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Bird-Safe Cookware: Is There A Killer In Your Kitchen?

Keep your pet bird safe from nonstick cookware

By Susan Chamberlain

Bird-Safe Cookware
Copper cookware is a bird-safe cookware alternative. 

It’s a jungle in here! Sharing your home with a pet bird is more than a hobby. It’s a lifestyle. Because our birds have such sensitive respiratory systems, we must be extremely careful when choosing cookware and other kitchen appliances.

Nonstick coatings contain polytetrafluoroethelyne (PTFE), a polymer that deteriorates when overheated. The resulting fumes (gas and minute particulate matter) may kill pet birds. Humans sometimes report flu-like symptoms after exposure to these fumes.

Teflon is a brand name. Nonstick surfaces containing PTFE are marketed under many different brand names. Just because a product does not say Teflon, it does not mean that it is free of PTFE.

Manufacturers disagree about the temperature levels that nonstick surfaces must reach to emit harmful fumes. Some place it at 560 degrees Fahrenheit while others somewhere above or below that figure. Past research showed that products actually begin releasing such fumes at the beginning of the heating process, and some people reported that pet birds died when nonstick products were heated to temperatures below 560 degrees Fahrenheit.  A few manufacturers, like Corning Revere, print warnings in product instructions against using nonstick cookware around pet birds, but you must read the fine print to find it.

Instead of nonstick cookware, try:

  • Stainless steel
  • Copper-clad stainless steel
  • Copper
  • Corningware, the classic, white oven-to-table ware
  • Glass
  • Aluminum
  • Cast iron

A stove, heated the first few times, might emit fumes from components treated with chemicals intended to inhibit rust and deterioration. A self-cleaning oven might also give off toxic fumes, perhaps from parts treated with nonstick coatings. Emissions are often strongest when appliances and cookware are new. (This does not mean that older nonstick products are safe for use around birds.)

Kitchen Safety Rules For Your Pet Bird

You are your bird’s best defense against household toxins! More>>

When moving into a new home, run the stove/oven at a high heat level for several hours in the days prior to moving, before you and the birds are in residence. Open the windows for ventilation during this process. Use a range hood that vents to outdoors, as opposed to ventless hoods that blow pollutants back into the room.
It’s difficult to say which stove would be safe, as models change frequently. When considering the purchase of a new stove or appliance, contact the manufacturer prior to buying. You’ll usually find an address or telephone number on the label or packaging. Ask if the products include polymers containing PTFE or other potentially harmful chemicals. You can follow the same procedure for any cooking appliance or tool. If you are told they do not, insist on written assurance of that fact. Of course companies cannot guarantee that any product is absolutely safe for use around birds because most products are not routinely tested on birds, and manufacturers do not have control over how you use the product.

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Bird-Safe Cookware: Is There A Killer In Your Kitchen?

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Reader Comments
Very helpful information. Unfortunately I learned the terrible truth about my teflon coated pans too late. One over-heated pan just killed my beautiful caique a week ago! Sent a single plume of smoke into my apt living area and 2o minutes later my bird was gasping and done despite racing it to a hospital with desperate time in an oxygen tent. Dead. I just never knew. This cookware info, cleaning fumes info, should be front and center for all bird purchases. I just didn't know until it was too late.
John, Van Nuys, CA
Posted: 1/19/2015 8:30:39 AM
I bought a pizza pan at Wal-mart that did NOT say it was Teflon or even non-stick, but I should have known not to use it because it was black. Anyway, I followed the directions for cooking the frozen pizza. A little while later my husband yelled from the other room that all my ducklings (two weeks old) were dead. The fumes from that pan had killed them. I didn't smell anything myself and the temperature on the oven was 400 degrees but they were all healthy, so there was no other explanation for all of them to drop dead all at once. It really, really upset me as I had hatched them all myself. I was so upset that I had my son use the pan for target practice. But I took a photo of it first... so if you want to know what pan it is, I can email a photo.
Ami, Deerfield, VA
Posted: 1/16/2015 1:14:51 PM
Here's an old email on this topic:

DATE: 1/7/2005

Statement on Avian Health & Safety

Non-stick cookware and birds in the kitchen

Over the last 15 years, I have seen thousands of pet birds for a variety of illnesses. In that time, only a few of the cases were of pet birds affected by non-stick cookware fumes, all of which were attributable to the negligent use of cookware. If it were common for birds to be affected by the proper use of non-stick cookware, avian veterinarians would hear about it and see the cases on a daily basis.

Any type of cookware, not just non-stick, can be dangerous to your pet birds if food is left to burn in pots and pans. Long before non-stick material presents a concern, fats, oils and butter will begin to smoke in a pan at 400-degrees Fahrenheit and can produce gases harmful to birds. This temperature is well below the point at which non-stick cookware could release fumes.

Bird owners need to take care to use cookware properly and in accordance with manufacturers' recommendations. A bird's health is endangered under negligent conditions, such as leaving an empty nonstick cookware pan unattended for several minutes at high temperatures in a poorly ventilated room. In addition, bird owners should take precautions against the many other household hazards that probably pose a greater risk to pet birds than cooking properly with non-stick cookware. Contact with aerosol sprays, cleaning solvents, pots of boiling water, active ceiling fans, stained glass with lead, insecticides, glue traps, galvanized metals, open windows and mirrors, and certain plants and foods should be avoided.

Birds have unique respiratory systems and owners should take steps to protect birds living in the potentially dangerous environments of our modern homes. I advise bird owners to take the simple steps of cooking under normal conditions and keeping birds out of the kitchen to protect these precious family members.

Karen Rosenthal, DVM, MS

Director of Special Species Medicine

I hope that this is helpful.


Christopher Sommer
Consumer Service Representative
All-Clad Metalcrafters, LLC
1 800 255 2523, ext 266

Birdbrain, Mountain View, CA
Posted: 10/28/2014 1:59:24 AM
Maybe I'm a little crazy, but in addition to monitoring all the pans and cooking tools I bring into the house, I make a point of keeping the birds out of the kitchen ANY time I'm cooking anything. They hang out in their room with a movie, I put a towel at the bottom of the door, and I always leave the windows open for a while before allowing them back into the kitchen (even in winter, which sucks a bit, but it's kept my birds healthy for the last 11 years).

The fact is, cooking is not really a bird-friendly activity. You could burn something and they'd breathe in smoke. Some pan or coating inside your stove could hurt their lungs even if it doesn't kill them. We don't always know exactly what's in stuff, or what kind of non-lethal damage it could be doing. There's also the possibility that they could fly over and get burned, which is a horrific thought. I give my birds a lot of freedom and supervised out of cage time, but I've heard too many horror stories about cooking deaths to take any risks in that department (same goes for space heaters).
Stefanie, Philadelphia, PA
Posted: 10/23/2014 11:28:46 AM
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