Summer’s great. You’re free from worry about keeping your companion birds warm enough for another few months, fresh produce abounds (better birdie brunches!), and the extended hours of daylight keep everyone, birds included, on a more livable schedule. Vacation or leisure time plans are probably in full swing at your house. Whether you’re staying close to home or traveling this summer, your feathered friends play a major role in summer activities. Take a look at my list: Line up the bird-sitter, get the birds’ wing feathers trimmed to thwart escape, take the cages outdoors for pressure-washing, change air-conditioning filters, check the garden for bird-ready veggies, spend a morning on ant patrol, buy a fly-swatter, check the window screens … and so on.
Summer brings lots of pleasures, but it’s also time for some special birdkeeping considerations. Begin with your bird’s cage. How does it look? A BIRD TALK reader wrote to request advice on cleaning a winter’s worth of gunk from cage bars. Put your pet in its travel cage or another safe haven, and take the dirty cage outdoors and give it a major cleaning. If you have access to a power washer, use it on caked-on dirt. (Be careful with painted or powder coat finish cages; a strong power washer may remove some of the finish.) If you live in an apartment, dismantle large cages and put the parts under a hot shower. Smaller cages may be showered intact. Use white vinegar, a citrus cleaner or one of the various “bird poop removers” as a pre-treatment for especially soiled cages.
Many readers report excellent results with steam-cleaning machines. Natureopathic doctor, Yvonne Kleine purchased a relatively inexpensive steam cleaner from a television-shopping channel and uses it on her macaw’s large cage. “I can’t dismantle the cage or roll it outdoors, so this is a great solution for me,” says Dr. Kleine, who also uses the machine to clean her oven. “It’s a fast, effective, nontoxic way to remove virtually anything sticking to the interior of the oven. I don’t have to use chemicals or the potentially dangerous-to-birds self cleaning cycle.” Texas reader Nancy Merritt has loaded her birds’ cages into her truck and taken them to the car wash for steam cleaning.
Be inventive. Use available cleaning tools and services. Don’t tell my dinner guests, but I’ve put small, metal-finish cages through the dishwasher. I removed the top rack to accommodate cage, grating and tray, and they came out sparkling clean. I used ¼ of the recommended amount of detergent. Be aware that not all cage finishes will hold up under the rigors of a dishwasher’s cycles. Never use metal polish on cages, because remaining residue is most probably toxic to birds. Avoid using bleach on aluminum cages or cage parts. Bleach will discolor aluminum.
OK, the cage is clean, now what? Check out the placement of the cage and other avian furniture in your home. Locate these items away from doors that will be opened frequently to reduce risk of your bird escaping. (Get those wing feathers trimmed now!) The angle of the sun has changed since winter. Is hot sunlight flooding into the cage? Avoid avian heatstroke, and be sure your bird has access to shade at all times.
Is the cage near a window that will be opened regularly? Locate your pet’s cage and other furniture away from windows that allow barbecue smoke and cooking fumes inside. You have control over the placement of your own grill, but check out your neighbor’s facilities as well.