Dangers in the Household

What household items are dangerous for my birds?

There is a good chance that just about every product made by companies that use chemicals we can't pronounce can be toxic to our parrots. For sure we know new carpeting can put out toxic gasses, fumes from paneling can be toxic, adhesives used in construction and flooring can kill parrots.  You REALLY need to check products out before you bring them into our the home that you share with your parrots! If in doubt, move them out while you do the work that you have to do in your home.  Wait for fumes, smells and toxins to disapate before bringing your birds back into the area.  

It is important to realize that birds may not always die right away from a toxic exposure but they may end up with compromised health issues. Often if a vet knows that a parrot has had a toxic exposure, they will put the bird in a nebulizer to help clear the lungs, air sacs, and other sensitive organs. Continued exposure to household toxins such as hair spray, cologne, air fresheners, scented candles and oils etc. can potentially cause organ damage and death. 

A good rule to remember is if you are using something that has any smell, and you can smell it, it could potentially harm or even kill your bird.
Everyday cooking and items in  your kitchen you need to be careful with such as:

  • Teflon, 
  • Silverstone, 
  • T-fall and other non-stick coating used in cookware, 
  • Roasting bags (like for turkey), 
  • Self-cleaning Oven fumes, 
  • Stove Drip Pans and Oven liners
  • Irons and Ironing Board Covers, 
  • Portable heaters often have a coating on the heating elements to prevent rust. 
  • Bread Makers, toasters, air-fryers and many other household appliances that may have a teflon like/non-stick coating

Many items in addition to pots and pans have non-stick coatings.  When overheated, these items can release fumes that are deadly to birds. It is strongly recommended you do not use any cookware with non-stick coating as there is too much room for error.  It's easy to forget and it only takes once.  Maybe you have house­ guests who may not know about the danger to your birds.  It's just not worth the chance.

  • Burning Plastic of any kind--overheated plastic pan and pot handles, burning oil, and just about anything burning on the stove or in the household, again, if you smell it there is the potential for it being harmful or even deadly to your bird.
  • Wood burning fireplaces, some woods burned in the fireplace can create problems for birds, especially if the fireplace is not well-vented.
  • Scented Candles, Plug-in Air Fresheners, Incense, oil burners and Potpourri.  The vapors from the oils in these products can be toxic and even fatal to birds.
  • Cigarette, Cigar, and Pipe smoke, Marijuana smoke, E-cigarettes.  Any nicotine on hands and cloth­ing can be transmitted with a simple touch to your bird, Ingested Tobacco and Marijuana.

Any kind of smoke and/or fumes are dangerous to birds. Nicotine on hands can cause contact dermati­tis, especially foot problems. Ingesting tobacco products can make birds sick.

  • Aerosol Sprays of any kind, Oven Cleaners, Furniture Polish, Air Fresheners, Car­ pet Fresheners, Tub & Tile Cleaners, Cleaning Supplies, Bleach and Ammonia fumes, Oil-based Paint and paint product fumes, Tile Adhesives, Insecticides, Flea Bombs, Fertilizers, Fungicides, Hair Spray, Spray-on Deodorants, Perfumes, Co­lognes and more:

Use common sense. Anything that produces fumes can cause parrots health problems and in some cases, be fatal to them. It is best to take birds out of a room if it is being cleaned, painted, etc. and only bring them back after the room has been thoroughly aired out and the fumes are gone. Keep your par­rots out of the bathroom when you use spray products of any kind.

  • CHEWABLES: Leaded Stained Glass Decorations, Old Paint on Woodwork, Costume Jewelry, Curtain Weights, Lead Fishing Weights, Lead pellets, Solder, Some Artists Paints, Pencils and Chalks, Some Cage Paint & Galvanized Wire, Metal Hardware that Flakes or Chips some Woods.  Most or many of these items contain heavy metals such as lead, zinc, or cadmium which are toxic to parrots when chewed and ingested. If you suspect your parrot has eaten something with any heavy metal, it is essential to get him to the vet immediately. In some cases, x-ray will show that the foreign object is still be in the crop and the crop can be flushed. If the heavy metal goes into the digestive system, it can be a long, involved and expensive process to get it out and save your parrot's life.

Common Household Poisons...

