Cockatiel Advice and First Aid 101

Parrot Safety

All about keeping your parrot safe

Cockatiels

BAD HABITS FOR BIRDS THAT MAY END IN TRAGEDY

Some people allow their birds to get into bad habits. Sadly, these bad habits often result in horrific accidents, these include:

Allowing birds to sit on top of doors- heads, wings, toes and feet have been chopped straight off when the door is slammed shut by a person or by a draft.

Allowing birds to chew on wires; like rodents they can chew through a wire in seconds. An electric shock can kill a bird instantly.

Allowing birds hang out in cupboards- this causes nesting behaviour and egg laying.

Allowing birds to hang out in bathrooms. A bathroom is one of the most unhygienic places for a bird, resulting in bacterial and fungal infections. Birds have drowned in filled bath tubs, sinks and toilets. Many have died from eating toxic soaps and other toiletries as well as medication.

Allowing birds to play in washing machines and tumble-dryers. Many have been killed by being washed and tumble-dried alive.

Allowing birds to play in fridges- the change of temperature can be a shock to their system, not to mention, if accidentally locked inside the bird will suffer from hypothermia and suffocate to death.

 

BIRDS CAN DROWN IN STANDING WATER

Parrots should never have access to standing water, so many have drowned this way. Clipped parrots especially, aren't as balanced or agile as flighted parrots, and can easily slip into standing water.

  • Toilet bowls- always make sure the lid remains down.
  • Pools and Jacuzzis - make sure pools have a net and Jacuzzis covered if your parrot can have access to them.
  • Dog bowls - can't tell you how many stories I've heard of parrots especially small ones like budgies drowning in dog and cat bowls.
  • Fish tanks - must always have a lid on it.
  • Drinking glasses - This is another tragic way so many parrots, especially smaller ones, have drowned in half empty drinking glasses. Imagine, walking away for a second, coming back and seeing your bird dead in your drink?. You can buy glass covers; a lot of parents buy them when drinking alcohol, it reduces the risk of toddlers stealing a cheeky sip thinking its a soft drink.
  • Water in kitchen sinks - Parrots shouldn't be allowed in the kitchen unsupervised, Period.

CAT SALIVA WARNING

Cats carry bacteria in their mouth called Pasteurella bacteria that is a deadly to birds. If a cat even nicks a bird with its tooth and breaks the skin it's lethal to the bird if the bird isn't rushed to the vet immediately. That said it's not guaranteed the bird will survive and most die within 24hrs.

Please keep cats and birds separated as accidents can happen in the blink of an eye!

CEILING FANS

Ceiling fans should always be turned off before your parrot is let out of its cage; one whoosh of the spinning blade can kill your bird. Small parrots such as budgies and cockatiels ,for example, have been known to be decapitated this way. Regardless if the fan is on a low setting, it can still badly injure your bird.

Ceiling fans can cause birds to be in a CONSTANT state of stress. Ceiling fans should not be used in the same room as birds; either it should be never turned on, or removed completely. The motion of the blades instinctively tells the parrots that there is a bird of prey above them, such as a hawk.

 

DANGERS AT CHRISTMAS FOR PET BIRDS

Christmas is a joyful time of the year, a season we all look forward to. However, it can also be a very dangerous time for our feathered family. With many veterinary offices closed over the holidays it is important to be extra cautious.

Below is a list of potential dangers and toxins we must be aware of: 

Candles.
Potpourri.
Candy and chocolate.
Junk food.
Dips made with avocado.
Plug in air fresheners.
Household chemicals.
Alcohol.
Christmas trees (these are sprayed with pesticides, additionally, pines can cause eye injuries). Fake plastic trees can give off fumes when next to a heat source.
Christmas decorations (these are often painted and contain heavy metals). Baubles can shatter when bitten and lacerate tongue and throat.
Tinsel (birds have choked to death on tinsel) Additionally, tinsel is made of plastic, PVC, and then layered with metal, such as aluminium.  
Christmas tree lights (an electric shock can kill a bird outright).
Fake snow.
Wine bottle tops are made with heavy metals.
Candy wrappers are often made with heavy metals.
Bake in the bag turkey (the bags contain non-stick coating which is highly toxic to birds).
Overheated oils and burning foods (these fumes are toxic to birds).
Many plants we have in our homes over this season are toxic to birds, such as
Chrysanthemum, English Ivy (Hedera helix), Holly (Ilex spp.), Mistletoe (Viscum album), Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), Yew (Cephalotaxus sp.), etc.
Guests may bring their own pets into your home which can be a danger to your birds.
Doors and windows maybe left open with guests coming in and out.
Children feeding unsafe foods.
Mishandling of the birds by guests.
Fire place.
Fireworks.

