This question always seems to come up when bird enthusiasts are just starting to care for and maintain their feathered friends. Which cage liner is best to use? Which is the cheapest method and which is the safest? There are so many products out there (some misleading) that can certainly lead you in obscure directions, not to mention potentially dangerous ones. Let’s separate fact from fiction.
When first deciding what type of liner to use, consider your cage. Is the tray oddly shaped? Does your cage have a grid to prevent your bird from moving around the bottom? Can the bird get to the bottom, even with the grid? The answers to these questions will help determine which siding type is best suited for your situation. You want to choose a liner that can be easily examined, as a change in your bird’s droppings can be an indicator of disease. You want to choose a product that makes it easy to see the consistency, color, shape, and amount of droppings. You also want a siding that is easy to maintain and won’t allow droppings, water, or other dirty substances to get in and cause potential mold problems.
Common beds on the market today include:
Corn cob bedding, while often marketed for pets and birds in particular, can cause more danger than harm. Because it is so absorbent, it can be easily molded. The dust that accompanies corn on the cob also has the potential to create respiratory problems in sensitive birds. If your bird has access to the bottom of its cage, the corn on the cob can pose a danger if your bird accidentally ingests it.
Walnut shells are another type of bedding that is readily available, and at one time or another has been recommended as acceptable to birds. Walnut shells when eaten can irritate and inflame the organs, causing discomfort or even internal damage. Walnut shells are not recommended for birds.
Cedar chips may contain natural ingredients and oils that are toxic to birds. Its thick aroma can cause respiratory discomfort, causing allergic symptoms and irritation of the digestive tract. Any type of shave is also not ideal for “brooding” or “nested” females.
Pine shavings, unlike cedar, are non-toxic and are quite often used as nesting material for birds. We suggest using pine shavings as nesting material, but not regular birdcage lining. The chips can increase the hormones before the female parrots, especially if they can get access to the chips. If eaten, crop impaction is another concern. If your bird is a bather, chips are not recommended as they can easily harvest mold.
Cat Litter I have heard of some owners using cat litter in the bottom of the bird cage. The dust factor associated with litter makes kitty litter use a big deal. Clumping litter contains ingredients that cause the litter to swell, sometimes up to ten times its normal size, so if ingested, it poses a great health hazard to your bird.
Paper Products is apparently the overall winner when it comes to cage liners. Easy to come by (I’ve heard homeowners get newspaper from neighbors, buy end rolls of their local paper, and whatnot!) Newspaper is probably the most widely used siding. In the US, all newspapers use soy-based ink, so it’s safe for your bird in case you have access to the bottom of his cage. Soy-based ink is actually said to have antibacterial properties, making it a healthy way to line its cage and ward off unwanted bacteria. It also has a small risk of mold growth and is easy to clean.
Cage Catchers are another bird-safe alternative on the market that has received a lot of praise recently. They are lightly waxed custom sized pieces of paper that are sold in sheets of the size of your choice. A wallet-friendly alternative to paper, they make cleaning their cage easy and painless. Cage Catchers, like paper, harbor little chance of mold and give little opportunity for unwanted bacteria to infect.
Whatever you decide to use, just make sure that what you use is safe for your bird. We’ve heard owners use just about everything in their cages, from paper towels to aluminum foil (a big no!), to fleece that is changed and washed daily. Whatever fits your cage, your budget, and your bird is best for you! We recommend going to cage-catchers.com to check out their product line, or contacting your local newspaper to see if you can get a bargain on their recyclables, or even the final rolls.