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How to reduce bird cage messes

Birds are a popular pet among individuals who want a low-maintenance, self-sustainable pet. A pet bird can add ambiance to a home with its chirping and whistling.

After their initial purchase price, birds are relatively inexpensive pets, with a monthly feeding cost of less than $5 in many cases. Birds are less susceptible to parasites than other animals, and they require much less personal space than a dog. Birds also live long depending on the species. Large macaws can live up to 70 years.

But as soothing as a bird's sounds can be and easy as such birds might be on the pocketbook, few people enjoy the cleanup required when a bird makes a mess in its cage. Birds tend to make a significant mess around their cages. But this factor needn't detract from the joy and companionship of having a bird. Understand that many species of birds play a role of distributing seeds in their native habitats. That means that they are prone to dispersing seeds through uneaten food supplies and droppings. While you cannot change natural habit, you can employ a few strategies for minimizing bird messes.

* Purchase a cage with ample room. Give your bird ample space to flutter around or hop from perch to perch. This may encourage him from sticking to the perimeter of a small cage, which could mean more errant spilled seeds or feather debris. A comfortable bird is less likely to suffer from stress and additional feather loss. Some people prefer creating a multi-room bird "apartment" for their birds. This is essentially one large and one smaller cage that the pet can travel between, providing a change in environment.

* Look for a cage with traps for messes. Some cages have metal skirts around the base and extend out to catch debris that escapes the bars of the cage. It's also possible to retrofit your birdcage with a few supplies from the hardware store. Clear plastic can be purchased and cut to size to cover the sides of the cage. Attach with a stainless steel S-hook or other hardware that will be nontoxic to the bird. These barriers will prevent a lot of mess but also allow plenty of visibility.

* Line the bottom of the cage. From newspapers to sandpaper-type liners, there are many materials to line the bottom of the cage. Stack several on top of one another, so you need only slip out the top sheet and eliminate a good portion of the mess. You also may want to consider a flexible, thin, plastic cutting board to put in the bottom. This liner can be rinsed off and even run through the dishwasher for sterilization.

* Protect the floor. Some of the debris will still escape the cage regardless of an owner's preventive measures. Place a piece of vinyl carpet runner under the cage and include extra material around the perimeter. This way you can simply pick up the mat and clean off or sweep off the mess. They also can be hosed off outside and allowed to dry.

* Invest in a carpet sweeper. A nonmotorized carpet sweeper can pick up any seed hulls and feathers that are on the carpet. The noise won't frighten the bird into making an even bigger mess.

* Stock up on extra food and water dishes. This way you can simply take out the soiled dishes and replace with fresh food and water, so you can wash the dirty ones on your own time. The same concept can be applied to wooden perches, which may take a while to dry after washing. Rotate toys and wash them frequently, ensuring they're sanitary and that the bird will not get bored with the same items.

* Look for a contained feeder. Buy a clear, acrylic box feeder that keeps hulls contained, eliminating seed scatter so you have less wasted seed and less mess to cleanup. De-hulled varieties of seed are also available.

Birds can make wonderful companion animals, especially when pet owners take the extra steps to minimize messes in and around the bird cage.