Imagine having a toddler the size of a juice box who can fly, walk and climb equally well. That’s a bird! These cute, funny, mischievous creatures are naturally inquisitive and love to explore. We don’t want to spend the entire interaction with our bird saying “no” — “no, don’t touch that!”, “no, don’t go there!”, “no, don’t chew that”, “no, don’t land on that”. Not only is this frustrating and potentially damaging to your relationship, that things you are saying “no” to could actually be safety hazards before you even have time to react. A little preparation can go a long way to ensuring a safe and enjoyable out-of-cage time for both you and your feathered friend.
Hazards in The Kitchen
First and foremost, check your cookware! Some pots and pans, waffle makers, panini presses and other similar cooking appliances especially older ones, are coated with Teflon — a special chemical that helps the surface be non-stick during the product’s intended use. While safe for humans, dogs and cats, Teflon becomes highly poisonous to birds as soon as it is heated, often resulting in sudden death of our feathered companions. It isn’t worth the risk; immediately replace any pots and pans that contain a Teflon coating, and any that you any you aren’t sure are safe.
Safe alternatives to Teflon cookware include glass, cast iron and crockery. I personally use Pampered Chef’s executive line cookware and have never had a problem. If unsure, contact the manufacturer before purchasing, or read the box carefully while still in the store.
Store all knives in a drawer or knife block.
Store hazardous foods in tight-locking containers or the fridge (avocado, onion, chocolate, uncooked beans, coffee beans, garlic, salt, sugar, alcohol, cigarettes, candy, alcohol).
Check the stove before taking your bird out to play. Is it still hot form cooking? Is there a pot of water, soup or other liquid sitting open that could present a drowning risk? While you’re at it, check the oven, too! The bird should not be out to play at a time the oven is opening and closing — I’m sure you can imagine the horror that would happen if a bird accidentally flew in there. It isn’t worth taking the risk.
Check the kettle and coffee pot. Steam from rising heat can burn a bird flying overhead, or landing on a cupboard above. It’s simple, really — make your drink, let the appliance cool completely while you sip, and then take the bird out to play!
Hazards in The Bathroom
Ensure all toilets have a lid, and that everyone in the family is in the routine of closing it when finished. While highly unlikely, in the unfortunate situation that a bird accidentally fell in, toilets could be a drowning risk.
Blow dryers and hair straighteners should not be used while the bird is in the bathroom. Aside from the risk of burns, these appliances can give off PTFE fumes that are toxic to birds.
Hazards in The Living Room
Your bird’s lungs are sensitive! Avoid aerosol cleaning products including Fabreeze, Lysol, and any other spray-on disinfectant or de-odourizing product. Also avoid any products that plug into an electrical outlet and emit a spray of chemical on a set schedule as these have the same effect.
My mother, the founder of Welcome Wings Aviary, was both a bird lover and a consultant for Partylite Candle company. She often had a few unscented candles burning throughout the main floor living space when I was growing up and it never seemed to be a problem for our birds. That said, KINGs Cages has developed a line of veterinary-approved all-natural and 100% bird-safe candles and aroma melt warmers available on their website at this link.
Hazards in The Home Office
It is best not to allow birds in rooms where computers and printers are being used, unless they are under immediate and non-stop supervision. Cords present a chewing hazard and a risk of entanglement. If your home office is included with a central space, such as the living room, try wrapping cords in chew-proof sleeves (often called “cord concealers” available from many hardware stores), hiding them behind furniture, and bundling loose-hanging cords with cable ties. For birds with bigger beaks consider a PVC tube into which cords can be slid, protecting them from the bird, and the bird from them!
Other Hazards to Consider
Check all window screens for holes, and repair them if necessary, to avoid a bird escaping. Never leave a door or an unscreened window open while your bird is out of the cage, even for a minute!
Ensure floor and table fans have protective screens on them. Fans should always be turned off when birds are out playing, but you will be thankful for the screen the one time you forget.
Cover all air ducts, registers and vents to prevent your bird accidentally ending up lost in a maze.
Ensure all windows have a blind or curtain that can be closed. While your bird is new to the surroundings and learning how to navigate safely, we want to avoid them crashing at full power. Contrary to much of the information your will find on the internet, trimming the bird’s wings does not prevent them from flying (and I have many, many videos to prove this!). Teaching your bird safe indoor free-flight, including how to land, descend with control, gain altitude with power, and return to you by request is beneficial for exercise, relationship-building and the bird’s overall confidence…but that’s not the topic of this article. Until you are ready to teach these skills, and until the bird is familiar with the space, cover windows to avoid accidents.
Cozy couch cushions, bedding and baskets of laundry can attract parrots, who often love dark, soft, nest-like spaces to burrow and explore. Far too many times I have heard stories of birds suffocating between sofa cushions when an unknowing child or adult sits down, trapping the bird underneath. Separately from this risk, fabric invites chewing from a curious beak, which can expose tiny threads that entangle the feet and toes, cutting off circulation. There are a few fabric “huts” specifically marketed for bird owners to put in their bird’s cage. Read this article to learn why these fabric huts are the most dangerous bird accessory on the market today — you could save your bird’s life
Cover all aquariums to prevent accidental drowning, and to avoid your bird chewing on water plants that may not be safe.
Check that all house plants are non-toxic for birds.