The Twelve Days of Holiday Safety for Parrots

Winter comes with its own set of hazards for our feathered companions, and especially for hook bills, there are dangers needlessly brought about by our lack of forethought. Here are a few guidelines to help you keep your family safe.

1. Poinsettias – Information is conflicting on this plant and its ability to poison anyone. A lot depends on your sensitivity to latex and that would go for your parrot as well. But why have something in the house that might make you or your companion animals sick? I’d give it a miss myself. Here is some good information on the plant and its origins: http://landscaping.about.com/od/holidayplants1/p/xmas_poinsettia.htm
2. Electric Decorations – Parrots must chew. Electric cords are squishy and fun to chew upon. And extremely dangerous for the bird who is allowed access to the cords. At the holidays, many more cords are available around the house to entertain the birds. But with a little planning,you can ensure that your parrot has a happy holiday season. According to PetEducation at Drs. Foster and Smith, you can get a spiral wrap to go around the cord, use a cord concealer, or run the cord through PVC pipe or heavy polyethylene tubing to protect it. http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=15+1912&aid=3110
3. Visitors – Make sure anyone coming to your house for any reason knows you have a bird or birds. If they are allergic, you won’t be having a good time. Likewise, make sure they know not to let parrots out of cages without your permission, and if your birds have the run of the house, then make sure doors are opened and closed with as much haste as possible. Whenever possible, keep two doors between the bird and the outside world. Strange people in his or her territory can cause stress and poor behavior in a parrot, so you must harden your heart and ignore the bird, and keep your guests away from your parrots until the arrival period is over and things calm down. Once people are seated somewhere, talking and relaxing, then you might be able to bring out your well-socialized birds. Here are two excellent articles on the subject: http://trainedparrot.com/Flight_Safety/ http://trainedparrot.com/socialization/ Another thing to be aware of is your bathrooms. Normally when we have birds out, we keep the lids down on the toilets. Your visitors may not know this or remember to do this. So take a quick look now and again.
4. Pine vs. Rosemary – Pine tree needles are poisonous to birds. Rosemary is not. Therefore if you have a choice between the traditional pine and the rosemary bush trimed to look like a pine tree, you should play it safe. I hope you know better than to use mistletoe or holly around your birds! Here are two good sites for information on safe and hazardous plants. http://www.cockatielcottage.net/houseplants.html http://www.tailfeathersnetwork.com/birdinformation/poisonousplants.php
5. Tinsel and Bells – Tinsel is often used in backyards to keep wild birds away from fruit trees. And these birds have been observed eating the tinsel. That alone would prevent me from using it, and I definitely won’t use it in my home where my parrots might do the same thing. Lots of birds chew on fabric, mats, strings, and bad things happen when those fibers are ingested. So the evidence is clear, tinsel is out. Bells, on the other hand, are a staple bird toy. But! Check them very carefully, and do not use jingle bells ever! Bird beaks and toes can become stuck in those, or cut. Check that the bell is made out of good and safe material, not base metals. Stainless steel is preferred. The clapper can be the most dangerous part of the bell. Make sure it is attached firmly, and won’t make the bell just a bit of metal after a few hours of play. The bigger your parrot, the more strength needed to withstand the bird. And the means to attach the bell at the top needs to be of the right size so that toes and beaks don’t get caught, and again, strong enough so the bell can continue to delight your parrot. Here is an excellent site for more information: http://www.birdsnways.com/birds/isafe.htm
6. Red Things – Years ago, when I only had cockatiels, I read somewhere that cockatiels were frightened by anything that was the color red. So don’t put Christmas decorations of that color around your bird’s cage. I don’t think Palafox cared much for the little red and white Christmas stocking I hung on his cage, but I don’t think he was actually scared of it. And on Christmas morning when it had millet in it, he really didn’t mind the red at all. As far as what I can find on the internet to support to debunk this theory, it appears to vary greatly bird by bird. So watch the reactions from your own pets, and take that in to account.
