Checklist for a Bird Safe Home
1) Air quality
Birds have very sensitive respiratory systems. At the very least smells and chemicals can cause a bird to become irritable which can make it bite and scream and pluck. At the worst, some chemicals like heated Teflon can kill a bird in a few minutes. So anyone who has birds needs to be very careful. _____no smoking (tobacco, cannabis, or any other products) _____no vaping _____no candles with wicks that can be lighted (even soy is not OK). LED artificial candles are OK _____no air fresheners or fragrances _____No incense, essential oils, oil diffusers with reeds or plug-ins _____No sprays such as Febreze or Oust or Glade _____no carpet fresh products that get sprayed on carpets or go in the vacuum (when carpets are cleaned only use companies that use no chemicals such as Steam cleaning carpet companies) _____no non-stick pans that contain PTFE (brand name Teflon) or PFOA (also in Teflon – it is carcinogenic). Have to read
labels carefully. There may be some “green” nonstick pans that are safe but the safest cookware to use is stainless
steel, aluminum, or cast iron that has not been treated with anything to make it “nonstick”. Brands like Tfal, All-Clad
nonstick, Calphalon non-stick, etc. all have Teflon coatings. If you do not know what the cookware is coated with to
make it nonstick then you should not take a chance and use it. The fumes can kill a bird in a few minutes – they die a
horrible respiratory death – gasping for breath and having seizures.
_____ no other nonstick appliances that have Teflon (electric skillets, pizza makers, air fryers, waffle irons, some toaster
ovens, some popcorn poppers, some curling irons, some space heaters. Again, if you aren’t sure, don’t use it.
_____ new furniture and carpeting that contain water repellant coatings like Scotchgard and Stainmaster. It takes a
while for these things to outgas. Best not to have them at all but if you have stuff that is several years old already
with these coatings they have probably outgassed to the point that they won’t cause a problem but if you ever
install new stuff you really need to avoid it or have the birds boarded elsewhere for a few weeks and really air the
_____ no microwave popcorn – has diacetyl – a compound that can cause respiratory problems in some humans and
can kill birds. If you use this make sure the bird is several rooms away, turn on an exhaust fan and open windows.
______no self cleaning oven use while birds are in the house. Most ovens have this – hard to avoid. Temperatures of 350
and lower (where most things are cooked) are typically OK if the kitchen is well ventilated and the birds are not near
the kitchen but the self-cleaning feature goes up to 500 degrees F and that can release toxic fumes. So if you use it birds should be out of the house for 24 hours at least and house should be aired out before they return.
Cleaning products – avoid bleach containing produces, anything with a strong fragrance. Best to do steam cleaning and use natural cleaners such as diluted vinegar and baking soda, Bon Ami for scrubbing, no fragrance dishwashing, dishwasher, and laundry detergents ____avoid wearing strong perfumes around birds ____ Place one of your carbon monoxide detectors near the birds’ cage. ____If you have any gas appliances you should put a methane gas detector in your home as well (stores like Lowes and
Home Depot sell detectors that pick up both carbon monoxide and methane). It is for human safety as well.
____ If you have a wood burning fireplace or stove, be very careful to make sure that it is always properly vented – no wood
smoke where it can affect birds.
____ it is a good idea to invest in a good quality air cleaner (Austin is a good model). Do not use “ionic” air cleaners – bad
for birds. This is especially important if you have a dusty bird (Cockatoo, African Grey, Cockatiel) for your own health as well as to minimize dust in your home from a cleaning perspective. If you have other species of bird their health be compromised by the dander from dusty bird species. Many people have to give up their beloved bird companions after years because they develop allergies to their dander so having a good air cleaner improves the air quality humans as well and may lower the risk that you could become allergic to your bird.
2) Dangers to Birds in the home
Start with the mindset that anything which would be dangerous for a toddler would be dangerous for a bird. Then add a few more things. Here is a list that is pretty complete but you can always think of more depending on your specific home situation. ____Other pets. No matter how much you think your dog or cat or ferret loves your bird, they are all predators and birds are prey and the bird will always lose. Basically, the bird should never, ever be in a situation that those other animals could access them. There should always be at least one closed door that cannot be opened by the other animal between them and the bird when no humans are in the same room as the bird and the bird should never be out in the same room as another pet. Period. We hear many stories where “I only looked away for a minute” and the bird was injured or killed. While some birds can be socialized to live in the same cage as another bird, you have to be very careful and monitor them for a very long time. There are many small birds who have lost a foot or an eye or a piece of a wing that has been bitten by another birds. It is best for birds not to have other pets but if you do, it is your responsibility to protect the bird at all times. Cats and Dogs (or rodents or lizards or snakes) should never be allowed anywhere near the bird’s cage. The bird could injure them as well. Cats carry a bacteria in their mouths (Pasturella multocida) that is fatal to birds so even a minor cat bite can kill a bird from infection. Even small dogs can have a strong prey drive and can kill a bird and usually the small dog is badly injured by the bird in the process and could lose an eye or have a badly scarred face. So just do not mix them. Birds can fall in fish tanks (and toilets) and drown so make sure there are never open containers of water. ____Ceiling fans. Most homes have them. Make sure that the pulls are set such that they cannot be turned on easily just by flipping a switch. If you do need to use them for ventilation or cooling make sure the birds are never out when they are running – they can kill birds. If you need fans, better to buy floor models with a guard with a grid small enough that a bird cannot reach through the bars. _____Windows and doors. Birds