Budgie cages need cleaning at least once a week. The bottom tray and all plastic toys and bowls should be scrubbed clean and washed in hot, soapy water. The bars will need washing too. Make sure everything is completely rinsed and dried before returning the budgie to his home. Any wooden cage accessories, including perches, can be wiped with a damp cloth. You can buy bird-safe disinfectants from pet suppliers, if disease is an issue and you want to completely zap all known bacteria. This is not necessary for the weekly cleaning routine, however. A mixture of one part white vinegar to two parts water is a cheaper and greener solution.
Cleaning the bars of the cage is an important part of the job, to prevent the build-up of potentially harmful bacteria. This is straightforward if you’ve moved the budgie elsewhere while you clean, but may cause a bit of panic if the occupant is still in the cage when you move in with the cloth or sponge. In a larger cage, the birds will have somewhere to retreat; and over time they will get used to the regular intrusion.
What To Do With a Budgie When Cleaning the Cage
If your budgie is hand trained, he can fly free while you clean his cage, or be transplanted to a spare cage. Younger, untamed birds are far more difficult to relocate. Catching them by hand or net causes stress that could put your training and acclimatising efforts back several weeks; and given that cleaning is a weekly requirement, you’ve got a problem on your hands.
Rather than catching the bird and moving it to a box or second cage, in the early days it is best if you can keep your budgie inside the top section of the cage. A simple way of doing this is to move the cage to the floor and unclip the tray section at the base. Your budgie will seek out his favourite safe place on a perch. Gently lift the top section off and place it back on the floor while you deal with the tray and the barred floor section of the cage. When the tray is dry and relined with wood shavings or newspaper, put it on the floor and lift the top section back on.
Toys and other removable parts can be cleaned and replaced. It may be easier to take a cloth to the inside of the cage to deal with dirty perches, mirrors, etc, in these early days. Yes, the bird will flap and panic a bit, but it will be less stressful for him than being captured and moved elsewhere.
Clean cage = happy budgie
Budgie Cage Cleaning Tips
In addition to the cleaning steps given above, the weekly hygiene routine is also a good opportunity to check whether any of the toys or perches are in need of replacement, and that the cage is in good order, with no rust or stray wires sticking out. You can also do a quick health check:
- Are the bird droppings the usual firm consistency and healthy colour (ranging from black and white to dark browns and dark greens, depending on your bird’s standard diet)?
- Is there a larger than usual amount of regurgitated seed in the cage?
- Has the budgie eaten as much food as usual?
If anything looks unusual, do a general health check (see the section on Budgie health, below).
A budgie will be perfectly happy on a cage floor of bars. Most of the mess the bird makes will then fall straight to the tray at the bottom of the cage for easy cleaning. You can put a thin layer of budgie sand in the tray, or some coarse sawdust or wood shavings (just make sure the latter come from untreated wood so that there are no issues with fumes, or with nibbling, if the budgie manages to get his beak on some of the shavings).
It’s best not to have loose sand for the budgie to walk in. He will tend to eat a few grains, and this habit has been implicated in the premature deaths of some birds from a blocked crop (the muscular pouch in the bird's throat, where it can temporarily store swallowed food), or tumours.
Budgie Sand Perch
Sandpaper perches or sandpaper perch covers are often part of a standard cage kit. But, as noted in the Budgie Perches section of this guide, they’re not needed.
Budgie Sandpaper and Budgie Sand Sheets
In addition to perch sandpaper, you can also buy sandpaper sheets for the base of budgie cages. No pet shop that stocks sand sheets will try to dissuade you from buying them, as they’ve been successfully selling them for the last 100 years. However, bear the following in mind:
- The sheets do enable you to clean the bottom of the cage with ease; but there are cheaper alternatives.
- Plain paper or thick, plain, unprinted kitchen towel are popular sand alternatives.
- If there are natural wood perches in the cage, your bird has plenty of rough texture for his feet already; and, the toenail-manicure service the sand is said to provide is a myth.
- The standard, rectangular dimensions of sand sheets makes them tricky to install (and remove) in non-standard cages.
- Budgies sometimes eat the sand, which can cause digestive problems.
- If your budgie spends a lot of time walking on the floor of his cage, sandpaper may irritate his feet.