Many pet birds have a few chill out and relax spots — their cage, their play gym and on the couch or coziest chair with you. But before you pop in a DVD, break out the Popcorn Nutri-Berrie Treats and snuggle up with your bird on the sofa, take a moment to think about your furniture’s well being. Here is a look at furniture types that might be vulnerable to the feathered kind, and what you can do about it.
Wicker is often made from material of plant origin (although there is also synthetic wicker), and it is woven together to make baskets, chairs, footrests, and more. Another thing about wicker … beaks of all sizes can make a dent in it. A bird friend of mine loved her new wicker chair and, unfortunately, so did her cockatiels. She dedicated an entire room to her birds and took great steps to bird-proof it; the thought being that her cockatiels could safely hang out on the top of their cages. What she didn’t foresee was that, true to their ground-foraging tendencies, her cockatiels took to the floor and, over what must have been the course of a few weeks, picked away at the foot of the chair, which was there so she could sit and read with her flock.
Wicker, with its somewhat delicate design, can be tempting to birds of all sizes. Taking down a wicker chair leg might be a weeklong project for a cockatiel, but a macaw or Amazon can conquer it in a few well-placed chews. Believe it or not, you can fix wicker furniture, even if your bird tore through it like it was a chew toy, with the help of wicker caning and other fix-it materials. Check out this extreme restoration.
Leather & Suede
The lure of leather is often too tempting for some parrots. Perhaps it is the satisfaction of pinching through it, the back-and-forth “beak sawing” motion needed to chew off bits of it or the sense of accomplishment for leaving half-moon beak imprints all over it. Whatever the reason, a lot of parrots love toys with leather pieces to chew up, and there are plenty of bird toys with untreated/ nontoxic leather elements available to offer a healthy outlet for your bird’s chewing needs. You don’t mind your bird tearing up its toys … but your leather couch? Not so much.
Not only is your leather couch likely treated with chemicals you don’t want your parrot ingesting, but you probably don’t want a chunk taken out of it or an annoying pinch imprint from your bird’s beak forever imprinted in it. Years ago, I made the mistake of perching my Amazon parrot on a chair with a leatherback while I went to laundry in the dryer. Now the chair has four half-moon indents … not enough damage to warrant a replacement, but enough to be slightly annoying.
Not all is lost if your bird customizes your couch. There are a variety of leather repair kits, from simple fixes to more extensive patch repair. For scratches, the Internet has a smorgasbord of home remedies to diminish scratches, including baseball glove oil, shoe polish, Lanolin and olive or canola oil … do your research so you don’t discolor your leather or make things worse before you go this route.
Cleaning Tip: Did you know the longer your bird’s poop stays on your leather upholstery, the likelier you’ll have a stain? Wipe the dropping off while it’s still fresh with a soft damp cloth. If you find dried-on poop, gently brush it off with a soft brush and then use leather cleaner according to the product’s instructions.
Is it really leather … or is it microfiber? Microfiber is used to make a range of products, and it can be made to look like leather or suede. If your bird leaves a mess on your microfiber furniture, turn the seat cushion over and look for the tag with cleaning instructions. You’ll likely see one of four codes — “W,” “S,” “S-W” or “X”— and the code you see dictates the way to clean it. The letter “W” means you can use water-based products, “S” means to use a solvent or professional dry cleaning solution, “S-W” gives you the option of using either “W” or “S” products and “X” gives you no product options at all … it means vacuum only. One thing not to use on microfiber furniture is soap and water, which can leave water-ring stains.
If you have one of the dustier pet bird types, your sofa or chair might be a canvas for your bird’s dust and dander, which can be quite visible on darker hues. (Not sure if your pet bird belongs in the “dusty” parrot category? Try this: Put on a black shirt and hold your bird close. If you have a white silhouette on your clothing, your bird is of the dusty kind; likely a cockatiel, cockatoo or African grey parrot). Fortunately, cloth upholstery is one of the easiest types of furniture to clean, and a steam cleaner is the way to go to deep clean your fabric furniture. To suck up treat crumbs your bird leaves behind, invest in a shop vac with an upholstery brush accessory and vacuum down your couch frequently.
If you share your couch time with your parrot on a consistent basis, chances are your bird has “bombed” it one time or another. Depending on what your bird recently ate can be the difference between spot-cleaning success or a stain you cover up with a throw blanket or décor pillow. The same goes if your bird is allowed a treat while on the couch with you. At some point, your bird is going to rub blueberry off its beak or drop that itty-bitty morsel of pizza, sauce-side down, and the logical landing spot is your couch cushion.
Families with young children stay clear of white furniture (and carpet, too), and so should you. If you do have light-colored furniture, drape a machine-washable blanket on part of it before you sit down with your bird. A perfect treat for couch time? Something that is easy to clean up, such as Avi-Cakes, which offers good nutrition bound together … sticky enough to appeal to your bird’s tactile senses, yet won’t stick to upholstery.
Cushions With Buttons
Nothing can turn your beautifully button-bedazzled couch cushion from fab to drab than a missing button or two. If your bird has a habit of removing buttons from your shirts, it would find nothing more thrilling than the challenge of freeing a couch cushion button. Keep these cushions out of beak’s reach, or turn them around so your bird can’t see the buttons. Buttons used for pillows and cushions might also have lead in them, which is a good reason to keep your bird from touching them; give your bird a toy with bird-safe buttons instead.
What could be wrong with glass you ask? There are two ways your parrot can leave its mark; some birds like the sound their beak makes against glass as they run the tip or side of the beak along the glass surface. If you have one of the larger pet bird species, don’t blame your bird for leaving behind a scratch trail as it scoots along the surface like nails to a chalkboard (parrots aren’t so good at lifting their feet up when walking; for some, their gait can be reminiscent of ice skating). Also, with the dusty parrot species, you will want to keep some glass cleaner on hand to wipe it down.
Antique/Family Heirloom Furniture
If you own valuable antiques or sentimental home furnishings, keep them off limits from the flock. Some parrots seem to make it their special mission get their beaks on the “stay-well-away” items around your home. What beak could resist the appeal of a one-of-a-kind, hand-carved chair leg or the back of a wooden rocking chair, one that resembles a play gym?
Has your bird left its mark on your furniture? Do share!