Bird Care Shortcuts

By Julie Rach

Time - that's the one thing we never seem to have enough of, isn't it? And it seems to be the thing our birds need from us most. Time to play with them, feed them, and clean up after them. Although I can't help you with the first two, I can offer a few shortcuts to make caring for your pets quicker and easier.

Prepare Food In Advance

Let's start with bird food. Instead of preparing fresh foods each day, spend a little more time on the weekend or in the evening making up a week's worth of fresh foods and store each day's portion in plastic bags in your refrigerator. Have at least two sets of dishes on hand so a clean set will be ready for morning and evening meals. Make your bird's morning meal when you make its evening meal, and set the morning meal in the refrigerator. This way, it's ready to serve first thing in the morning when things in most homes are already hectic enough.

Cleaning The Cage

When you feed your bird, do other chores such as changing the cage paper. The cage your bird lives in should have a grille that separates the cage tray from the rest of the cage. This makes cage cleaning quicker and easier because you don't have to worry about your bird getting out of its cage when you remove the tray, and having the grille in place helps keep your bird out of the materials that fall to the cage floor, which can help keep your pet healthy.

To make cage cleaning quicker, line the cage tray with several layers of newspaper so you only need to remove the soiled top sheet when cleaning. By lining the cage with newspaper or other easily removable paper, you're more likely to clean the cage daily than if you use cage litter, such as ground corncobs or pulverized walnut shells. Some avian experts believe such cage-litter products actually encourage the growth of bacteria in the cage tray, which can make your pet bird ill.

Cage-cleaning time also is the ideal opportunity to check your bird's water supply. Some birds like to make "soup" in their water bowls by dunking fresh foods or pellets in the water. If your bird has this habit, you will need to change the water especially often. If your bird is a dunker, scrub its water bowl thoroughly when you do your bird dishes to remove all "soup" residue before returning the bowl to your pet's cage.

Mess Control

Install a cage apron on your bird's cage, or use a mess containment device such as The Mess Catcher or the Pet Butler, to contain bird debris. Owners of smaller birds may find that fastening an elasticized piece of fabric called a "seed bloomer" around the base of the cage helps contain seed hulls, molted feathers and other cage discards.

Ideally, your bird's cage will be in a room that has a tile or vinyl floor. If that isn't possible, put a plastic runner over the carpeting beneath the cage to make cleanup quicker and easier. If your bird is prone to throwing food, you may want to put plastic sheeting on your walls, too, to make cleanup easier. Either change the plastic sheeting regularly or wipe it down completely, depending upon your preferences and your bird's tendency to toss things out of its cage. A roll of paper towels near your bird's cage is really handy for wiping up droppings and spills, and a small hand-held vacuum cleaner helps speed up the cleaning process. Make cleaning up after your bird each day a habit to keep your chores manageable.

Keep A Checklist

Keep a checklist near your bird's cage so you know what's been done and what still needs to be done. If the bird is a family pet, delegate care responsibilities among family members. This helps keep one family member from being overwhelmed, and gives the bird a better relationship with everyone in the family.

Clean and disinfect your bird's cage each week. Start the cleaning process by removing the bird, its food, its toys, its bowls and its perches. Then place the cage under a hot shower. The hot water and shower spray can help loosen stuck-on food and other debris. If you have a hand-held shower head, spray the cage with it from all sides during the cleaning process.

Scrub the cage completely to remove all dirt (a wire brush or a used toothbrush can help clean stuck-on food in any nooks or crannies) and disinfect the cage with a bird-safe disinfectant. Rinse thoroughly and allow to dry completely before returning your bird and its accessories.

While the cage is drying, clean the perches with a perch scraper, which not only removes droppings and old food, but also provides a new perching surface for your pet's feet. When you put your bird's cage back together, rotate the toys in the cage to keep your bird's environment interesting. Discard any toys that are worn, frayed or broken so they don't harm your pet.

One of the most important ways you can simplify your bird cleanup routine is to not procrastinate about doing it. The longer you wait, the more birdkeeping chores you'll have to do, and the less likely you'll be to want to do them. Leaving the cage uncleaned too long could risk your bird's health.

With a little organization and planning, you can find shortcuts in your own bird-care routine. Using them will make taking care of your bird easier, which means you and your bird can spend more quality time together.

Julie Rach is a freelance writer based in Oceanside, California.

Ampersand Communications

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