Parrots are curious and can often get into things that are not good for them.  How do you know which household items you should be especially concerned about? Here is a general list of many common household poisons.  There are most certainly more, but this will give you a good idea of what to be careful of.  If you have reason to believe your parrot has ingested a poisonous substance call your vet and call the ASPCA Poison Control 888-426-4435

Dangerous trees, plants & flowers

These trees, plants & flowers are not safe for your parrot. Although in some cases a great deal of material must be consumed to cause a problem, you never know and shouldn't take any chances.   There could be more that aren't listed here.  A good rule of thumb is if you're not sure if something is safe, don't let your bird around it.  Don't make perching from trees that could possibly be harmful. If you think your bird has ingested some of these materials, call your vet and call the ASPCA Poison Control, 888-426-4435

Simple home-made Bird Safe Cleaning Products

  • Glass Cleaner - Plain club soda in a spray bottle is one of the best glass cleaners around.  Or use a solution of white vinegar and water.  For a streak free shine, use newspaper instead of papertowels or cloth.

  • Furniture Polish - In a 16oz spray bottle mix 2tsp olive oil, 20 drops of lemon oil, 1/4 cup of white vinegar and enough water to fill the bottle.  Shake well.

  • Antiseptic Soap Spray - In a 16oz spray bottle, fill the bottle almost full with water.  Add 3 Tblsp of liquid soap, add 20-30 drops of Tea Tree Oil.  Shake to mix.

  • Toilet Bowl Cleaner - Mix 1/2 cup liquid soap and 2 cups of baking soda.  Use a fork to break up any lumps.  Dilute with 1/4 cup of water.  Add 2 Tbsp of vinegar and 1/2 tsp of Tea Tree Oil.  Mix and pour into a 22oz squirt bottle.  Shake well before each use.

  • Drain Cleaner - Doesn't work well to clear a clog but it is great for preventing them!  Pour 1/2 cup baking soda in the drain.  Add a cup or more of white vinegar.  Cover the drain with a stopper or plunger for a few minutes.  Rinse well with hot water.  Repeat if necessary.

  • Carpet Cleaner - Put 1/4 cup liquid soap into a blender with 1/3 cup of water.  Blend until foamy.  Pour on the carpet spots and let it sit for awhile.  Finish with a squirt of vinegar and blot up the excess with towels.

  • Kitchen & Bath Cleaner - Mix 1 & 2/3 cups of baking soda with 1/2 cup of liquid soap.  Dilute with 1/2 cup of water.  Add 2 Tbsp of vinegar.  Stir until the lumps are gone.  If it's too think, add a little more water.  Keep in a sealed container.

Bird Safe Trees, Plants & Flowers

Do not use any materials unless you know for sure they have not been sprayed or exposed to chemicals.  You could accidentally poison your bird.  Tree limbs especially can maintain a poisonous level up to three years after chemical treatment. If you're sure they are safe, many of these safe plants and flowers can be used in chop and in your bird cage/flight as enrichment.

food toxicosis in parrots (Toxic foods!)

Birds digest foods very quickly. The term "digest" means to convert food into absorbable substances. Birds, however, take much longer to "metabolize" those substances. "To metabolize" refers to the process that breaks down food and nutrients to produce energy. Metabolism promotes growth, sustains life, and enables all other bodily functions to take place. It transforms energy within cells and releases energy from nutrients creates other substances , such as proteins. There are foods that are safe for humans, but not for parrots both because of the differences in digestion, metabolism, and the structure of the digestive system itself.

Chocolate, caffeinated tea and coffee contain 3 main substances that are problematic. Theobromine and theophylline, which are myocardial stimulants as well as a vasodilators, are mostly metabolized in the liver and at a rate which is much slower in birds than in humans.

Caffeine itself is also toxic to birds. The result of ingestion can lead to regurgitation, diarrhea, seizures , heart arrhythmias and possible death.

Avocados contain a chemical called "persin" which can cause myocardial necrosis - this is essentially the death of the heart muscle cells. An amount as small as 1 gram can cause negative effects to a budgie, and as little as 9 grams can cause death within a day or two.  (9 grams = .317 oz)

Raw, dry bean mixes can also be extremely harmful because uncooked and undercooked beans contain a poison called hemagglutinin which is very toxic to birds.

Alcohol has disastrous effects on the cardiovascular system and the liver of birds. A small amount ingested by a bird could cause depression, lack of coordination and regurgitation.

Tomatoes , potatoes and other members of the nightshade family have fruit that is fine, however, the stems, vines, and leaves are highly toxic. (Other nightshades are: sweet and hot peppers,eggplant, tomatillos , tamarios, pepinos, pimentos, paprika, cayenne)

Onions, garlic and scallions have a property which can cause the rupture of red blood cells resulting in anemia, but in addition onions can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and a host of other digestive problems. According to "thebirdchannel.com", it makes no difference if the onions and garlic are cooked, dehydrated, etc.

