Cleaning Protocol for New Toys and Items
May 7, 2011 § 5 Comments
I’ve gotten this question a few times recently so I figured I would just address it here. I would like to first recognize that this is probably not in any way the norm and that I do realize that yet again I probably seem like a bit of a nutcase here. I’m okay with that. I make no exceptions: I do not bring anything into my bird room unless it has been strictly cleaned and sanitized (including disinfection). I do this to different degrees with different items; first I will explain how I determine what is necessary and then I will explain what I do, and what I use.
Generally I only purchase my bird supplies from bird-free stores that do not accept returns, which is the first and most important policy. I do in fact ask every single store I patronize, before I place an order, about their facilities, how their items are stored, whether or not they are parrot owners, etc. (I myself also visit bird stores, but never purchase anything, and always change clothes and try to rinse off before I step into the bird room.) I can only think of one store for which I do make exceptions because it has an excellent reputation for extreme cleanliness and I have spoken to the owner at length and really respect his philosophies on bird care and bird store ownership. He does not allow visiting birds nor does he sell baby birds but allows his own birds to visit the store every once in a while. Even then, however, I limit myself to buying only those items that are non-porous and therefore able to be disinfected fully (acrylic items).
So, first is the bird-free policy, and second I take into consideration the “degree” of how bird-free a store is. Some stores are simply separate rooms within a parrot owners house. This, to me, is not actually “bird-free,” as there is a shared air space. I do however make few exceptions for very trusted parrot owners– usually I have to know them personally or have spoken with them at length; they cannot have added to the flock recently, their birds must be in good health; they cannot frequent places with other parrots, etc. I think there are probably two stores that fall under this category that I patronize. The next “degree” of stores would be the majority of stores I support: operated out of bird-free facilities separate from the home, but owned by parrot owners. Finally, there are those rare gems who are truly bird-free as the owners do not have parrots themselves but are still invested in their care and enrichment.
I don’t patronize Petco or Petsmart, almost any other brick and mortar pet or bird store that keeps birds, home-based businesses owned by people with lots of birds or people that add to the flock often or recently, etc. Those are all personal choices. I’m sure many of them have great products that would be perfectly safe, but at this time I don’t wish to take any chances. And no, shopping from drop-ship stores only isn’t ideal for me either, simply because that means that all of the stock items are coming from a bevy of different stores that could all have different policies, and just one toy coming from a bird-filled environment spoils the entire warehouse. So generally I prefer small businesses, but again, I make exceptions or compensate with my cleaning protocol as necessary.
Once an order is home, that’s when the protocol kicks in. I have to admit, even though I do recognize that probably nobody goes as nutty as I do with the cleaning and disinfecting, I do think it is a good idea to do at least something. I sometimes cringe when I see birds going through a newly opened box of items just arrived in the mail, or given toys straight from a bird store. It’s probably just me, but, it’s really not that much effort to spray something down once and let it dry.
I have a few indispensable items in my arsenal. My two disinfectants of choice are Mango’s Pet Focus and F10 Biocare. Absolutely everything is sprayed down with one of these two disinfectants. If it is from a truly bird-free store owned by somebody with no parrots, I will usually clean first, then disinfect (two separate steps). To clean, I will simply rinse the items to rid them of any debris (sometimes debris and organic matter can negate the effectiveness of the disinfectant), and allow them to fully dry for 24 hours or more as necessary. To disinfect, I pick a disinfectant (either F10 or Pet Focus; I don’t really have a preference these days), spray the items down, let them fully dry for at least 24 hours, and then they’re good to go for me. If it’s from a bird-free store owned by somebody who does have parrots, I will do the same, but usually give them a few more days to dry each time around as a sort of mini-quarantine before I give them to my parrots. If it’s from a home-based store, I will usually actually do all that and then even bake the items in my stove if they are bake-able, and if not, I just give them a longer quarantine to compensate. This is why, a lot of the time, I’ll get something in the mail but won’t post about it until several days later, and even then it’s usually just a photo of the products and not necessarily my parrots playing with them just yet.
So, that’s what I do, and yes, I am well aware that I am a nut. 🙂 Unfortunately I have suffered and witnessed so many terrible, terrible things happen, from freak accidents to unexplained sickness to unexplained death that I don’t take my chances anymore. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard parrot owners say that they have no idea how their parrot got sick or how he/she would’ve been exposed to a disease. I would guess that the number of home-based businesses sprouting up as well as the pervasiveness of toys and perches and products being sold in facilities with other parrots, combined with the fact that so many people buy online now and can’t see for themselves nor think to ask, is allowing disease to spread much further and perhaps more rapidly than it would have in the past.