As the leaves begin to fall and the days shorten, bird owners naturally begin to think about ways to keep their pets warm during the impending winter. With fuel prices rising dramatically and weather patterns in flux, cool weather bird care is of even more concern this year. There are many ways to help your bird stay warm and comfortable as the north wind blows, and many of them don’t cost a lot of money!
Your bird is wearing a down jacket. Beneath your pet’s feather is a warm layer of down, which is possibly the warmest natural material on earth. This is your bird’s first defense against the cold. Help your bird maintain healthy feathers with a good diet and daily baths with a good misting from a clean spray bottle. Add a little humidity to the indoor atmosphere, and save money on utilities by drying some of your wash indoors. If your home is exceptionally arid, purchase a humidifier for some much needed moisture.
Keep your home warm during the day by raising the shades on south-facing windows and allowing the sun to shine in. Lower the shades to retain heat inside once the sun has passed. Inspect windows and doors before heating season is in full swing, and add weather stripping or additional insulation as necessary.
People have a tendency to super-insulate their homes against winter’s chill, so it is especially important to be aware of indoor air pollution. Your bird has a very sensitive respiratory system, and the lack of ventilation in the winter can keep toxins from dissipating. Have your heating units inspected by your local utility company or fuel provider, and make repairs before they become emergencies. Install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors if you do not already have them in your home.
Locate your bird’s cage away from drafty windows and doorways. Don’t keep your bird in the kitchen. Cooking fumes and temperature fluctuations can be harmful.
Never use nonstick cookware or appliances where pet birds are present. Fumes from heated nonstick surfaces can kill birds very quickly. Nonstick products are available under a variety of brand names, and they may not be safe to use in homes with birds. The chemical in the nonstick polymer is called polytetrafluoroethelyne (PTFE).
Smoke from cooking and the use of the self-cleaning cycle on ovens can also be deadly to birds. Tend your stove when cooking, and wait to use the self-cleaning feature on your stove until you can relocate your bird and open your windows for the day.
Covering your bird’s cage at night will provide protection from drafts and a bit of extra insulation. Be sure to shake the cover outdoors every few days to remove dust and dander, and wash it using a scent-free detergent every few weeks. Don’t use fabric softener sheets or liquid fabric treatments on cage covers, as birds may be sensitive to the perfumes in them.
Space heaters can help keep small areas warm, but safety must come first. Non-vented, fuel-burning devices, like kerosene heaters, are illegal in some municipalities, and birds may be sensitive to fumes emitted from such heaters.
Check electric heaters for exposed coils that may pose fire hazards. Consult manufacturers to be sure heaters have not been treated with preservatives or corrosion retardants that may outgas when heated. Fumes from such chemicals may be harmful to your birds.
Sealed, oil-filled electric radiators seem to be quite safe (I’ve used one with my birds for 20 years.), and they are readily available at home improvement stores. There are no exposed heating elements to give off fumes, and the radiators don’t get dangerously hot. Manufacturing specifications change from season to season though, so consult manufacturers prior to purchase. Use the phone numbers on packaging to call for information, or search for a product’s “material safety data sheet” online to learn about hazards and cautions related to the item in question.
Avitech Exotic Birds markets infrared heat panels and ceramic heating elements that screw into fixtures just like light bulbs do. Both items are great for keeping your bird’s area warm without heating the entire house. The large heat panel only uses 130 watts of electricity, and the screw-in elements range from 30 to 250 watts. Mount a panel on a wall behind your bird’s cage, or attach it directly to the cage with the use of an optional mounting kit. The screw-in elements may even be used in protected areas outdoors.
Stay warm and cozy!