Bird Proofing Your House
Updated: Sep 26
Both Black-headed and White-bellied caiques are very curious. They want to be where the action is. They also have the gift of flight. If you are not prepared, this can lead to lots of trouble. All this and more makes it vitally important to provide safe spaces in the home that your caique can enjoy.
Just like when new parents bring home a baby for the first time, you will want to take some time to prepare your home for the arrival of your new caique.
Perhaps some rooms will be off limits to your caique. If not, then you'll want to ensure that those rooms are a safe space for them to be in.
Collision Hazards: Windows, Doors, Mirrors and Fans
Take some time before your new caique comes home to set some house rules about how you will make sure that your caique does not escape through an opening door or and open window. Make sure everyone in the house knows the rules.
Use caution when introducing your parrot to your home and cover windows or make sure that your parrot knows where the windows are and does not fly into them.
Birds may not recognize mirrors or glass as solid objects and may think it is just more of the room. Use caution with flighted birds (especially at first) when they are in a new space.
Turn OFF all ceiling fans when birds are out. They can be killed or injured if they come in contact with a moving fan.
Make sure that all portable fans are safe and that your caique can not access the blade area.
Deadly Toxic Fumes: Nonstick Cookware and PTFE/PTFO
Caiques like all birds have highly sensitive respiratory systems and they can be injured or killed by fumes that may not bother humans or other mammals. Below is a discussion of several things that produce fumes that can injure or kill your caique. Just because it doesn't bother you does not mean it will not hurt them.
Products made with Polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE) are commonly found in most homes. According to the Association of Avian Veterinarians, it is one of the most common causes of airborne toxicity in pet birds. When PTFE is heated to high temperatures it decomposes into a toxic gas which birds are highly sensitive to. Symptoms of PTFE toxicity include trouble breathing, lack of coordination, weakness, coma and death. This product can be found in many household items and poses a serious risk to your caique's life and health. Start in the kitchen by checking nonstick cookware, baking sheets, cupcake pans, cake and loaf pans, toaster ovens, air fryers, rice cookers, instapots, waffle irons, indoor grills and anything else that heats up. Additionally, oven liners, stove top burner liners and nonstick baking bags and foils may also contain PTFE. Be sure to check anything that is nonstick. It's a long list but it is possible to have a safe PTFE free kitchen. Your family and your birds will be safer for it. Outside the kitchen, PTFE can also be lurking in irons, ironing board covers, space heaters and numerous other items and appliances.
You should contact the manufacturer if you are in doubt, or simply do not use these items with your bird in your home. Air circulates throughout the home so just putting your bird in another room does not ensure it's safety. If your bird shows symptoms of exposure to any toxic fumes get him to fresh outside air immediately and then seek veterinary care. Even birds who receive prompt medical attention often die or suffer lasting injury. It is best to avoid the problem at all costs by removing items containing PTFE from your home. If you only take one thing away from this list please let it be this - NEVER use Teflon, Silverstone or PTFE or PTFO coated cooking or baking pans or utensils. Verify that any non-stick item is PTFE and PTFO free. Fumes produced by PTFE coated cooking pots have killed birds even when used at very low, presumably safe cooking temperatures. Read more about it here. Newer nonstick coatings are coming into use each year. It is not known whether these are safe or not.
Don't risk your bird's life. In our home we use non-coated stainless steel pots, cast iron or enamel-coated cast iron skillets and pans, stoneware and aluminum baking sheets, stainless steel baking sheets, ceramic muffin pans, ceramic or glass cake, pie and casserole pans.
Other Airborne Toxins
Other items require extra special attention and caution when used in a home that has caiques or other types of birds.
NEVER use the self-cleaning oven feature of your oven with the birds in the house. The high heat makes toxic fumes that can kill your birds (my oven even came with a warning to this effect).
Spray-on oven cleaner is also poisonous when used. Once dried the next time you turn on your oven it will also burn off deadly toxic fumes if there is ANY residue. Try a non-chemical/natural oven cleaner and some good old fashion elbow grease.
NEVER use Febreze fabric freshener in the room with your birds. Remember that air circulates through the house through heating and A/C ducts. Putting your bird in another room will not alone ensure its safety.
NEVER use pesticides in the presence of your caique or bird. Do not spray it when they are around and do not let them or their toys contact dried pesticide residue.
Air fresheners including sprays, plug in's, incense, scented candles, essential oils and wax melts all release chemicals into the air we breathe. These items can irritate people and can sicken or kill your caique.
Personal care products such as hair spray, nail polish and nail polish removers are also not good for your caiques. Avoid using them near your bird or getting them on your bird.
Any aerosols, gasoline fumes, paints, polyurethane, mothballs, fumigants, drain cleaners, and aerosol insecticides can poison your pet parrot if used nearby.
Cleaning products such as ammonia and bleach can be hazardous to your caique.
Overheated and melted plastic dishes (even in the microwave) have also caused the death of parrots.
If painting your home or doing other home improvements, your birds need to be moved far away from any fumes, preferably to another location altogether
Remove your bird and all of it's toys and food before using an insecticide fogger or spray. Thoroughly wipe down all surfaces to remove residue before allowing your bird to access the area.
