- By DeAnn Waggoner, Executive Director, Wings of Love Bird Haven

Chemicals and toxic cleaners can be very hazardous to your birds. I personally believe they are hazardous to you and your family as well. Why not make the change--- for your whole family's sake? First of all I will say that many times we reach for a strong cleaner- when just a mild soap/water solution would work just as well… because of habit. Try to re-think the use of any and all cleaning products and ask yourself if you really do need it. Many times it isn't necessary.

There are 2 basic products that most people keep in their kitchen that work great for cleaning many different surfaces. .. baking powder and vinegar. I'm including a couple of simple recipes that you can make yourself that work great as a household cleaner. For those that want the convenience of a ready-made product I'm listing a few other items below. Just remember that with the self-made products you are also SAVING money, a huge plus in today's economy. All of the prepared items I am listing can be purchased at almost any health store or click on Good Shop. On this page just type in the store name VITA-COST or their website which is Once on the Vita-cost website you will see each product that I've listed below and how to order them. They are almost always discounted, plus you can order as much as you want for only 4.99 shipping. Many times for me the cost is much cheaper than going to my local health food store.

By ordering them thru the Bird-Haven website you will be giving us the opportunity to earn a small % to help the Haven. If you go directly to the Vita-Cost website without clicking thru the Bird-Haven website we aren't given the % kickback for your order. Please take the time to purchase thru our site… cost is the same for you- yet makes a big difference to the birds at the Haven. Every penny helps.

By the way--- isn't the only store you can buy from to allow us to get that % kick-back. There are hundreds of others. Please take a few minutes to see what other stores you shop that we could benefit from as well.









DEODORANTS--- There are many different ones to try. I've used Tom's of Maine, Aubrey, Jason's, Burt's Bees, and others. I'm not going to lie--- this is one item that doesn't work as well as the antiperspirant you've been using. However, if you really stop and consider what an antiperspirant is actually doing to you (clogging your pores) you would agree that the deodorant (even if you have to apply it more than once a day) is worth the health risks. Did you know that antiperspirants have been linked to causing cancer as well as Alzheimer Disease???

SHAMPOO---Many different types-but I use the Aubrey Organics for dry brittle hair. It never leaves a residue on my hair and my hair always feels clean and soft. More than one beautician has commented on how soft my hair feels. I contribute it to the fact that I use only natural organic products.

CONDITIONER--- Again, many different types- but I use the Aubrey Organics for dry hair. The fragrance is mild… honeysuckle rose- but nothing that is overpowering… even a guy can use this and not worry about the smell.

BATH SOAP--- There are many different types of bath soap products on the Vita-Cost website. All are good- and healthy for you and your family. I prefer to use Dr. Bronner's liquid Castile soap. It comes in several different fragrances.. tea tree, almond, lavender, original, peppermint, hemp almond, citrus, baby soap, rose, hemp eucalyptus… and others. I use the Earth Therapeutic" body sponge as my cleaning rag and boy does this soap really later up well on this sponge. You'll love it. My personal favorite is hemp almond.

HAIRSPRAY--- I personally never use hairspray, but Jason's and Aubrey both make one that is very good… take your pick.

MOUSSE/GEL---On the occasion that I do wish for a little extra hold- I choose Giovanni Natural Mousse. Air-turbo charged, it comes out like foam--- so it is easy to get just a tad rubbed into your hair instead of too much. There are many others- but this is the one I choose when I need a mousse.

MAKE-UP--- BASE/FOUNDATION--- any mineral make-up is non-toxic. Well, although I don't use a lot of makeup, there is one product that I do love when I do need to get dressed up and look nice. It is called Tinted Facial Moisturizer. The one I've always used is by Burt's Bee's, however they have recently stopped carrying this product. I'm currently waiting for an order for a different Tinted Moisturizer. The moisturizer works like a make-up base to cover up imperfections in the skin- but yet is a moisturizer allowing your skin to breath naturally. The one make-up type product I won't be without.

LIP-STICK--- I also love the Burt's Bees lip shimmer. It comes in many different colors and feels silky, not sticky on your lips.

MASCARA--- I typically buy Ecco Bella Mascara from Vita-Cost. There are other brands there that work just as well.

POWDER, BLUSH AND EYESHADOW--- For my other make-up products I buy only mineral based powdered. I purchase several years ago from a company called Sweet Scents. They can be found at Be sure to check out their clearance section. You can find almost any color of eye shadow you want at ½ the original cost. Plus, a little goes a long way. Find a friend to split the product with because if you buy as I did (1 oz packages) you can probably have enough for an entire lifetime of that same color. Just be sure to purchase the little "sifter pot" containers as well. You will need 1 for each color of shadow. You can also order eyeliner, powders, blushes, etc. from this same company at a fraction of the cost of other mineral based companies.


DETERGENT--- I always prefer a liquid. I usually either use Seventh Generation or Earth Friendly Ultra Eco brand.

