Out of the 10 germiest places in your home guess what is #4 on that list?
You guessed it!
So how do you stay off that germy list?
Selecting the right bowls and cleaning them correctly!
Many people successfully use water bottles instead of bowls.
I personally dislike water bottles because they are challenging to clean and they prevent birds from playing with their water, which is a natural behavior.
Both Baby and Bingo love to dunk food in their water bowls and Baby adores taking a bath daily in his water bowl.
An even larger concern of mine is that the water bottle could clog.
It may take some time before you notice that your bird has no access to water due to a clog. During that time they could become severely dehydrated and possibly die.
Water is something I take extremely seriously since I live in Arizona. I never leave my birds without water for longer than 30 minutes at a time.
Should you opt to use a water bottle I suggest testing it daily after you clean it and monitoring the water level (to make sure it goes down).
If you use water bottles go ahead and skip to the cleaning section at the end of this post.
Which Bowls are Best?
Selecting the right bowls is extremely important for your bird’s health.
You can choose from 3 materials:
1. Ceramic Bowls (Okay)
When we first rescued Bingo she had ceramic bowls in her cage. I am guessing they were the original bowls that came with the cage 30+ years ago since they had a large number of hairline cracks and the color matched her cage.
The first thing I did was order replacement bowls for her.
Micro cracks, which can be invisible to the human eye, can be a breeding ground for both bacteria and germs.
The fact that I could see the cracks in her bowls indicated they were unsafe to use.
The main benefit of having ceramic bowls is their weight. Since they are heavy they make it difficult for a bird to tip over their water bowl (if they are into that sort of thing).
Since the bowls slide into holders on Bingo’s cage there is zero danger of her tipping them.
And to be honest the biggest downside is that ceramic can crack or chip if dropped. And I am super clumsy.
So I ordered non-ceramic bowls for Bingo.
If you decide to purchase ceramic bowls make sure to order high quality bowls that do not contain lead or other toxins in the glaze. And replace them if you spot even the tiniest of cracks in the glaze.
2. Plastic Bowls (Okay)
I elected to order plastic bowls for Bingo.
I had to choose between ceramic and plastic for Bingo due to the age of her cage. There were no stainless steel compatible bowls.
Plastic bowls are often inexpensive, available in a variety of fun colors and extremely durable.
Well they are durable for me (a person who drops bowls constantly) but should your parrot enjoy chewing on plastic they may not be so durable for you!
However, similar to plastic cutting boards any scratches or tiny nicks can breed bacteria. Thus it is extremely important to sanitize plastic bowls regularly.
I was unable to find any hard evidence regarding whether ceramic or plastic is truly easier to clean. There could very well be a tie between the two.
In the end I went with plastic since it is more durable (for me) and I could find some that fit her ancient cage.
If you are purchasing plastic bowls look for high quality bowls that are both BPA and Pthalate free.
3. Stainless Steel Bowls (Best)
Stainless steel bowls will always be my #1 choice.
They are the safest and most practical choice for bird bowls.
First, they also do not harbor bacteria. Nor will they leech toxic chemicals into food and water like poor quality plastic or ceramic bowls.
Second, while they may cost slightly more than ceramic or plastic, if properly cared for stainless steel bowls can last a lifetime!
If you can purchase stainless steel bowls I highly recommend that you do so since they are the safest option!
All of Baby’s bowls are stainless steel.
Cleaning Your Bowls!
Once you have your bowls (or water bottle) you have to keep them clean!
5 steps for staying off the germy list:
1. Multiple Bowls
If possible purchase extra bowls so you can rotate between them. This makes it much easier to keep them clean!
2. Prevent Defecating in Bowls
Make sure your water and food bowls are not under perches or toys to prevent your bird from pooping into them.
Bingo was dancing vertically on her bars above her food bowl for a bit. This was causing her to occasionally poop into her food bowl.
Since her bowls are in fixed locations I couldn’t relocate the bowl.
Instead I hung a fleece toy on the side of the the cage above the food bowl.
She started dancing to the right of the food bowl since the toy was blocking her from being directly on top of it.
Success! The toy prevented her from pooping in her food bowl!
3. Change Water Often
I recommend changing water at least twice a day, if not more often.
I provide clean water before work, after work and before bed at minimum.
Changing the water keeps your bird from making ‘soup’ if they enjoy dunking their food in the water bowl.
4. Wash Water Bowl Daily
Either wash the water bowl by hand with soap and water or run it through the dishwasher daily.
5. Sanitize Weekly (3 Options)
After washing the bowls in soap and water you should sanitize them weekly to ensure that bacteria is not breeding in the bowl.
Even the hot water in your dishwasher will not kill everything!
Option A: Bleach
Personally, between the smell and my (mostly) unfounded paranoia I rarely use bleach in my house.
But I cannot deny that it is super effective for sanitizing surfaces.
Per Clorox bleach’s website you should prepare a bleach solution: 1 Tablespoon bleach to 1 gallon of water. Then wipe the exterior of the bowl with the bleach solution before filling the bowl with the bleach solution. Let it soak for 2 minutes before draining the solution and then let it air dry.
If you are paranoid like me after the bowl air drys you can wash it again with soap and water.
Option B: Star San
Star San is an amazing non-toxic broad spectrum bactericide and fungicide sanitizer that is primarily used by beer brewers and restaurants.
Once diluted in water you can literally drink Star San (although it should go without saying that I do not recommend doing so).
I always have a bottle of Star San in my kitchen for sanitizing the counter-top and sink after cooking. I make a new solution every 4 weeks or so to ensure proper efficacy.
Per product guidelines from the manufacturer you should thoroughly wash the bowls with soap and water before using Star San.
Prepare a solution of 1 oz. Star San per 5 gallons of tap water. Since I never need 5 gallons of it I add a small amount of Star San to tap water in a spray bottle.
You can either use a cloth or sponge to directly apply the solution to the bowl or spray the bowl with a trigger spray bottle. Make sure to spray 6 to 8 inches away from the bowl and then rub with a brush, cloth or sponge.
The bowl must remain wet for one minute for Star San to be effective. Afterwards you can either wipe the solution off the bowl or let it air dry.
A little goes a long way with Star San. Purchasing a 16 oz. bottle of it should last you months if not years!
If you have trouble finding it locally you can purchase Star San from the manufacturer via Amazon (I am not an affiliate).
Option C: F10
F10 is disinfectant often used by vets that is manufactured in South Africa.
It is non-toxic, non-corrosive and biodegradable.
For general use prepare a solution at 1:500 (2ml in 1 liter of water). You can double (4ml) or qudruple (8ml) the amount of F10 if you require high levels of disinfection.
Directions call for spraying the solution on the surface, such as bowl, and letting it air dry.
It can be difficult to obtain F10 in some parts of the world. I attempted to purchase it last year only to find out that it was temporarily not being exported from South Africa.
Should you have trouble locating F10 you can currently purchase it via Amazon (I am not an affiliate).
Protect your bird’s health by selecting the right bowls and cleaning them regularly!