About a month ago I posted this video on our home page (we rotate videos on the home page weekly) Anyone who watches this video with birds in the room will be entertained by both bird(s) and video.
Catherine was taking care of some walk in customers when she came to my desk and quietly said “you should greet these customers personally.” I got up and bowl me over who was it but
Popcorn was clearly not impressed.
Gurudeva was visiting his sister here in Chicago and wanted to check our store out before returning to India via Canada. We must have been high on his to-do list. He has 1300 birds.
So let’s talk about poop:-) What got me thinking about the topic is a recent e-mail from a customer considering buying an HQ bird cage. She bought a Mollucan Cockatoo from a pet shop 16 years ago. She’s been shopping there for 16 years and last year bought a dome top birdcage from them.
After one year the bottom tray of the cage had started rusting out. She talked about having bought all of her supplies from this particular pet shop including walnut shells which are used as bedding in the bottom of the cage. She wasn’t sure of the make of the cage. The e-mail went on to question our policies and warranties on bird cages because the pet shop was not going to provide any compensation on the rusted tray. That’s a whole other subject (bird cage maintenance) but it got me thinking about the Walnut shells and the rusted tray.
We have always been strong proponents of using newspaper (or paper of some sort) as a liner for bird cage trays. It’s cheap, it’s plentiful and it’s easy to dispose of. We have seen rolls of brown wrapping paper that been used. We know of people that go to their local newspaper publisher who will give them the cores of the newsprint rolls for free. If allergens are in issue you can even consider antimicrobial paper from Prevue Pet.
We have a problem with cage pan bedding, actually a couple. First of all it (bedding) retains moisture and in the case of birds, the moisture is uric acid as in acid. Acid will eat through the best powder coating and eventually the metal of the strongest of bird cages. Second – it (bedding) hides the poop which is something that you need to watch on a regular basis – which we’ll get to in a minute. It can also hide all sorts of infestations, parasites and other critters. Paper that is changed daily, solves these issues.
Now we’re not advocating that you analyze every dropping your bird produces but we want you to be aware of certain factors which can be indicators of ill health. Bird poop has three parts, the stool, urine and uric acid. A change in the property of any of these three items -stool (or feces), the solid dark part – urine and uric acid (urates) may indicate that your bird is sick.
The stool comes directly from the digestive tract and is the greenish blob you see. It’s color is affected by diet, change the diet and the stool changes color. Blueberries can turn the stool purple. Artificial colors in some diets can change the color of the stool too. What you really want to look for is if the stool becomes black and suddenly emits strong odor, this would be a warning sign of illness.
Urine is basically clear and is the watery part of poop that comes from your birds kidneys. If your bird drinks more water the droppings will be looser. Dry foods should produce drier poop. If you see unusually large amounts of water in the droppings making the poop very loose – this could be an indication of an illness.
The white creamy colored stuff is the uric acid and this is a key indicator of your bird’s overall health. It should be white or near white in color. If the white uric acid should turn to lime green, mustard brown, brick red or yellow, this should be a red flag that your bird is ill – a call to the vet would be in order.
Although record-keeping is a good thing, at the very least you should simply look for changes in your birds poop as a possible indication of illness.
Obviously poop is directly related to a bird’s diet. Birds that eat nothing but seed will typically pass dry, sticky, greenish-black poop that can indicate undernourishment. Conversely some healthy cockatiels have light green bird poop which is normal.
Females that are laying eggs drink more water and spend more time in the nest box which causes them to hold their droppings. When they exit the nest box and enter the cage they usually produce big, smelly droppings. Weaning formula given to baby birds will cause the baby birds to have large droppings comprised mostly of urine.
If you see bubbles or foam in the poop, this may indicate an infection. Conversely if your bird is straining to poop this could be a big indicator that your bird is suffering from a physical blockage caused by some sort of growth or egg-binding.
If you think your bird is sick in and your vet asks you to bring in fecal samples for testing the way to do it is shown in this video from Dr. Ross Perry.
Collecting a fecal sample from a parakeet:
We have intentionally avoided listing potential diseases and infections that poop may be indicative of because we are not veterinarians. We just want you to be aware of the properties of poop and God knows your bird produces enough of it.
Can you potty train your bird? Clearly it’s possible as indicated by the videos above. One simple way to start is knowing that birds poop roughly every 15 to 20 min. The spread can be as short as 10 minutes and as much is 40. The point is if you can capture the “rhythm” of your birds poop, let’s say every 15 minutes.
If your bird hasn’t pooped on you or the furniture, put your bird back on top of his cage and let him poop. Reward him and praise him with the high voice, offer your hand for a step up and engage your bird for while. In 15 or 20 minutes if your bird hasn’t pooped put him back on the cage, let him poop and repeat the process for few days.
This small time invested in this type of “potty” training will pay off handsomely in the time saved from not cleaning poop off furniture, clothing, doors and the floor. If your bird is clipped and cannot reach the cage or target this also will require that you take your bird back to the cage, or over the trash can or over the paper placed for the task at hand unless your parrot is also trained to notify you he has to “go”.
He's handled a 1000 birds of numerous species when they visited monthly birdie brunches in the old Portage Park (Chicago, IL) facility. The one with the parrot playground.
Mitch has written and published more than 1100 articles on captive bird care.
He's met with the majority of CEO's and business owners for most brands in the pet bird space and does so on a regular basis.
He also constantly interacts with avian veterinarians and influencers globally.