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Floor Covering

Paper Lining | Bedding/Litter

There are two main approaches toward floor covering in an indoor aviary: paper lining or bedding/litter (unless you have the skills to construct a cement floor with a hose and drainage system). Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages.

Paper Lining
I use paper on the bottom of my aviary. I used to use a corn-cob bedding until it was suggested to me that corn-cob could be a source Aspergillosis. The following are some of the advantages and disadvantages of using a paper lining to cover the floor of your aviary:

Paper Floor Covering

It allows for easy review of the droppings. This is important for recognizing illness in your birds.

It does not generate any additional mess.

It is not harmful to the birds in any way.

It does not promote mold growth.

It is cheap and easy to come by.

Some types of paper can be unsightly (such as printed newspaper) and droppings are more visible.

It requires the paper to be changed every day.

Birds on the floor of the aviary are more exposed to the droppings.

A large floor will require several sheets of paper to be laid out to cover the entire surface (unless rolled paper is used).

When paper is used, it should be changed daily. Once a week, the floor beneath the paper should be cleaned thoroughly. The following are some types of paper that can be used:

This is the most common paper choice because it is readily available and it is free if you already receive a daily newspaper. It is sometimes recommended not to use pages with colored ink because the colored dye may contain toxins. However, my vet has informed me that almost all publications now use soy-based inks and they haven't seen an illness in a bird (even in parrots that chew paper) that could be attributed to ingestion of colored inks. If you are concerned about the toxicity of inks, only use pages that contain black ink. I've used colored pages without any problems. I don't use newspaper anymore, however, because of the unsightly appearance and because of the vast number of sheets it would take to line the entire aviary (remember, I put down seven days worth of paper at once).

Many people purchase unprinted newsprint in bulk from paper supply stores. Although a little more costly than using old newspapers, it has all the advantages of newspaper without the unattractive look of printed paper.

Kraft Paper
TOP - Kraft paper on a Kraft paper cutter.

MIDDLE - Kraft paper on rolls. It is essential that the black disks in the center remain intact if you use a paper cutter.

BOTTOM - Kraft paper in the aviary. Notice that the droppings are visible for inspection at the end of the day.

I use Kraft paper on the aviary floor. Kraft paper is commonly used to help stuff boxes that are partially empty so that the contents don't move during shipping. It is also used to wrap packages for shipping. It frequently comes in a brown paper bag type color but is also available in white. White Kraft paper (also called butcher paper) is usually more expensive and is not available in as many widths. Kraft paper is available from many packaging supply stores as well as from food service/kitchen supply stores.

Kraft paper comes on a large roll and can therefore be cut to any length you desire. It is available in an assortment of widths. I order Kraft paper in a 30" width (the width of the interior of my aviary), but have seen it in various widths from 18" to 60". Kraft paper cutters can also be purchased, making it easier to unroll and cut the paper. I highly recommend the purchase of a roll paper cutter if you intend to use kraft paper, as it greatly reduces the time spent cutting paper. The "blade" on the paper cutter is not sharp and therefore there is no risk of injury to yourself or children.

While I could theoretically cut pieces that run the entire length of the aviary, this is not practical. It is too difficult to handle paper that long. Instead I cut pieces approximately 4.5 feet long (a little more than 1/3 of the aviary length). Thus, when the paper is replaced in the aviary, I place one stack of 4.5 foot kraft paper in each third of the aviary. This makes it easier to cut, remove, and replace the paper.

Kraft paper is also sold in various weights. A lighter weight means a thinner paper, but you will also get more square feet of paper, since rolls are usually sold by the weight or thickness of the roll. Conversely, a heavier weight means a thicker paper, but less paper on a roll. I order 40 lb Kraft paper. This seems to have enough weight to prevent wet droppings from leaking through to the next layer, without being so thick as to be cost prohibitive.

The biggest problem with ordering Kraft paper is that the shipping can be as expensive as the product (and most sites don't readily promote the shipping prices - you have to dig to find them, if they are there). I've purchased Kraft paper online from They used to sell Kraft paper with free shipping. They changed this and currently do charge shipping, but have reduced the price of their paper accordingly. I've found their prices to be reasonable. It does take about 2 weeks to receive shipment, however, so I always order in advance.

I have recently been a little unhappy with The rolls I have received most recently have arrived quite banged up. The outer layer of paper has been dirty and has to be thrown away. The plastic disk inserts at each end (center) of the roll have been missing or severely damaged. These disks are not important unless you use a paper cutter, which I do. Without the disks, the paper will not unroll smoothly. I've had to save intact disks in order to use my roll paper cutter with more recent paper orders.

