bird safety

the bird safety page

Toy Safety

Birds are tremendously talented at getting into trouble.  If something appears perfectly safe to you, your bird may soon show you that it’s not.  The fact that something is marketed as a toy doesn’t mean your bird can’t hurt her/himself with it.  Be aware of the safety concerns about the following things that may be in your toys:

Plastic Parts:  If they’re small, your bird could get them loose from the rest of the toy and ingest them or choke on them.  If the bird is big enough to bite and break the plastic, s/he can also ingest or choke on the broken, now sharp, parts, or hurt itself in other ways with the sharp plastic bits.  In our opinion, plastic in toys should be avoided completely.

Chains:  Birds’ toes or toenails can get caught in them.  This can result in broken toes, feet, legs and nails.  While the bird is flailing away trying to get loose from the chain, s/he can die.  If you do use toys that are hung from chains, make sure your bird’s nails are always kept trimmed (you can get instructions on nail trimming from your veterinarian).

Rope or String:  Can be easily choked on or wrapped around legs, toes or other body parts.  Birds pull apart the single strands of pieces of rope or string.  When the strings get caught around legs, toes, necks, or any other part of the bird, the bird will likely flap wildly to try to get out of it, which of course causes the string to wrap even more tightly.  The result can be lost limbs or death.  We know of one Amazon who ate a piece of string, which caused her vent area to prolapse, and since she was also carrying an egg, she wasn’t able to pass it, and she died.  If you use toys with string or rope in them, be sure to trim the ends as they get frayed–don’t worry, your bird will fray them.  We don’t recommend toys made solely or mostly of rope because it’s too easy for a bird to get toes, etc. caught in them.  Long toenails are particularly prone to getting caught in rope.

Leather:  A very popular element of toys and birds love it.  Just be sure your birds’ toenails are trimmed enough to avoid their getting them stuck inside pieces of leather.  Also be sure that any leather you allow your bird to play with is untreated.

Ferris Wheels and other things that have moving parts that your bird’s feet and legs could get stuck in and hurt by:  Many toys that are marketed for small birds have parts that these birds could easily get toes caught in.  Again, they are accidents waiting to happen.  If you have one of these dangerous “parakeet toys,” play with it yourself if you want to but keep it out of the bird’s reach.

The above scenarios aren’t automatically going to happen to your birds, but they are dangers.  If your bird really loves a toy that you’re not sure is safe and you don’t want to take it away from the bird, keep the toy out of the cage for use only during supervised playtime.



  • Avocado
  • Chocolate
  • Anything that contains sugar.
  • Anything that contains caffeine.
  • Anything that contains alcohol.

House Plants

  • Pointsettia
  • Jerusalem Cherry
  • Caladium
  • Azalea
  • Rhododendron
  • English Ivy
  • Deiffenbachia
  • Philodendron
  • Rhubarb
  • Holly
  • Mistletoe
  • Nightshades

Things that Contain Teflon and other non-stick coatings

  • Non-stick cookware
  • New hair dryers
  • New ovens
  • New space heaters

Things Around the House

  • Febreze (updated 4/6/99) –  This product is marketed as something that removes odors without covering them up.  However, there is a strong smell to it, and it does contain artificial fragrance.  Febreze did contain zinc chloride, but the manufacturer now says they have a new formulation that does not contain zinc chloride (watch for the word “new” on the bottle).  We still recommend avoiding the product, as it still has a strong smell (now even stronger), and birds are known to be sensitive to artificial fragrance.  Before the formulation change, there were many reports of birds dying after Febreze was used in any proximity to them at all.  We at NEEBS take these reports very seriously, and prefer to use and recommend caution.  Although the information is anecdotal, that’s enough for us.  If your bird dies a sudden death, and the only thing different from one moment to the next is the use of a household product, and then others voice the same experience, you might draw the logical conclusion that that household product was the cause.  Necropsy may not turn up anything, especially in a case of a fast-acting poison.  We hope that the new, zinc-chloride-free, formula will end the reports of bird deaths.  We also prefer to be safe than sorry.
  • Cooking bags – There have been reports of two brands of cooking bags causing deaths in birds.  Apparently at least some of these are made with Teflon-coated materials.  Unfortunately, Teflon is appearing in more items that involve heat, like space heaters, hair dryers, ovens, and so on.  Teflon has long been known to be unsafe around birds.
  • Tea tree oil/malaleuca – This very popular item is in a lot of products now, and is being marketed as safe and wonderful as an antiseptic, antibiotic, and so on. DO NOT use this product on birds. For more information, please follow the link at the bottom of this page to Gillian’s Help Desk.
  • Vinyl mini blinds – some contain lead. Those that don’t are labeled as being made without lead.
  • Electric space heaters – sometimes have toxic coatings which burn when first used and kill birds at that time.
  • Fish tank algae – Actually, I wonder if it’s the bacteria in the fish tank that’s really the problem, but in any case, if you’ve got your hand in the fish tank, be sure to wash it before you touch your bird again. There have been cases of toxicities and death where people have gone from fish tank to bird cage without washing in between, either from the birds eating algae off of a person’s hand, or from the water.
  • Linoleum – contains lead.
  • Non-stick cookware – when scratched, old or overheated emit toxic fumes which kill birds.  In our opinion, a house with birds is a house that should not even have non-stick cookware in it.
  • Most household cleansers, unless specifically made to be non-toxic.
  • Perfume.
  • Air “fresheners.”  Most contain toxic chemicals.  We think of them as “air poisoners.”  There are several natural, safe fresheners on the market.  Their labels list ingredients that almost anyone will recognize as natural. Do not trust essential oils to be safe.
  • Anything at all that contains fragrance. This includes scented candles, Plug-Ins, incense, and most personal care products.  Read labels before buying any products.
  • Many personal care products, unless specifically made to be non-toxic. Just the word “fragrance” on the label means it may be toxic to your bird.
  • Cigarettes and cigarette butts, or, actually, anything you might want to smoke.  If you do smoke, it is best to keep the bird away from the smoke as well as the things smoked..
  • Insecticides:  If they kill bugs, they can kill birds.  They’re not doing you or me any good, either.  Again, there are safe things that can be used to control household pests.

Those things listed above that have fumes, that is, things that smell (perfume, cleansers, air fresheners, insecticides), are poisons if inhaled as well as if ingested. Your local health food store should have information on safe household products.

The above is an incomplete list, and can be added to. If you know of a poison that’s missing from this list, please email us.

If you have a particular concern about toxins, and you haven’t found it here, you can probably find it at Gillian’s Help Desk .  Gillian really knows her safety stuff.