ORGANIC BEDDING: (From the Avicultural Journal-Volume 15, #5)

Aviculturists have a new headache to watch out for. Organic bedding. We've been seeing birds die of grit impactions for years now, as we slowly (but hopefully surely) get the information out to the bird owning public. Now we have new killers.

I had a breeder find her male macaw dead one morning. She had the bird for about a year. He had sired 12 fertile eggs during that year and had been observed feeding his mate the evening before his death. Fortunately for us, the breeder is one of those who is willing to have necropsies done on her birds so that if there is anything we can learn from a bird's death, we will. When we opened the bird's body we discovered that there were signs of bleeding into the bowel. The gizzard and proventriculus were both distended with bloody food and small corn cob bedding. There was so much cob in there that there was very little room for food. Like grit, the corn cob bedding was inert and stayed in the gizzard. Unlike grit, the stuff swelled. And this bird had not had access to corn cob bedding for over a year.

Another notable necropsy was on an Amazon. He too died suddenly. His proventriculus was markedly thickened and his bowel, just past the gizzard, showed gross evidence of bleeding. His gizzard was FULL of walnut shell bedding. He had only had access to the bedding for about two hours a month before death.

A survivor who had also only had two hours of access to walnut shell bedding was seen at the clinic for "off and on" eating and "off and on" depression for five days. Fecal content of the droppings was decreased and black in color. His urates (the white) and urine (the clear liquid) were normal. The bird had been observed to be choking or trying to regurgitate and then vomit the evening before presentation.

Bloodwork indicated that the bird was fighting off an infection or inflammation. The history and physical indicated that it probably had a bowel obstruction. The owner declined X-rays and barium series and would not have opted for surgery if the problem was a tumour, so we attempted medical therapy.

An eight week old Senegal baby started to regurgitate and have variable crop emptying time. The next day the same baby started passing bloody droppings. We started antibiotics and he improved for 24 hours.

Then he started to pass walnut shell bedding in his droppings - 3 to 5 pieces per dropping. He had been parent raised for hi first sixteen days. His parents were in a cage over a tray of walnut shell bedding that was thought to be out of reach due to a cage bottom grill. That is as close as the young one got to the bedding. After three days of treatment he passed a dropping containing about fifteen pieces of the bedding, and Died.

So, please, don't risk your bird's life. Not just babies eat cage bottom materials, adults can, and do as well. And birds of all ages can die from that behaviour. So, no walnut shell bedding, no cedar shavings, corn cob bedding, kitty litter. Plain old newspaper, paper towels, brown paper bags or on a roll, etc., work just fine. You can see and evaluate daily droppings catching any changes before the problem is overwhelming. Color, size, consistency and number of droppings are all VERY important. Sure it's easier to "keep clean" if you only change bedding once a week or so, but who knows what's going on with the droppings if you cannot see them? Most reputable pet stores or aviaries should be able to give you a safe bedding mix.

Some other types of bedding that is good for the birds:
Pine shavings-
Recycled newpaper bedding-


E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca



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Hamilton & District Budgerigar Society Inc.