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Avian Marketplace: Investing in Nesting

Posted: September 27, 2013, 9:50 a.m. EDT


Because there is no such thing as a neat bird, mess containment and cleaning products can help make retailers a tidy profit.

By Laura Doering

For most bird owners, containing mess and keeping the cage clean can be a daily battle.

From molted feathers and droppings to chewed-up toys, empty seed hulls and flung food, birds can be quite messy.

In addition to tried-and-true cage maintenance products, manufacturers also are offering creative ways to help bird owners maintain a clean and healthful environment.

"All bird owners would agree that cleaning the cage and keeping a safe, clean environment for your bird is a top priority,” said Mary Ellen Kaminski, merchandising manager for Drs. Fosters & Smith in Rhinelander, Wis. "It can be a hard job.”

Many of today’s birdcages are designed with cleaning ease and mess management in mind, featuring removable bottom trays and slanted bottom panels to help waste fall into the cage.

Exotic Birds
Maintaining a clean and healthful environment. Omar's Exotic Birds

Yet cage design can only minimize mess, not eradicate it.

Bird owners still need accessories that offer quick and efficient ways to keep the cage clean and the surrounding environment free of bird-generated debris.

Stop Mess at Its Source
Seed guards, typically made of mesh netting and placed outside the cage, have long been popular mess-containment products, especially for owners of small birds, such as parakeets, cockatiels and lovebirds.

These birds are more likely to be fed seed diets, and the leftover empty seed hulls can be blown out of the cage when the bird flaps its wings or when the owner reaches into the cage to service it.

Now there are products geared toward stopping food-generated mess at the source: in and around the food cups.

"We have seen more efforts from manufacturers to come out with innovative exterior feeders for parrot cages and messless cups for small bird cages,” said Terry Gao, president of Caitec Corp. in Baltimore.

Caitec’s Featherland Cage line is popular, Gao said, because of its exterior feeding cups that feature a clear, polycarbonate hood that attaches to the base, which is then locked into place on the cage. The bird leans into the feeding station to eat, so most of the food debris is contained within the cup.
 
"They can effectively contain most food, seed debris and mess from scattering and dropping out,” said Gao.

Caitec also offers the exterior feeding cups separately, which can be installed onto most cages, Gao added.

Petmate, which acquired JW Pet Co. in 2012, offers the Insight Clean Silo Bird Feeder and the Clean Water Silo Waterer for small birds.

The feeder is designed to be refilled without spilling and to prevent a buildup of empty seed husks. The waterer features a valve that opens to fill the trough with water and closes to prevent water from running out.

"Our silo feeders and waterers are designed for mess containment,” said Amanda Peterson, corporate communications coordinator for the Arlington, Texas, company.

She also pointed out that JW perches are dual purpose.

"JW perches, while ergonomically designed to be comfortable for a bird’s feet, are also designed to keep the bird sitting closer to the center of the cage to keep waste in the cage and off your floor,” she said.

A relatively new mess management accessory is a mountable skirt made by Doorskirts Plus in Kirkland, Wash.
 
Doorskirts, designed to mount on the cage door, lessen the need to clean the floor beneath this popular perching spot, according to Karen Cash, Doorskirts’ creator and owner.

"I have two African grey parrots who love to hang out on the open cage door, which a lot of parrots like to do,” said Cash. "I put newspaper down, which not only looked unattractive, but when I got a puppy, he’d take off with the newspaper, scattering everything about.”

Cash added that Doorskirts can be positioned anywhere on the cage, and that some bird owners use them instead of cage skirts or place them in other high-traffic areas of the cage, such as near feeding stations.

Lining the Cage
Drs. Fosters & Smith’s Kaminski said that cage liners are steady sellers because they offer relatively inexpensive convenience.

"A cage liner is a great way to simplify cleaning,” said Kaminski. "Place a stack of liners in the bottom tray of the cage and remove the top liner each day for a fresh liner.”

Cage Catchers offers a 150 pack of liners that come in various sizes to fit most cages, Kaminski said.

The Avian AquaClean, based in Kenosha, Wis., offers a unique mess containment system designed to control dust, dander and airborne bacteria via a gentle moving water tray.

"Just squeegee the water tray and empty the convenient strainer basket,” said Rhonda D. Schrader, owner.

"The Avian AquaClean’s tropical-sounding water creates humidity for birds and healthful dander control for you with simple and convenient maintenance.”

According to Schrader, the universal system is designed to hold most wire birdcages that are 22 inches wide and up to 20 inches deep.

Many pet bird owners use litter, because like cat litter, it is good at absorbing mess, and it offers more staying power in the cage compared to newspaper or paper liner.

Green Pet Products Inc.’s Fresh Nest with the PureLite Process Bird Litter is an odor-control litter designed to absorb waste with corncob particles.

"Our process eliminates the mold spores typically found in corncobs, thus providing a healthy environment for birds,” said Duane Leedy, president of the Conrad, Iowa, company.

Spot Cleaning
Spot cleaners and cleaning wipes are popular cage maintenance accessories because they help keep the cage clean without having to roll the cage outdoors for a power wash. More manufacturers are also offering their cleaning products as quick-use wipes in addition to in a bottle form.

Poop Off Wipes are popular because of their ability to remove dried poop from the cage, Kaminski said.
 
"Poop Off Wipes are the most convenient way of cleaning daily messes,” said Kaminski. "In addition to the wipes, Poop Off Remover is a liquid cleaner with a brush built in to the 16-ounce bottle to scrub away droppings on clothes, walls, carpeting, cages, perches and toys.”

As a complement to cleaning sprays and spot cleaners, perch scrubbers are inexpensive yet effective cage-cleaning tools because they can reach hard-to-clean areas, such as cage bars.

Drs. Fosters & Smith recently began offering cage-cleaning tools from Central Avian and Small Pet.

"The All-Purpose Brush is designed to brush away grime on every cage surface,” Kaminski said. "The Wire Brush and Perch Cleaner feature scrubbing bristles and a hook to scrape gunk off perches and from between bars. And the Bar & Crate Cleaner has four rounded brushes to clean hard-to-reach places easier, like between the bars.”

"I am not one who likes to clean my house, but I like a clean house,” Kaminski said. "So I find products that make my job easier so I can get it done quickly, efficiently and regularly. The same goes for cleaning birds’ cages. Help owners and customers find products that are safe, effective and convenient.”

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