Five Ways to Make Your House Parrot-Safe
Parrots may be adorable pets and beloved additions to a family, but that doesn’t change the fact that a parrot is still a wild animal. A domesticated animal is genetically different from its wild counterpart. Dogs are a prime example of this – though they all descended from wolves, they have been selectively bred over many generations and are now genetically distinct from their wild ancestors. Despite parrots being one of man’s oldest companions, the only parrot that might reasonably be described as domesticated is the ‘English budgie’ – a larger version of the native Australian budgerigar that is not found in the wild, and which was bred to be large and have certain features.
Other parrots are simply tamed, even those that are extremely familiar with humans and have been raised by human parents instead of their parrot mum and dad. However, being wild animals means that they are not always best suited to living in a human home. Here are some items in your house that can be dangerous to your feathered friend, along with some tips on how to make them as parrot-safe as possible.
There is a common perception that a bird, given a chance, will make a beeline for the nearest open window to escape into the wild, but this is simply not the case. A well-cared-for parrot has no reason to want to leave the safety and comfort of their familiar home environment, where food and water are readily available and the companionship of their human flock is never too far away. However, windows still do present a very real threat in a multitude of ways. In particular, a bird may still bolt through an open window if spooked. As prey animals, parrots are very sensitive to sudden movements, loud noises, and sometimes even bright colours and large objects, because they are constantly alert for the presence of a predator. No matter how safe our parrots may be in our home, this natural instinct simply cannot be overwritten. Spooked parrots will fly away in whatever direction puts the most distance between them and the perceived danger, and if this is an open window it can be extremely difficult to recover them. To make windows more parrot-safe, it’s best to leave them closed or covered with a mesh.
Windows can also present a physical threat. A parrot that is used to an aviary, or has perhaps never been allowed to free fly in a home, may not be familiar with the concept of glass. Because of this, some birds may fly directly into a window or glass door, and they might not learn the error of their ways through just one incident either. To make them more parrot-safe, an easy solution is to put up net curtains or put decorative decals on the window so that it is easily recognisable as a solid surface to your parrot companion.
Parrots will gravitate to the highest available perch in the room. Being in a high position allows prey animals to survey threats below and escape from predators easily, so a nice high perch provides a feeling of safety. A door that is left open presents a perfect opportunity for a high perch. However, this can make their little toes vulnerable. Shutting the door without looking to see if it’s been chosen as a comfy seat could trap their toes or even, in extremely unfortunate situations, their head. I have a particularly playful conure named Heidi who enjoys putting herself in all manner of strange positions and she has even been known to hang from the top of the door by just her beak. When she does this, a quick glance from the other side of the door would look as though she is not there, but on closer inspection, her little head is just peeking over the top and in a very precarious position if the door happened to be shut too quickly. It is always worth checking the top of a door before you shut it if your parrot flies freely in your home.
Most people don’t picture spending much time with their pet in the bathroom, but those with birds as clingy as my Heidi will already know that being followed wherever you go is one of the joys – and sometimes annoyances – of parrot ownership. Not only will your parrot accompany you when you need to spend a penny if you allow them, but they may also love a nice warm shower. Most parrots will happily join their owner and have lots of fun splashing about in the running water of the shower, but being in the bathroom can be risky. An open toilet may look filthy to us, but to your bird, it’s a nice big bathing spot – and once they’re in, the deep water and steep sides can make a soggy bird struggle to get out, presenting a real risk of drowning.
It’s not just larger bodies of water that are risky – even a glass of water can be a hazard. Despite their majestic appearance, parrots can be very clumsy birds and while trying to take a sip of your drink they may slip off the edge of the glass and plunge face-first into the drink. Once they’re in this vertical position, they will be unable to escape and will need to be rescued. It is always best advised to leave drinks covered and toilet seats firmly down. If you’re a new bird owner trying to make your home parrot-safe, it may be worth sticking post-it notes around the house to remind you to get into the habit of shutting windows, flipping the toilet lid down, covering your drink, and putting toxic household items safely in a drawer.
4. Ceiling Fans
Another common household feature that is a desirable high-up perch in a parrot’s eyes is a ceiling fan. It goes without saying that these large spinning blades are not parrot-safe and can present quite a threat to a flying critter. It is always best to leave the ceiling fan off during free-flight time, and if you’re concerned about not being able to retrieve your bird should they decide to take a nap on the ceiling fan it may be best to have it removed altogether. Parrots can be destructive and high-maintenance and a certain level of lifestyle adjustment, including some household modifications, is part and parcel of being a new bird owner.
Just like rodents and puppies, parrots love to chew. This natural behaviour helps to keep their ever-growing beak in check. Though the provision of plenty of chewable toys will keep them busy, they are still inevitably going to investigate whatever else around your home they can get their beaks around. Electrical wires are extremely dangerous and it is not uncommon for a parrot to get electrocuted. With so many household dangers, it is important that your parrot is supervised whenever they are flying around. But if you’re anything like me, your parrot will be out and about all day every day, so it is worth ensuring all your electrics are safely tucked away for those ten minutes when your mischievous parrot sneakily manages to escape your watchful eye.
In my next article on pet parrot care and how to make your home parrot-safe, I’ll be looking at common household items that you might not realise are toxic to your bird.