The Best Liner To Use In Your Parrot’s Cage

Rosebreasted cockatoo and congo african grey

The lining on the bottom of your parrot’s cage has a pretty straightforward job. It collects the things that land there and makes clean up simple for you. But it’s an important job, too, because it plays a part in keeping your bird healthy and safe.

We all know how important it is to keep our parrot’s environment clean and part of that is changing the cage liner frequently. So one question remains: what liner is best to use?

The answer is PAPER. Hands down, without question…paper. Newspaper, butcher paper, paper towels, paper bags – it doesn’t matter which, as long as it will sit patiently on the cage bottom waiting for your bird to put it to work.

Aside from being the most economical liner, it has one HUGE advantage: it lies flat. One of the only ways we have to monitor our bird’s health on a daily basis is by checking the quality and quantity of their droppings. It isn’t possible to do that effectively on a surface that is broken and uneven.

 

Pine shavings photo by horsemanmagazine.com

There are other types of cage substrate that are available to parrot owners, but they all have disadvantages or dangers:

Wood chips or shavings, such as cedar, redwood or treated pine are toxic to birds should they come into contact with them and even the scent (of the cedar or redwood chip) can be an irritant and cause allergic reations and skin inflamations. Additionally, they create the uneven surface that makes it difficult to view the quality of the droppings.

One argument I have heard in defense of these products is that is masks odors in the cage. However, there should be no odors in the cage of a healthy bird. If your bird’s droppings have odor, your bird is sick. If the cedar chips are covering the smell, how are you to know that your bird needs help?

UNtreated pine shavings, while safe unless ingested, has to be changed or sifted through for debris frequently, making it impractical. Aside from making it difficult to observe droppings, wood chips allow small particulates, like powder down and dander, to drop through the cracks to the tray below. Flight or wing flapping within the cage will cause it to rise up and out into the air space. You can’t sweep or vacuum bedding to remove dander (even with netting over the nozzle, it’s been tried and doesn’t work.)

corncob bedding photo from omlet.co.uk

Other beddings are crushed walnut shells and corncob. While they are natural, they both provide a breeding ground for the growth of molds, fungi and bacteria. Corncob bedding is particularly concerning in damp or humid climates where the aspergillus mold might grow (aspergillus causes respiratory disease and can be fatal). If swallowed it can cause serious impactions in the digestive system because the pieces will swell when moisture is introduced.

Kitty litter is also a poor choice. Kitty litter has two types: clay, which produces dust and has the risk of causing problems to your birds delicate respiratory system, and clumping litter whose recipe includes a substance that grows ennormously in size and clots together when moisture is introduced. If damp food or toys are dropped into the litter and retrieved, either type of litter will adhere to it. I don’t think I need to tell you how bad that would be in a bird’s digestive system, especially the clumping variety. Further, they are often scented.

Sand is also not recommended. While its main concern is in ingestion, especially if wet foods are dropped into it, it has other down sides. It is dense, weighty and abrasive making cleaning difficult and messy. Over time, it will cause problems to the cage bottom, not to mention your back.

I am not convinced this is a valid concern, but I know people who insist sand substrate has caused flea infestationsin their homes. True sand “fleas” are not fleas at all, but tiny crustaceans that live only at the beach. I think that actual fleas that have taken up residency in your house would prefer a more hospitible environment, such as on your dog or in your carpet.

Paper pellets photo from exotic pets.about.com

Paper pellet and pulp bedding are also not recomended. They are safe to use, but I know of two people who are SURE their pellet loving birds have eaten them. They are not known to cause problems in the digestive system because the paper is broken down and passed through the system, but aside from not wanting your bird to fill up on paper products, you have to wonder if anything was stuck to it. Pulp flies everywhere as soon as the bird becomes active in the cage. Neither allow for good monitoring of droppings.

If you have cockatoos, cockatiels or another ground foraging bird, bedding is a fun place to search for old food that you may have missed during clean up. Unfortunately, old food is laden with dangerous bacterias.

And, dangers aside, bedding doesn’t allow for the proper measures of cleanliness needed in your bird’s cage and changing it frequently prevents it from being cost effective.

Newspaper is non-toxic and safe, almost all newspaper inks throughout the world are no longer petroleum based. It’s the best choice for a cage liner and very inexpensive. In fact, it can be free! If you notice the local paper being delivered to your neighbor, go to them and explain that you have a parrot (chances are they already know) and ask them to save the daily papers for you to pick up periodically.

The local library (yes, they still exist) usually subscribe, as do department stores or other establishments that do advertising. If you ask nicely, I am sure they will be happy to let you have their copies once they are done with them. That makes newspaper the most economical, ecological, safe and smart choice as a cage liner for your bird!

Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987. 

51 comments

Brenda Willis

When I had my cockatoo I used newspaper. I never thought about using butcher paper. Awesome idea

Brenda Willis
Helen

What about sand for bottom of cage

Helen
vicki

I use shredded paper

vicki
Karen

Seriously, your article is titled the best liner to use in your parrot’s cage and all you do is go on and on about what not to use. You should have named your article "What NOT to use.

Karen
NuttyMommy

You can purchase “end rolls” from your local newspaper. These usually contain a fair amount of clean paper. Just call and ask – usually 2-3 dollars.

NuttyMommy
Molly

I use wrapping paper! After christmas I stock up on plain rolls of wrapping paper that is on clearance. It is super cheap and a good size so I can line the bottom in one piece. Plus, I always have some in case of any last minute present wrapping needs throughout the year!