SPOT REMOVER--- I have tried both Seventh Generation and Mrs. Meyer's brands. Both work great.

FABRIC SOFTENER--- I've used Seventh Generation and Earth Friendly. There is also a fabric softener sheet if you prefer this. It is by Sun and Earth.

BLEACH--- Seventh Generation and many others make a non-chlorine fabric bleach that is much safer and less toxic than the chlorinated type.



DISH-WASHING LIQUID--- FOR HAND-WASHING--- I USE THE SAME Dr. Bronner's Castile that I use for showering. I use this same item for many different things around the house.

SPOT TREATMENT- FOR DISHWASHING--- Haven't found a product that substitutes for this but then again--- don't have a need for this either. You might try just adding a squirt or two of vinegar to the final rinse-that usually works well on spots and streaks.


SHOWERS AND TUBS--- I typically use an all purpose non-toxic cleaner instead of one specific for the showers but they do make several. Seventh Generation I know sells one specific for cleaning the shower.

TOILET BOWLS--- same as above--- Seventh Generation and many other companies make a non-toxic toilet bowl cleaner.

FLOORS--- Earth Friendly Floor Cleaner is good for most hard-surfaced floors such as tile, laminate and wood surfaces.

CARPET CLEANER--- Earth Friendly Carpet Shampoo--- Please remember that when you rent a carpet machine the toxic chemicals might still be in the hoses, etc. Make a thorough cleaning of the equipment before you use the carpet cleaner in your home. As always, even though you are using a seemingly non-toxic product- please make arrangements for your birds and other animals to be out of the house during and for several hours afterward to avoid any respiratory distress.

CARPET SPOT REMOVER--- Seventh Generation makes a good carpet spot remover.

ODOR ELIMINATOR--- When I need to make my house smell nice--- I just put a small handful of cloves on the stove in a pan of boiling water. You can buy cloves by the pound at You can also use Essential oils by the drop (make sure you only buy from or These two companies are very careful about buying and using only the highest quality products when making their oils. Don't settle for second best. You can use things such as orange, lavender or bergamot essential oils dripped into a pan of boiling water as well. You will only need a few drops each time.

If you want something to put on the carpet--- try adding a few drops of good-smelling Essential oils into a shaker both with baking soda. Baking soda is an all-natural odor grabber and when you add the Essential oil to this it makes a great substitute for carpet fresh. Just sprinkle it down and vacuum it up as you would the chemical type such as Carpet Fresh.

You can also throw down a handful of whole cloves and vacuum them up. The cloves will be broken up inside the vacuum cleaner. The scent will then be distributed throughout the room and house.

FURNITURE CLEANER/POLISHER--- I personally don't buy a store-bought furniture polish. I make my own. Here is the recipe.

Pine Fragrance Furniture Polish
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 TBLS lemon oil
20 drops of pine essential oil

This is a scented oil designed for hydrating old dry wood. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and apply with a cleaning cloth.

Lemon Fragrance Furniture Polish
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp olive oil
10 drops of essential lemon oil
This recipe is for cleaning wood. Mix all ingredients in a bowl and apply with a cleaning cloth.

Cedar and Patchouli Furniture Cleaner
1/2 cup liquid Castile soap
3/4 cup water
10 drops of patchouli essential oil
15 drops of cedar essential oil
I use the above recipe about 4-6 times per year--- just to get off any left-over residue that might be left on the furniture with continued use of the polish oils.


WINDOW/GLASS CLEANER--- I typically use vinegar and water with an added essential oil but there are several good cleaners for glass on the Vita-Cost Website. Seventh Generation would be my choice if I had to purchase one, but I prefer the results with the Vinegar/water/EO. Remember that one of the main problems with cleaning glass is the "lint" that accumulates when you are wiping if off. Try using old newspaper for this job and see if you get a more "lint-free" result.

SCOURING CLEANER--- Try using a mixture of baking soda, salt and an essential oil. Baking Soda is a great cleaner and the salt adds the "scrub". If you prefer a store-bought yet chemical free version try Mrs. Meyers Surface Scrub.


Obviously if you are going to do any major renovating in your home it is best to board your feathered friends (as well as your furr babies). It is my belief that even young babies and the elderly need to be removed from the environment during this time because their immune system is compromised. Be sure to air out the home for several hours before bringing them back into the environment. One company that I have used with great success is called Eco Safety Products. They have concrete stains, wood stains, paints, strippers, etc. all that are non-toxic. You can find them on the web at I have also purchased non-toxic paint from Sherwin Williams. The brand I buy is Harmony. It is both non-toxic as well as low VOC. I am just in the beginning stages of working on a shelving product in the Haven using wood stain called BioShield. The website is This stain is non-toxic and has very deep- rich colors. I can't wait to see the finished product.


CAR WASH/WAX--- I've never used it but have read that the product called Ecover Car Wash and Wax is a great product.

