Pet birds can fall prey to all sorts of household dangers, especially if you allow them to spend time out of the cage. Here are some of the most common threats and ways to avoid them.
Children: Young children may not understand that birds are delicate and easily harmed by improperly handled. Conversely, a bird may feel threatened by rough handling and harm the child. For everyone’s sake, it’s important to instruct children how to handle birds and to supervise this activity until you are confident that it’s safe. It’s also important to establish an area in the home where a bird can safely retreat when feeling threatened.
Other Pets: Cats and other pets have been known to knock cages over and try to attack the pretty birdy. Pet bites can be very damaging, whether emanating from another pet or from the bird. In a home with other pets, never leave a bird on the loose without supervision and arrange the cage so that it can’t be toppled — perhaps by suspending it from the ceiling away from areas where pets can climb. Keep dusty cat litter boxes away from birds and cover aquariums to prevent accidental drowning. If you keep reptiles, you might use heat lamps –make it difficult for a bird to get near these lamps. Other dangers to be aware of are water bowls (birds can drown in even small amounts of water), flea and tick powders/collars and hay bedding used for hamsters and rabbits.
Bodily Harm: Some birds look for small places to nest. If they pick an unseen corner of your couch, you might easily crush the bird when you sit. If your bird spends time on the floor, keep an eye out when walking around, lest you accidently step on it. When closing an open door, make sure your avian friend isn’t sitting atop it. Don’t allow a bird into a room with a computer printer, dishwasher, washing machine, dryer or other potentially dangerous machines and devices. Be cautious when opening or closing a foldout bed or couch, moving a laundry basket full of clothes, opening/closing air ducts and turning ceiling fans on whenever the bird is outside its cage. You and your bird might like to snooze together, but you could roll over and crush it, so it’s probably not a good idea. Put kitchen knives and bathroom razors away.
Glass Windows, Doors and Skylights: You may have seen or heard of wild birds being injured by trying to fly through a window, because they didn’t see the glass. A pet bird faces the same danger inside the home. You can ask your vet to clip the bird’s wings to slow down or eliminate its flying. Put drapes, decals or blinds on windows and shades on doors with glass panels and skylights. Verify screen doors are intact and don’t have any spots where a bird might escape. Clip your bird’s nails to keep them from catching on drapery and fabrics.
Poisons: The same precautions you would take with youngsters in the home apply to pet birds. Keep the door to the laundry room closed, and place bleaches, detergents, softeners, dyes and any other harmful materials in cabinets or drawers. Your kitchen or pantry could also be harboring hazardous poisons, such as oven cleaner, floor and surface cleaners — keep these behind doors. Certain foods might be toxic to your bird, including alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, yeast dough, garlic, avocado, salt and onion, so prevent your bird from accessing them. Some birds are sensitive to fumes from non-stick cookware, waffle irons, slow cookers, etc. Ask your veterinarian for a complete list of toxic foods and other harmful substances.
Other Hazards: Don’t let the room temperature get too hot or cold for the bird’s comfort. Use kid-proof electrical outlet covers and take precautions for heat sources such as stovetops, hot irons, fondue pots, space heaters, fireplaces, halogen bulbs, radiators and matches. Smoke and fumes are hazardous, whether from cigarettes, marijuana, lighter fluid, kerosene, gasoline, permanent markers, mothballs, glue, paint and paint remover, cleaning supplies, some air fresheners/scented candles, strong perfumes, nail polish remover, and anything from an aerosol can. Certain lotions, such as sunblock, contain zinc that might harm a pet bird. Insecticides contain poisonous metals and can severely harm or kill your bird.
If you have specific safety questions or concerns regarding keeping your pet bird safe, voice them to your veterinarian and follow the advice given. With sensible precautions, your pet bird can live a long and happy life.
Dr. Paul has a strong interest in avian and exotic animal medicine and surgery, as well as small animal internal medicine and surgery.
He has provided services for numerous breeders, kennels, aviaries, and mini zoos.