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Read the articles below by bird experts
The lining on the bottom of your bird's cage has a pretty straightforward job. It collects the things that land there and makes clean up simple for you. But it’s an important job, too, because it plays a part in keeping your bird healthy and safe. We all know how important it is to keep our parrot’s environment clean and part of that is changing the cage liner frequently. So one question remains: what liner is best to use?
The answer is PAPER. Hands down, without question…paper. Newspaper, butcher paper, paper towels, paper bags – it doesn’t matter which, as long as it will sit patiently on the cage bottom waiting for your bird to put it to work. Aside from being the most economical liner, it has one HUGE advantage: it lies flat. One of the only ways we have to monitor our bird’s health on a daily basis is by checking the quality and quantity of their droppings. It isn’t possible to do that effectively on a surface that is broken and uneven.
Pine shavings photo by horsemanmagazine.com
There are other types of cage substrate that are available to parrot owners, but they all have disadvantages or dangers:
Wood chips or shavings, such as cedar, redwood or treated pine are toxic to birds should they come into contact with them and even the scent (of the cedar or redwood chip) can be an irritant and cause allergic reations and skin inflamations. Additionally, they create the uneven surface that makes it difficult to view the quality of the droppings.
One argument I have heard in defense of these products is that is masks odors in the cage. However, there should be no odors in the cage of a healthy bird. If your bird’s droppings have odor, your bird is sick. If the cedar chips are covering the smell, how are you to know that your bird needs help?
Untreated pine shavings, while safe unless ingested, has to be changed or sifted through for debris frequently, making it impractical. Aside from making it difficult to observe droppings, wood chips allow small particulates, like powder down and dander, to drop through the cracks to the tray below. Flight or wing flapping within the cage will cause it to rise up and out into the air space. You can’t sweep or vacuum bedding to remove dander (even with netting over the nozzle, it’s been tried and doesn’t work.)
corncob bedding photo from omlet.co.uk
Other beddings are crushed walnut shells and corncob. While they are natural, they both provide a breeding ground for the growth of molds, fungi and bacteria. Corncob bedding is particularly concerning in damp or humid climates where the aspergillus mold might grow (aspergillus causes respiratory disease and can be fatal). If swallowed it can cause serious impactions in the digestive system because the pieces will swell when moisture is introduced.
Kitty litter is also a poor choice. Kitty litter has two types: clay, which produces dust and has the risk of causing problems to your birds delicate respiratory system, and clumping litter whose recipe includes a substance that grows ennormously in size and clots together when moisture is introduced. If damp food or toys are dropped into the litter and retrieved, either type of litter will adhere to it. I don’t think I need to tell you how bad that would be in a bird’s digestive system, especially the clumping variety. Further, they are often scented.
Sand is also not recommended. While its main concern is in ingestion, especially if wet foods are dropped into it, it has other down sides. It is dense, weighty and abrasive making cleaning difficult and messy. Over time, it will cause problems to the cage bottom, not to mention your back.
I am not convinced this is a valid concern, but I know people who insist sand substrate has caused flea infestationsin their homes. True sand “fleas” are not fleas at all, but tiny crustaceans that live only at the beach. I think that actual fleas that have taken up residency in your house would prefer a more hospitible environment, such as on your dog or in your carpet.
Paper pellets photo from exotic pets.about.com
Paper pellet and pulp bedding are also not recomended. They are safe to use, but I know of two people who are SURE their pellet loving birds have eaten them. They are not known to cause problems in the digestive system because the paper is broken down and passed through the system, but aside from not wanting your bird to fill up on paper products, you have to wonder if anything was stuck to it. Pulp flies everywhere as soon as the bird becomes active in the cage. Neither allow for good monitoring of droppings.
If you have cockatoos, cockatiels or another ground foraging bird, bedding is a fun place to search for old food that you may have missed during clean up. Unfortunately, old food is laden with dangerous bacterias.
And, dangers aside, bedding doesn’t allow for the proper measures of cleanliness needed in your bird’s cage and changing it frequently prevents it from being cost effective.
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
by Carol Highfill
Winged Wisdom Magazine
Pine Shavings - Pine shavings don't have the toxicity of cedar and are commonly used as nesting materials for birds. While it appears safe for the parents, ingestion can still cause infections and impaction in the chicks. Like other materials, pine shavings should be changed (or the top layers removed) frequently to prevent the growth of organisms. Since poops can fall between the pieces and absorb liquid, it is difficult to examine and monitor your bird's poops.