If you have any testimonials or suggestion on other products we should add to this list of non-toxic products please send us an email at We would love to include your thought about the different suggested products.

If you found this article useful, please consider making a $2 donation to benefit the birds at Wings of Love Bird Haven by clicking the button below.


- By DeAnn Waggoner, Executive Director of Wings of Love Bird Haven

Zoonotic diseases are diseases that are transmissable from animals to humans. Young children, elderly adults and individuals with poorly functioning immune systems are at the greatest risk of being infected by a zoonotic disease. While there are a number of diseases which can be transmitted by companion birds, many are more likely to be transmitted by poultry or wild birds. If your bird has been examined by an avian veterinarian and is considered healthy, the risks of infection are significantly reduced.

There are also some simple things you can do to mitigate any possible risk for you and your pet bird:

* Bathe your bird at least twice a week
* Do not keep birds in your bedroom
* Change cage papers/bedding daily if possible
* Air out your home in nice weather
* Switch to non-aerosol cleaning products and avoid using any chemicals. There are healthy plant-based products that you can buy to substitute. These are safer for both you and your pets.
* Buy and use a quality, HEPA air filter. In addition to doing an excellent job of capturing feather dust/down, these filters will reduce smog, household dust, mold, mildew, yeast and other allergens and toxins--all of which are unhealthy for you and your birds.

The following diseases in birds which are of reasonable significance include: Chlamydiosis (Psittacosis), Salmonellosis, Camphlobacteriosis, New Castles Disease, Allergic Alveolitus, Mycobacterosis (Avian Tuberculosis) Influenza, Giardia, and Cryptospondiosis. Chlamydiosis Chlamydiosis (also known as Psittacosis) is caused by a bacterial parasite. The disease in parrots and humans is called Psittacosis. It is called Ornithosis in bird species other than parrots. It is also called "parrot fever" in Psittacines. It can be transmitted to humans, birds, cows, goats, sheep and pigs. Most human cases are contracted from psittacines, pigeons and turkeys. It can also be transmitted from person to person.

The infected bird will shed the bacteria in their feces, urine, saliva ocular secretions, nasal exudates and feather dust. These infectious particles are inhaled or ingested by other birds and people. Egg transmission has also been documented. The incubation period in birds is several years. Symptoms in birds might include inflamed eyes, difficulty in breathing, watery droppings and green urates. Many birds are carriers and show no symptoms of the infection.

Humans are typically infected by the inhalation of the infected particles in the air. The incubation period is 5 to 14 days. Symptoms are generally flu-like fever, diarrhea, chills, congunctivitis and sore throat. There are several tests available to diagnosis the disease in a live bird. The newest is called PCR and is highly sensitive. Treatment for both humans and birds is doxycycline or tetracycline. People are treated for 3 weeks, while birds are treated for 45 days.


Salmonella is a gram negative aerobic bacteria that can infect birds, humans and other animals. It can persist in soil and water for long periods of time. A large number of serotypes exists. All types are capable of causing food poisoning. Birds can become infected with salmonella by oral ingestion of contaminated food, water and through the egg--either by ventical transmission or by penetration of the egg shell. Infected birds will appear lethargic, lose their appetite, have watery droppings and may develop arthritis. Parrots may also develop bloody diarrhea, profound depression, high white blood count and often die.

Most human cases of salmonella are acquired by eating contaminated food-- especially poultry rather than from pet birds. The incubation period is 6-72 hours in people. Vomiting, bloody diarrhea, fever and dehydration may occur. Recovery may occur in 2-4 days. Salmonella can be transmitted from person to person as well. Humans carrying salmonella can infect their pet birds too.

Diagnosis in the live bird can be difficult since bird may be intermittent shedders. Fecal or cloacal cultures are used for diagnosis. Birds are treated with aggressive antibiotics for 3-5 weeks based on culture and sensitivity. Birds may remain carriers of salmonella for life.

Antibiotics are not typically prescribed for people unless they have a prolonged fever and are septicmenic.

Allergic Alveolitis

Allergic Alveolitis has a number of names among which include hypersensitivity pneumonitis, parakeet dander pneumoconiosis and pigeon lung disease. It occurs in people who are hypersensitive to feathers, feather dust, and fecal material--- especially from pigeons and parakeets. Signs can occur within two years but often takes as long as 10 to 20 years with continued exposure.

It may occur in an acute, sub-acute or chronic form. The acute form occurs within 4-8 hours of inhalation of a high level of feathers, dust and/or feces, difficulty breathing, chills and fever will occur. If exposure is stopped in time no treatment is necessary and signs will disappear. The sub-acute form results over long term exposure. A dry cough and progressive breathing difficulty occur. This form too may be reversed if exposure is halted. If continued exposure occurs, a chronic, nonreversible form occurs--leading to progressive difficulty breathing, a dry cough and weight loss.

