The big family dinner is definitely something to look forward to. And boy is that tree going to look pretty! Your Menorah or kinara is set up and ready to have the candles lit. You’ve invited thirty guests for the big Celebration. These are only a few holiday hazards that could pose a danger for your birds.
If You Wouldn’t Eat It, Don’t Let Your Bird
The two traditional holiday plants promoted by the flower shops are poinsettias and Amaryllis bulbs. Poinsettias contain a toxin that will make your bird violently sick. Amaryllis leaves must taste sweet because I had a baby budgie who ate my seedlings to the ground before I had a chance to finish a cup of coffee one day. Bless my avian vet for taking Aida Marie home with her during her first big family Thanksgiving dinner and gavage feeding her medication to bind the toxin so Aida didn’t die. But without my fast action and my vet’s, she would have been dead in hours.
Amaryllis is very toxic. So are other bulbs in this family including Paperwhites (narcissus). Regardless of what kind of plant you have been given or purchased to spruce up your holiday decor, remember that you do not know the conditions under which it was grown. You don’t know what it’s been sprayed with, what’s in the soil or how its been raised. Chances are, it was not grown organically and the leaves can be covered with toxic pesticides. Keep birds and holiday foliage apart.
Over the River and Through The Woods
Will you be traveling to Grandma’s house for the holidays? Or will your house be the destination of every living relative you can find? Either one requires some consideration for your birds.
If you are traveling, will you take your birds with you? Is your bird familiar with traveling? Will there be a room where s/he can calm down and not be in the middle of all the excitement if s/he’s not used to it? Would it be better to leave him at home and have someone check on him?
If every living relative in a three-state radius visits YOU, how is this going to make your bird feel having his home invaded? Will the relatives want to handle your bird? Will this make your bird nervous? Will this excite your bird and be fun for him? Think of these questions and be prepared to remove your bird from a stressful situation quickly. Make sure everyone knows the house rules about handling your bird.
ALWAYS keep track of where your bird is. It’s very easy for a smaller bird to be lost in a crowd, fall to the floor and have someone accidentally step on them. For hints and tips and discussions on taveling with birds see Moving, Traveling, Shipping Birds.
Ooo, turkey time! Everyone loves a good holiday dinner. Whether you are cooking a traditional turkey dinner, Southern Fried Okra for karumu, or your traditional family favorites for Hanuka or Christmas you need to remember a few things.
First, nonstick cookware kills birds! Teflon, T-Fal, Silverstone, whatever they call it, if it is non-stick it has the potential to emit an odorless gas which will painfully kill your bird in a matter of minutes. DON’T use it. If family or friends are bringing food with them that will require re-heating, remind them that you have birds and ask that they not bring anything with a non-stick surface.
Second, there have been reports of cooking bags being responsible for bird deaths. Anything you suspect may be a plastic of some kind that gets heated up has the potential to harm your bird’s delicate respiratory system. Don’t take a chance. A little extra effort on your part means a lifetime for your bird.
Now on to the good stuff. Dinner! Are your foods safe to share with your birds? In most cases they are. Just to be on the safe side give your bird some of the stuff cooked outside the bird and make sure it has been heated up to at least 180 degrees to kill any potential salmonella if you used egg to hold it together. Better yet, use chicken broth to moisten your stuffing instead of egg.
Whatever you do, keep your LIVE bird OUT OF THE KITCHEN. All that steam and open pots and pans are an accident waiting to happen. Steam rising off frying foods or fatty foods can contain oil with the moisture and can again be a culprit in damaging the delicate respiratory systems of birds. If your bird is out of it’s cage, keep doors to the kitchen closed so a startled pet does not end up flying into the kitchen.
Are you the kind of person who serves everything piping hot? Don’t let Polly burn her tongue! Let her food cool off first. And whatever you do, don’t let her have any avocado, chocolate, over-salted foods, alcohol, or caffeine. DO offer Polly some delicious and very healthy sweet potato pie or pumpkin pie (for those birds being converted to pellets, you can imbed some in Polly’s serving so she thinks she’s eating what you are and gets tricked into some pellets too). Carrots and green beans are definitely yummy and healthy for your bird, even if they happen to be glazed with orange juice and brown sugar. And yes, birds can and do eat turkey.
Long Live Turkey Leftovers and On to Presents!
Let’s move on to that Christmas tree and other holiday greenery. Trees grown in nursery settings are more often than not sprayed routinely with fertilizers and pesticides. This residue is usually not washed off adequately enough for you to safely allow your birds a climbing adventure.
And look closely at those branches. See anything funny? A lot of trees are spray painted to make brown patches more green! Don’t let your bird climb the tree and don’t use the branches for perches afterwards. You simply do not know where this tree has been.
Have you noticed that birds can be fascinated by sparkling lights? Candles can look very tempting to a bird. Not only that, candles themselves produce evaporants that will enter your bird’s air sacs and cause damage. Although there is not yet any literature available, a common observation has shown that scented candles have caused nearly instant death of birds.
If your holiday includes the candle lighting ritual, make sure you use plain candles and make sure your bird is not in the same room while they are burning. Keep your bird away from the candle in a well ventilated room.
Have you noticed how closely holiday ornaments resemble bird toys? They definitely taunt to your bird to further investigate. Glitter, tinsel, glass bulbs, and painted wooden ornaments are all temptations your bird should not be allowed to indulge. In their place, I often hang bird toys and let them take them off the tree.
Another temptation is wrapping paper. Colored wrapping paper contains chemicals you do not want your bird ingesting. Wrap their presents in newspaper instead and tie it with sisal string. It may seem boring to you but I guarantee your bird will be thrilled silly to have it’s very own package to open (I sometimes let some of their toy stick out of the package so they are enticed to open it).
In a Nutshell
Do you put out nuts in shells during the holidays? Make sure you share with your feathered family members. Most of all, remember to use your head. Review your holiday plans from and think of how they will effect the pets with whom you share your home. Be smart and be aware of your bird at all times. Make this a holiday season memorable for being full of friends, food and fun. Don’t let it become memorable for the needless death of your beloved bird. Paranoia protects birds.