace these items (including perches) every 6 - 12 months. Thorough cleaning and disinfection of these items should also be done weekly or as needed, as described above.
What disinfectants are safe to use?
Many different kinds of disinfectants are capable of killing a variety of germs including viruses, bacteria, and fungi. Several disinfectants safe for birds are commercially available. One cup of household chlorine bleach in one gallon of water is effective against many disease-causing organisms. To be most effective, disinfectants should be applied to a wet surface. For aviary or flock situations, a disinfectant with broader antimicrobial properties may be more beneficial. Discuss your specific cleaning needs with your veterinarian.
Many disinfectants, including bleach, need to be used with great care and may release toxic fumes. They must be used with proper ventilation, and the bird should not be present while they are being used. Remember to rinse well whenever you use a disinfectant so as not to leave any residue on the cage or its contents.