Summer wouldn’t be summer without backyard barbecues or time at the pool. But before you fire up your backyard grill or unroll the pool or spa cover, take a moment to see what steps you need to make to ensure your bird’s safety and well-being all summer long.
Temperatures can soar in July and August, which means finding ways to keep cool. If you turn on your home’s air conditioner, make sure that it is not blowing cold air directly on your bird. Likewise, if you turn on a fan, aim it slightly off center of your bird’s area. Some birds become spooked or just plain annoyed when a fan’s breeze hits the bird straight on, so if you run a fan, see how your bird reacts, and adjust accordingly.
Ceiling fans are a great way to cool down a room, but bird owners need to be especially careful when they are in use. Pet birds have been seriously injured and/or killed after colliding with the blades of a ceiling fan. Diligence is especially due if your bird is free-flighted or able to gain enough lift off to reach ceiling fan level. (Cockatiels are especially adept flyers and can often fly even with a couple weeks of having a wing feather trim.) Play it safe, and keep your bird in its cage or in another room while a ceiling fan is in use.
During warm-weather months, many people open the windows of their homes for fresh air and to allow air to circulate. Bird owners need to make sure their window screens are secured (not unhinged) and free of holes and tears. Extra supervision is in order if there is any possibility that your bird has access to window screens. Years ago, my cockatiel’s cage was situation on a counter top and he loved spending time outside the cage, foraging for his treats and toys strewn along the counter’s top. What I failed to notice was that he was also making headway on a hole he started in the window screen located behind his cage; which was large enough for him to stick his head and part of his body out of.
Summer months also tend to be a bit busier for most households; whether its going in and out of the house loading (or unloading) the car for a road trip or having guests over for a backyard gathering … amid the hustle and bustle, doors will likely be left open. This can create an accidental escape hazard if your bird’s cage is left open or if the bird is left on his playgym. It can also lead to the unexpected. I once heard from a bird owner whose sliding door was left open while she and her guests had a nighttime barbecue and when she went inside to bring in some dishes, she encountered a raccoon pawing at her at her terrified cockatoo through the bars of his cage! Another reason to keep doors shut is to keep mosquitoes out, which can carry West Nile virus.
A lot parrots enjoy spending time outdoors, and exposure to natural sunlight is great for your bird’s health. However, before bringing your feathered friend outside for some time in the sun, take some precautions. First and foremost, make sure your bird can’t fly away. If your bird is flighted, roll out its cage so it can enjoy the sunshine from there, or place your bird in a travel carrier. Accustoming your bird to wearing a harness is a safe way to allow your bird to spend time with you outdoors without the risk of an accidental flyaway. If your bird has a wing feather trim, again, be absolutely sure that it cannot gain lift off in the event that something startles her. If your bird is spending an extended time with you outdoors or it is especially hot, make sure your bird has access to shade and water. Cover part of the cage or carrier with a blanket or towel to create shade, or move the cage under an n awning. A sunny day is the perfect time to give your bird a spray bath, too! Most parrots love to a post-bath preening session in the sunshine.
Do not let your bird pool side. Parrots can drown, so don’t assume that your bird will be fine perched on a playgym close to the pool or spa. Make sure your bird is thoroughly supervised during a pool party.
When backyard grilling, make sure the smoke isn’t streaming inside your home through a window and straight toward your bird’s cage. Gas stoves can be deadly to birds, so ensure that your bird’s airspace is free and clear of direct exposure to your barbecue’s smoke.
Wash Those Hands! Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands after cooking meat on the grill before you handle your bird to prevent salmonella exposure. Also wash your hands after using lighter fluid, scrubbing the grill, using lighter fluid or after handling charcoal before interacting with your bird. Hopefully you follow sun safety tips for yourself, such as applying sunscreen but keep it off your bird’s feathers. If you use spray-on sunscreen, make sure your bird doesn’t receive spray back … breathing in sunscreen residue can irritate your bird’s respiratory system and it doesn’t belong on your bird’s feathers!