by Mattie Sue Athan
Are all cage substrates and liners safe to use? And which is actually works the best? Mattie Sue cuts through the clutter to provide a no-nonsense answer based upon university research. You may be surprised at what she found!
Question: I really like the look of crushed walnut shells and corn cob bedding, but I’ve heard that these can cause problems. Is this true, and if so, what is the best cage liner for a Quaker Parrot?
Yes, those fancy beddings look really nice, but the veterinarians hiss with horror and give us the sign of the cross (the one with the fingers that scares away vampires and other evil). There must be some reason why all those nice doctors say such rotten things about those store bought litters. They say those litters look so nice that humans neglect to change them and they can develop harmful disease potential.
I took the PJAC Certified Avian Specialty class from Dr. Susan Clubb, and I learned a couple of good things there. The material was well presented on dual slide screens and was mostly husbandry information with an emphasis on disease management and prevention in a breeding or retail setting. I especially enjoyed the report of the laboratory study on substrata (as far as I was concerned this, in and of itself, was worth the small amount of $ for the seminar).
Dr. Clubb reported the results of a university study wherein bed-o-cob, crushed walnut shells (I think), unprinted newspaper, and newspaper with ink were studied as substrata for caged birds. According to Dr. Clubb’s report, the cob, walnut shells, and unprinted newspaper were all blown out of the water by NEWSPAPER WITH INK. This scientific study demonstrated that the ink in newspaper retards the growth of harmful microbes!
Even better news: newspaper ink no longer contains lead as it did in the past. The last I heard, all colors except yellow were totally safe to eat, so I use only black inked-newsprint. Yes, it doesn’t look as nice as those fancy, store bought litters; and yes, some white cockatoos will play with the newspaper if they can get to it and wind up grey cockatoos. But Quakers are grey anyway, and if the newspaper is under a grate where the bird can’t get to it (or if the bird just doesn’t mess with it anyway) in terms of price, availability, and anti-microbial characteristics; newspaper with ink is scientifically documented to be the best material for cage bottoms.
Mattie Sue Athan has been a companion parrot behavior consultant since 1978. During that time she has averaged two to three new Quaker clients per week. Her first book, Guide to a Well-Behaved Parrot, is an industry standard. Her second book, Guide to the Quaker Parrot, sold out the first printing in 5 months. She also wrote Guide to the Senegal Parrot and Its Family and Guide to Companion Parrot Behavior.