CAGE CLEANING MADE EASY
KRISTEN REEVES, MEADOWLARK FARMS AVIAN SUPPLY, INC.
Daily cleaning is the easy part! Use the putty knife to scrape, then the wipes to clean up! Change food and water utensils daily. If you find you are wasting too much seed, then give them less tomorrow! A healthy Gouldian finch will drink approximately 1/2 oz of water per day, and eat about 1 teaspoon of seed per day (more or less depending on the bird).
I like to monitor my birds' water intake. Increases usually mean something is going on with their health, the bird room is too hot, or the food you are giving them contains too much salt. I use 2 oz. drinkers on each breeding cage, and 7 oz. drinkers on my large flights (with a maximum of 10-15 birds). If you buy watering devices that only hold that much, you'll be forced to remove the bottle to add more water! Why not give it a good cleaning while you're at it, eh?
Check perches for yucky stuff. If they are clean and dry, you don't need to change them every day. Same goes with other fixed items like nest boxes and cuttlebone clips. Keep an eye on that cuttlebone though, the birds like to use it as a perch and unless you look at all sides of it, you may not notice the droppings on the back side! Mold may grow there and bacteria can multiply quickly! Change that bad boy often! Sift any loose bedding if you use it or replace paper as needed, and you're done for the day!
If you don't have a power-washer and have a large number of cages to clean, bundle them into your vehicle and take them to the quarter car wash! It saves time and effort if you are a busy person! I also like the soapy-suds...they do a good job of getting stuff off the cages. Just remember to completely rinse your cages and allow them to air dry before replacing accessories and/or birds!
Go get 'em tiger!
Collect The Tools
One Last Tip
Pick A Spot & Set It Up
Twice Per Year
Get your stuff together and keep it handy while you are at the task. The following is a list of tools I keep on hand for cage cleaning:
Cage cleaning is the first part of good animal husbandry. A little dirt won't hurt, but fecal build-up and mess can enable bacteria and other pathogens to multiply. The birds may pick at this mess as they bop around the cage and pick up or spread potential diseases. It is REALLY important that your cages are cleaned regularly if you wish to keep your birds healthy!
I call myself a "lazy gardener". When I say that, I'm referring to myself as not wanting to do anything more than once, and I want it done in the easiest manner possible. I mean come on now, cleaning cages isn't rocket science! It doesn't take much to get them clean if you do it every day! I do have to admit, however, that it took me years to figure out if I placed several layers of paper OVER the cage grates instead of under them in the tray, I would merely have to change the top paper (duh!)! Below are some of the other tips and tricks I use to get the job done!
Remember, this is just how I do it. The longer you keep birds, you'll find easier ways to do these necessary things yourself! This is just a guideline and how I keep a LOT of cages clean!
Just Do It!!!
The first step is to make a pact with yourself to clean the cage daily, no matter how tired you are or how clean the cage may look! JUST DO IT! If you keep the cage clean, it won't take much to get the whole thing done for it's monthly deep clean!
When I first started out, I used to use my kitchen sink and counters to wash and air dry ALL of my bird accessories. It used to irritate the heck out of my husband because he'd decide he needed the sink for something and I'd be using it for hours on end! I'd have to stop in the middle and disinfect the entire area so that he could do what he needed to do!
Now I use my basement laundry tub & "bird dishwasher" - I'm lucky enough to have a dishwasher dedicated solely to cleaning my bird cage accessories. I fold the bath towel in half and place it on the dryer. I hang a dish towel over the side of the sink so I can dry my hands in between items, if necessary. Then I'm a kamikaze cage cleaner, so watch my dust!!!
Twice per year I like to do what my kids refer to as a "super-duper clean". EVERYTHING gets removed from the bird room. The birds get moved to my largest flight cages and I completely dismantle everything else. I use bleach and hot water to clean, and spray bird-safe pesticides on everything, whether it needs it or not. The last thing I do when cleaning the cages is to spray them with Virkon S to disinfect them. They are allowed to dry in the sun.
You may have noticed in the photos of my breeding room and cages that they are all set up EXACTLY THE SAME. Every cage has the same number of accessories placed in exactly the same position within each cage. Because I have so many cages, this helps me to figure out what's missing if I've neglected to replace an item. I ALWAYS follow the same routine and start with Breeder #1, then move to #2, and so on, until I've finished all of them. I remove all accessories, with the exception of one perch and the watering device from every cage and place them in my laundry tub to soften any droppings or splattered "whatever-that-is". I do NOT remove the trays until the insides of the cages are complete.
I then take my handy dandy putty knife and proceed to scrape all of the dried droppings from the cage grates, sides, the occasional cage roof. I use my shop-vac to suction up any loose seed under and around the cages and loose nesting hairs from where ever they may be.
I spray Poop Off spray on the entire cage and allow it to soak for a few minutes. While I'm waiting for the cage to soak, I hand wash the items that can't go in my bird dishwasher and lay them to dry on the bath towel. If you are lucky enough to have a spare dishwasher, like me, then you don't have to worry about bird poop on your family's dishes! If you do use your family dishwasher, throw a cup of bleach in it after you run the bird accessories and run it empty to clean it out.
Times up! Back to the cages where I use the sponge to wipe away the stuff the Poop Off dissolved...yes, it's THAT easy!
I will use the wipes to get at any bits I may have missed with the sponge. THEN I remove the tray, empty the contents - whether it be loose bedding or paper - use the putty knife to scrape loose stuff off, then wash it thoroughly with a bit of hot water and bleach. When it's time to take the cage outside for a good power-wash, I place the pair of birds in the next breeder down, temporarily. If you don't have a power-washer, use a hose nozzle on the highest power. The Poop Off will have softened anything still on the cage. The nail brush works well to get the rest off, as does the sponge. Be sure to turn the cage on all sides and inspect it. I usually leave the cage in the sun to dry.
While the cage is out, I wash the wall behind it after scraping any droppings off. I use bleach and hot water. As a preventive measure, I spray Scalex on the cages, walls, perches, and accessories and allow them to dry completely before replacing the birds.
After everything is clean and dry, I dust nest boxes & cage trays with diatomaceous earth, then replace everything and move the birds back to their respective cages. My birds are all banded so I don't usually have any difficulty knowing where they belong. If a pair has eggs or chicks, I place the nest box on my work table and try to work a little faster than I normally would...and that's fast! My birds don't have any issues with me removing the box. They go right back to business as usual. I wouldn't recommend this to a novice breeder. If you are a novice breeder, leave everything in place and just follow the "daily clean" instructions! If you are cleaning daily, you won't be doing too much harm in leaving the pair in the cage with the nest. Just be sure to give the cage a complete overhaul when the chicks leave the nest!