Holidays made safe for your birds

by Sharon Gordon


      Season's Greetings!
      Now that the holiday season is here, we need to make sure our feathered friends are safe and happy, too.  We're preoccupied with decorating, cooking, shopping, entertaining and attending parties between Thanksgiving and New Years day that we forget that the routines our birds are on adds stress if it is changed dramatically.  Remember birds need structure not chaos. With the hustle and bustle that accompanies the holiday season the challenge is to do it all with safety in mind and to minimize stress to ourselves and our feathered friends.
     Decorating for the Christmas Holidays is what I look forward to each year.  I love to change the house into a winter wonderland.  Our birds sense the change in their humans and get excited, too.  We try to include them in this  transformation by letting them watch the activity.  We play a lot of Christmas music for them.  While all the music is playing, I'm setting up the Christmas
tree in a separate room since the garland, lights and ornaments are just too much for an inquisitive bird to stand.  I know the first chance they would get they would be in the tree.  Trees can be dangerous because they are often treated with chemicals.  The propellants or ingredients in spray on snow may be toxic if it is inhaled or ingested by your bird(s).  The tree ornaments may contain lead or zinc or some other metal compound.  Your bird may be electrocuted if he bites through the electrical cords.  Care must be taken to hide them from your birds view. 
     Those pretty holiday plants we all like to have sitting around to make things look so festive are poisonous to birds.  Here's a few popular plants that come to mind:  poinsettia, holly, mistletoe, fir, juniper, spruce trees and English ivy. 
     Candles are also a part of the holidays.  Everywhere I look in the stores there are candles for sale.  When candles are burning our birds are all put into their cages.  Even if their wings are clipped they can still glide.  All it will take is to tip one over and your bird could be burned or worse yet your home may catch fire.  Candles add a dramatic effect to any occasion; but, if you want to burn them use the unscented.  Your birds could have respiratory problems if you use the scented candles.  Rather than blowing out your candles snuff them out to reduce the smoke and particles that the birds could inhale. 
     Some of you might be lucky and not have to do much cooking or baking; however, I do all the cooking and a whole lot of baking.  This is another time when the birds are confined to their cages. 
No exceptions!  While the oven is working overtime; you cannot watch your birds closely and cook at the same time.  Accidental burns will happen.  When handling poultry (or other meats) wash your hands before and after using an antibacterial soap.  Dry your hands using a paper towel rather than a hand towel to minimize the cross contamination of bacteria.  Utensils, cutting boards, and any thing else that comes in contact with meat should also be disinfected. 


My dish cloths are put in the laundry any time I wipe down the counter tops after preparing meats.  The dangers of cooking with nonstick surfaces is fatal to birds.  If you do cook with nonstick the temperature with which the fumes are emitted into the air are not really known.  There will be no time to take your bird to an avian vet.  They are fine one minute and the next you may find your bird lying on the bottom of his cage paralyzed and gasping for air.  Death comes in minutes.  Nonstick surfaces, such as, curling irons, irons and board covers, heat lamps, ovens, griddles.  These are coated with polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE).  When it is overheated fumes are released into the air.  It might be a good idea to ask Santa for some bird safe pots and pans.  We use stainless steel or corning ware and occasionally iron. 
     The highlight of the Holidays is the gift exchange.  Your well meaning friend may have