Because of these issues, the last time I ordered paper, I tried a different source: They had a promotion where shipping on orders over $175 was free (I am not sure if this promotion always runs or if it is only a temporary offer). Their Kraft paper was very reasonably priced (although there might possibly have been less paper per roll than those from FoodServiceDirect. At the price at the time, I had to order exactly 11 rolls to exceed the $175 order limit but still come below a "Large Order Size" that required special shipping (since then they raised their price slightly and 10 rolls now comes in above $175). This is a lot of paper, but since I know I will use it, I didn't mind buying in bulk to save the shipping costs. Two of the rolls of paper were sent loose and were slightly banged up (but not as bad as some of my orders from FoodServiceDirect, however. The other nine rolls were packaged nicely in boxes of 3. The boxes were well taped. While the boxes got banged up in transit, the paper rolls came in perfect condition. All rolls were sealed in plastic and almost all plastic disk inserts were intact. Needless to say, I was very happy with this shipment, and I would order from them again if their prices and shipping policy remain the same. However, I shouldn't need to buy more paper for a couple of years, with the stock that I've built up.


Bedding and litter is the alternative to a paper floor covering. (Note: when it comes to birds, bedding and litter mean the same thing. The dual terminology most likely came about in terms of small animals, which use the ground cover as "bedding" to sleep in as well as "litter" to poop in.) Bedding/litter have their own set of advantages and disadvantages:


It makes an attractive floor covering that hides the droppings from view

It can help bury the droppings so the birds don't have to walk through them.

It does not have to be completely changed each day



It is harder to check the droppings of the birds when looking for signs of illness.

Bedding can generate a lot of dust, both in the house and in the aviary.

Bedding dust can embed itself within cracks and seams of the aviary.

Bedding flakes or pellets can easily leak out of the aviary, creating a mess on the floor. (Tall baseboards should be installed when litter is to be used.)

Some beddings, such as pine and cedar, emit aromas, especially when wet, that can cause respiratory problems in birds.

Beddings can be ingested and cause impaction, which can be fatal.

Corncob bedding is highly prone to mold growth, which can lead to illness, including Aspergillosis.

Beddings can be costly when a large aviary floor needs to be covered.

When bedding is used in an aviary, it does not need to be changed every day. It is, however, a good idea to top it off with fresh litter or to rake in the top layer so that the droppings are buried away from the surface. Some people like to skim the top layer off with a shop-vac.

Different recommendations exist for how frequently to perform a complete litter change. If the aviary is not very big, it should be changed every week. However, if the aviary is large, this is a very costly endeavor. At the very least, the top layer should be skimmed off with a shop-vac and a fresh layer should be added on top. Then, complete litter changes can be put off to a monthly basis. The aviary floor should be cleaned at this time.

The following are some of the bedding choices available:

Corncob is a popular choice, but it is not highly recommended. When corncob gets wet, it is highly susceptible to mold growth. This can cause serious illness, including Aspergillosis. If you decide that corncob is the litter for you, make sure to completely change the litter around water and bath dishes every day so that wet cob does not have the opportunity to promote mold growth.

Pine and Cedar Shavings
Pine and Cedar Shavings are not as conducive to mold growth, but they do emit aromas when wet. Birds are very sensitive to these aromas and they can lead to respiratory problems. Note that cedar is more aromatic than pine, so if deciding between the two, pine might be the better choice.

Aspen Shavings or Pellets
Aspen is my preferred choice among the available beddings. It does not have strong aromatic properties, nor is it especially prone to mold growth. It is available in both shavings and pellets. Shavings are softer, but lighter weight and more likely to escape from the aviary.

Crushed Walnut Shells
Walnut shell beddings have been known to be ingested by birds, causing impaction and death. They tend to contain smaller pieces that are more likely to be ingested than other beddings.

Recycled Paper Bedding
There has been a recent emergence of environmentally friendly recycled paper beddings. Recycled paper is available in pelleted and shredded forms. These beddings are safe for birds, but tend to be gray in color and therefore, not as pleasant looking. Yesterday's News cat litter (made from recycled newspaper) can also be used (just make sure to buy the unscented version). Other types of cat litter should not be used as they contain various chemicals that can be hazardous to a bird.

Sand is a safe bedding to use as well. It can be sifted with a sieve to remove droppings and periodically vacuumed and replaced. Sand is better suited for an outdoor aviary, however, because it puts a lot of dust into the air and is very messy.

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