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Pet Resources
Birds: Household Dangers

General Information

Birds are naturally mischievous and will get into many predicaments. It is crucial that you “bird proof” your home. The bird’s cage is its house and the confines of your home, represents the bird’s environment. There are many dangers within these surroundings.


Temperature and Humidity

Moderate and gradual changes ranging from 10  - 20 F (2  - 5 C) in temperature are usually tolerated very well by a healthy bird. Sick birds will need a more consistently warm temperature. Humidity in the range of 40 - 50% is ideal for most birds. It is better to have too much humidity than have the environment too dry. If allowed to bathe in the hot sun, a bird must always have access to shade in the event it should become over-heated.


Over-heated Teflon-coated cooking appliances and self cleaning ovens release a colorless, odorless gaseous toxin that does not seem to affect mammals but will cause death to a bird within 24 hours. Your bird does NOT have to be near the kitchen for this to happen. Birds affected by Teflon fumes need immediate veterinary attention.



Birds should always be free from drafts such as those created around windows, outside walls, hot and cold air vents and radiators.


Air Pollution

Birds have a very efficient respiratory system and are very sensitive to pollutants in the air. Birds are exceptionally susceptible to second-hand smoke. Cigarettes, cigars and pipes should not be used around your bird. Cooking fumes, gases such as carbon monoxide, volatile cleaning products, paints, varnishes, fire place fumes and dirty household air ducts may lead to respiratory problems.


Paints Varnishes, etc.

Generally, if you can smell it, then consider it unsafe for the bird. Ventilate the environment well after use of any of these products before returning the bird to the area. Contact the company that produces the product for specific safety recommendations.



Generally speaking, it is unwise to house a bird in the kitchen, as there are too many potential hazards. Teflon as described above is a priority concern. Hot stove elements, open pots of hot soups or sauces and even a sink full of water may be possible dangers. All cleaning products present possible hazards.



Open toilet bowls and full sinks or bathtubs are possible perils to a bird. Pet birds do not swim well and excessively hot water may severely burn a bird. There are often dangerous cleaning products in a bathroom as well. Various drugs that are kept around most households are potential dangers to your bird. Keep these products locked up and away from your bird. Many drugs and chemicals are stored in containers made of plastic that birds love to chew.


Oil or Grease

Whether hot or cold, oil and feathers do not mix. Do not use oil or grease based medicines on a bird for any reason. Oils will mat down feathers, decrease their insulation qualities and make a bird susceptible to chills potentially leading to other health problems. Examples of products to avoid include Vaseline, mineral oil, oil based ointments or salves (including many sold in pet stores), cooking oils, vitamin E oils, cod liver oil and certainly motor oils.


Other Pets

Cats, dogs and ferrets can be a potential danger to your bird. These animals have a natural hunting instinct and your bird may become the victim. Never leave these animals alone together unattended. In general, smaller birds are at greater risk but why take chances with any bird?

Mirrors and Windows

Birds may not ever master the concept of glass or mirrors. To the bird, there is nothing solid there. No barriers are perceived. Curtains, shears, an object in front of or something stuck to these surfaces will provide some objectivity for the bird.


Fish Bowls

Any open container of water should be considered a danger zone. If the bird should fly in it, it may drown.


Noise Pollution

Birds generally seem to enjoy a certain amount of commotion and may become vocal and playfully excited by vacuuming, the sound of an electric razor or the normal activities of people about the house. Excessively loud noise from televisions, stereos, construction or even appliances such as vacuum cleaners or food processors may cause undue stress to some birds. Remember the bird is captive in your home and cannot freely escape these sounds. Exposure to any reasonable noise should be limited to the bird’s normal waking hours.


Never allow a bird to fly while a fan of any sort is running (Particularily ceiling fans). The bird cannot see the blades while they are in motion. Serious injury can be incurred.


Stucco Ceilings

Although normally very skilled and graceful at flight, a bird may occasionally strike objects or surfaces while exercising. Stucco ceilings may act like sandpaper on the top of the bird’s head as it moves along at high speeds. Try to make these rooms “out of bounds”.


Electrical Cords

Birds love to chew and the soft, rubbery, chewable coating of electrical cords may be a very enticing play toy for your bird. Due to the potential danger of electrocution, facial burns and even a serious fire hazard, electrical cords must be hidden away or unplugged.


Open Windows, Doors

Either the bird’s wings are clipped or all windows and doors are kept closed all the time. Once a bird escapes and is sitting at the top of a neighbor’s tree, even the friendliest bird may have a difficult time finding reason to come home. Do not take chances.


Lead and Zinc Poisoning

If lead is around, your bird will find it!  Lead is commonly found in many places around the house. Examples include curtain weights, fishing weights, solder on cages or plumbing, older paints, certain types of putty, plaster or ceramic glazes, batteries, pellets from air rifles, certain linoleum, stained glass windows, Tiffany lamps, the leaded foil from wine bottles, some costume jewelry and zipper teeth. Lead is soft, fun to chew on and easily swallowed. Also known as heavy metal toxicosis, lead and zinc poisoning is life threatening and needs immediate veterinary attention. Contrary to some beliefs, there is NO lead in today’s pencils or newspaper inks.



Most pet bird toys are considered safe for you bird. It is important that you check all toys for loose or open clasps, removable or chewable parts, peeling paint, peeling metal and sharp edges before offering them to a bird.



It is likely the exploration and play of the container that leads to exposure to dangerous products. Cleaning agents, insecticides, pesticides, mothballs, deodorizers, paints, solvents, makeup, personal hygiene products and chemicals, pharmaceutical products, matches, and automotive products are just some of the products that must be locked away from an inquisitive bird.

This client information sheet is based on material written by Rick Axelson, DVM & Shawn Messonnier, DVM

© Copyright 2005 Lifelearn Inc. Used with permission under license. January 17, 2014

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