By Richard Horvitz
It is important to understand some potential perils pertaining to parrot possession that may not apply to other pets. What follows is a list of household dangers to your parrot that you may or may not be aware of.
Teflon is DANGEROUS to your birds! Not that you should be worried about your parrot eating the pan or nesting under it (which is not advisable either), but rather when Teflon reaches a critical temperature, argued to be 250 degrees or more, the chemical that makes the surface non-stick actually burns, and “gasses out” as poison. It is initially odorless and colorless, but when it is under extreme heat it will essentially smoke and peel away. Bird’s respiratory systems are extremely sensitive, so when they first get a whiff of the poison they go right to the bottom of the cage and become listless. At this point, the bird needs to be moved to fresh air immediately and rushed to the vet for emergency treatment. More times than not the exposure is fatal.
By the way, Teflon is poison to our system as well, but our respiratory system is not nearly as efficient as a bird’s air-sac system. Just think how much oxygen a bird needs to pass through its system in order to provide oxygen to its body while in flight – their respiratory system is likely the most efficient on the planet. As a result, a small amount of toxicity has severe adverse effects on birds. It is extremely dangerous to expose your bird to Teflon so if you have birds, you may want to consider ditching the Teflon and cooking with stainless steel instead.
Teflon may also be present in other household items such as hair dryers, lights, space heaters, and oven interiors – so read the contents of anything you use that will be heated up in your home with birds.
2. Paint, Cleaners, Insecticides, Roofing, and Smoke
Paint has certainly come a long way as far as VOCs are concerned but it is always better to be safe than sorry. If you are going to paint the inside of your house, please board your bird or take it to a friend’s house until the paint has dried and the fumes have cleared. Turn the air conditioning up so as to dehumidify the room and allow the paint to dry quicker.
Glass, oven, and surface cleaners with ammonia are also toxic to your bird. Never use these products near or around your bird. Only use insecticides with pyrethrins as an active ingredient as they are fairly safe around birds. You may need to modify your pest control regimen, this usually means no spraying of liquid anywhere near the parrot, using powder in sockets, and using more traps that are out of reach of your parrot. Similarly, if you are re-roofing and there will be tar used (or re-sealing your driveway) please take measures to ensure the safety of your bird. Remember, their little bodies have super sensitivity to airborne toxins, and you need to be sensitive too, especially if you are a smoker, smoking outside away from your bird is always the best advice to keep your bird healthy.
When it comes to food there are a few items of concern. The first is avocado. The nut of the avocado leaches a toxic chemical into the fruit which in turn is toxic to most parrots. Some seeds can be of concern but regarding cherry seeds – our Blue and Gold Macaw loves to eat a cherry, then spin and spin the cherry pit until she finds the exact spot she needs to crush in order to open the pit – around 10 – 25 times. She loves it and she is over 35 years old, so my guess is cherries are okay to feed whole. Another issue with moist foods, fruits, and vegetables is the amount of time they should be left in the cage. That is, pellets and seeds can be offered 24 hours a day if they are dry. However, if you offer moist food or put moist foods on top of pellets or seeds then you should keep it in the cage for no longer than 20 minutes. After that time bacteria start to bloom and your parrot could contract a bacterial infection or worse. If you like to give your bird bread, keep in mind that they are extremely sensitive to mold, and bread molds quickly. Similarly, raw peanuts contain the mold, Aspergillus, which can lead to Aspergillosis, an opportunistic disease that grows out of control in parrots’ air sacs. It is best to feed almonds instead of peanuts. Fried foods should also be kept from parrots as well as, salty and sweetened foods, and chocolate and alcohol.
Unless the metal is stainless steel, chances are that it has the potential to be toxic to your bird. That is, if a bird chews through the powder coating on its cage and starts to naw at the underlying metal, the bird will be exposed to excessive levels of zinc. Likewise, bird toys should have stainless steel parts and c-clamps. If you notice your bird has an obsession with metal, do yourself a favor and get a stainless steel cage and only buy toys with stainless steel or no metal parts.
If you keep your bird outside, make sure the bird is in a protected habitat that would prevent a raccoon from reaching inside the cage. Raccoons are very well known for killing parrots so please keep your birds safe from dusk to dawn – bring them inside if you can.
6. Lack of Proper Grooming
Nine out of ten bird owners say their bird can not fly – until it flies away. Although not toxic to a bird, failing to have your bird’s wing feathers clipped on the regular basis, could cause YOU to lose your bird.
If you have a particularly valuable bird, you may want to have the bird chipped. While it doesn’t function as a lo-jack, it is still the only way to legally identify the bird as your own.
Hopefully, I’ve offered some valuable information that will help you identify potential dangers to your parrot in your home and make it parrot-friendly. Parrots are wonderful pets and well worth the extra effort!