can easily escape. Even birds with clipped wings can sometimes get enough lift to escape out a door. Once outside they are rarely recovered and being outside alone is almost always a death sentence for them. So you need to take very strict precautions to make sure they can never get outside unless they are in a secure carrier or are harness trained with the harness securely attached to you. One of the best ways to prevent escape is to make sure there is always a minimum of 2 doors between the bird and outside. Screened porches, laundry rooms with doors between garage and house and house and laundry room, storm doors, etc…Netting products like MagicMesh are helpful but can’t be relied on exclusively. Birds can break their neck flying into windows and mirrors. Some birds can be taught what a mirror is – take the bird to the mirror often and let them tap their beak on it. Many can understand but they can still forget if frightened. It is best to have sheer curtains or light filtering shades over windows when you want to let light in. You can also buy decals for mirrors and windows – wild bird supply stores/online sites sell them. _____Kitchens are dangerous: Knives, hot stoves/pans, ovens. Even if you make sure that your stove is never on when the bird is in the kitchen if it learns that it can walk on a cool stove and then either gets out when you don’t want it there or lives with another family someday it could get burnt if they don’t realize that the bird has been allowed on a cold stove So just avoid letting them in the kitchen if possible. ____ Tops of Doors/Cabinets. Birds like to perch high so they will often gravitate to the top of room door or cabinet door. If you close the door quickly their toes could be damaged or amputated so make sure to always check when closing a door. If you have guests it is best to make sure that the bird is always with you or put it away. A guest may not think of this and accidentally injure the bird _____Household items birds can chew on: batteries, cleaners/chemicals, lighters, electrical cords, pesticides (should not use any inside the house). etc… Again – anything that could injure a toddler if they chewed on it could injure a bird.
Check the cage frequently to make sure there are no places where the bird can get a toe or wing caught Look at everything in your birds cage and try to imagine if there is any way the bird could be injured . Make sure chains on toys have large enough links that they cannot entrap toes. Make sure any plastic or metal parts (beads, bell clappers) are not small enough for the bird to swallow . Do not have any cotton, nylon, or sisal ropes that they could hang themselves on. If you use Comfey perches, always trim off the frayed pieces (especially for conures and smaller – they can develop impacted crops and die if they eat the strings). You can buy woven palm frond strips (Shredders) and paper rope, and natural leather strips, wooden blocks, and cardboard to make toys from online stores like Foster and Smith and My safe Bird store and even Amazon. If you use sticks from outside you should make sure there is no chance that they have pesticide contamination and wash them thoroughly and remove the bark because of mold and parasite contamination. The safest thing to do is to bake them in the oven (conventional recommendations are 200 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes). If you live in an area with raccoons you should definitely bake them. Raccoons carry a roundworm called Baylisascaris that kills parrots (or causes severe neurological damage). For the same reason, you should wash fresh food thoroughly and always cook root vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes). Some woods are toxic for birds to chew on. Any pressure treated wood (on decks) is toxic. Cedar wood is toxic to birds. You can find lists online (including Iowa Parrot Rescue website). Also lists of toxic household plants to avoid can be found online.
Best to feed a combination of a good quality pellet, fresh fruits and veggies, and some nuts (raw or unsalted roasted). Good quality pellets include those such as Harrison’s, Roudybush, Higgins that do not have artificial colors or flavors. Make sure pellets are stored in a place where it cannot be infested by bugs (in some parts of the country, roaches carry a parasite that can kill birds so make sure they are in sealed containers).
Fruits and vegetables – buy organic when possible and wash all thoroughly. Some birds like raw, others steamed and cooled. Frozen vegetables are a good option as well. Always cook root vegetables. You can find lists of bird safe vegetables and fruits online.
Foods you should definitely avoid which are either toxic or can cause kidney or liver damage over time: avocadoes,, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, anything salty, onions, garlic, spinach and chard have too much oxalic acid.
You can find lists on line including at the Iowa Parrot Rescue Website.
Water: nonchlorinated water is best (filtered). Some species (African grey) or females that lay eggs need extra calcium. Talk to your veterinarian about whether your bird needs calcium supplementation. Most birds do not need vitamins if they have a good diet but a few need calcium.
Make sure the birds cage is an appropriate size. In general bigger is better but a bird whose humans are home all day and the bird is out all day will not need as large a cage as one whose humans are gone a lot. Have a secure carrier for your bird. Make sure it buckles in the car (back seat – no air bag trauma in an accident) Have an appropriate sized towel for your bird species and have your veterinarian show you how to “towel” a bird in case your bird is ever sick or injured so you can handle it better. Buy a bird scale (a kitchen scale that weighs in grams will do as well) and weigh your bird regularly - at least weekly. Weight loss can be one of the first signs of illness Become familiar with your birds eating and pooping habits and the appearance of their droppings – a change can indicate illness. Do not try to trim wings or claws unless you have been taught how to do so properly by your veterinarian and you are very comfortable handling the bird You can make a bird first aid kit – you can find instructions online at many of the bird clubs. In general, any injuries or illnesses should be evaluated by a veterinarian with avian experience but there are some things you can do to temporize.
You should schedule a well bird visit with your veterinarian soon after the bird joins your home and discuss what should be kept in such a kit.