Allergic alveolitis decreases lung capacity and causes impaired diffusion of air through the alveoli of the lungs.

Although this disease is thought to occur in genetically predisposed individuals, one can take certain steps to minimize dander in the environment. These steps include: cleaning cages daily, bathing birds frequently, avoid overcrowding, providing good ventilation and using a good air purification system.


Campylobacteriosis is caused by a gram negative. It can affect people and a variety of animals--especially parrots, finches and canaries. This bacterial organism lives in the small intestines and colon and may be isolated from clinically ill as well as healthy birds. Free-living wild birds maintain and spread the disease by the fecal-oral route. Clinically ill birds develop hepatitis, lethargy, loss of appetite, weight loss and yellow diarrhea. Mortality can be high.

People may become ill from eating contaminated poultry or poultry products. People develop cramps, fever, diarrhea and headaches within 2-5 days of exposure. Pregnant women, debilitated individuals, and the immuno-compromised are at the greatest risk. The risk is primarily from contaminated poultry rather than from pet birds. A blood test, culture and isolation of the organism from the feces may be used to diagnose the disease. Recovery occurs with appropriate antibiotics and support occurs within 7-10 days. Fecal cultures may be done to screen birds for camphylobacter.

Newcastle Disease

Newcastle Disease is a paramyxo virus that can affect birds and people. It is more commonly seen in wild birds. The virus is shed through oral and respiratory secretions and through feces. It causes respiratory signs, diarrhea and neurologic signs--such as tremors, abnormal head position, circling and seizures in birds. Some birds may recover while others die.

The people who are at greatest risk are those who work in poultry processing plants or those who handle diseased wild birds. Incubation in people is only 1-2 days. Conjuntivitis, chills, fever and lethargy may develop. Recovery generally occurs within 3 weeks.

Diagnosis in birds and people is by virus isolation. There is no specific treatment other than support--fluids, rest and adequate nutrition.

Avian Tuberculosis (Mycobacterios)

Avian Tuberculosis occurs throughout the world and has been found in waterfowl, turkeys, psittacines, passerines, columbiformes and raptors. Tuberculosis is transmitted by ingestion and inhalation of aerosolized infectious organisms from feces. Incubation in birds is weeks to months. Any species can be infected, however this is most commonly found in Amazons and Green Cheek Conures. It is believed that immunocompetent humans are resistant to the strains of tuberculosis found in birds, but that immunocompromised people--such as those infected with HIV, those on chemotherapy, the elderly and children are at increased risk.

In adult humans, tuberculosis frequently affects the lungs, producing respiratory signs. In young children, the cervical lymph nodes are often involved, while immunocompromised people often have the disseminated form. Diagnosis of tuberculosis in the live bird can be very difficult due to intemittent fecal shedding and obscure signs. Physical finds, very elevated white blood cell and low red blood cell count and other diagnostic tests which include radiology (x-rays), endoscopy and identification of acid fast bacteria in feces or tissue can lead to a preliminary diagnosis. Definitive diagnosis is based on culturing the organism from the feces or from an organ.

If a positive bird is identified, it should be separated from the collection. Treatment of a positive bird is controversial because of the large number of organisms shed in the feces and because the organism is resistant to many of the drugs used to treat human T.B. The infected bird must be treated for a long period using combination drug treatment. All contact birds should be quarantined for 2 years and tested at 6- to 12-week intervals.

People who are infected with human tuberculosis should not own birds, since these people may serve as a source of infection for their pet birds.


Giardia is an intestinal protozoan that is found in the small intestine of infected birds, dogs, cats, humans and other mammals. The motile form, the trophozoite, attaches to the villi (fingerlike projections) of the small intestine by means of a sucking disk. The cyst form is passed in the feces (as well as the trophozoite) and is able to survivie in the environment.

People, birds and other animals become infected when they ingest contaminated food and water. Giardia cysts are not destroyed by standard chlorination. Boiling will destroy them, however.

The most frequently infected companion birds include budgies, cockatiels, lovebirds and grey cheeked parakeets. This may be the result of the way these birds are raised--in very densely populated environments. Other species may also be infected. Infected adult budgies and cockatiels (as well as other species) often appear clinically normal, but shed the infective cysts intermittently in their feces. Certain stresses, such as reproduction, molting or other diseases, may cause clinical signs such as the passing of voluminous, foul smelling, watery droppings, passing whole seeds in the droppings, ruffled feathers and death. The highest mortality is in nestlings and birds weakened by other illness. Some birds, especially budgies and cockatiels, are thought to become itchy as a result of a toxin secreted by the parasite. These birds tear out their feathers, frequently screaming as they do. People can develop severe cramping and diarrhea from Giardia.