 

DANGERS OF FLEA SPRAYS AND COLLARS

Flea collars and sprays that owners use on their dogs and cats are highly toxic to birds, and they give off toxins. They should never be used in a home with parrots. Lice and flea shampoos that owners wash their dogs with should NEVER be used on parrots, they're highly toxic to birds.

FIGHT OR FLIGHT RESPONSE IN PARROT

Sadly, many birds have flown away and been lost forever due to some misinformed owners assuming the following: A clipped bird can’t fly away. A well tamed and trained bird won’t fly away. A strong bond with its owner will prevent the bird flying away. An elderly bird will not fly away. A sickly bird will not fly away.

All the statements above cannot be further from the truth. However, I would like to bring extra attention to the clipped bird statement as this seems to be the popular belief of a large majority of bird owners. Please do not be fooled with the false sense of security of clipping wings and thinking that will keep your bird safe outside. A bird with clipped wings can and will fly. There are many different factors that can come into play that can help carry your bird away. All parrots still have all their wild, fight-or-flight instincts intact even though they live in our homes. If they are startled while outside, they will take flight. If they are caught in a wind stream or sitting up on higher ground than surrounding property, they will get some height as well as distance and can get into a tree.

All animals and humans process the fight or flight response this stimulates the body and prepares it for danger, it is an automatic physiological reaction to an event. The fight or flight response is primary mediated by epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine released by the adrenal gland. This response can have many effects on the body such as increased heart and breathing rate, muscle tension, spikes in blood pressure, insulin secretion, increased blood flow to the brain, lungs, heart, and muscles.

I read a very sad story about a ladies Macaw. She reared him from a chick, and he was her absolute world, they did everything together. She used to carry him on her shoulder when she went out jogging and he would sit peacefully and watch the world go by as they travelled through the park. He had never ever attempted to move off her shoulder even though he could fly, and noises of the city didn’t seem to disturb him in the slightest, so the lady had never thought of harness training him. One day they went jogging as usual and a cars exhaust backfired, the bird got such a fright he took to flight before she could grab him. He flew off her with such speed and so far away that to this day he has never been found.

Please do not take any unnecessary risks, as mentioned above, the fight or flight response is an automatic physiological reaction, therefore, it does not matter if your bird is flight trained, tamed, bonded, or clipped, if they are outdoors and not protected in either a cage, carrier or harnessed and something spooks them they will take flight in a blink of an eye!

Here are a few ways to help prevent your bird flying away. Keep doors locked when not in use. Check window screens often. Don’t have your birds cage or stand positioned where they can reach the window screen. Be aware of where your bird is whenever you open the door. Do not get into the habit of carrying your bird on your shoulder, many people have forgotten that the bird in on them and have answered the door or walked outside. Keep your birds in their cages whenever you have company around. Place bird locks on cages if you have young children or very clever pets. Ensure that all cages and carriers are reinforced when travelling with your bird or placing them outside. Ensure the harness is a correct fit for your individual bird or they can wiggle out of them very easily. Place sticky notes on windows and doors reminding family members that the bird is out the cage before opening a window or door. NEVER take your bird outdoors unprotected!