Molly
Judy McNair

How often do you change it. I have a habit of every evening. Brushing off the food debris off the sides of the cage and the bottom. Cleaning the cage and stands every week. Too Clean? just wondering.

Judy McNair
Larissa

Is it possible to use fabric (like old sheets) cut to size? Just thinking it could be shaken off, then thrown in the washer and reused…

Larissa
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Janis Warne

I think that people should also be thinking about the environmental impact of using “throwaway” products that contain plastic or other material that does not break down. In caring about our birds, we should also be caring about our planet. I use black and white newspapers, and plain news print, and I compost it—the bird guano is rich in nitrogen and it all goes back to the earth.

Janis Warne
George Cox

Paper 4 sure : as a additional item I place a clear drawer liner I got on a roll @ Costco on the floor. It keeps the floor organized ,cleans up with just hot water, place it under the cage bottom.

George Cox
Shelley

We use waxed brown craft paper. My macaw’s poops are huge and newspaper just doesn’t cut it! The waxed brown craft paper roll in 36" length is expensive and heavy but 1 roll lasts us about 3 years.

Shelley
Kate

I am fortunate enough to have a friend that works at a newspaper. She gets me the leftover rolls of paper. Nice and white and sturdy stuff.

Kate
harleygal

Noone has even mentioned using crushed walnut as a cage bottom. I have used it for years and love it. It scoops like kitty litter only finer which makes clean up easy.

harleygal
Cherie Platts

Having worked in the print industry for years I would use printed matter with caution. Especially colored ads not so much because of the inks but the types of paper used. While it’s true that most inks today are soy based or UV reactive, papers can be made of anything from cloth fiber to re-cycled previously printed matter that gets bleached, to various types of wood pulps. I have used white food grade butcher paper which I buy at the warehouse store (I get mine at Sam’s Club) An 18" wide roll lasts me about 6 months lining 6 cages and providing folded and crinkled paper balls for my crew of 7 to play with and shred. Butcher paper has to be “Food Grade” with no additives that could leech into food it might contact. Plus it has a ton of other uses around the house too and at $20.00 for a huge roll it’s well worth the expense. I even bought a paper cutter to hold the roll from Lehman’s non electric store online. You can also get them at Amazon.

Cherie Platts
Carol Newlin

I was using newspaper for a while. But I found something I like better! For my cats I use 100% corn litter (not corn cob, but corn). It’s called ’World’s Best Litter’. No additives. It clumps, but no swelling. During the day I just use a pooper scooper and sift out any clumps! It’s easy! Even when my Orange-winged Amazon decides to take a bath inside his cage, and splashes water everywhere, I just scoop out those little clumps. Same with his pees and poops. I also use the corn litter on top of the cage. He occasionally nibbles at it, more out of curiosity, but it’s 100% corn!

Carol Newlin
Dave Bosomworth

I use newspapers under the metal grid that is on the bottom on the cage floor. With this grid being the “true” cage floor, I am not sure that it matters what liner is used as long as it is not accessible to the bird. I am, however, more concerned about those pieces of wood I give my Amazon to bite on. I am pretty sure she doesn’t “eat” the skins or wood, but I wonder what wood is safe to use for chewing?

Dave Bosomworth
Nancy McShane

I too choose newspaper, but in one case, my Old Amazon, Buster, will reach down through the bottom and pull it all up off the bottom! He then tears it into pieces, and it is not allowed to do the job! So, I pick up a few (5) of the USPS Express Mailers, which have fabric in them. He is unable to tear it up, and therefore has decided to leave it alone…Lol! It works great, and I replace it as necessary.

Nancy McShane
Carolyn Jackson

I use the paper grocery store sacks..it is more course and doesn’t allow the poop to go through, that is for my 2 severa macaws, however for my b&g macaw I have to add newspaper on top of the sack. Since I have 2 big cages, after I tear down the sacks to make one long sheet, it takes only 2 sacks per cage. I trust there’s no negatives in using these sacks as it has worked so well!!

Carolyn Jackson
Donna Torres

Nobody has mentioned the gravel paper liners that are sold in stores. Are they okay for the cages or not? I use them all the time.

Donna Torres
Lizzie

Hi, I have a Maroon Bellied Conure and use sandsheets purchased from a local petstore which I cut to size. However, I find Dinky tends to chew the paper and I’m not sure if this is harmful to him. Can anyone confirm if these sandsheets are safe to use for parrots or not? Would eating newpaper be the same? Thank you

Lizzie
Sharon Danner

I’ve found that Home Depot carries brown paper rolls in multiple sizes that works best. It’s clean, inexpensive and won’t rub newsprint off on my U2’s as they scrounge around in the paper. I get a larger size for the bottom of the cages and a 12 inch roll to make additional poop landing strip pieces for changing out daily. My U2’s both seem to have their favorite perches from which to poop so I put the 12 inch pieces under them so it helps to keep their cages clean throughout the week.

Sharon Danner
Diana Lambert

I buy plain newspaper without any print on it fro uhaul 200 sheets for $8.00 can’t beat it and no ink feet

Diana Lambert
Barbara

Newspaper is great — and free. What could be better? That way I can spend more money on toys. Paper towels work ok too if I forget to save some newspapers when I recycle.

Barbara
Dave

I use a few sheets of paper towels that are kept away by the grate I don’t think the extra cost too much and they are clean.

Dave

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