Giardia appears to be limited in host range. The giardia infecting budgies is Giardia psittcai. It is unknown if these species can infect other types of birds. Giardia from mammals may infect humans, but the zoonotic potential for avian giardiasis is believed to be low, since it is not thought that avian giardia can infect mammals. Diagnosis of giardia in live birds can be difficult. Feces must be fresh--examined within ten minutes--in order to find the motile trophozite. If the feces cannot be examined immediately, it may be placed in polyvinyl alcohol and later trichrome stained for cysts. Multiple specimens may need to be examined because the parasite is shed intermittently.

Infected birds may be treated with metronidazole. Unfortunately, not all birds may be cleared and reinfection from the environment is common. Multiple courses of treatment are often necessary.

Quarantine, avoidance of overcrowding, and treatment of birds showing clinical signs will decrease the incidence of Giardia in a collection.

Avian Influenza

Influenza is caused by an enveloped RNA virus. It is an infectious disease of birds, swine, humans and other animals. Three types of Influenza viruses exist - types A, B, and C. Influenza A viruses infect birds and other animals, while B and C infect people.

Hundreds of subtypes of Influenza A viruses have been isolated from birds and other mammals. Influenza viruses are continuously undergoing change, resulting in new serotypes. Migratory birds, especially waterfowl are believed to be reservoirs for Influenza A virus. The infection often causes an inapparent intestinal disease in waterfowl. These infected waterfowl don't show signs of disease unless severely stressed by other diseases or transport. These unapparently infected birds shed the virus from their respiratory tract, conjunctiva (lining of the eyes) and in their feces - serving as a source of infection for other birds. Incubation may be as short as a few hours.

The signs of illness depend upon the species infected, the age, environmental factors, and virulence of the viral strain. Birds may die suddenly without showing signs of illness or develop depression, appetite loss, coughing, sneezing and decreased egg production.

Influenza A has been isolated from captive birds, including psittacines (parrots) and passerines (canaries, finches, sparrow, starlings, etc). Psittacines my demonstrate loss of balance, torticollis (twisted neck) and may die.

The virus may be isolated from swabs of the cloaca and upper respiratory tract in the live bird. It may be isolated from the lungs, liver, spleen and brain at postmortem. A companion bird could serve as a source of virus exposure for humans, but it is more likely that humans could serve as a source of virus exposure for susceptible companion birds. If a human has clinical signs of the "flu", he should avoid contact with his bird.

Wild migratory birds should not be allowed contact with companion birds, chickens and turkeys - as they may serve as a means of spreading Influenza.

If you found this article useful, please consider making a $2 donation to benefit the birds at Wings of Love Bird Haven by clicking the button below.


Plants that are poisonous or potentially harmful to birds:

Amaryllis- bulbs
American Yew
Autumn Crocus/Meadow Saffron
Azalea- leaves
Balsam pear- seeds, outer rind of fruit
Baneberry- berries, root
Beans--- all types if uncooked
Birds of Paradise- seeds, flower and bush
Bittersweet nightshade
Black Locust- bark, sprouts, foliage
Bleeding Heart/Dutchman's Breeches
Blue/green algae
Boxwood- leaves, stem
Bracken Fern
Broomcorn Grass
Buckthorn- fruit, bark
Buttercup- sap, bulbs
Caladium- leaves
Cala Lily- leaves
Candelabra Tree
Cardinal Flower
Carolina Jessamine
Castor bean- also castor oil, leaves
Chalice Vine/Trumpet Vine
Cherry tree- bark, twigs, leaves, pits
China Berry Tree
Christmas Candle- sap
Clematis/Virginia Bower
Coral Plant- seeds
Cowslip/Marsh Marigold
Crown of Thorns
Daffodil- bulbs
Daphne- berries
Datura/Angel's Trumpet
Deadly Amanita/Fly Agaric Mushroom
Death Camas
Dieffenbachia/Dumb Cane- leaves
Elephant's Ear/ Taro- leaves, stem
English Ivy- berries, leaves
English Laurel
English Yew
Euonymus/Spindle Tree
False Hellebore
False Henbane
Fava Bean
Ficus (weeping)
Four O'Clock
Glory Bean
Glory Lily
Golden Chain/Laburnum
Ground Cherry
Hemlock- also the water it's in
Henbane- seeds Sorrel
Honey Locust
Horse Chestnut/buckeye- nuts, twigs
Hyacinth- bulbs
Hydrangea- flower buds
Indian Licorise Bean
Indian turnip
Iris/blue Flag
Japanese Yew- needles, seeds
Jasmine Yew (American, English, Japanese)
Java Bean/Lima Bean xxxxx
Jerusalem Cherry-berries
Johnson Grass
Juniper- needles, stems, berries
Kentucky Coffee Tree
Lantana- immature berries
Lily of the Valley- also water it's in
Lords & Ladies/Cockoopint
Mango tree- wood, leaves, rind
Marijuana/hemp- leaves
May apple
Mescal Beans- seeds
Milk Bush
Mistletoe- berries
Mock Orange- fruit
Mondshood/Aconite- leaves, root
Morning Glory
Mountain Laurel
Mushrooms- several varieties
Narcissus- bulbs
Neighboring Jasmine
Nightshade- all varieties
Oak- acorns, foliage
Oleander- leaves, branches, nectar
Peanuts- raw
Pencil Tree
Philodendron- leaves, stem
Pine needles- berries
Poinsettia- leaves, roots, immature
Poison Hemlock
Poison Ivy- sap
Poison Oak- sap
Pokeweed/Inkberry- leaf, root, young berries
Potato - eyes, new shoots
Rain tree
Red Maple
Rhubarb- leaves
RosaryPea/Indian Licorice- seeds
Sandbox tree
Scarlet Runner beans
Skunk cabbage
Snow on the Mountain
Sorghum Grass
Sudan grass
Sweet Pea
Tansy Ragwort
Tobacco- leaves
Virginia Creeper- sap
Water Hemlock
Western Yew
Yam Bean- roots, immature roots
Yellow Jasmine
Yellow Oleander
Yew (American, English, Japanese)

