Reviewed for accuracy on April 19, 2019 by Laurie Hess, DVM, DABVP (Avian)
Adopting a pet bird is exciting—you’re adding a new member to your family and gaining a lifetime companion. But before you bring home your new addition, you’ll need to make sure your home is a stimulating yet safe and appropriate environment for your pet bird.
To keep your bird happy, you’ll want to provide plenty of “flighted time,” or time spent out of his cage while indoors, says Dr. Hess. Before you let your pet bird explore your home, you’ll need to take a few precautions by bird-proofing it.
Bird-proofing is similar to babyproofing except that some pet birds can fly, which adds another dimension to the task.
Additionally, “Birds are very curious animals and always putting things in their mouth,” says Dr. Sara Redding Ochoa, DVM. You’ll need to consider all of the possible dangers in your home, and then get rid of all of the hazards or hide them so that your feathered friend does not injure himself.
In order to determine the best bird-proofing tactics, you’ll need to start thinking like a bird as you evaluate every potential hazard in your home.
Window, Fan and Mirror Hazards
According to Laurie Hess, DVM, Dipl ABVP (Avian Practice), one of the most common bird injuries is due to ceiling fans. Never turn on any type of fan on when your bird is flighted. You’ll also need to “close all windows and doors and cover all mirrors,” says Dr. Hess.
Dr. Hess explains that it is important to cover your mirrors because birds may not understand that they are solid and can fly into them and injure themselves. Birds can also become obsessed with their reflection and think that it is another bird, which can lead to territorial issues and other problems.
Dr. Hess also stresses that you should never let your bird fly around your home unsupervised. It’s always important to watch your bird—even after you’ve thoroughly bird-proofed.
Heat and Cooking Hazards
Whenever your bird is flighted, you’ll need to avoid any type of open flame, such as the fireplace, stovetop or candles.
Other hazards that lurk in your kitchen are the odorless and colorless fumes that come from using certain cookware. “Teflon or other nonstick cookware coatings give off an odorless fume when they are heated that can kill a bird,” says Dr. Hess. Teflon isn’t just a coating for nonstick cookware—it’s also on things like self-cleaning ovens, toaster ovens, microwaves, and even hair dryers and straighteners.
While offering your bird a small amount of food can help with socialization and bonding, it’s important not to share anything that has come in contact with your mouth.
According to Dr. Hess, “You have different bacteria in your mouth that is foreign to birds and can be harmful.” Foods that are high in salt or fat, along with alcohol, caffeine, onions and avocado, are all toxic to birds and should be kept well out of reach, she says.
Dr. Ochoa also warns against yeast dough, so keep your bird away if you’re making bread.
Aerosol products, like spray cleaners and hair spray, are also hazardous to birds. “Birds have extremely sensitive respiratory systems and can be harmed by chemical fumes,” says Dr. Hess.
Scented candles, scented oils and air fresheners are also potentially harmful.
Heavy Metal and Electrical Hazards
One of the biggest threats to birds is heavy metal toxicity. “Birds are naturally attracted to shiny objects, and they chew on absolutely everything,” says Dr. Hess. These two tendencies combined make things like jewelry, earrings, and keys particularly enticing.
However, these items can potentially contain heavy metals, like zinc, copper, and lead, that can have potentially fatal effects for a bird. In addition, Dr. Hess warns about Tiffany lamps, which can have soldering on them that may contain zinc.
Birds can also chew on electrical wires, so it’s important to keep them tucked away and well out of reach.
It’s important to keep a relatively stable temperature for your bird. “Contrary to what many people think, subtle temperature fluctuations don’t hurt birds,” says Dr. Hess. “It’s only when they are very rapid—[like going from] 95 degrees to 50 degrees [Fahrenheit]—that it can be a problem.”
Drafts in your home can sometimes cause temperature fluctuations for your bird. Therefore, “Make sure your bird is [kept] in an area away from any drafts,” says Dr. Ochoa.
Hazards With Kids
Children love birds, but they need to understand how to play and interact with their feathered friend. “Young children can easily hurt a bird by playing too rough or sticking their fingers in the cage,” says Dr. Hess. Make sure you always supervise interactions between your kids and your bird to make sure they both stay safe.
According to Dr. Hess, not all bird cages or bird supplies are hazard-free. “If you’re using a 20-year-old cage you found in your attic, you need to ensure it’s safe,” she says. Old cages were made with a powder coating that contained zinc, which as mentioned before, can cause metal toxicity.
Newer bird cages, like the Prevue Pet Products wrought iron birds flight cage and YML open top parrot cage with stand, are zinc- and lead-free.
When buying a bird cage, use a bird cage that’s intended for the breed of bird you’re adopting. You should check to make sure the bars are spaced appropriately so that your bird can’t get his head stuck.
You’ll also want to ensure that any bird cage accessories, like ceramic bowls that you use to feed or give water to your bird, do not contain lead.
Bird toys should also be inspected to ensure that they don’t contain strings or loose fibers that can wrap around toes and cut off circulation.
By: Rebecca Desfosse
Featured Image: iStock.com/JTKPHOTOz