Bird cage liners: the good, the bad, and the really bad

This question always seems to come up when bird enthusiasts start caring for and keeping their feathered friends. What cage liner is better to use? What is the cheapest method and which is the safest? There are so many products (some misleading) that they can certainly lead you in dark, not to mention potentially dangerous directions. Let’s separate fact from fiction.

When you first decide what type of liner to use, consider your cage. Is the tray an odd shape? 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 grate? The answers to these questions will help determine which type of siding is best for your situation. You want to choose a liner that can be easily examined, as a change in your bird droppings can be an indicator of disease. You want to choose a product that makes it easy for you to see the consistency, color, shape, and amount of droppings. You also want a coating that is easy to maintain and won’t allow droppings, water, or other dirty substances to penetrate and cause potential mold problems.

Common types of bedding on the market today include:

Corncob 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 the ear of corn also has the potential to create respiratory problems in sensitive birds. If your bird has access to the bottom of its cage, the ear of corn can pose a hazard if your bird accidentally ingests some of it.

Walnut shells are another type of bedding that is readily available, and has at one time or another been recommended as acceptable to birds. Nut shells when eaten can irritate and inflame organs, causing discomfort or even internal damage. Walnut shells are not recommended for poultry.

Cedar shavings can 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 ‘broody’ or ‘nested’ females.

Pine shavings, unlike cedar, are non-toxic and are used quite often as a nesting material for birds. We suggest using pine shavings as nesting material, but not a normal cage bird liner for the cage. The chips can increase hormones before female parrots, especially if they can access the chips. If eaten, impaction of crops is another concern. If your bird is a bather, chips are not recommended as they can easily collect mold.

Cat litter I have heard of few owners using cat litter in the bottom of the bird cage. The dust factor that is associated only with litter makes cat 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 get hold of (I’ve heard owners get their newspaper from neighbors, buy rolls of paper from the local newspaper, and everything in between!). Newspaper is probably the most widely used liner. In the US, all newspapers use a soy-based ink, so it is safe for your bird in case it has access to the bottom of its cage. Actually, soy-based ink is said to have antibacterial properties, making it a healthy way to line your cage and protect yourself from unwanted bacteria. It also has a minimal risk of mold and is easy to clean.

Cage Catchers is another poultry-safe alternative on the market that has recently received much praise. They are lightly waxed, custom-sized pieces of paper sold in sheets of your choice. A wallet-friendly alternative to paper, they make cleaning their cage easy and painless. Cage pickers, like paper, harbor little chance for mold to form and provide little opportunity for unwanted bacteria to become infected.

Regardless of what you decide to use, make sure what you use is safe for your bird. We’ve heard from owners using just about everything in their cages, from paper towels to aluminum foil (a big no!), And fleece that is changed and washed daily. Whatever fits your cage, your budget, and your bird is best for you! We recommend going to to see their product line, or contacting your local newspaper to see if you can make a bargain for their recyclables, or even the final rolls.