As African Grey owners we need to be aware of hazards and toxins in our homes. Just as with a child, you need to “bird-proof” the house, and always know where your parrot is. We as owners have the responsibility to make sure our Greys are safe, and not exposed to harmful chemicals and items that could potentially be dangerous for them.
Remember how the miners would take a canary down in the mines with them to check and see if the air was safe and free from poisonous gas? The canary would keel over in a matter of minutes if the air was toxic. Birds in general have the most efficient respiratory system in the animal world. Amazingly, they can efficiently remove oxygen from the atmosphere into the bloodstream. Because of this efficiency and their small size, birds are more sensitive to airborne toxins.
Below are potential household dangers for African Greys and birds in general.
- Non-stick cookware: One of the biggest and worst dangers is PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene). You will probably recognize it best under the brand names of Teflon, Silverstone and Supra – please be aware that there are other trade names that market PTFE products also. When overheated, non-stick cookware emits several types of gases and hydrofluoric acid. Also, once the non-stick pans are scratched or tainted in any way, they are more susceptible to emitting these toxins even at regular cooking temperatures. Bird owners should avoid all products that have PTFE as they are deadly for your bird.
Note: PTFE is not just on non-stick cookware – please read labels so as a bird owner you can avoid having this product in your home. Household products including burner drip pans, space heaters, curling irons, irons, hair dryers, electric skillets and many others can be made with PTFE (non-stick) coating.
- Open Flames and Heated Surfaces: Burners, stoves, candles, fireplaces, curling irons are just some of the things we use on a daily basis that can be detrimental to our birds.
- Standing Water: sink, bathtub, open toilet, hot tub, pools, aquarium. A bird can drown very quickly in standing water so always be aware of where your bird is in the home.
- Scented / chemical products: scented candles, carpet and air fresheners, perfumes, heavy cleaning chemicals, self-cleaning ovens, aerosol sprays. Also keep in mind that our birds might come in contact with newly cleaned surfaces. These surfaces can hold residual chemicals – from countertops to mopped floors – they must be wiped clean and dry before a bird comes in contact with them.
- Ceiling Fans: we all use these and even a bird that has its wings clipped can fly into the fan and get injured or die.
- Secondhand smoke: as with anyone, whether another person, or animal, secondhand smoke is not a good thing to breathe. But it can be especially harmful for a bird as the nicotine can pass from your hands to the birds system through its feet. If you smoke, please was your hands thoroughly before handling your bird.
- Open and swinging doors: many a bird has been injured by a door opening while they are out roaming. Always know where your bird is so it doesn’t get hit by a door or stepped on.
- Open doors and windows: pretty obvious why these can be a danger for your bird.
- Household plants: some plants can be toxic if ingested. Monitor your bird and make sure they don’t chew on any plants.
- Electrical cords: whether plugged in or not, these are dangerous! If plugged in, obviously when chewed on the bird would receive an electrical shock. But even if unplugged if they chew on it, they could ingest fragments of the cord.
- Items with Lead, Zinc, Cadium: some jewelry, pennies, paints, pencils, key rings and more household items can contain these metals. Birds can get poisoned and die from chewing / tasting these items. Be aware that some bird-related products (toys and cages) can also contain lead and zinc, so always know what you have given your bird.
- Other Pets: we all love our pets and can’t imagine them hurting each other, but it does happen. Always watch any interactivity between other pets in the household with your bird. A cat scratch can be lethal for a bird and if the unexpected does happen, they should be taken to an avian vet immediately.
These are just a few of the hazards and toxins that your bird can encounter in your home. There are obviously many more, and we as bird owners need to always be aware of where our bird is and what they are up to moment by moment. Just like a child, turn your back and they can be into mischief within a matter of seconds.