 

FIREWORKS AND PARROTS 

  • Make sure someone is home with your pets! They will find comfort with a family member being there. If there was an emergency someone would be able to deal with it immediately!
  • Don’t have your birds out their cage once the fireworks start! A sudden bang can lead to injury with your pet flying into walls , windows, ornaments etc (this includes clipped birds)
  • Get your birds ready for the evening early! Clean cages and give fresh food and water in good time; doing so enables you to return birds to their cages before the fireworks start!
  • Cover cages this a blanket on 3 sides, leaving one side uncovered; this gives a sense of security. It also help to prevent night frights, especially for birds such as cockatiels!
  • Leave a night light on for your birds once you put them to bed.
  • Move bird cages away from windows; this helps reduce the noise, and prevents your birds seeing flashing lights.
  • Close all windows to reduce noise and prevent toxic smoke coming into the home. Close the curtains and blinds.
  • Close bedroom doors; you’ll be surprised how much more noise a closed door can drown out, even with windows closed!
  • Play music, or have a television on to drown out the noise.
  • Comfort your birds if they on edge by softy speaking or whistling to them - reassuring them.

NOTE: BEHAVE NORMALLY! This is the most important tip! Birds and other animals will feel YOUR anxiety! If you are completely relaxed and behave as if what is happening outside is totally normal, that in itself will relax your birds. Get on with your evening as you would do any other night!

HARNESS TRAINING A PARROT WARNING

Many birds have been injured, flown away, started feather plucking and even died whilst harnessed. It can be incredibly stressful for some birds, and they may start feather plucking due to this. The harness must fit perfectly, or the bird can injure itself internally and externally; it is not uncommon for birds to  break wings, legs, and receive organ damage when the harness is the wrong size and training is done incorrectly. It is unnatural for a bird to be pulled back suddenly when attached to a harness which can cause internal damage. If you are thinking about harness training a bird, it must be done safely in a padded environment first; this type of training must be done slowly which can take weeks, months and even years. It is not as simple as attaching a lead to a dog and off you go. Owners should buy books, watch videos, and do extensive research first before they even buy the harness. Numerous birds have flown away too, especially, small birds that can wiggle out of a harness in seconds. It is recommended to have a wellness check with an avian vet before any harness training is done to ensure the bird is physically fit to undergo such stressful training.

HOUSEHOLD DANGERS

CHEMICALS:

GOLDEN RULE - "IF YOU CAN SMELL IT ASSUME IT IS TOXIC AND CAN KILL YOUR BIRD."
It is not recommended to use chemicals of any kind in a home with birds, to have these beautiful creatures there are sacrifices one has to make for their safety and well-being.

HOW CHEMICALS EFFECT PARROTS
Unlike humans, parrots do not have expanding lungs, instead they have air sacs. Any poisons they inhale such as chemicals they can NOT filter out of their bodies! Owners need to adopt a new way of living once parrots become part of their lives. Certain changes need to be made around the home to accommodate these birds, such as: house hold cleaners, use of Teflon, air fresheners, candles, perfume etc, cannot be used in the home. Instead, research needs to be done on natural SAFE cleaning alternatives.

Never smoke around birds; smoking is highly toxic to birds and lets off around 4000 chemicals into your parrot's body.

Please note; burning candles in a home is not only toxic to birds, it removes oxygen from the air and can kill parrots in the process! A parrot's respiratory system is much faster than humans, so they need to take in a lot more oxygen!

 

IS YOUR KITCHEN TEFLON FREE? 

Many kitchen appliances and cookware are Teflon coated (PTFE or PFAO) and highly toxic to birds. Bird owners should do research on kitchen appliances and cookware before purchasing them. Smaller birds such as budgies, cockatiels, canaries, etc, seem to be more at risk because of their tiny size according to many veterinarian sources, however, the fumes can of course be fatal to all parrot/ bird species. Teflon poisoning results in an excruciating death; the bird drowns and suffocates to death in their own fluids due to their lungs haemorrhaging. Death usually comes too quickly to save the bird, and by chance if the bird does survive it will often have on going lung problems probably for the rest of its life. Please do not assume that a large home or closed doors will stop birds inhaling the fumes. It is recommended that if Teflon (non-stick products) are used in a home, then birds should not be present in that house to prevent any risk of exposure. Note: Teflon (non-stick) products are not limited to cookware, many house hold appliances are also coated with Teflon such as some brands of hair dryers, non-stick ironing boards and irons, heat lamps and space heaters, etc. 
 
