I’m pretty good about cleaning up after my Greys. I have a slate stone floor so it sweeps and vacuums up fairly easily. Once I get after it with a mop and some really hot water, it looks as good as new. I use newspaper as a substrate on top of the grates, so those rarely need scrubbing; I just change the paper. I change their water at least once a day, more often if they throw their pellets and toy pieces in there, and I do a real big cleaning every once in a while so their cages remain fresh.
I’m not weird about it; I just do whatever is needed so gunk doesn’t build up and I end up having to tear the cages down and do the big, nasty clean. I’d rather maintain daily than end up doing remedial cleaning.
I do a lot of writing. I write for BIRD TALK Magazine, I write a blog called “Parrot Nation,” and I write essays that end up popping up all over; in various avicultural newsletters, websites, and sometimes I even manage to get them on my own blog. I also happen to write in the living room where my Greys live. That’s also where most of the mess occurs that needs cleaning up. I know this sounds strange, but I can’t concentrate very well with a floor that needs cleaning. It gets in my line of vision and distracts me. So I usually vacuum the floor at least once a day and I usually “hot mop” it every other day.
Aside from all of this cleaning and mopping, I also occasionally participate in chat rooms, and Yahoo! groups just to keep my finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the trenches of the bird world. Those sites give me a good idea of what’s on people’s minds, where they are at with their awareness of certain issues. But I’m not real hot on websites where birds talk to each other and spell badly on purpose. There’s enough bad spelling in the world as it is without doing it intentionally:
There was one particular Yahoo! Group where cleaning up after your bird was being discussed. From experience, I can tell you that they way some of these birds are supposedly being kept is enough to make you want to throw in the towel and give up because there isn’t a prayer in the world I could clean my Grey’s cages the way these people were saying they did it.
From the sound of it, these birds were, for all intents and purposes living in a hospital environment. Their food dishes were being boiled daily, Water bottles were sterilized as though they were human infants and the cages were being scrubbed down top to bottom on a weekly basis. The families threw out all of their teflon. Air purifiers with hepa filters were blowing like hurricanes. Their food was being weighed and calculated for optimum nutrition. Sprouts were busy growing their little tails in petri dishes and only purified water was served to their birds.
Discussions raged regarding parrot safety. Everything was being done to ensure their safety at all times short of wrapping their birds in bubble wrap and ordering up little safety helmets for them. Whew! Makes you want to slink off into a corner and wither.
It became the biggest show of one-upmanship I’d ever seen. I was dying to write in and say, “Compared to you people, I belong on the T.V. show, ‘Hoarders’.”
I keep a fairly decent house. Does it get out of hand once in a while? Of course. Doesn’t everybody’s? This is all within degrees and ability to withstand certain levels of “untidiness.” I have a pretty low level of intolerance, so it’s never gotten where I couldn’t have someone in the house.
My idea of “out of hand” means the floor needs mopping, I need to dust, I have three loads of laundry to do, I need to empty the dishwasher, change my sheets and scrub my bathroom sink. Once that’s done, I’d be happy to have the Queen over for a beer. This does not imply I’m talking about ordering up a dumpster for a major overhaul. I have my limits.
But compared to what was being reported, I had a place that wasn’t fit for a disposer and my birds were going to fall over any minute from the pain of having to dine out of a dish that was merely washed in the dishwasher; not boiled and placed in a disinfecting chamber.
After all of this going on about cleaning tips, (I was furiously taking notes) discussions about the “right” air purifier to get, (I nearly passed out at the prices) and correcting each other about vinegar versus, bleach versus some high-end homogenized, organic, homeopathic, natural, politically correct cleaning solution, I threw in the towel.
Convinced I was a terrible person, I felt forlorn, ashamed and terribly guilty.
Just then, a voice of reason blipped on to the discussion. She put right all of the wrongs, assuaged my guilt and simply stated, “I wash my bird’s bowls in soapy hot water, just like I wash my own dishes and I’ve never had a problem.”
Now, we’re talking! Me likey!
After this little ice-breaker, the “confessions” came pouring in. While many people touted the “Safety First” mantra (which I don’t disagree with,) other people were admitting that they didn’t tear down their cages every week for a cleaning overhaul, they were no longer disinfecting the walls in their bird room, and they didn’t snap to with the steam cleaner every time their bird pooped.
So how “clean” is clean? Liz Wilson wrote a wonderful article about this very subject in the June issue of BIRD TALK. And while I’ve written essays about this very subject before, they’ve never been published. (And Liz and I are going to have to have a little talk some day about her reading my mind when I’m not paying attention and stealing all of my best ideas.)
What Liz’s article addressed was separating the “Nice to do to have a well-organized and clean bird area” from the, “If you don’t do this, you are seriously compromising your bird’s health and safety.”
Liz wrote it beautifully and with no apologies for the fact that she detests cleaning.
Parker likes to play with a particular homemade toy made from palm fronds a friend of mine forages locally, pressure washes, dries, heat treats and turns into an incredibly crunchy roll of vegetation. He then ties it up in Parker’s cage with hemp twine. We call them “Ty Styx.”
Parker chews the living tar out of these things and when he’s done with one, the bottom of his cage looks like a jungle forest floor. At his peak, he was munching three or four Ty Styx in a day and the mess was unbelievable. He was in breeding condition and rather than listen to him vocalize all day, I just kept the Ty Styx coming and he remained engaged with those. But the mess was monumental. I didn’t care because the toys kept him busy and he wasn’t bugging me. At first, I was cleaning up his cage every time he finished off one of the toys, but after about a week of shoveling out his cage three or four times a day, I said, “The hell with it!” and would clean it out at night before he went to sleep. And there was a residual benefit: when he pooped, it landed on the mess and not the paper on his grate.
And if there is one thing I learned that saves me a ton of time it’s using newspaper as a substrate on TOP of the bottom grate. It’s so much cleaner and easier. And if it’s easier for you to do, you are most likely more willing to change the papers and do it more often.
Being a bit more relaxed about cleaning up after your birds doesn’t mean you can skip it entirely. This will land you on “The World’s Messiest House” and might get your birds taken away from you, but finding ways to make the process easier and more efficient will make your life easier. Some ideas I found to be so obvious, I missed them entirely and then when I saw it, I had that “I could of had a V8!” moment.
Got more than one cage? Getting tired of making trip after trip to the kitchen with a set of bowls, cleaning, refilling and returning them to one cage only to repeat the process for the rest? Have you thought about using a tray to fetch ALL of the bowls, take them all to the kitchen and then returning them back to the cages on the aforementioned tray? It never occurred to me until I saw my friend Shari use a tray to change the bowls for her five cages. Little things like that can make life worth living.
Cleaning up after your birds is important, but it doesn’t have to be an awful process. With a little pre-planning and thought and some preventative measures, it’s possible to maintain them in a way that keeps your bird healthy and happy without making it a full time job. Then you can take some time for a cup of tea with a friend.