According to this Association of Avian Veterinarians handout: "Smoke is another airborne toxin that is harmful to birds. All smoke, whether from cigarettes, marijuana, engine exhaust, burning food, self-cleaning ovens, or malfunctioning furnaces, can hurt your caique. Carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, acidic fumes, and particulate matter in smoke cause symptoms similar to PTFE. Symptoms may take several hours to appear." Remember that air circulates through the house through heating and A/C ducts. Putting your bird in another room will not alone ensure its safety. They will need to be out of the house or you need to make sure that air will not circulate to the area they are in.
Undesirable Edibles: Unsafe People Foods
We all know that your caique will want a bite of everything they see you eating. Unfortunately, not all food items that you can enjoy are safe for your parrot. According to this helpful reference from the Association of Avian Veterinarians
Chocolate and caffeine can cause heart arrhythmias, anxiousness, and seizures if ingested by your bird.
Avocados are also toxic to many birds, and can cause the lungs to fill with fluid and the heart to fail.
Plants in the Allium family, such as onions and garlic are toxic to many species, and ingestion can lead to anemia and liver damage.
All seeds from fruits in the Prunus family (including cherries, peaches, apricots, plums) and from the fruit of the Malus (apple) family contain small amounts of cyanide. While an occasional apple seed will not harm your pet, it is best to avoid intentionally giving fruit seeds to your birds.
Salt toxicity can also occur, so make sure that your pet bird is not fed highly salted foods.
Do not feed your caique foods containing xylitol as this artificial sweetener can potentially cause fatally low blood sugar in birds, dogs, and other pets.
Please take note of these additional food items that can harm your bird.
Just like people too much Alcohol can poison your bird. ANY AMOUNT is too much for a small animal such as a bird.
Uncooked dried beans contain a toxin called hemagglutinin which is poisonous to birds. Be sure and cook any beans that you offer to your caique.
Poisonous Plants: In and Around the Home
Caiques are very curious and will often want to bite, shred, explore or play with plants in and around the home. Sometimes they may even want to eat them. It is important to note that not all plants may be safe for your caiques. Below is some information about common plants found in and around the house that can make your bird sick or be a potential hazard. It is impossible to provide and exhaustive list of what is not safe so be sure to check each plant that is in your home to find out if it is safe for your caique to have access to. Remember there will come a day when your caique will sneak around and surprise you so supervising around toxic plants is not always enough. It is better not to even have them in areas that your caique has access to. The good news is there are also many safe plants that you can enjoy while still keeping your spaces bird safe. One helpful list of Bird Safe Plants can be found in this article on the Arapahoe Animal Hospital website. Some plants that made the list are:
Herbs such as spearmint, peppermint, lemon balm, basil, chamomile, chicory, cilantro (also sometimes called coriander or Chinese parsley), dandelion, dill, ginger root, fennel, lemon balm, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, thyme, and parsley are all safe.
Houseplants such as Wandering Jew, Prayer plant, Spider plant, Danish ivy, Pepperomia, Sensitive plant, Purple passion, Jade plant, Aloe Vera, Zebra plant, Coleus, and Monkey plant.
Check the article for more plants and tips.
According to a handout by the Association of Avian Veterinarians
There have been reports of birds being poisoned after eating crown vetch (Coronilla varia), Rhododendron species, and Kalanchoe species.
Plants known to cause damage to the heart include oleander, yew, lily of the valley and foxgloves.
Acorns and oak leaves contain a type of tannin that causes liver damage.
Other commonly seen plants that are toxic include Lantana, lilies of the valley, lilies, rhubarb, avocado, Philodendron and/or Dieffenbachia (also known as “dumb cane") and umbrella plant.
According to an article on VCA Animal Hospitals website:
"Dieffenbachia contains calcium oxalate crystals within its leaves and stems which, when ingested, results in localized, severe, mouth irritation. Once ingested, Dieffenbachia can cause a painful burning of a bird’s tongue, as well as localized swelling of the tongue and crop, resulting in difficulty eating and breathing."
The same article notes that "While not all species of avocados are toxic to birds, many species are. Since it is better to be safe than sorry, bird owners should avoid feeding any kind of avocado to their birds. In birds, all parts of the avocado fruit - the leaf, bark, meat of the fruit, and seed - are poisonous due to the toxin, persin."
A list of other toxic plants are also provided in this same article.
Finally, keep in mind that there are other hazards associated with plants that are not from the plants directly. Fertilizers, pesticides, soil contaminants, fungus and open water containers can all pose a hazard to your caique. But with a little common sense and care, you will be able to enjoy both your plants and your caiques.
Other Toxic Household Items
Insect or rodent baits are poisonous to birds.
Dog and cat flea collars should also not be in contact with your birds.
Heavy Metals - including zinc
Galvanized metal decorations or hardware
Items constructed out of pressure treated lumber
Air Fresheners and Fragrances
COMING SOON: Learn about the dangers of air fresheners and fragrances
Other Pets can cause real danger to your caique. COMING SOON: Cats Dogs Other Birds Reptiles Ferrets Snakes