Below, I have listed a few symptoms of Teflon poisoning to be aware of…
 
·      Open mouth breathing
·      Wheezing
·      Raspy breath
·      Tail bopping
·      Agitated movements
·      Falling off the perch
·      Quick death

LEAVING YOUR COCKATIELS HOME ALONE OVERNIGHT

If you have any experience in caring for cockatiels you will know that cockatiels and night frights, go hand in hand. Cockatiels are night blind; therefore, any unfamiliar sounds at night can cause night terrors where the birds will fly around their cage in a panic until a main light is switched on so they can see to stop the frenzy. Cockatiels are not the only bird species that have night fights, and many of these episodes result in injury and even death.

Regrettably, many bird owners make the mistake of going away for the night or even an entire weekend and leave their birds unattended. Some people may ask a friend or family member to pop by periodically to check up on the bird and top up food and water while they are away, just like they would for a dog or a cat. However, birds are not like dogs and cats, they need a lot more supervision. Parrots will be on edge and stressed if their routine has been disrupted in any way and this type of anxiety can lead to injury when they are left unattended.

Sadly, many bird owners have come home from a trip where birds have been left alone and find injuries such as the bird has chewed off their own feet due to being tangled up in a toy, head injuries and head trauma, broken wings, legs and toes, de-gloved scalp, strangulation by getting heads stuck in cage bars, ladders and rope toys, internal bleeding, missing beaks and nails, blood loss and death due to starvation and dehydration, toxicity, to name a few…

It is imperative that parrots are given 24-hour supervision when owners are away as stress can cause even the most docile of birds to behave completely differently and get themselves into very dangerous situations. It is highly recommended that birds are left in the care of an experienced pet sitter, family member that is familiar with bird care, avian boarding facility, or an avian veterinary boarding facility.
 

 

MITE DISCS FOR PARROTS ARE DANGEROUS

Many pet stores sell mite discs that hang on cages, these are supposed to kill mites. These discs seldom kill the mites, but they may definitely kill your bird!! They are highly toxic especially if ingested, and should never ever see the inside of your home, let alone a parrot cage. PLEASE NEVER EVER BUY THEM!

If you suspect that your bird has mites have a vet check. The vet will be able to prescribe the correct and safe medication to use on the bird!

AUTHOURS NOTE: Many people buy over the counter mite sprays. Please note, that most of these sprays are NOT FDA approved, they are weaker than prescription medication, and doses are often not accurate. Birds on over the counter medications are either under-dosed or over-dosed. Save yourself a lot of money and time and see your vet.

MY PARROT FLEW INTO THE WINDOW

If this happens, and you see one of your beloved birds fly head long into a glass panel, and drop to the floor, here is what to do:

1.) DO NOT PANIC! Remain as calm as possible. If you scream and start panicking, you are telling an already startled (and possibly injured bird) there is something to be frightened of and making them want to flee/attempt to take flight.

2.) Approach your bird calmly and with your hand beside them, give them the step-up command. You are acting completely normally, and this will help them to start to calm down.

a) If they able to step up, this is a good sign. In addition, it is a way to observe them. They heard you and were able to respond. How are they standing? How are they holding their wings, tail, and head? Are they balancing well? Are there any signs of bleeding that need to be attended to? Are their eyes normal? If your bird appears to not need immediate veterinary care, place them back in their cage, and observe them carefully. Allowing for a period of shock and quiet, are they perching okay, and going about normal activities as they normally would? As there are no signs of external injury that need attention, you are looking for neurological damage. This could be evidenced with something as simple as changing to being right-footed when using toys/tools.

b) If when you approach them, it is obvious that they cannot step up, or they are knocked out, pick them up gently. The avian vet needs to be contacted immediately and told that you are on your way, asking for any appropriate first aid advice.

Keep talking calmly to your bird, which will help them to calm and may bring them round. If they are unconscious, note how long this is for. Gently examine them if you are able, checking for broken wings/ legs/neck damage/broken beak. Stem any bleeding. Use your first aid kit to splint any breakages and a towel to wrap them, for warmth and to restrict movements of damaged limbs (this is very difficult to do with your hands alone). Keeping them warm and calm is of the utmost importance. If you live alone with your bird, contact your emergency person, who will contact the vet for you and assist you in getting your parrot to the vets.

3.) Once your bird is safe and well, attend to glass panel safety procedures (such as window clings) to prevent a recurrence.

