What do I clean my bird’s cage with?
Your bird cage hygiene is extremely important, 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 should be of little concern. White birds that insist on playing in the newspaper may get gray newsprint on their white feathers but this is easily washed off. The sandpaper that is sold in the pet stores to line the bottom of the cage is of little beneficial value and more expensive. Wood chips and shavings, clay, shredded or recycled paper and corncob bedding are not recommended for many reasons. The dust can be a potential respiratory irritant, especially aromatic cedar. These products also make it more difficult to monitor the bird’s droppings (an important way to monitor health) and tend to promote less frequent changing of bedding (leading to mold growth).
Dirt, dust, fecal matter, bits of food and feather dust accumulates constantly on the cage and everything in it. The entire cage should be scrubbed down periodically with soap and hot water for maintaining the cage hygiene. Food and water dishes should be washed daily.
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 every 6 – 12 months.
Soap and hot water are your best bets for cage hygiene and general cleaning. Drying items in direct sunlight can also act as a natural disinfectant as many organisms are susceptible to solar radiation. Stronger household disinfectants can be used when cages are repurposed for a new bird, during treatment for infectious disease, or when items have become heavily soiled or sat unused for long periods of time. Quaternary ammonia compounds (e.g., 409, Simple Green) are commonly available and are generally safe to use around birds. There are also citrus-based cleaners/disinfectants marketed specifically for birds that work well for both cleaning and disinfecting (these can be particularly good at removing droppings from surfaces—e.g. Poop-Off). Dilute chlorine bleach (one cup of bleach to one gallon of water) is also reasonably safe but should only be applied after a good washing as it is quickly inactivated by organic debris. Be sure to follow label directions for use of these products and do not mix them together. Care must also be taken to remove your birds from the immediate area when using disinfectants. Although the chemicals may not be toxic, concentrated fumes can be irritating to a bird’s delicate respiratory passages. In addition, when chlorine-based products are applied directly to droppings, specifically the urates (white part of bird droppings), a toxic gas is formed. This is another good reason to wash surfaces before application of chlorine products.