Kitty Litter - There are two kinds of kitty litter, regular and clumping. Both are dangerous. Clumping litter contains ingredients which can absorb moisture and swell to over 10 times their size, possibly causing crop impaction, gastrointestinal tract obstruction and death. Even if not eaten, there is a possibility of inhalation of the powdered portion of kitty litter. These products absorb liquid and make poop examination difficult.
Paper Products - Paper products are the safest materials to use for bedding. Unprinted newspaper, printed newspaper, paper towels, any plain paper and even brown paper bags can be used. Paper towels are expensive and very absorbant and are a better choice for chicks. If using printed newspaper, don't use the glossy pages or the pages with colored ink as these inks may contain lead and other harmful chemicals. Paper and paper products are very easy to change and allow you to visibly monitor droppings. They are also relatively inexpensive.
So for your bird's sake, use paper materials to line your bird's cages. NEVER use corn cobs, walnut shells, cedar shavings or kitty litter. Limit pine shavings to nesting material. If a new product comes along, do some research and see how it passes the above criteria before you consider using it.
Paper is not only safer, it is also cheaper. For those of you who don't like the look of newspaper, you can get unprinted newspaper or plain paper in bulk from many sources.
None of us likes the task of changing cage bottoms. And the larger the cage, the more annoying the task. However, cage linings should be changed daily, both for health reasons and to enable you to examine the freshly made poops. You can make this task a bit easier by putting multiple layers of paper in the cage bottom and then removing one or two layers each day. Once all the layers are used up, wash the cage bottom thouroughly before putting in the new paper.
The Avicultural Journal -Volume 15, #5 recently published an article "ORGANIC BEDDING" warning about the dangers of many organic bedding materials. Quoted below are three incidents from the article.
"I had a breeder find her male macaw dead one morning. She had the bird for about a year....... When we opened the bird's body we discovered that there were signs of bleeding into the bowel. The gizzard and proventriculus were both distended with bloody food and small corn cob bedding. There was so much cob in there that there was very little room for food. Like grit, the corn cob bedding was inert and stayed in the gizzard. Unlike grit, the stuff swelled. And this bird had not had access to corn cob bedding for over a year."
"Another notable necropsy was on an Amazon. He too died suddenly. His proventriculus was markedly thickened and his bowel, just past the gizzard, showed gross evidence of bleeding. His gizzard was FULL of walnut shell bedding. He had only had access to the bedding for about two hours a month before death."
"An eight week old Senegal baby started to regurgitate and have variable crop emptying time. The next day the same baby started passing bloody droppings. We started antibiotics and he improved for 24 hours. Then he started to pass walnut shell bedding in his droppings - 3 to 5 pieces per dropping. He had been parent raised for his first sixteen days. His parents were in a cage over a tray of walnut shell bedding that was thought to be out of reach due to a cage bottom grill. That is as close as the young one got to the bedding. After three days of treatment he passed a dropping containing about fifteen pieces of the bedding, and Died."
Winged Wisdom Note: Carol Highfill is both a pet owner and co-creator of Birds n Ways.
what is the best material to line the large bird cage with, ...