 

NEW STOVE TOXIC FUMES

New stoves/ovens give off toxic fumes that CAN KILL your bird! These fumes can be given off for a week or longer! Local dealers often allow customers to run their stoves in their stores first for a few days to burn off the insulation binder that gives off these toxic fumes. You may pay a little extra for this service, but it’s worth it to keep your birds safe.

Self-cleaning ovens also give off toxic fumes that can kill birds.

PARROTS CHEWING FURNITURE DANGERS 

Parrots love to chew on furniture, however, some furniture is made from cedar and cherry which are both toxic to parrots. The varnish that the furniture is coated with is highly toxic to parrots; to overcome this use thick PVC to protect the legs of tables and chairs, or simply train your parrot that furniture is off limits!

PARROTS LIVING IN A HOME WITH CATS

Most of us have seen the cute social media videos, pictures and memes of parrots and cats playing happily together, until tragedy strikes! Some birds have lived with cats their entire lives without a single mishap; however, cats are predators by nature, and it will not take much for a cat to act on their natural instincts. I have watched countless videos of social media of cats licking the bird all over its body and the bird rolling over in delight, cute right? No, this is not cute at all because the bird will start to preen itself and intake all the cat’s saliva causing illness and death.

Cats carry a bacteria in their saliva called Pasteurella bacteria which is a lethal pathogen to birds. Pasteurella bacteria is so harmful to birds that if the bird is bitten, nicked by a tooth or receives even the tiniest of scratches and does not receive immediate veterinarian treatment within 24 hours the bird will die. Often the shock alone of being caught or injured by the cat causes death before vet treatment is received. Sadly, I have seen countless cat attack victims while working with birds and some of the injuries are horrific, such as limbs torn off, eye and beaks missing, not to mention some birds brought into the clinic for cremation who have been completely decapitated.

Birds and cats should never socialise, and even with supervision there is always a risk of predation. The two pets should never be out together in the same room. When the bird has time out of the cage, the cat should be moved into a separate room and not allowed back in that room until the bird is safely back in its cage.

Cats should never be allowed to climb on cages; when birds become fearful, they will often fly frantically around and cling to the cage bars, making it very easy for a cat to chew off toes or claw at the bird through the bars. Cats should be taught not to climb over the cage, if this is not possible, then the bird should be moved into an area of the home where the cat does not have access.

A pet bird has the legal right under the animal’s welfare act to live in a stress-free environment which is free from fear and distress. If owners are unable to keep their birds safe from predation, then perhaps a bird is not the right pet for that individual household.

POPCORN BAG WARNING.

Owners often buy microwavable popcorn to share with their birds. The lining of popcorn bags contains PFOA (Perfluorooctanoic acid) when heated it gives off toxic chemicals as used on non-stick cookware etc. Please NEVER use these bags in your home with parrots! Instead make your own homemade popcorn.

SAFE FLOWERS FOR PARROTS

In the list below are some flowers and plants which are reportedly safe for parrots to have in their cages and aviaries. Flowers should NOT be used as part of your bird’s daily diet; they are there for enrichment. If in doubt, please consult with your avian vet. Only ever feed flowers marked safe for human consumption or that you have grown yourself at home. Make sure they are 100% pesticide free.

· African violets
· Bottlebrush
· Cape honeysuckle
· Carnations
· Chamomile
· Daisies
· Dandelion
· Dill
· Hibiscus
· Kumquat
 Lavender
· Marigolds
· Milk thistle
· Nasturtium
· Pansy
· Passionflower (Granadilla)
· Parsley
· Rosemary
· Roses
· Sunflowers

SAFE HABITS AND BIRDS

You are bringing home a flying miniature toddler! Give some considered thought to developing simple habits that will avoid many accidents. Here are some examples:

·DOORS- Lock external door and shut bathroom and bird room doors. Locked external door allows time to think where the birds are before it is opened. The dangers of the bathroom are out of bounds. Many accidents occur when a parrot sits on top of a door. Someone doesn’t see them and shuts the door. When leaving my bird’s room, the closed door makes me stop and think are the birds safe? I always close the door behind me, because on occasion a bird WILL get out of what you thought was a safely locked cage. If everyone in a house gets into this habit, it can avoid your parrot being let to fly free downstairs, and doors are left open upstairs, with access to a full hot bath or an open window.

