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Keeping Your Bird Safe

Know How to Create a Safe Environment For Your Bird

Hazardous Foods

No Avocado, tomato stems or leaves, dried uncooked beans, mushrooms, caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, or xylitol

Avoid apple and pear seeds and stone fruit pits, garlic and onion. 

Stay away from processed, sugary, salty, and fried foods.

Household Dangers

Household dangers include: ceiling fans, drafts, boiling or frying while bird is out, toxic household plants, open containers of water or open toilets, lead paint, and open windows or doors.

You can not smoke or use candles and air fresheners with birds, this includes essential oils, diffusers, plug ins, and sprays. Bird's lungs are much more sensitive than ours.  Also, avoid aerosol cooking oils, starch, deodorants, hairsprays, and perfumes being sprayed near your bird.

Use natural remedies for bugs and mice and stay away from bug sprays, fly traps, and rat and mouse bait.

Other dangers include non-stick surfaces. When heated to a certain temperature an odorless chemical released by the non-stick surface will kill your bird within minutes. Look for products that are PTFE and PFOA free. Things that could have these non-stick surfaces include pots and pans, drip pans, stain repellants, heaters, irons and ironing board covers, hair dryers, and many other non-stick items in your kitchen.  

The self cleaning mode on self cleaning ovens should never be used in households with birds. This will kill them immediately.  Also, do not use oven bags for cooking. And try not to burn foods, butters, and oils.

Most household cleaners are dangerous for birds also. Use natural cleaning products and do not spray directly near your birds. The safest option is to use vinegar and water. Vinegar and water is safe to be used around your birds and can be used to clean and disinfect everything in your home.

Toy Dangers

Sadly, many toys sold at the pet stores are dangerous and can cause entanglement, strangulation, or death. It is important to know what to avoid in buying toys and supplies for your cage. 

Avoid cotton rope toys and perches. Do not use happy huts, cuddly beds, and blankets or towels. Cotton fibers from these items cause crop impaction. Birds tend to lick or chew the cotton fibers, which are not digestible.  Slowly over time they build in the crop and cause a crop impaction.  This crop impaction causes them to either die a slow death of starvation and lack of nutrients or the impaction becomes infected.  Many people will say that they never saw their bird chew or lick the cotton, but it can happen slowly over time and most people were unaware it was happening. Other dangers from the cotton materials include entanglement and strangulation.  

Another danger in toys is metal toxicity. Causes of metal toxicity include lead, iron, copper, and zinc. So, buy toys that use stainless steel. Make sure you buy quality toys that do not have cheap metals. Clappers inside of bells can sometimes be made of lead or zinc. 

Make sure you use bird toys that have vegetable dye as coloring. Most bird toys have vegetable dye, but sometimes people make toys from beads that are hand painted with paint. This paint is generally not safe and could have lead in it.

Vine balls are another toy hazard. Once the vine balls break, they become a strangulation hazard. So if you buy a toy with a vine ball, hang it outside of the cage where your bird will only use it under supervision. 

Chains and round bells can also be a hazard.  Beaks and toes can get stuck inside of these items.

Other Pets

We all see cute videos of birds with other household pets, but there is a real danger in these interactions. I have heard story after story of dogs or cats that interacted with pet birds for years until one day an accident happened. Unfortunately, one playful paw can easily hurt or kill a bird. Mammal saliva alone can be a danger to birds. But one thing people don't realise is that if a bird is sick or flaps it's wings the wrong way, it can spark the predatory instinct in your dog or cat that can, in an instant, end your feathered baby's life. Please, always keep birds and other pets separate.

Birds of varying sizes interacting together can end in tragedy also. A bigger bird can easily bite a beak off, bite a foot or toe off, or maim or kill a smaller bird. Watch out for smaller birds landing on the cages of larger birds (this can end in loss of a foot or toe). Always monitor interactions of larger birds or more aggressive birds with smaller birds. 


Wing Clipping

Understanding Wing Clipping

Many people want to know whether they should clip their birds wings. Too many people think it's a black or white subject. Fact is, its not. 

I am not going to say you should or you shouldn't clip wings. I'm going to give you information to help you make your decision. One thing I have learned as a wildlife rescuer and a domestic bird rescue here in Australia, is that having clipped wings makes a bird an easier snack for a predatory bird. Unclipped wings gives the bird a fighting chance to survive predators. The other thing I know as a bird rescue is that birds fly away with clipped wings. All they need is adrenaline and/or a wind. I have lost birds turned in with one wing clips as pictured above. Birds turned in with most flight feathers clipped, and birds turned in with all flight feathers clipped. Indoors, these birds would not be able to fly, but outdoors is a different story. Clipped wings gives people a false sense of security that their bird can not fly away. 

