are plastic perches bad for birds

A couple of weeks ago I was having a conversation with an avian vet during which I asked him about problems that would most commonly land birds into his clinic for treatment. We got to talking about food related bacterial infections, and he told me that he feels the dishes that are manufactured for small bird cages are causing big trouble. This is not the first time I have heard this complaint.

The small bird cages he was describing are the ones made of pliable, plastic-coated wire that are commonly found in pet stores and are meant for small birds: love birds, parrotlets, budgies, cockatiels and even some small conures. I have two or three of them that I use for transporting my small birds and for separating the cockatiels when they are being disagreeable with each other. These small cages almost always come with their own set of dishes that are made specifically for that cage.

The dishes are made from a lightweight molded plastic. Many are designed to fit inside a sliding feeding door on the front of the cage or have molded hooks that attach to the cage sides making it very easy to place or remove them.

They are wonderfully convenient, but they are not a good choice for food dishes from a cleanliness standpoint. There are some problems with these dishes that cause them to harbor more bacteria than other commonly used parrot dishes.

Whether they fit into a feeding window or clip onto the cage they are intended to rest against a flat cage side for stability. This means they are also flat on at least one side which creates at least two corners molded into the dish. Corners are areas where a lot of bacteria can collect because they are so difficult to access during cleaning.

Additionally, plastic is a porous material that is inherently more difficult to clean thoroughly than many other surfaces. It effectively collects and traps bacteria just because it is plastic.

It is very important for your bird’s continued good health that you clean the food dishes thoroughly after each and every use even those used with dry foods like seeds or pellets. Keeping plastic dishes sanitary is a challenge you will have to step up to if you use them.

Let your bowls soak for a few minutes in hot, soapy water before scrubbing them clean. To get into those corners, I use a clean toothbrush. I want to emphasize CLEAN. You are not doing your birds (or your family) any good if you clean their eating utensils with things that are dirty themselves. Kitchen sinks, sponges and cloths will be some of the most unsanitary items in your house if you don’t take care to keep them clean. You can easily spread disease that way.

My preferences for dishes are ceramic or stainless steel. Their surfaces are non-porous and much more durable. For small cages like the ones we are discussing, you can discontinue using the plastic dishes and replace them with small stainless steel cups that are easily inserted into rings that attach to the sides of the cage. They are lightweight and won’t bend or damage the wire bars.

Ceramic cups are too heavy to mount on the sides of most small cages, but there is no law that states that you must only feed your bird above ground level. If you are keeping your bird’s cage clean and changing the liner frequently, it is perfectly acceptable to put food dishes on the bottom of the cage.

Weighty ceramic dishes work well on the cage bottom because small birds will stand on the edge of the dish when feeding. Lightweight dishes tend to tip over with the weight of the bird. My quaker, Libby, is a bowl flipper. If it is possible to upend her food dishes, she will make short work of it. I use heavy, lipless bowls for her so there is nothing for her to grab ahold of in her efforts to turn over the bowl.

The real challenge for cage bottom feeding is finding the “no poop zone”. Don’t place the bowls under perches or beneath other frequented areas in the cage. Once food has been soiled with feces, it is no longer edible.

Also, if you have a food dunker in the house, you have no doubt felt the slimy substance that has started gathering in the water bowl by the time you get home from work. If you forget to give your bird fresh water one day, you will notice it gathering by the next morning even if your bird is not a food dunker. This is called biofilm. It is bacteria which produces its own layer of slimy protection, and it adheres to surfaces. Plastic makes a particularly good surface on which to adhere. The slime makes it resistant to cleaning and disinfecting. So, if you detect slime in the dishes, clean them with lots of scrubbing!

Whatever decision you make about which dishes you will use, before you bring food to your birds, ask yourself, “Would I eat from this dish?”

Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.

Disadvantages of Plastic Perches

It is usually advised to stay away from having round, smooth perches for budgies because they are difficult for them to grip and can lead to foot issues. Additionally, the smooth, rounded shape of plastic perches compared to wooden and stone ones results in the same problems.

