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Is [insert everyday item] Safe For Birds?

Just about everything is dangerous to birds; chocolate, avocado, onion and garlic… That’s why we seem to Google “Is [insert everyday item] safe for birds” several times a day!

The trouble is they seem to love getting into mischief, add to that an unhealthy dose of urban myths and one wonders that they survive at all.

What could possibly go wrong?

“They love to die”

I was talking to a local farmer who had been tasked with raising tens of thousands of pheasants for the local Duke and his mates to shoot at. I was surprised that the day old chicks costs so much money. If memory serves me, about £5 a head. The trouble is, he told me, they love to die.

The same seems to be true with tamed birds. We are looking after my daughter’s conure whilst she is away. Both the conure and the cockatiel get along fine but the conure is way more rambunctious, mischievous and outgoing. This manifests itself as chewing wires, drinking anything in a glass and landing on the cooker.

Cooking has to happen when the birds are safe in their cages and we are finding solutions to the other dangers too.

a latch keeps the birds safe
Simple solution to a serious problem

One day my son went to shut the door behind him and the two birds were on the top of the door, their favourite perch. The urgency of our response taught us that we needed to make the situation safe. A simple catch fixed things.

how to keep conures and cockatiels safe on doors

Dangerous myths

There are loads of myths around birds. Received wisdoms that continue to cause harm. Take the classic round cage, ornate and decorative. Hung in the middle of the room for all to admire… An awful and unsafe way to keep a bird.

Not only do round cages offer no corners to hide in, but their shape leaves lots of foot and wing traps where the bars converge at the top. Birds like to be against a wall, or even better in the corner of a room where nothing can sneak up behind them. Birds kept in a round cage hung in the middle of a room live with anxiety.

The canary in the kitchen

You’ve heard of the canary in the mine… the reason a canary would have been taken down a mine was because of its sensitivity to gasses. A bird does have lungs but they are better than yours.

“The respiratory system of birds is more efficient than that of mammals, transferring more oxygen with each breath. This also means that toxins in the air are also transferred more efficiently. This is one of the reasons why fumes from teflon are toxic to birds, but not to mammals at the same concentration” – Petcoach

Down the mine if a dangerous build up of gases occurs you lose the canary before the men. This is where we discover many common utensils and modern conveniences are fatal to birds. Teflon, for example, releases four gases toxic to birds. One of which is a nerve agent used in world war two.

Whilst teflon is dangerous to humans at above 350 degrees Celcius, it is dangerous to birds at normal cooking temperature. Nonetheless, it does make you wonder what it’s doing to us humans?

“…cases of Teflon flu are due to acute (short-term) exposures to PTFE fumes; no studies have been done looking at the long-term effects of brief, repeated PTFE-fume exposure, as would be the case in cooking using non-stick pans for a lifetime” – TIBBS Bioscience

A bird in the bag

I’ve read a number of cases where a ‘roast in the bag’ oven ready chicken has killed pet birds. The advice is not to use them at all if you keep birds. The convenience simply isn’t worth the risk. And again I wonder what effect these bags might be having on the mammals and other animals of the house, not to mention the environment.

What a gas

Open fires, smoking and aerosoles all join the prohibited list, along with bleach and oven cleaner. Especially oven cleaner.  Oven cleaners can be separated into two basic groups. Those that work and those that don’t. If you keep birds you’re sadly restricted to the latter. Most oven cleaners contain caustic soda in some form or other. Choose a cleaner that is baking soda based and scrub harder!

Around the kitchen and bathroom you can use cream cleaner, which is salt based. Don’t let the bird lick it though… salt is dangerous to birds. Like the man said, they love to die.

Higher perches

Birds feet can also be a source of trouble. They don’t work like yours but rather ‘lock’ around perches using a ratchet mechanism in their legs. The tendon has nobbles at intervals which the bird can hold into place for long roosts. If a bird regularly rests on a perch of uniform diameter and doesn’t exercise all along this tendon then they can suffer tendinitis.

The best perches (like this one) have a variety of ‘holds’ the bird can use. Irregularity is the key. Also, turn the perch around every week or so. Shake things up a bit with their toys, move things around. Not only will this make new interest in old toys but it will also encourage the bird to choose a different perch and get the leg exercise it needs.

As I write this Heidi the conure is sat on top of my laptop. She has just leaned over and attempted to eat some of the peace lily on the kitchen table… reminding me that peace lilies are toxic to birds. I was going to write a little about electrical wires, but that may have to wait until another day.

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