If you share your life — and home — with a pet bird, containing mess and keeping the cage clean can be a daily battle. After all, there is no such thing as a tidy bird. Molted feathers, droppings, chewed-up toys, empty seed hulls and flung food birds can be quite messy. Fortunately, companion bird enthusiasts do get a little help by the fact that many of today’s cages are designed with mess management in mind. (If your bird’s cage is stuck in the ’80s or ’90s, this is even more reason to update!) Take a close look at the cage, and you’ll notice some features you might have taken for granted.
For example, the slanted bottom panels help waste roll down into the bottom tray of the cage and not out on the floor. And don’t take for granted the fact that the bottom tray is fully removable — which is as good of a reason as any to give it a thorough scrubbing periodically.
Cages today are designed to mitigate mess, but they can’t completely eradicate it. But not to worry — with the right accessories, you can keep the cage and your surroundings relatively clean. (Isn’t everything with pet birds “relative!)
1. Be On Guard!
Seed guards, the little mesh netting placed on the outer perimeter of the cage, have been around years and they can be pretty handy at stopping those annoying little seed hulls from floating out of the cage whenever your bird flaps his or her wings. Small birds are more likely to eat a more seed-based diet, with smaller seeds that can be stirred up and into the air with the slightest movement — so a seed guard might make your life a little easier if you share your home with a budgie or cockatiel (notorious seed eaters). A diet makeover can also do wonders to help with cage fallout, which is small stuff compared to the way it can help improve your bird’s health. You won’t have to battle seed hulls with a pelleted diet, Nutri-Berries, or Avi-Cakes.
2. Put a Hood On It
Some pet bird product manufacturers offer products geared toward stopping food-generated mess at the source, in and around the food cups. Some have a hooded top, either as one complete cup design or as a detachable piece. Essentially, the bird leans into the feeding station to eat, so a good deal of the food debris is contained within the cup.
If your bird is like my conure Ollie, he or she chooses to eat in some interesting, yet not mess-abatement-friendly locations. Ollie will oftentimes grab a beak full of food from his bowl and then climb over to perch on the top of his open cage door and eat it there, which leaves little defense in terms of protecting the food directly below. If you don’t like the look of a sheet of newspaper draped across the ground below, one company, DoorSkirts Plus, offers a debris catcher that can be attached to the open cage door to catch debris on either side, so you have all “bases covered” no matter which way your bird is facing.
3. Find the Right Bolt-On Perch
You might know what a bolt-on perch is (if not, it’s one that bolts onto to the cage with a washer or similar attachment) but did you know that some bolt-on perches are designed to direct your bird to the center of the cage; for example, with a food cup, toy or an appealing diameter at very end of it? When your bird is in the center of the cage, there is less likely to be cage fallout.
4. Line It Up
Most bird people know the trick of stacking up a few layers or more of newspaper or cage liner, so all they have to do is remove the top soiled one and a clean layer will be ready to go. The “roll and go” works even more efficiently if you keep a trash bin near by; the farther you have to walk to reach a trash can, the more likely you are to leave a little debris trail from the rolled up liner.
Of course, the types of food your bird eats and how you serve it can directly affect cleanup. If your bird eats mostly seed, chances are, there are seeds and discarded hulls outside the bowl and outside the cage. And if you’re in the habit of dumping seed on top of yesterday’s seed, the mess is likely bigger. Pelleted diets, Nutri-Berries and Avi-Cakes, in addition to offering your bird balanced nutrition, tend to generate less mess. It’s easier to contend with crumbled-up pellet or Nutri-Berries leftovers than the comparably ultra-lightweight seed hulls. And, in terms of mess abatement, some treats should be served and monitored as if serving banana splits to toddlers. A pet bird is likely to wipe Smooshy food like a slice of banana, a blueberry or cooked peas off of his beak and onto the perch, cage bars, toy or anything else that will do. Armed with this knowledge, have your sponge or cage wipe ready so you can do “damage control” shortly after snack time is over.