Even though plastic perches are available in a variety of designs these days, they are still not the best perches for raising pet birds in a healthy manner. Below are the major disadvantages of plastic perches:

  • Because plastic perches are smooth, straight, and somewhat rounded, they may not provide the birds with the necessary grip to allow them to remain active on the perches. Therefore, the same kind of plastic perches may cause joint pain and swelling. Occasionally, they may even cause bumblefoot, which can result in an infection. The budgies suffer greatly from such foot conditions, which can even be fatal if untreated for an extended period of time.
  • Because plastic perches are long, straight, and made of plastic, budgies cannot chew on them. And even if they do, the pet birds may become ill over time as a result of the plastic they ingested developing major health problems.
  • The majority of cages typically come with plastic perches, which are mainly included for the cage’s aesthetic appeal rather than the budgies’ comfort or wellbeing.
  • Because they are made of acrylic or PVC and are durable and easy to clean, plastic perches are very popular, but they don’t provide the necessary comfort for the bird’s feet and could be harmful if chewed.
  • Plastic perches tend to be slippery. Therefore, if your bird is large, it won’t provide the necessary traction for its feet to firmly grasp the perch.
  • These days, there are a lot of PVC perches that are difficult to scratch off. The bird could actually fall off the plastic perches, which is the biggest disadvantage that remains.

Before you scrub them clean, let your bowls soak in hot, soapy water for a few minutes. To get into those corners, I use a clean toothbrush. I want to emphasize CLEAN. Cleaning your birds’ eating utensils with their own soiled items is not beneficial for them or your family. If you don’t keep your kitchen sink, sponges, and cloths clean, they will rank among the most unhygienic things in your home. You can easily spread disease that way.

Deciding where to put the cage (i.e., the “no poop zone”) is the real challenge. Place the bowls above any perches or other areas of the cage that are used frequently. Food is no longer edible once it has become contaminated with excrement.

The dishes are made from a lightweight molded plastic. Many have molded hooks that attach to the cage sides, making it incredibly simple to place or remove them, or they are made to fit inside sliding feeding doors on the front of the cage.

For your bird’s continued health, it is crucial that you clean the food dishes completely after each and every use, even if they are used to hold dry foods like pellets or seeds. If you use plastic dishes, you will have to take on the challenge of keeping them hygienic.

A few weeks prior, I was speaking with an avian veterinarian and inquired about the most common issues that would bring birds to his clinic for care. When we got to discussing food-related bacterial infections, he confided in me that he believed the dishes made for tiny bird cages were really problematic. I’ve heard this complaint before. This is not the first time.

The Role of Perches and How Plastic Perches Fail to Fulfil the Purpose

You must first recognize the significance of plastic perches before you can comprehend how detrimental they can be to your budgies. Your budgies require a range of perches in addition to a variety of foods and toys.

Given that birds are constantly on their feet, it’s critical to consider their quality of life and foot health. And that’s what perches do. They are crucial in making sure your feathered friend has a better life.

Perch offers great exercise to pet birds. balancing when the perches move, stretching between them, climbing around them, etc. not only enable the housebirds to make the most of their energy and remain active throughout the day, but also build their muscles and maintain their health.

Recall that every bird owner should select the proper perch shape, size, type, and material, just like they would when selecting a cage. Similar to toys, perches aid in enabling the companion bird to play and engage in manipulative behaviors.

Additionally, you need to be aware of certain information regarding plastic perches.

Plastic perches don’t provide any health benefits for the birds, other than making it easier for them to stand, look around, sleep, or groom themselves while perched. Instead, they damage the pet birds’ feet.


What perches should birds avoid?

Perches help keep your winged pal’s feet healthy. Your vet may recommend Manzanita perches, which are particularly good for foot care. Avoid sandpaper and concrete perches, however: these are very rough, and can actually cause injuries.

Is plastic safe for birds?

Most unpainted hard plastic toys are non-toxic. Problems may arise when there are metal balls inside the toy as many birds are able to chew the toy open and get to the metal balls. Be careful of painted plastic toys as some paints may contain toxins including lead.

Is acrylic plastic toxic to birds?

Often these people are worried about the chemicals or fumes related with plastics. Acrylic itself is safe for birds, not only is it too hard for them to chip, or scrape or break but it is also inert, – if they were to ingest some it would pass through their system unaltered.

Can budgies chew on plastic?

Plastics are manufactured from many toxic substances and petrochemicals. Any soft or brittle plastics that can be chewed by birds can cause serious problems such as blockages, penetrating wounds and poisoning.