Bird Grooming and Cleaning

By Dr Eloise Bright 10 Min Read

It can’t be helped, but birds leave a mess wherever they go. Even though they are capable of keeping themselves clean and well-groomed if given the opportunity and the appropriate tools, you will still need to clean their cage.

Preening and grooming themselves takes up an average of one-third of a bird’s waking time. Birds do this while flying. If they are flocking birds, as the vast majority of birds kept as pets are, then they may also groom each other. This behavior is beneficial as long as the bird is not actively plucking out its feathers, which is a potentially dangerous condition known as “French moult.” Self-grooming is beneficial as long as the bird is not actively plucking out its feathers. The flight feathers need to be in good condition in order for the bird to be able to fly efficiently.

The down and contour feathers are essential defenses against the weather and other hazards. Grooming also provides the opportunity for the majority of water birds to water-proof their coats, which enables them to maintain body heat while swimming and prevents them from sinking uncontrollably. Nevertheless, it is up to you to ensure that the cage remains spotless at all times. This is an ongoing task, as the cage needs to be cleaned every day, and the area around it needs to be tended to on a regular basis. Having said that, there is no reason for it to be challenging. Performing even a small amount of preventative maintenance can have amazing results.


There are birdbaths designed specifically for use within bird cages, and there are also birdbaths designed specifically for use outside of bird cages. Pick one that is roomy enough for your bird to swim around and enjoy himself, but not so big that it will be difficult for him to get out of it again. Most bird species are unable to swim.

It is important to ensure that waterfowl, which are capable of swimming, have access to water that is deep enough to submerge their heads and necks, as this is the method by which they clean their feathers and skin. When bathing non-swimming birds, it is best to do so only under close supervision, and the water temperature should be warm (not hot!). If you don’t give the bird enough time to dry off before it’s time for bed, he could get a dangerously low body temperature.

A little bit of “mutual preening” now and then is enjoyable as well. To imitate a preening session between two birds, scratch your pet with your fingers. Be careful not to irritate the natural lay of the feathers, though. Birds, in contrast to cats and dogs, do not take pleasure in having their feathers rubbed against their bodies in the same manner. While you scratch, keep an eye on the bird and observe its posture.

The majority of bird species have preferred places to scratch, such as their cheeks, the back of their heads, or under their wings. Cockatiels and other species, for example, do not appreciate having certain parts of their bodies touched. If the bird leans into the scratch, it’s a good indication that he enjoys it. If he moves away from you or opens his mouth to bite your finger, he is asking you to stop what you are doing.


The droppings that your bird leaves behind contain what is known as nitrogenous waste, just like your own do. Ammonia is released into the air as a byproduct of its decomposition. Ammonia is harmful to the lungs of both you and your bird and should be avoided at all costs. When you are doing a thorough cleaning of the bird cage, you should temporarily relocate the birds to another room in their transport cage so that the ammonia can be released into the air. After you have finished cleaning up a significant quantity of dried bird droppings, there will be a potent odor of ammonia in the air. This will be the case if there is a large amount of work to be done. While you are working, you should allow some fresh air in by cracking a window or turning on a fan.

Vinegar that has been diluted and the many enzyme-based cleaners that can be found in grocery and pet stores are the two types of cleaning products that are least likely to cause harm when used to clean the toys and the cage. Products that are based on enzymes can be found under a variety of brand names, including Nature’s Miracle, Poop-Off, and Poo-B-Gone. They all function in the same way, by utilizing enzymes to break down the organic matter that they come into contact with.

These cleaners are wonderful for removing other stains and odors from carpets, and if you have other pets or young children, you’ll find that they work especially well for this purpose.


Dishes for both food and water need to be cleaned on a regular basis. Dispensers for dry pellets should be cleaned at least once or twice per week. Dishes used for water and food that have been allowed to become damp should be washed twice daily. When caring for birds that consume nectar, you should clean the dishes after each time the bird is fed.

If you want to avoid having to wash dishes multiple times a day, you’ll find that it is much simpler if you have a number of dishes to switch out throughout the day. The majority of bird dishes can be cleaned in the dishwasher, and you can use any kind of dishwashing detergent that is on the gentle side.

The abridged version of this is as follows: If you wouldn’t drink out of it, you shouldn’t use it for your pet bird because it is too dirty.


It is not worth your time to attempt to housebreak a bird. It won’t be successful. Although some parrots have developed the ability to defecate by exerting the maximum amount of pressure possible, this is not a particularly healthy behavior for a parrot to attempt, as they have learned that they will be allowed out to play if they complete their business in their cages. The vast majority of other types of birds kept as pets do not even have the physical capacity to be able to control when they go.

The majority of the droppings can be collected by spreading newspaper or paper towels under the perches that the bird prefers to sit on. As a result, this will prevent damage to both your rugs and your flooring. Some types of bird cages, most commonly those for parrots and finches, have a tray underneath the wire floor of the cage. The tray can be removed by pulling it out. If you line the tray with paper towel or newsprint, the majority of the discarded food and the majority of the droppings will end up on the paper. It will be simple to remove, and you won’t have to scrub as much as you normally would.

It should come as no surprise that the paper method will not be successful in an aviary or on the base of a cage that has a solid floor. The birds will continue to pick at the paper until they make themselves sick, which is a likely outcome given the circumstances. Scrubbing is all that’s required to clean solid floors.


Maintaining cleanliness is essential not only for the comfort and wellbeing of the bird, but also for your own wellbeing and that of the bird. Your bird cages should be cleaned at least once per day for ten to fifteen minutes. Large aviaries and dovecotes will require additional time for construction. The reward for your efforts, however, will be a bird that is in better health and an improvement in your own level of comfort.

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Dr Eloise is a Clinical Lead at Love That Pet and one of our resident pet care experts. She also curates the select range of vet recommended and approved products which feature on our site.
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