7. Glass Decorations – You would think parrots would be smart enough not to eat or swallow broken glass. No. In fact, they may be the cause of the glass item breaking. So keep your parrots away from your heirloom glass decorations, and if any break, clean up all the pieces as quickly as you can. http://www.parrotparrot.com/alerts-toxins/
8. Illnesses – There are, thankfully, very few diseases your bird can catch from you. You can bring the count down to zero if you always – ALWAYS – wash your hands before and after handling your birds, their food, their toys, dishes, water, cage, and so on. Keep aforementioned toys and so on clean to help prevent diseases. And when you have people in and out of your home, insist they too wash their hands, and no kisses on the birds. Our saliva has killer bacteria for birds, really bad stuff, so be advised that your birds are in more danger of illness from you than you are from them. http://www.parrotforums.com/questions-answers/24114-can-our-birds-get-sick-us.html
9. Chocolate – I love it, you probably love it, but we are hopefully smart enough to stop at a small sample. We know chocolate has a high fat content, usually, but it does create a nice feeling of elevated moods, like falling in love. For parrots, it’s like poison. Chocolate brings on vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and death. Do not leave it anywhere in the home where the birds might get into it. Some birds like the smell and the taste. It’s up to us to keep them alive and safe. http://birds.about.com/od/feeding/tp/poisonousfoods.htm
10. Alcohol – Called out on the same page as above, you will read that alcohol is another poison for birds. Yes, it’s a poison for people as well. But we are the thinkers with the large brains. Purposely poisoning ourselves is one thing. Allowing our birds to accidentally poison themselves is another.
11. Kitchen Hazards – Years ago, I would host breakfast for my family every Christmas, and make my specialty, aebleskivers. These are ball-shaped Swedish pancakes that I learned to make in Solvang at a restaurant where I worked. I used a cast iron pan heated on the stove and filled with oil. I still have the pan, although I don’t make the aebleskivers any longer. Imagine if your curious Amazon or cockatiel came to see what you were doing and landed on the hot iron coated in oil. Disaster! We have a strict rule that no birds are allowed out when we are boiling water for pasta, frying eggs or meat, anything on the stove other than the tea kettle. Thank goodness the only time a bird landed in something in the kitchen, it was a bowl of tuna salad. We had already served out the sandwiches, so very little was tossed. The look on the bird’s face was comical. He did not expect to be standing in cold, gooey stuff. Remember also that non-stick pans, ovens, aerosol sprays, and some foods can be hazards for your birds in different ways. http://www.petco.com/Content/ArticleList/Article/33/4/35/Kitchen-Hazards.aspx
12. Heaters – The weather outside is cool in the northern hemisphere right now, so we run our heater at night and bundle up during the day. I have a couple of heat rocks such as those used for reptiles in cages with my elderly birds or any showing signs of illness. We do need to install a carbon monoxide alarm, but our hot water heater is in the garage, and the furnace does draw properly, and we clean our vents regularly. We do not use space heaters, or kerosene heaters, and we don’t have a fireplace. The house is anything but air tight. Besides the toxic fumes issue, heaters can cause dry skin in everyone in the home. I used to have a fish tank to provide extra humidity for my breeding birds. And then I tried a table-top fountain, but seeds kept sprouting in it. The tanks became too much work, and now I try to provide bathing water for the majority of the birds. It’s also fun to give love birds palm leaves that are wet. Budgies, too, like to roll around in wet leaves. All my cockatiels like a misting with water bottles, but only when the day is going to be fairly warm and they will be dry by nightfall. http://www.birdchannel.com/bird-housing/bird-safety-tips/safe-winter-heat.aspx
http://www.quakerville.com/qic/ezine/96Issue5/qteflon.htm

To sum it all up, here’s great page that covers much of what I wanted to say: http://www.parrots.org/pdfs/all_about_parrots/reference_library/health_and_nutrition/keeping_your_parrot_safe_during_the_holidays.pdf

I certainly hope this brought you some news you can use, and that you will come back next Sunday for the Twelve Days of Holiday Treats for Birds. From my flock to yours, Happy Holidays!

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