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Our homes are a "mine-field" for our companion parrots with so many possibilities for injury or poisoning. We need to bird-proof the areas of the house that they live in and visit by educating ourselves as to what is safe and what could lead to an accident or disaster. The following are guidelines on what is not safe in our homes if our parrots can breate it in or digest it.  Get into the habit of checking everything out to find out if it is bird safe. Analyze each situation you plan to expose your parrot to before it happens - In other words think "what is the worst that could happen?" and plan ahead so it doesn't. 

by Sally Blanchard

What household items are dangerous for my birds?

I am afraid this list could go on forever but I will list as many as I know of at this time and readers can let me know if I have left any out. There is a good chance that just about every product containing made by companies that use chemicals we can't pronouce can be toxic to our parrots. New carpeting outgasses toxins, fumes from paneling can be toxic, adhesives used in construction and flooring can kill parrots ... We REALLY need to check products out before we bring them into our the home we share with our parrots! It is also important to realize that birds don't 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, air fresheners, etc can eventually cause organ damage and death. If there is a danger that you know about that I have not mentioned, please let me know.  

Teflon, Silverstone, T-fall and other non-stick coating used in Cookware, Fumes from Self-cleaning Ovens, Stove Drip Pans, Irons, Ironing Board Covers, Bread Makers, and other household appliances: Many items in addition to pots and pans have non-stick coatings. When overheated, these items can release fumes that are deadly to birds. I personally would not own any cookware with non-stick coating as there is too much room for error. I can be a forgetful cook and occasionally have houseguests who may not know about the danger to my birds. I do not want to take the chance. I would rather scrub pots. Portable heaters often have a coating on the heating elements to prevent rust. It is best to use these in the garage or a room far removed from the birds until that coating is burned off. 

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: Non-stick coating is not the only thing that releases toxic fumes when it burns. Some woods burned in the fireplace can create problems for birds, especially if the fireplace is not well-vented. 

Reynolds Cooking Bags for the Oven have been reported by several people as causing their parrots severe discomfort (breathing problems, eye problems) and in some cases death when they have been used. Don't use them, there are too many reported problems for them to be safe for parrots and other household birds. One woman wrote: A fellow club member brought in a box of the new Reynolds cooking bags for the oven yesterday. They are aluminum and plastic and made to go up to 450 degrees. She used 2 at 375 degrees for 40 minutes and after 30 minutes she came back in the room to find her Amazon pumping for air and its eyes severely burned. He would have been dead in another 10 minutes. A metallic odor filled the house as well. Several other Amazons suffered eye irritations. She did call and report it to the company. Please post this where ever you think you may save birds lives.

Scented Candles, Plug-in Air Fresheners, Incense, Potpourri:
The vapors from the oils in these products can be toxic and even fatal to birds.

Cigarette, Cigar, and Pipe smoke, Marijuana smoke, Nicotine on hands and clothing, Ingested Tobacco and Marijuana:
Any smoke and/or fumes can be dangerous to birds. Nicotine on hands can cause contact dermatitis, especially foot problems (such as Amazon foot necrosis). Ingesting tobacco products and marijuana can make birds sick.

Aerosol Sprays of any kind, Oven Cleaners, Furniture Polish, Air Fresheners, Carpet 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. Any thing 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 or even the building 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 (hairspray, deodorant, etc) 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, Toothbrushes, 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. Most toothbrushes have metal pieces that hold the bristles in place. These can contain zinc, which can cause heavy metal toxicity. 

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.

Avocado, Chocolate, Alcohol, Rhubarb: These are the most common foods that I know of that can be toxic and should not be given to birds. You check any food on the Companion Parrot Glossary to determine if it is a problem, safe and healthy.  

PEANUTS: Forever, 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 (particularly the animal grade peanuts in more parrot mixes) 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. I don't feed my parrots peanuts and would encourage other parrot caregivers to remove them from their parrots' diets. The seed mixes that don't contain peanuts are most likely made by companies that actually care about the health of your parrots.

Stainsafe Warning! 
From a visitor to our web site: "My Amazon who I had for 16 years died April 4th 2002 & I am heartbroken. He died needlessly. I purchased a sofa that was treated with a fabric protector called STAINSAFE. I was told that stainsafe was harmless and would not hurt my parrot. 36 hours later Squigmund died. On the second day that I had the couch Squigmund had labored breathing so I rushed him to his avian vet that morning. He died at the vets 4 hours later. The vet did a necropsy. She said that he had lesionson his lungs and that he was exposed to something toxic. At that time I still did not have it figured out what could of killed him since I was very careful not to expose my Squigmund to toxins. We agreed to send his tissues to a bird pathologist who could identify why he died. It was confirmed that my beloved Squigmund died from inhalation toxicity do to the fabric protector Stainsafe."

Household Plants:
Some plants are toxic to birds. If you do not know which ones are dangerous and which ones are safe, keep your parrots away from any plants. A few dangerous plants include Dieffenbachia, Philodendron, Daffodil and Iris bulbs, Mistletoe, Holly berries, Sanseveria (or Mother-in-law-tongue), Poinsettia, Oleander. Safe plants include Spider plants, and most ferns.

Cage Sub-stratas
I advise strongly against the use of walnut shell, corn cob or any other material that may develop molds or fungus. The build up of Aflatoxins and aspergillus on the cage bottom can be deadly to birds. Old newspaper may also be a problem. I use butcher paper that I buy at one of the warehouse clubs.

OTC Meds, Human Dietary & Health Supplements: 
Be very careful in assuming that any human dietary or health supplement is safe, particularly if it is a fad product, for your parrots. Do not give your parrot anything without first checking carefully with reliable sources about its safety and the quantity which can be safely consumed. Don'g give your parrots any over the counter meds (human and parrot) without checking with an avian veterinarian first. This is particularly true in regards to aspirin and other pain remedies. 

One parrot owner was giving her parrot a significant amount of seaweed thinking it would be very healthy for the bird. The parrot started feather picking and it was found that the seaweed was too high in salt content to be given in the quantity it was being fed. 

A companion Eclectus, who had the best of care, died recently. When testing everything that the bird had been in contact with and consumed, it was discovered that the owner had been sharing "Kombucha tea" with her Eclectus. This tea was contaminated with aspergillus. Kombucha is not really a mushroom but a combination of yeasts living symbiotically with several bacteria that together produce powerful natural antibiotics that may be toxic but may also result in drug-resistant bacterial infections. But mycologists warn that in culturing the fungus the risk for contamination is high. 

The mold that sometimes grows on the Kombucha mushrooms may contain a fungus known as Aspergillus, which is also known to contaminate moldy marijuana. Aspergillosis is a fungal infection that attacks the brain and may be fatal in persons with weakened immune systems. 

Aspergillosis spores can also be found in landscaping mulch. We have heard from subscribers who lost their birds after mulch was used in their yard and the spores blew in through the windows near the birds! 

Physical Dangers: Use Common Sense
»These include but are not limited to: 
-ceiling fans, 
-electric cords, 
-Christmas Decorations, 
-open toilets, 
-pots on the stove, 
-windows if your parrot flies and has not yet learned the layout of the house, 
-and open containers of any kind. 
»Parrots who explore the house without supervision have been seriously injured or died from being stepped on. 
»Supervision is essential around other animals as not all dogs, cats, ferrets, or other parrots can be trusted. 
»I have also heard quite a few stories about parrots sleeping in bed with their caregivers and dying after they have been rolled over on
»Recliners and rocking chairs can also be a serious problems for parrots exploring the area where people are sitting in these chairs.  

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