This is not an all-encompassing list. There may be other plants that could be added  to this list. Many of these plants are also toxic to humans and other pets.

If you found this article useful, please consider making a $2 donation to benefit the birds at Wings of Love Bird Haven by clicking the button below.


- By DeAnn Waggoner, Executive Director, Wings of Love Bird Haven

Birds' respiratory systems are more sensitive than humans, and for that reason, bird owners need to pay particular attention to toxic fumes and other potential dangers. When in doubt, err on the conservative side to avoid putting your bird at risk. Here are some things to avoid:
Fumes toxic to birds:

- Asbestos                                   - Bleach/Chlorine                  - Carbon Monoxide
- Cigarette Smoke                      - Flea bombs and collars     - Diazanon
- Floor polishes                          - Hair dye & hair spray         - Formaldehyde
- House paint                             - Kerosene                              - Matches
- Moth balls                                - Nail polish and remover    - Oil-based paint
- Oven Cleaner                           - Paint remover                     - Perfume
- Permanent wave solution     - Shoe polish and cleaners  - Pesticides
- Spot removers                         - Spray starch                        - Suntan lotion
- Surgical acrylics                       - Toilet cleaners                     - Wax
- Overheated, non-stick cookware

Non-chemical Dangers that can be Toxic or Fatal:

Fatty Diet. In humans high fat diet has been shown to cause heart disease, liver malfunction, and endocrine problems (diabetes and pancreatitis). Birds do need more calories than mammals based on body weight, but 30-50% should be high- quality carbohydrates. Excess fat is either stored in the millions of liver cells or recirculated in the bloodstream. This overloads the liver and can eventually lead to liver failure. Sometimes this can be acute with the only symptoms being death or severe weakness, paralysis or seizures. Excess fat circulating in the blood stream can produce fatty tumors. Atherosclerosis also exists in birds with the associated heart maladies and circulatory problems associated with it.

Alcohol. This includes wine, liquor and beer. All are destructive to the liver. Because the bird has a high metabolic rate and the ability to ingest a much higher volume compared to its body weight, liver failure occurs in a very short period of time. Tobacco Products. This includes cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and marijuana. Chronic sinusitis, lung, and liver pathologies have been confirmed in birds housed with smokers. In any given breath, a bird can extract 70% more air particulate than a human. This added to an increased respiratory rate makes birds very susceptible to airborne toxins.

FYI: Did you know that it has now been proven that ETS (Environmental Tobacco Smoke) can cause cancer, bronchitis and heart disease in humans? ETS contains 43 compounds known as human or animal carcinogens. No studies have yet been done on birds, however birds' unique respiratory anatomy makes them highly sensitive to airborne toxin.

In conclusion: Many birds housed with smokers have been diagnosed wtih low grade infections, respiratory compromise, heart disease, skin disorders, as well as other nondescript symptoms. If you smoke, DON'T HAVE A BIRD!!! Avocados. Research was done in 1989 to prove that avocado was indeed toxic to birds. Budgerigars were the most suseptible with 6 out of 8 dying within 48 hours after ingesting one drop from a 1:10 dilution mixture. Avocado is also toxic to goats, horses, rabbits, cattle and mice. The toxic component has not been identified but... do not feed any part of the fruit, seed or tree to your bird.

Caffeine. This includes chocolate, tea, soda and coffee. These items tend to affect the body muscles including the heart with signs such as vomiting, restlessness or hyperactivity with more severe signs of a drunken-like appearance, muscle tremors, cyanosis, seizures and possible death from cardiac or respiratory collapse. This toxic group is dose related. Just because you might have given a product that didn't hurt does not mean that it could not be more serious next time.

