So what about hygiene?

Hygiene includes cleaning cages and accessories properly.  It means changing food and water daily, wiping down cages regularly, and washing cages down completely, at least once per month.  It means washing your hands each time you hold one of your birds - and in between holding the next bird.  It means sterilizing your tools such as nail/beak clippers, tweezers, eye droppers, and feeding tubes - each and every time you use them, and in between each bird, so that you don't pass on any hidden illness that bird may have.  Washing your hands is so very important!  Some diseases birds carry can be transmitted to humans, and vice versa!  And you don't want to catch some of those bugs!

Why???  Because not doing so can spread disease, allow deadly bacteria to build up, and put your birds in a potentially hazardous situation!  Sure, there are a LOT of folks who don't bother to clean their cage daily, weekly, or even monthly!  Some don't EVER clean them!  Sure their birds might be faring just fine, thank you...BUT those folks are doing their birds an injustice.  They are leaving those birds open to infection and other health issues.  They are jeopardizing their investment!  They are neglecting those birds - period! 

Think of it this way - if you buy a new car, do you give the keys to some guy on the street so he can take it for a spin?  Heck no!  You may have an alarm on it, or a Club on the steering wheel, and of course you have insurance!  You protect your new car because it is an investment that cost you a lot of money!  You don't want just anyone driving it - you insure it and have those alarms and Clubs to protect it!  

Keeping your bird's environment clean is like taking out an insurance policy.  When you don't keep their environment clean, you are leaving them open to any bug, bacteria, fungus, disease or mold - you are, in essence, opening them up to potential disaster!  

A pair of birds isn't cheap!  It's an investment!  

Yep, I hear ya.  It's a lot of work, especially if you have more than one bird or more than one cage, but it is imperative that you do what is necessary to keep your fine feathered friends fine! If you aren't up to the challenge, perhaps birds are not the pet for you!

What do good animal husbandry practices mean to bird keepers?

While "Animal Husbandry" is defined primarily as the care and breeding of domestic food and work animals, it must be expanded to include ANY domesticated animal.  We, as caretakers, should be vigilant in the proper care and feeding of all animals in our possession.  This includes our birds, cats, dogs, rodents, fish, or any other critter we keep in our home. Once in our possession, it is our duty to care for them properly.  Hygiene is a major part of that care.

  • Keeping cages clean and free from harmful bacteria and clutter. A little dirt is okay, but "poop towers" are NOT!
  • Feeding our birds the proper foods and supplements they need to thrive - spoiling them with sweets, fats, and rich foods will only make them obese and potentially ill,  lessening their longevity. NUTRITION IS KEY!!! IF YOU GET THE NUTRITION RIGHT, YOU WILL HAVE VERY FEW PROBLEMS WITH YOUR FLOCK!!!
  • Keeping their water clean and free of "soup" - birds will bathe and poop in their water and "backwash" seed into the watering device creating a kind of bacteria friendly environment that can make them sick.
  • Breeding responsibly - not "over-breeding" our hens or breeding our birds haphazardly and without concern for their health and well being. Many genetic issues are passed from parents to chicks as well, so careful selection when breeding is paramount!
  • Keeping their beaks and nails trimmed to prevent injury or entanglement.
  • Ensuring weaker birds are not attacked by more dominant, stronger birds.
  • Taking them to an Avian Veterinarian, as necessary, instead of listening to armchair warriors on the Internet about how to treat a sick bird.
  • Observing our birds daily so that we notice potentially dangerous changes in behavior or droppings early on.
  • Finding out as much as you can about proper care for the species and implementing what you've learned.

Essentially, it means taking good care of your birds without spoiling them!

Experienced bird keepers will tell you about the importance of good hygiene in the bird room.  If you've ever looked up any type of bird on the Internet, you've probably read the same thing!  Why is hygiene, (only one part of good "animal husbandry" practices) so important?  Continue reading to find the answer!

How do you stay on top of it all?

Well, one way is to start with spotless cages and accessories, then simply keep them clean!  I've included MY procedures for cage cleaning in the Cage Cleaning Made Easy link, but to get you started, here are a few ideas...

I clean my own cages daily.  I use newspaper in the cage trays, and/or will cover the bottom grates with paper to keep the grates clean.  The paper is changed daily.  I use a putty knife to scrape dried droppings off the cage bars, sides, and bottom, then use Poop Off wipes to clean up any leftover mess.  I'm lucky enough to have a beat up old roll-away dishwasher to use exclusively for my birds, and lots of extra accessories.  I place soiled items in the washer and replace them with the clean extras.  Perches are inspected for mess and signs of parasites daily, and changed as necessary.

NOTE: Paper towel and craft paper absorb portions of the urates in the droppings.  When combined with the bleaching agents used to create these papers, the absorbed urates may turn colors you should not see in a normally healthy bird.  Glossy papers such as newspaper inserts, waxed paper and parchment don't soak up "enough" of the urates, leaving a wet mess on the papers.  I have found that newspaper is "just right", absorbing just enough and leaving just enough to enable me to observe droppings daily. I have stopped all use of loose bedding because I cannot see the consistency of the droppings.  Because I breed my birds for sale AND show, I want to know the instant there may be an issue so that I can stop it in its tracks.  If I cannot see the droppings clearly, I can't determine the health of my flock.

Birds typically fluff when they are nearly beyond help.  Observing them daily is great, but the droppings will always show the first signs of distress.

Once per month, my entire bird room is dismantled and disinfected.  EVERYTHING being used is removed from the cage and placed in the dishwasher.  The cages go outside and are dismantled, then power-washed. The floor and walls are scraped of poop and washed with hot bleach water, then once dry, sprayed down with Virkon S (a hospital grade disinfectant & antimicrobial). I use disinfectant wipes on my tables and larger equipment to remove bird dander and dust. It takes me an entire day, sometimes longer, but it is worth it.  My birds stay healthy and I don't have to spend as much time on a daily basis!

Head to the
Housing and Cage Cleaning Made Easy links for more tips and information!



The American Heritage Dictionary defines Animal Husbandry as:
"The branch of agriculture concerned with the care and breeding of domestic animals such as cattle, hogs, sheep, and horses."

The Columbia Encyclopedia describes it as:
"...aspect of agriculture concerned with the care and breeding of domestic animals such as cattle, goats, sheep, hogs, and horses. Domestication of wild animal species was a crucial achievement in the prehistoric transition of human civilization from hunting-and-gathering to agriculture..."