Rust Never Sleeps, as the Neil Young album reminds us, though inexplicably Neil doesn’t mention second-hand cages. DAVE BROWN offers his own tips to make up for it.

Photo: Dave Brown That’s how to do it, Poppy! Helpful Miss Brown takes some wire wool to a cage front

It is not uncommon to see second-hand breeding cages, cage fronts and large parrot cages being offered for sale in traditional classified adverts and online. Buying used items is a good option, because it can be an economical way to fit out a first birdroom.

It is quite likely that cages will need a thorough clean and probably, if they are wooden, a lick of paint to freshen them up. It is also possible that any metal cage fronts will show signs of rust, particularly if they have been in storage in damp garages or sheds for any length of time. For the sake of both appearance and the birds’ health and safety, this should be removed.

There are various rust-removing solutions available in DIY stores, though most of these will be chemical-based. Some fanciers may prefer to tackle the problem with a more organic approach.

First of all, there is good old elbow grease. Scrubbing the rust lightly with a wire brush or a wire scouring pad will certainly remove flakes of rust. However, if you scrub a bit harder, be careful not to scratch the paint if you are trying to preserve it on, say, a parrot cage.

With breeding cage fronts it is probably best to brush the entire front and repaint. If the rust is particularly firm, dipping the brush in white vinegar may help to loosen rust.

A fancier of longstanding offered up this tip. Ordinary tea bags can be used to remove rust from steel parts. Boil about half a litre of water and add about five tea bags. The mix needs to be strong, so stir it well and brew for about five minutes before allowing it to cool. Then add the rusty steel parts, fully submerging them in the liquid. The rust should come off after about one to eight hours – depending on the amount of rust. Keep an eye on them and remove once the rust has dissolved. You should find that the steel parts have taken on a grey colour after the soaking, and this is easily rubbed off with very fine wire wool.

Another tip when dealing with chrome cages is to dip small pieces of aluminium foil into water. The aluminium foil is softer than steel, so it will not scratch the surface. A by-product of the process is that it produces a fine metal polishing compound that polishes a chrome surface to a bright shine.

When the rust is removed, prevent reoccurrence by keeping fronts and cages dry, dusting regularly and wiping down occasionally with a damp cloth. Dry immediately after wiping down.

Dave Brown has kept a wide range of birds, including British hardbills, psittacines and softbills.

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