Resolved Question:what is the best material to line the large bird cage with, i like extruded corn cob, but recently had infestation of moths and am now looking for more appropriate material. I don't much care for the newspaper as my birds are light yellow and the newspaper print gets on their tail feathers I would like to know if I could use the alphalpa pellets used in bunny cages or if this is toxic for the birds. Thank you39309.4395726852
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Hi Nanette. I'm glad you are giving up the corncobs. That is a very dangerous thing for your bird to have access to, in case they can reach it. (Yes, I know there are still stores selling it but that's to line their pockets, not because it's safe.) It's dangerous because if they should ingest any, which they will try because it's a corn product, it can quickly cause impaction in the digestive system, anywhere from the crop, right on through. Even if they can't reach it through the grate, it prevents you from being able to observe the droppings everyday. Staying alert to any change in our bird's droppings can be one of our best early warnings of a health problem. You really should not use any kind of pellet, shells, etc. to line the cage. I'm sorry you feel that way about newspaper because in most cases, it is the best thing to line a cage floor. What does concern me is if the print is really rubbing off on your birds. That should not be happening now days. It used to be that the ink used to print newspaper was chemical based, it would rub off and it was toxic to birds if they chewed on it. But I thought that all newspaers had now changed over to the vegetable based ink which is totally non toxic. Since I don't know how recently you tried using the paper, I don't know if it may have been prior to the change over or not. There are ways you can find out for sure if your local paper is safe for them or not. The easiest is to rub it on your hands and see if any of the ink comes off on your skin. If it does, then for some reason, that printer is still using the dangerous ink and you will not want your bird's to have contact with it. If it will not rub off, you can be pretty sure it's the safe, modern ink. You can also call the newspaper office and just ask them about the ink they use. While you are on the phone with them, you can also ask about purchasing some of their paper, prior to it being printed. Some newspapers even give away their "remmnants" or end pieces for free. They can't use it and are often glad to have someone haul it away for them. Another alternative, and really the safest one, is to have a grate in the cage so the birds cannot come in contact with the paper underneath. If you do not have a handicapped, or special needs bird who cannot navigate on a grate, I'd urge you to get one put back in the cage. There are, of course, commercial cage liners available in sizes to fit most cages, but in my opinion, they are just too pricey. With a flock of 9 rescues and adoptees, my bird budget will not support those extra luxuries. Another option, if you can find a place where you can buy butcher paper by the roll. To save money while keeping our birds safe, we sometimes have to get creative and use things not really intended for our purposes, but that work just as well. My advice would be to try the newspaper route first and see if your local paper is now using the safe, non smearing ink. If for any reason they don't, you can consider going to your local bookstore or anyone that sells copies of some of the really large papers like the New York, Chicago, Miami, etc. papers. I know those will be safe and you get a lot of cage liner for the price of the paper. Just be sure to throw out all the shiney advertising inserts. We are not sure those are safe. The botXXXXX XXXXXne is, it's just not a good idea to use any of the "litter" types. Here is an article that goes into these issues in more detail. Click here: Winged Wisdom Magazine. Bird Cage Liners: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly I hope these ideas and suggestions will help you out but if you have any more questions about anything, just let me know by hitting the reply button. Patricia
Patricia, Parrot Consultant
Satisfied Customers: 1758
Experience: Published author, free lance bird behaviorist, adviser to the parrots at Sarasota Jungle Gardens
At one time or another all of us have pondered the question of what is best to use to line the bottom of our bird's cage. Although there are a variety of products which can be used, some of them are very dangerous for your birds. Learn all you can before making your choice. The life you save may be your bird's!
When deciding upon a cage lining material the first concern must be safety. The second is that it should enable you to see and monitor your bird's droppings.
Birds are intelligent and ingenious animals and many can find a way, no matter how hard we try to prevent it, to get at the bedding material in their cages. Unfortunately there are a number of products on the market today which, if ingested, are harmful to birds and can even cause death.
Most birds are quite messy. The combination of dropped food, spilled water and bird poop is a rich environment for bacteria to flourish and is also an open invitation to flies, ants, mice and other small animals. Some bedding products promote growth of molds, fungi and bacteria and should never be used for bedding.
Use a bedding product which can be easily examined. A change in your bird's droppings can be an indicator of illness so they should be examined each day. You want a product which will make it easy to see the constistency, color, volume, shape and number of the droppings. An easy to examine bedding will also enable you to see what food your bird is eating and what is winding up on the bottom of the cage. You will need to change bedding materials daily so that fresh droppings aren't confused with older ones.
Corn Cobs - Once ingested, corn cobs can remain in the body for years before causing illness or death. Ingested corn cobs absorb moisture and swell, which can cause impaction, bleeding and death. Baby birds can also develop bacteria and yeast infections from the ingested material. When wet or in humid climates, cobs can grow Aspergillus molds which cause a respiratory disease in birds. This disease is difficult to treat and can be fatal. The cobs will also absorb moisture from your bird's droppings, promoting growth of organisms and hiding loose poops. It's a poor material for examining droppings.
Walnut Shells - Walnut shells, when eaten, can inflame and irritate organs, causing internal damage, bleeding and death. Like all bedding products, they need changing frequently to prevent growth of organisms. Their examinability is also poor.
Cedar Shavings - Cedar shavings contain ingredients which can be toxic to birds. Even their aroma is caustic. They can cause dermatitis, allergic symptoms and irritation of the digestive tract. They also make it difficult to examine your bird's Type your paragraph here.