Keeping pet birds in a safe environment

Keeping pet birds in a safe environment

Whether you keep a budgie, a parrot or multiple cages of different avian species, there are a few hazards and potential dangers in the home which are common to all types of exotic pet birds kept in captivity. Here are some of the most often overlooked issues surrounding the care and wellbeing of your pet bird, and a few tips on potential risks and dangers which you should be aware of.

Toxins in the air

Due to their small build, fast metabolism and delicate respiratory systems, pet birds are more sensitive than most animals to the presence of poisons and toxins in the air. Never use aerosols, air freshener sprays and diffusers or insecticides such as fly killers in the room in which your bird is kept, or any other rooms which it has access to.Other commonly used household substances such as bleach, acetone (used in nail varnish remover) oven cleaner, glue and perfumes vaporise in the air and can be inhaled by your bird.You should never smoke cigarettes or cigars around your bird, nor allow anyone else to. As well as irritating your bird's respiratory systems, prolonged exposure to tobacco smoke can lead to respiratory disease and death within a relatively short space of time.Carbon monoxide is known as 'the silent killer' as it is odourless to people and undetectable in the air. Birds are extremely sensitive to carbon monoxide- remember the days of the canaries in the coal mines? And will become ill from carbon monoxide exposure long before people will. It is a good idea for all households to have carbon monoxide detectors fitted as well as smoke alarms- this is especially true for households which keep birds.Something you may not have considered as being a heath hazard or poisonous inhalant, is Teflon, or other non stick coatings used on items such as the inside of pots and pans, irons and ironing boards, and hair straightening irons. Substances containing or coated with Teflon emits fumes when they become hot, which are incredibly toxic to birds respiratory systems and can cause lasting damage and ongoing heath problems or even death.Smell is particulate- that means that if you can smell as substance, you are inhaling microscopic particles of it. A good general rule to follow for all substances is 'if you can smell it, don't use it in the same room as your bird.'


Most freestanding and table fans available today come encased in a vented safety cover to protect passers by from harm, but if you have ceiling fans in your home, these can pose an obvious danger. Birds have been known to fly into moving ceiling fans, causing serious injury and death, although this is relatively uncommon. Birds tend to be uncomfortable with objects moving above them, particularly in flight, so bear this in mind if you are using a fan to cool your bird's enclosure or cage- it may be causing your bird undue stress.Do not use a ceiling fan or other uncovered fan in any room which your birds have access to.

Incorrect feeding

You should never feed your pet bird food meant for people, for a variety of reasons- Some foods are simply unhealthy and poorly designed for processing by the metabolic system of birds, whereas other foods are outright poisonous. Chocolate, caffeine, alcohol and avocado are all toxic to birds even in small doses, and should never be given to your pet. If your bird ingests any of these substances, seek veterinary advice as soon as possible.

Mirrors and windows

Birds can easily fly straight into mirrors and windows without realising they are there. Do not keep mirrors, particularly large ones, in the same room that your bird is allowed to fly in- or be prepared to cover them when your bird is loose. Windows, particularly very clean windows where the glass is not obvious pose a similar risk to your bird- but of course it's neither practical nor desirable to keep your bird in a room with no natural light!Using decorative netting or a bug screen over any windows will prevent possible in- flight accidents from happening.It is also worth mentioning of course, that loose birds may fly out of open windows and doors- keep them closed at all times that birds are loose in the room. The use of a bug screen over windows and doors can server the dual purpose of keeping your bird from flying into the glass, and also allowing you to have the door or window open for air circulation on hot days.

Wiring and Electrics

Birds are inquisitive creatures, and very determined and stubborn once they get an idea into their heads! Birds investigate objects in their environment with their beaks, which can be sharp. It's not unheard of for pet birds to peck and bite electrical wires, which could of course lead to possible electrocution, as well as damage to your equipment. Keep cords and wiring out of the sight and reach of your bird wherever possible, and invest in tools such as cable tidies and covers in order to safeguard your bird and your electrics.

Cats and dogs

It is perfectly possible to keep other animals such as cats and dogs alongside pet birds, depending on the temperament of the animals concerned and their safe introduction to each other. However, owners should always be mindful of how the bird is interacting with the other animals in the home. Your dog or cat may be used to seeing your bird in their cage on a daily basis, but be caught by surprise when seeing it flying loose, which can trigger their natural hunting instinct, especially with small birds such as budgies and canaries.By contrast, it is not unheard of for larger birds such as some species of parrots to attack other household pets if they feel that they are encroaching upon their territory, and birds can deliver a nasty bite!

Generally, common sense and a little forethought go a long way to providing a safe and comfortable environment for your bird. Learn to look at things from your bird's point of view when making any changes in the house such as introducing new pets, objects or substances, and you won't go far wrong.

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