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.
AC, Fans, And Bird Safety
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 them straight on. 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 pet 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 fliers and can often fly within a couple weeks of having a wing feather trim.) Play it safe, and keep your bird in his or her cage or in another room while a ceiling fan is in use.
Birds And Windows
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 situated on a countertop. He loved spending time outside the cage, foraging for his treats and toys strewn along the countertop. 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. It grew large enough for him to stick out his head and part of his body.
The Dangers To Birds From Open Doors
Summer months also tend to be a bit busier for most households, and doors are likely to be left open. 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, be door aware amid the hustle and bustle. An open door creates 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. When she went inside with some dishes, she encountered a raccoon pawing 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 companion parrots enjoy spending time outdoors, and exposure to natural sunlight is great for your pet 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 his cage so he 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 pet 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 him.
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 awning. A sunny day is the perfect time to give your bird a spray bath, too! Most parrots love a post-bath preening session in the sunshine.
Do not let your bird poolside. 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, prevent smoke from 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, 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!