Thanks to the tireless efforts of many in the pet bird community, most pet bird owners are aware of common household dangers. Top on that list is the toxic fumes from heated nonstick cookware (pots, skillets, baking pans, waffle irons and more, for example) and appliances (bread makers, irons, heaters, etc). But there are other dangers and toxins pet bird owners must be especially aware of.
"Cook-Aware" For Your Pet Bird
"Cook-aware — this little play on words is to remind us that once we bring a pet bird into the home, diligent protocol is in order whenever we step into the kitchen. Your dog- and cat-owning friends might get away with having their cat by their feet as they whip up a soufflé, but your pet bird should be perched far away from any hot surface. A pet bird can startle pretty quickly (a dropped spoon or egg timer going off, for example, can send a pet bird into flight — not fight — mode), and the results can be disastrous.
When bringing anything to a boil or a simmer on the stove top, make sure pots and pans are covered or that your pet bird is safe in its cage (we don’t need the visual of what can happen when a pet bird and hot water collide). Pet birds can drown in as little as a couple inches of water, so even if you haven’t turned the stove on yet, cover the container if your pet bird is out.
And unless you have a palatial home, ventilate whenever you use the oven, boil water, fry an egg, use an indoor grill or otherwise heat food (the exception being the microwave). BIRD TALK’s columnist Susan Chamberlain emphasizes the importance of ventilating the kitchen when cooking, opening all the windows and using a fan that blows outdoors. Here’s a little rhyme to help us all remember: "Open window, turn on fan, then take out the frying pan.”
Careful With A Pet Bird's Air
Some people like to mask kitchen cooking odors (like when fish is on the menu) with fragrance candles, plug-in deodorizers or aerosol sprays. These might smell pleasant, but they can also irritate your pet bird’s sensitive respiratory system. Again, sharing your home with a pet bird requires some adjustments, so keep your pet bird's air toxin-free by not using these fragrance enhancements. (Some manufacturers offer pet bird-safe candles.)
Cleaners are another item to carefully scrutinize. Many cleaners contain harsh chemicals that can be harmful when used in proximity to pet birds. Bleach — the go-to product for many households — can cause severe respiratory irritation when used around pet birds. Products containing ammonia should also never be used around pet birds.
Does this mean that life with a companion pet bird means sacrificing cleanliness?
Certainly not. Many bird-safe cleaning products exist — some are even formulated specifically to take on the scourge of many pet bird owners, dried-on, hard-to-remove pet bird poop. You can also make your own all-purpose cleaner. For a scouring powder, mix 1 cup baking soda with 1/4 cup of borax, apply with a sponge and rinse well. For a disinfectant, mix 1/2 cup borax, 1/4 cup white vinegar and 2 gallons hot water, wash with a mop or sponge, and rinse thoroughly.
Trap The Pests, Not Your Pets
Have a mouse in the house? If you use a sticky trap, keep in mind that pet birds have been known to land on them and become stuck; a painful and sticky situation to say the least. The spring-activated traps can also spell disaster for a curious pet bird (after all, most traps are made of wood!). Poison rat pellets can be attractive to a pet parrot looking for something to munch on.
An interesting thing to keep in mind is that rodents, especially mice, can squeeze through an opening slightly larger than 1/4 of an inch, which is smaller than most cage bar measurements. This means that mice can come and go from your pet bird’s cage, even while your pet bird is in it. Mice do "take food to go” so it is possible that one could leave a poison pellet behind in your pet bird’s cage.
With all three of the above mouse/rat abatement measures, it doesn’t matter if you place them away from your pet bird’s cage if your pet bird can fly, flutter or walk over to them. The same can be said for other pest control products such as "ant and roach motels” and similar pesticides. One way to catch a mouse is to lay a ruler partway across the opening of a bucket (resembling a diving board), and place a morsel of food on the end of the ruler. When the mouse scurries across the ruler to the food, it falls into the bucket, which it can’t climb back out.
What About Ants?
There’s nothing fun about putting some fresh fruit or a piece of scrambled egg in your pet bird’s food bowl, only to find it swarming with ants a half hour later. You know better than to reach for a can of Raid® but what can you do? First, remove the food source; take out the dish, dump the contents and thoroughly wash the bowl in warm, soapy water. What Now you can deal with the ant trail leading to the cage.
A surprisingly easy solution is to take a broom and sweep up the ants. At first, you’ll have to deal with scattering ants, but keep sweeping them back into a pile. Then sweep them into a dustpan and dispose of them outside. Actually, once you remove the targeted food source, the ants will eventually leave the scene. Another option is a spray of soapy water. Place a teaspoon of dish soap in a spray bottle full of water, spray the invaders, and then wipe them up. The soapy water also eliminates the ants’ scent trails that act as a beacon to bring the ants outside into your home.