Saturday, July 15, 2006

Keep the Sandpaper Out of the Bird's Cage

If ever there was a bit of pet shop paraphernalia that was useless and potentially dangerous it would be the sandpaper perch covers and cage bottom sheets. They are touted as useful for wearing down the nails of budgies, canaries and other small caged birds. In truth, all they do is irritate the birds' feet and empty the owner's wallet!

As part of his normal preening activity, you should notice your bird nibbling his nails occasionally. This, along with the normal perching and climbing activity your bird should also be exhibiting, is enough for a normal, healthy bird to keep the nails at an appropriate length. Occasionally I will trim the sharp points off my birds' nails if they seem to be catching in nesting material or soft furnishings around the house.

A sandpaper perch cover only serves to give a rough place for the bird to perch. At best this is unnecessary, and at worst may predispose the bird to bumble foot (a sore area on the weight-bearing surface of the underside of the foot and subsequent infection). The sandpaper floor covers are the same. I also worry if your bird is like my lovebirds and shreds the paper at the bottom of the cage -- it can't be nice to accidentally ingest!

If your bird's nails appear to be overgrowing, there are a couple reasons this could be happening. A parasitic infestation or painful condition could be altering the bird's preening routine. Malnutrition - either due to not being offered the right food, competition for food, or selective feeding - can also cause nails to overgrow.

The best types of perches for your bird are natural branches. These can either be collected from your own fruit trees (i.e. apple, cherry, pear trees), or they are commercially available at good pet stores with bolts and washers to connect them to the sides of the cage (see photos – these are the perches from my budgie’s cage). The benefit of these more natural perches is the variation in diameter which allows the bird to choose where he is most comfortable; they also allow him to exercise his feet and vary the pressure points throughout the day. They also look nicer than plain wooden dowels or plastic perches! A branch that isn't attached at both ends will also swing/sway a bit when the bird lands on it mimicking tree branch movement in the wild and helping with balance and muscle coordination.

The floor substrate you should use will depend a bit on the activity of your bird. If he spends time shredding the paper, then paper kitchen towel or plain, unprinted paper will be best. If he never goes down to the floor, you can use newspaper or similar. I encourage my clients to change the paper regularly (as often as daily sometimes) to monitor the droppings – their number and consistency – and maintain good hygiene.

Let’s only use sandpaper to tidy the ends of our natural branch perches; it has no other use in a bird’s cage!


13 Comments:

At July 16, 2006 at 11:15:00 AM PDT, Blogger eleni said...

Dear Dr. Hol,
Vis a vis sanded cage paper, would you please also comment on the practice of sprinkling gravel on the floor of the birds' cages? When I got my first birds for my 10th birthday, I was told they needed gravel to digest their food. Later, I was told this was not only incorrect, but also possibly dangerous.
Thank you. Thia Eleni sto California

 
At July 16, 2006 at 3:30:00 PM PDT, Blogger Holly Carter said...

I was also told with my first budgie (also obtained at the age of 10) that she needed a little cup of gravel (or some sprinkled on the floor of the cage) to help with digestion. The thinking now-a-days is that it is unnecessary, though if it is offerred only occasionally it isn't a problem. It becomes a problem when the bird becomes fixated on eating the gravel and the gut can become impacted.

 
At February 26, 2009 at 12:13:00 PM PST, Anonymous bird cages said...

Vis a vis sanded cage paper

 
At May 20, 2009 at 10:42:00 PM PDT, Anonymous parrot cages said...

Great post! Sand paper should have never been introduced as a nail trimming product. I shudder to think how many poor parrots had their feet horribly scarred and hurt because of misinformed owners. Natural manzanita wood is the best of the best and i cant think of why anyone would use anything else.

 
At November 4, 2009 at 1:49:00 PM PST, Anonymous Cosmi said...

Hello, I'm from Romania, and i would like to ask you something about a canary. I have him since december and he has been singing a lot until march when he started to replace his feathers, he stopped singing and this is how things are right now. No feathers are falling and still no singing is back...what can I do. I must tell you, I have received advice from a doctor, which treats birds from the local zoo and he advised me about the things Ishould feed him and the environment I should offer him. So please help me. 10q 10q 10q

 
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At September 11, 2013 at 5:14:00 AM PDT, Blogger 0s0-Pa said...

Good call; will definitely keep the sandpaper out of my parrot cage! :]
-Jana

 
At April 9, 2015 at 7:35:00 AM PDT, Blogger Babo said...

If ever there was a bit of pet shop paraphernalia that was useless and potentially dangerous it would be the sandpaper perch covers and cage ... bbirdcages.blogspot.com

 
At December 22, 2015 at 1:55:00 PM PST, Blogger Renol Gustian said...

soo Nice, i like this
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At March 13, 2016 at 11:34:00 AM PDT, Blogger Lissi said...

I bought sanded perch covers for my birds and the next morning two them were dead. Apart from putting something new in the cage I had put a small cardboard box for them to play. I don't know what caused their death.

 
At June 30, 2016 at 8:38:00 AM PDT, Blogger Sara Davis said...

I recently got some parakeets for my birthday earlier this month for my birthday. How do I encourage them from coming out of their cage and explore their surroundings? I also have another question. When I got my birds I noticed that their nails are long and my male parakeet snowflake is getting his foot somehow stuck on the side of the cage when he sometimes climbs around. Is there safe options of something I could put in the cage to trim my birds nails?

 
At August 28, 2016 at 11:32:00 PM PDT, Blogger Charles Loudenback said...

my daughters two parakeets she had them for over a year and put in those horrid sandpaper perch covers and in a couple weeks they had striped and I think eaten about half the paper and sand off three of the rolls and ended up dieing. Both had been healthy and happy birds and the only change was the sandpaper NEVER USE sandpaper in your bird cage.

 
At May 20, 2017 at 6:10:00 PM PDT, Blogger sparkl plenti said...

Great blog entry. We refer to your post often to warn people about the sand products. Thank you!!

 

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