Lead or "plumbism". Lead toxicity is well documented. Sources include lead-based paints, lead shot, solder, birds toys, linoleium, ceramics, curtain weights, stained glass windows, Tiffany lamps, glitter from trendy clothes, Christmas ornaments and foil from the top fo wine bottles. Very small amouns are sufficient to create toxicity. Lead adversely affects all body systems. South American species, particularly amazons and macaws are acutely sensitive to lead poisoning. Signs usually show up several days after ingestion, but proceed rapidly and can lead to death within 48 hours. Symptoms can be vague, but usually have a sudden onset with one day the bird acting fine and the next day demonstrating weakness, anorexia or other neurological symptoms. If a bird suddenly regurgitates and looks listless one should seek veterinary attention immediately and have radiographs taken. Time is critical once symptoms manifest themselves. Antidotes are available to control the symptoms, then further medical or surgical therapy can be undertaken.

Zinc. Zinc poisoning has become more and more common in pet birds and is often underdiagnosed. Because so many products contain zinc as a component, clinical symptoms are quite variable dependent on quantity ingested, concentration of zinc, and species of bird. Symptoms might include regurgitation, lameness, mental aberrations, marked depression and sometimes death. History of ingestion has ranged from only a few days to chronic low-grade exposure over years. If your bird is a heavy chewer, replace all galvanized hardware with stainless steel as a precaution.

Common sources of zinc are: paint primers on cages, especially pre-1995, bronze coating on metals, galvanized products, anodized aluminum windows, costume jewelry and sequins, hardware products, washers, bolts, etc., post-1982 pennies, "hot spots" in colored food pellets, many forms of rubber products. Other Heavy Metals. Various other metals are also toxic to birds. TIN: found in aluminum foil, gum wrappers and cans.

Copper. Certain toys, old pennies, designer furniture and home electrical cords. Iron. Found in rusted steel products. Just remember to be very careful where a bird roams in your house unattended. Symptoms in these other metal toxins are variable but most commonly present neurologically, gastrointestinally and concurrent with feather picking.

Teflon Vapors. When nonstick cookery (teflon, silverstone, etc) is heated above a critical temperature (530 degrees) an invisible, odorless vapor is emitted. The irritating vapors accumulate in the lungs causing fluid production and subsequent anoxia (lack of oxygen) with the only sign often being acute death, sometimes within 1-5 minutes. Birds seem to be highly sensitive to this toxin compared to other animals or humans. The critical temperature is usually not obtained during the "normal" cooking processes, but may be reached when pans are used for searing meat or when using teflon-coated Chinese woks or electric skillets. To be safe, never keep your bird in the kitchen and be aware of which products contain teflon. Even products such as curling irons, hot curlers and portable room heaters have been known to have teflon in them and are potentially hazardous.

Simple Sugars. Foods like sweet rolls, danish, candy, glazed products, and even portions of sweet fruits have caused acute toxicity or death in some birds. The cause stems from the simple sugars causing a fermenting process in the lower bowel and a change from an aerobic environment to an anaerobic environment. Toxin-producing bacteria already located in the small intestines proliferate under anaerobic conditions with the ensuing signs of shock and/or death if antibiotics and fluid therapy is not rapidly administered. Unfortunately, birds have an affinity for these types of foods. Be careful!

Acidic Foods. A newly observed cause of toxicity in bird species is foods with a relatively low pH (acidity). Examples are oranges, tomatoes, raspberries or tart apple varieties. Small birds are again more susceptible since this is dose related. The symptoms are similar to sugar toxicity, but by a different mechanism. When ingested, acidic foods lower the pH in the crop and slow or stop the crop's normal function as a passageway to the lower gastrointestinal (GI) tract. This leads to the absorption of "normal" toxic food by-products, causing dehydration, depression, regurgitation, shock and sometimes death.

Plants. See Toxic Plants

Conclusion: this is an overview of toxic compounds possibly available to your bird. If your bird ingests any of these products or suddenly does not seem right, contact your avian veterinarian immediately as only a few hours delay may make the difference between life and death.

If you found this article useful, please consider making a $2 donation to benefit the birds at Wings of Love Bird Haven by clicking the button below.


- By DeAnn Waggoner, Executive Director, Wings of Love Bird Haven

When it comes to bird safety, there is a mountain of information. This page is not designed to be a substitute for doing your own study. On this page I will highlight some of the most important things to remember concerning keeping your bird safe. Cigarette Smoke. Do not smoke, or allow others to smoke around your bird. We now know that tobacco smoke can kill humans, imagine what it will do to our smaller feathered friends. Even with ventilation, the smoke is still harmful. Most of the time you won't be able to tell that it is damaging your birds. It happens over a long period of time. For your bird's sake, just don't do it.

Teflon. This includes any non-stick cookware, curling irons, portable heaters, irons with non-stick plates, all Teflon baking utensils, and even some hair dryers. The fumes emitted from Teflon are deadly, both to humans and animals. It is best to get rid of any item that has this because sometimes we just aren't careful enough. How many times have you or someone in your house gone off and left the iron or curling iron plugged in? One too many. It takes only a few seconds to produce these fumes that will kill your bird. Please don't take this chance.