So, with the above information in mind, understand that wing clipping is more for indoor purposes. I am neither for or against wing clipping. I am for making your decision based on the facts. So, the next thing to understand is the actual wing clip. I hear so many arguments on bird FB pages and bird forums on this subject. Again, it's not so black and white. If you have a good avian vet, there are many levels of clipping and for different purposes. Let's start with the never do's, and these are only because they are dangerous for the bird. First clip is the one wing clip. This makes your bird off balance and gives them no flight to catch them from a fall which will result in injury. The second clip is the both wings all flight feather clip. This clip also gives the bird no flight at all which will result in injury when they fall.

Now for the appropriate clips. The first clip is what my vet teasingly calls the "sport clip". This clip is only a few feathers and does not change anything as far as flight for the bird. It only makes the bird work harder which helps to build muscle and tone for domestic birds who are not flying as much as their wild cousins. The next level in clip prevents the bird from flying up. This is a good cut if you are taming your bird and you don't want your bird sitting on the second story window or your ceiling beams. The bird will be able to fly across the room, just not gain height.  Going to the next level of clip, is a clip that allows your bird to glide to the ground. The bird will not be able to fly back and forth across the room, but will only be able to glide downward. This can be a good cut if you have a really scared, hard to tame bird. 

If you choose to do a wing clip, please choose the safe options and know that they are for indoor purposes. Keep your bird safe and only take your bird outside in a carrier or harness. Set rules for your house to keep your birds safe.  A good rule to enforce would be to never open the doors or windows when your bird is out of it's cage.


Cage Safety

Indoor Cages versus Aviaries

The type of cage you choose is very important to your birds safety and mental health. Let's start by talking about indoor cages and flight cages.  There are 3 key considerations:

1. Never purchase a round cage. These types of cages are bad for your birds mental health. The best design in a cage is a rectangular cage that allows your bird ample room to open and flap their wings, preferably enough room to allow for flight.

2. Purchase the largest cage you can afford, keeping bar spacing in mind. A quick google search will tell you what bar spacing you need for your type of bird. Your bird should not be able to stick its head through the bars, which could result in a deadly outcome.

3. Look for a cage with a large enough door that also has a quality locking mechanism that can not be easily unlocked by your bird (many birds can figure out locks and let themselves out of their cages). I find most birds like to enter their cage if they have a nice large door.

Now let's discuss how selecting the appropriate cage plays a huge part in reducing the risk of your bird escaping.  Key thing to remember is that standard cages and flight cages are not meant to be used as permanent outdoor homes. If you want to keep your bird outside, it's best to buy a proper aviary. A standard cage or flight cage used outdoors presents the following risks: 

1. They are often knocked over during storms and high winds. 

2. Snakes and rats can often find a way into the cage.

3. Predatory birds may gang up to attack them through the bars. One will scare your birds to one side while another will wait to grab them through the bars on the other side.

4. Your birds can escape through food doors and bottom grates.

5. Your birds can also escape through the main door while changing food bowls or rearranging toys.

If you have an indoor cage and you want your bird to get some sunshine, secure all doors and grates (I often use locking clips or zip ties) and stay outside with your bird. The ideal location for your bird's cage in your home is in an area where your family spends most of its time. Remember, your family is your bird's flock. Birds do not like to be separated from their flock, so it's important to put the cage in an area where your bird can feel like a part of the family.  This will reduce screaming (flock calling) and destructive behaviours like barbering and plucking as a result of loneliness.

If you choose an aviary, first introduce your birds to the aviary during the late spring when the weather is consistently mild at night. Have plenty of weather protection and shade. Wash your aviary with vinegar and water to reduce the risk of metal poisoning since most aviaries are not stainless steel. Place your aviary on concrete or rat and snake proof wire and design your floor so that it can be easily cleaned. You will also need some type of double door system to prevent your bird escaping when you enter the cage for feeding and cleaning. If you transport your bird from the aviary to an indoor cage, use a transport cage to prevent accidents. No one plans for an accident. It only takes an accidental trip or fall while walking inside, a quick bite on the hand, or distraction, causing you to let go, resulting in your feathered family member becoming a lost bird.

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