·OPEN AND CLOSED WINDOWS -Keeping them locked stops you long enough to check first if the birds are safe. No one opens a window before checking where the birds are and if it is safe to do so. Before birds are released from cages, doors and windows are checked.

·FLOOR/SOFA SEAT WALKING - I do not encourage my birds to play/explore anything below my sitting eye line. I made this decision because they are very small, and I am very big relatively, being trodden on by me would be fatal and I am unsteady on my feet. Birds rarely survive being trodden on. I do not allow them on the seats, so they cannot accidently be sat on.

AUTHORS NOTE: When visitors are in my home, my birds are not allowed out for the reasons covered. I cannot expect them to have the same bird safety awareness.

 

SAFE PLANT AND SOIL WARNING

When it comes to adding “safe plants” in your birds enviroment, ensure that the “entire” plant is safe if sampled. In some plants only the leaves are edible, however, the stalks, vine, roots etc are toxic. The plant of course has to be 100% free from chemicals. The soil in which the plant is growing has to be 100% chemical free too , with no added quick grow fertilisers etc, should be used or the soil then would have to be 100% inaccessible to the birds.The soil is often full of bacteria and fungal spores. Damp soil is a breeding ground for fungus growth such as aspergillosis. Therefore, the soil in plants which birds have access to should be covered with a netting (fine netting so feet can not get caught) or clean rocks. Birds should not be allowed to play in or eat the soil. As a preventative of fungal growth in plants; when watering your plants add 10-15 drops of GSE per gallon) (grapefruit seed extract) every 2-3 weeks. However this is a preventative and is not a 100% guarantee it will be safe for your birds to have access to the soil. Remember, fungal spores are also airborne, so if your plants and looking mouldy don’t have them in the same airspace as your birds. Additionally, the plant pots themselves should be avian safe if chewed. Please remember that many terracotta pots contain lead, so if chewed, can lead to heavy metal toxicity!

SLEEPING WITH YOUR PARROT

It is never recommended to sleep with a bird, so many birds have been killed this way by their owners rolling on top of them and suffocating them either with their own bodies or with a pillow/ blanket. Some birds have suffocated by being tangled up in bed linen. The only safe place for a parrot to sleep is in their cage at night with their cage door closed.

STYROFOAM

Styrofoam containers or styrofoam packaging.

Styrofoam is DEADLY to birds. It can’t be broken down in the stomach causing blockage and it creates a static mass in the bird’s throat and mouth! Please never ever give your birds any cups, plates or anything made of this stuff!

TOY SAFETY

  • DO choose a variety of toys of different types at first, until you are sure of your own parrot's preferences. Include items that make them climb, forage, swing, hang upside down....toys are for keeping busy beaks and minds occupied AND exercise.
  • DO have enough toys to rotate on a regular basis. Your bird will show you how often to give them something new.
  • DO offer only a few toys at a time so as not to overwhelm and clutter their cage.
  • DO regularly check over the toys for safety, loose threads/splinters and so on. Each time they are cleaned is a good time for a thorough check over, and a quick check when putting in the cage.
  • DO source safe toys from a reputable retailer, trying to use those recommended by people you trust.
  • DO check the new toy when it first arrives to ensure it is safe, rather than take the manufacturer's word for it. Check for hidden plastic wire, toxic metal holding it together, gaps big enough to get feet/beaks trapped and so on.
  • DO recycle toy parts if at all possible, removing damaged/well chewed parts that could cause injury and harbour bacteria. This stock of toy parts can then be used to make new creations.
  • DO be prepared the more expensive the toy, the higher the likelihood they will hate it! Often, brightly coloured toys are made that way to appeal to the owners but frighten birds.

USING ESSENTIAL OILS IN A HOME WITH BIRDS

The vast majority of essential oils are toxic to parrots. It is not recommended to use them around birds. One essential oil in particular, is tea tree oil which is highly toxic to birds, and even when highly diluted can be fatal. Please, always double check with you avian vet before use any essential oils around your pets.

Many products may state that they are "animal safe"; but because of how highly sensitive a birds respiratory system is, what may be deemed animal safe, is not always "bird safe."

 

A cockatiel

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