Toxic Foods. Yes, there are foods that are poisonous to your birds. The most toxic are chocolate, avocados, alcohol, caffeine and fruit pits. Other food items that are dangerous to your birds include sugar, salt, and greasy foods. Be sure to keep all of these items away from your birds reach.

Scented Items. Anything scented should send a "red flag" to you for the safety of your bird. Whether it is scented candles, potpourri, artificial (scented) flowers, scented soap, strong perfume, do not use them around the birds. Some people use them, just keep them in a separate area of the home. I feel the more you can eliminate of these items the better off your bird will be. There are some good substitutes that can be used for these items. Good, pure essential oils in minute amounts can sometimes be used safely, although they can still be dangerous. I use baking powder with a few drops of either lavender or lemongrass essential oil mixed into it as a substitute for Carpet Fresh. I also sometimes boil cloves or cinnamon on the stove in a pan of water. This gives a very nice holiday smell to your home. Please use these with caution even though they are natural oils. They can still be hazardous.

Also included in this list is all chemicals and cleaning supplies. If you can smell it, it is most likely toxic to your bird. Try using white vinegar as a basic cleaner. It is an exception to the rule and is bird-safe even though it does have a strong odor. There are special cleaners you can purchase to clean your birds cage with as well. One good one is called NOVOSAN. I offer it for sale here.

Drafts. Birds should not be kept in drafty areas all the time. They can have fresh air when they are outdoors, but not on a continual basis such as would be if their cage were placed in front of a door or window. Allow fresh air to enter the room from another area that is not directly in front of the bird's cage.

Doors and Windows. Be sure that you make certain that the bird is not out of its cage when opening a door or window. Fully flighted birds can be out in seconds-- never to be seen again. If your birds wings are clipped, they can still fly short distances, and walk out or be crushed in the door or window as it is being closed. Always exercise extreme caution.

Lead. Lead poisoning is a very serious problem. Most paints have some amount of lead in them, so anything painted is poisonous to your bird. Do not let your bird chew on anything such as paint, costume jewelry, foil, or linoleum. Even some cages unfortunately have been known to have lead in the paint. Be careful and do your homework. Lead poisoning causes nervous system disorders and seizures. It isn't a pretty sight and is something that can be avoided.

Other Pets in the Home. Not only are smaller birds at risk of being injured by larger birds, having other animals in the home can be even more dangerous. If you own a dog or cat or any other animal, make sure that they are never unsupervised in the same room as the birds. Their saliva is toxic to birds. Do not leave your bird outside the house unsupervised as well. Any outdoor area should have a covered top and side protection with bars that are very small so that no animal can touch them. Even short amounts of time in an unsafe cage can be potentially deadly if a cat or dog is around. Don't chance it.

Deep Water Areas. Your bird needs a bath often to keep his feathers in good condition. However, too much water is very dangerous. Once a bird's feathers get saturated, he can't swim. Leaving a sink full of water, or the toilet or washing machine opened, is a danger. Make sure that anything with water that is too deep for them to stand in is covered at all times.

There are three very safe ways to allow your bird the water time it needs: 1. Use a spray bottle and mist your bird. 2. Take your bird into the shower with you. 3. Set up a "bird bath" in the sink with a shallow bowl with only an inch or two of water. Not all birds LOVE to bathe. Two to three times a week is adequate unless you have one that just loves it. After a bath, gently towel off the excess water and avoid putting him in a drafty area. It is best NOT to blow dry the bird, but to let him use his preening instincts to care for his feathers properly.

Electric Wires. Even for a bird that has its wings clipped, there are many dangers around the house. Electric wires are one of them. All wires must be hidden and away from reach to prevent the bird from being shocked.

Leg Bands. Leg bands are meant to help, but many times they do more harm than good. They can get caught in open wires, or on toys in the cages. This has been fatal in many instances when someone isn't around to release it. Please be certain that all wires, toys, perches, et cetera, do not have any thin wires sticking out that the leg band can get hooked on.

Toys. Toys can be a great hazard as well. Be sure that the toys are the correct size for the bird you give it to. Make certain that the bird can't get its head caught in a ring and strangle himself. Do not use baby toys with birds unless you are certain they are too hard for the bird to crack. IF you present baby toys, be sure to do it while you are supervising. Make sure that there are no small pieces (such as clappers on bells) on any of their toys. They can eventually remove these and may swallow them.

Drinking Water. Most people don't consider drinking water a hazard, but it sure can be. Be sure to give your bird drinking water that is safe for human (and avian) consumption. It is best to serve purified, boiled, distilled or bottled water.I hope the above information has helped. Please don't stop here. Read all you can about bird safety so that you can offer the safest possible environment for your feathered friend.

If you found this article useful, please consider making a $2 donation to benefit the birds at Wings of Love Bird Haven by clicking the button below.