Parrots are sometimes referred to as feathered toddlers. Toddlers don’t fly and have not got tin openers on front of their faces. But similarities abound. Curiosity, self-centredness, need for love and affection and a blind disregard for danger. Absolute safety would entail a sterile environment a padded cage or a padded cell! Provide a safe environment for young creatures - with forethought you can avoid many accidents.
My African Greys, Artha and Casper tended to get into far more scrapes when they were younger. Artha is now 19 and Casper is 17.
Like many owners I like to shower or take a bath with the birds. Artha was 4 and Casper 2. A deep bubble bath and my favourite magazine. Artha and Casper were fooling about on the shower rail. I was absorbed. The bath water began bubbling near my feet. which I ignored for a few seconds.
It bubbled more. I looked up, Casper was flailing under water. He came up nice and dry with a towel. He still sits on the shower rail. But I don’t read in the bath when the birds are in the bathroom.
To keep birds safe round water is not difficult. Toilet lids are ALWAYS shut. Water in bowls never higher than the length of the bird’s legs. It’s not happened to me, but a friend’s Kakariki drowned in her water bowl.
Evening time is play time with the Parrot's free range indoors. In theory, we keep doors closed of non- bird rooms but in practice … One December night, Wal arrived with the Tesco shopping. ‘Close the door,’ I shouted from the kitchen ‘the birds are out.’
At nine o’clock, I put Casper and the 2 Cockatoos into the bird room; Artha was missing. Wal swore he’d closed the front door immediately. I turned the house upside down. Emptied every cupboard and drawer. The mess was indescribable. Then, I spent tearful hour in the garden, flashing my torch. If she’d escaped, she had to have been blown away.
I gave up the search; would get up at dawn to continue; felt despair.
At 10 pm, Boudicca, the tortoiseshell was curled up on our bed, enjoying the warmth from the electric under-blanket. I removed the cat. Under the duvet, I found a comatose African Grey, almost too hot to handle. She suffered no after effects. Why hadn’t she responded top my contact calls?
EB Cravens has written: When we raise our companion baby birds to be tame and trusting, the less “wild savvy” these chicks retain to warn and protect them from injury and life-threatening situations.
So, what are the major hazards that we should be aware of. For a start, windows, cages, toys, chemicals, human and animal predators and escapes.
My solution for birds flying into glass is to stripe the windows with Windowlene or any other cleaner. Also tap the bird’s beak against the glass. As they realise the glass cannot be flown through, you can gradually clean off the product. It may take up to six weeks with a new bird. Birds remember and a spin-off is nice clean windows. The same principal works for mirrors, too.
A mistake I’ve made is putting a small bird in a large cage. Casper broke a fledgling’s wing when Little Flo stuck it outside. And a Kakariki broke a leg in the Macaw cage. (I managed to save the bird but once Stumpy went outside, living OK with one leg, a squirrel entered the aviary and killed her) For the cages, my solution is to attach mesh around the interior if I think the inhabitants can injure themselves on the bars.
Expert advice is to provide plenty of toys for enrichment. But caution please. Source your toys carefully. I the paint safe to be chewed? Are there too many small parts that if detached can be swallowed. IS the plastic too thin and will make jagged edges?
When I buy baby toys from the charity shop I look for a safety label. Rope is marvellous for birds but must be inspected daily and discarded if edges are frayed. Even a material as innocuous as towelling can fray and catch a babies legs. Artha has lost a claw by sticking her leg through aviary mesh.
My birds love cardboard boxes, squares, bought objects or homemade ones. And they seem safe.
Fresh branches, flowers and weeds if you know they are on a safe for birds list make cheap and cheerful safe toys.
I have to be bossy to husband and family and refuse anything non-stick in the kitchen. Yet although the majority of Parrot carers know that non-stick pans if burning give off a poisonous gas fatal to Parrots, accidents are still occurring.
Someone recently posted on Facebook that they’d lost a bird to fumes given off by a self-cleaning oven.
If you use natural products like vinegar or lemon or environmentally safe cleaning products they won’t harm birds.
Again if your household products and toys come from a reliable source there shouldn’t be any potentially fatal zinc or lead to be ingested. A rule of thumb – if in doubt leave it out.
We share our lives with these fragile strong creatures. And yes, I do know of someone who squashed his Parakeet to death by plonking himself down on the couch. I’ve fallen asleep with a Parrot on my lap but I’d never sleep in bed with one in case I rolled over.
Dogs and cats pet rats and snakes - their proximity to pet birds raises controversy. For perfect safety, allow no contact at all. Dogs are a problem Our dogs and Parrots have been raised together. But I have known of Parrots unafraid of dogs who have been killed by an unfamiliar one. This is a risk with my free flying Macaws but they seem to be aware that stranger dogs are not friends
Cats’ scratches can be poisonous to Parrots. Again our birds and cats have been raised together. Even so I’d never leave different species unattended. That includes children. Children and birds ARE safe together with proper precautions, training and supervision.
Birds of course attack one another. You can mix species but if you are a novice you need reliable advice. Aggression isn’t constant. Casper Grey had to be separated from my two wild caught Amazons. But after eight years, they coexisted in the bird room with no difficulty. Perdy Cockatoo loved baby birds. Artha Grey was never reliable to be left in proximity until they were agile flyers.
For the last three years, I’ve have been free flying Benni Macaw and now he’s joined by Mina the Military. One morning in May, two years ago, I’d put Artha and Casper in the king’s cage in the sitting room and took Benni out to fly. I came back at 1 p.m. to find Artha in the closed cage. Casper was not inside - a bewildering mystery.
Artha (she is harnessed) and I searched the village for 4 hours. Someone had seen a grey Parrot chased by jackdaws out of a large tree in the opposite direction of our property.
Back home at 5 pm, I heard a West African wheep. Casper had found his own way home and was 30 metres high in the oak tree, overlooking the aviary. After 30 minutes, he condescended to fly down onto the aviary roof and step up.
The mystery of the closed cage was solved by closer examination. The screw for the upper part was missing, so for some years, I’d used a piece of wire. Casper had untwirled the many turns of wire, squeezed out of the opening and flown out of the open kitchen door. The cage door slammed itself shut with the wire still in place. Artha hadn’t been either eager or bright enough to follow him.
Parrots don’t usually want to fly away. If your bird has been taken outside in a harness or in a cage or been in an aviary, should she get outside, unless she’s spooked or chased she’ll be nearby.
Clipped birds suffer a great disadvantage if they get outside. They cannot control their flight or avoid predators.
Let me finish with EB Cravens’ wise words: The longer we share our homes with them, the more “birdlike” we become—quick to notice change, adept at sensing threat, instantaneous in our warnings, and decisive in our reactions. Maybe those wild survival skills we unlearned so long ago are precisely the ones we are reacquiring through association with our Parrots.
Enjoy a safe and happy Christmas with your feathered friends.
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