The seeds and pits of apples, cherries, peaches, apricots, and pears contain trace amounts of cyanide within their seeds. While the fruit is fine, there may also be pesticides present on the fruit's skin.

Mushrooms are a type of fungus, and have been known to cause digestive upset in com­ panion birds. Caps and stems of some varieties can induce liver failure.

A diet of seed is not considered to be acceptable because seeds are high in fat and relatively low in nutrients like calcium and vitamin A. In the wild, birds gather seed as a part of their diet, but in addition they eat vegetation, fruit, berries, insects, even bark from trees. They also fly long distances and spend a majority of their day foraging, which burns a lot of energy. Also seed is often produced for the oil industry, and is sometimes genetically engi­neered to contain even more fat than normal.

If you thinking about feeding your bird something you're not sure about, do some research, ask someone who would know like your avian vet or even research it online.  Be sure to check how old the reference material is that you're reading online, there is a lot of very old and outdated information on the internet.  Be sure you are reading something from a reliable source that has been updated. 

It is always better to just feed them something you know is safe, than to let them try something new that might not be safe.

Fats found in human foods, sometimes in large amounts, can be very harmful to birds. Chips, crackers, cookies, bread, fried foods, soups, buttered vegetables and other prepared foods are examples of these. The types of fats added to foods are also an issue. Saturated fats can lead to high cholesterol, obesity, and fatty liver disease just as it can in humans.

Salt can be a big problem when hidden in typical snack foods. It is used to preserve many foods to extend shelf life, but it is mostly found in snacks that are traditionally salty, like chips, pretzels, etc. A very small amount of salt goes a long way when consumed by a parrot with such a small body. Signs of a mild salt toxicity will result in polydipsia, or increased water con­sumption and subsequent polyuria, or increased fluid (urine) in the droppings. Because excess salt is excreted via the kidneys, a bird with mild to moderate kidney dysfunction may consume toxic doses of salt readily. Deprivation of water alone may lead to salt toxicity because the kid­neys would not be proficiently bathed by fluids that would normally remove the sodium and chloride.

Example of how much salt is found in packaged chip: Nutritional label -1 single serves pkg. Fritos

30 chips I package = 1 adult

1 Average adult = 150 pounds

1 Average (large) parrot = 1 pound

2400 mg sodium I day = adult maximum

(American Heart Assoc.)

2400 mg -:- 150 lb = 16mg I lb = parrot max 170 mg -:- 30 chips = 5.5 mg sodium each chip

3 chips x 5.5 mg sodium = 16.5 mg sodium

3 chips = 100% of an entire day's sodium

Pesticides are a major cause of food contamination. Most vegetables, fruits, and produce that we buy in the grocery store have been sprayed with pesticides at some point in their growing cycle. Even organically grown foods may be unscrupulously sprayed by vendors. The best way to prevent toxicosis by pesticides is to thoroughly and completely wash and scrub fresh foods before giving them to your bird. Cases of pesticide poisoning are very difficult to diag­nose.

Another, more common cause of contaminated food is bacteria. We know bacteria are found everywhere, but certain conditions increase the probability of bacteria. Foods containing high amounts of water or foods soaked in water should be fed very carefully to birds because they contain a tremendous amount of bacteria that can overwhelm a bird's immune system, in fact water and high water content foods are the number one cause of high bacterial exposure in pet birds.

The other cause of contaminated food is mycotoxin-tainted food. Mycotoxins are chemicals produced by certain varieties of molds and fungi which are not visible when the toxins are in­ gested, so these toxicities are difficult to spot, but food can be tested for the presence of my­cotoxins.The most common mycotoxins affect poor quality peanuts and peanut butter, breads, meats, cheese, and grains. If a food smells moldy or if mold is seen, the food should be dis­carded. Toxins cause clinical signs that include anorexia, depression, sores in the mouth, toxic liver changes, kidney failure, and rapid death.

Just Say No To Peanuts!

For years peanuts have been considered a staple of any companion parrot's diet. They are in just about every parrot mix. The truth is that peanuts are loaded with aflatoxins - molds that can kill your parrots. This is particularly true of the animal grade peanuts in most seed mixes but human grade peanuts can also be problematic. Don't feed your parrots peanuts, work to remove them from your parrots' diet. Many (most) seed companies still include peanuts in their mixes even though scientific studies have known them to cause Aspergilliosis for many years, it's just not worth the risk, pick them out of your mixes.