A safe Christmas with your pet bird

Budgerigar on Christmas tree1. Tree watch

It offers a great view around the room, and plenty of opportunity to perch, but overall,  it’s not a good idea to allow your pet bird to settle on your Christmas tree.  Otherwise, you’ll likely to find that  branches might be nibbled, ornaments may be dislodged and your pet could even end up with loose needles sticking in its plumage.  There’s also a risk of  possible poisoning if you have sprayed anything on the tree, should your pet develop a taste for fake snow as an example. 

2.  Watch the plants too 

Aside from the Christmas tree,  you may have various  other plants in the home over the festive period. Unfortunately,  many of these are likely to be toxic side-effects if your bird decides to eat  them. All bulbs, such as flowering hyacinths and daffodils, fall into this category, as do other typically seasonal plants, such as poinsettias with their characteristic felt-like reddish bracts, winter cherry (Solanum), so-called because of its attractive orange berries, and ivy. Be sure to keep all of these all out of your bird’s reach. Meanwhile, if you’re cutting holly from the garden, go easy on taking stems with berries - these can be a vital source of food for many birds including migrants such as fieldfares and redwings in the New Year if the weather is bad.

3.  Lighting and ornaments

Budgerigar and Christmas ornamentWe love them, and many parrots would like to play with them, not recognising the dangers. Christmas lights are especially hazardous for parrots, because much of the accompanying electrical flex cannot be tucked away behind furniture, and whether wrapped around the branches of a Christmas tree or even around a mirror, it is still likely to be within easy reach of an inquisitive parrot. A larger parrot is quite able to slice through the cord with its bill and electrocute itself in the process.

Again, it’s very much a matter of supervision. Do not allow your parrot to be left alone when the lights are on. Should you discover that  your parrot has the flex in its bill,  avoid the instinctive response of immediately rushing over and trying to take it out of its mouth.  Almost certainly, this will cause the parrot to tighten its grip, so that the risk of a fatal shock, not just for the bird but also for you will be correspondingly increased.

Instead, start by switching off the power supply at the wall, and remove the plug from the socket, so that you can then part the parrot from the flex in safety. Even so, if the outer casing has been torn in any way, the flex or even the entire lights may need replacing, because of the damage.  

It is also advisable to take care when choosing ornaments. Highly ornamental glass ones can be very fragile, and if your parrot dislodges any decorations of this type from around the room, you are likely to be left with sharp shards of glass on the floor. Plastic ornaments may be a safer bet. Tinsel too could be hazardous is nibbled and swallowed, possibly giving rise to a blockage in the digestive tract. A good choice for ornaments are pine cones however - obtain an extra one which your parrot can have as a toy.      

4.  Table manners

Come the big day, you may not want your pet to be left with his regular foFestive amazin parrot eating a hazelnutod, but take particular care if you intend to have avocado on your menu for Christmas lunch. This is particularly deadly to birds and should not be offered to them at any stage.  There is no need to fear a little cannibalism though, if your parrot eats a small piece of turkey.  It’s actually a good source of protein, and poultry meat used to be added to the diet of parrots on occasions to improve the quality of their diet in days well before the arrival of complete foods.  Even so, it must be thoroughly cooked, to eliminate any risk of spreading Salmonella and bones should never be given because these will crack and splinter easily, even to the extent of impaling themselves in the parrot’s mouth.    

Vegetables will of course be eaten readily by many birds, and a nut roast may be more to your bird’s taste - or at least the key ingredients. Larger parrots love nuts such as walnuts and hazelnuts, while the bigger macaws can even crack Brazil nuts without difficulty. You may have to break the nuts therefore in some cases, but again, this can help to keep your bird amused as it extracts the kernel.

If you are preparing carrots, you can grate off some thin slices if you have a pet canary for example, while budgies can manage to destroy thicker chunks.  In terms of cooked vegetables, peas and broccoli are good choices, although it is better if they are cooked without any salt.

Sweet corn is a particular favourite of many parrots, especially Amazons, while dried fruits from the Christmas pudding may be fine in very limited quantities, but beware if it has been laced with alcohol.   

5. Teetotal birds

Birds do not actually like to drink alcohol. In spite of its recommended use in bird-keeping books of old as a emergency tonic for a sick bird, alcohol is actually likely to prove to be poisonous if given in any volume. Stick to water, and avoid any worries.     

6.  Party bangs

Fireworks indoors or out can be upsetting for birds,  so do not have an indoor display in the same room as your pet. The acrid smoke given off in some cases is unlikely to improve its breathing, with birds being far more susceptible to such fumes than we are.  For this reason, it’s also advisable to take care when using any furniture sprays or carpet cleaners, when tidying the house for guests. In the case of outdoor fireworks,  it is the sudden flashes of light  rather than the noise which is most disturbing to pet birds indoors, especially if they are in a dark room.  Draw the curtains therefore, before it gets dark, so as to protect your pet.   

7.  Party pooper

If you are holding a party, it may well be better to transfer your pet bird to a spare room, or another part of the house where guests will not be congregating.  Otherwise, the event could be rather stressful for your pet, having to become acquainted in a short space of time with so many virtual strangers, some of whom may not be aware of the needs of birds.  It will also keep them away from smoke of any kind - research from the USA suggests that inhaling marijuana smoke can be harmful to pet birds, just as with tobacco smoke!  

Salted peanuts, crisps and other similar snacks usually on offer at parties are not suitable fare for parrots. Unfortunately though, if offered to a parrot, it may eat them regardless, and then falls ill. While a digestive upset for us is unlikely to be fatal, it can be very serious for. a parrot. Should you have the misfortune to be confronted with a sick bird over the festive period however, veterinary help will be available. In cases of genuine emergencies, simply contact your regular vet but only call if you have a real problem with your pet.

8. On the move with your bird

Budgerigar eating with christmas tree

You may be invited to stay with friends or relatives for Christmas or the New Year,  and this can pose problems with the care of your pet. It is definitely not responsible to leave a bird on its own for more than a day. Accidents can happen, or it may fall ill. 

Help could be at hand though in the guise of a reliable friend or neighbour who may be prepared to tear themselves away from the festivities to call round and check on your pet, although finding a volunteer is not likely to be easy at time of year.  It’s also less certain that someone would want to take your bird into their home,  with household routines being in turmoil.

So you may need to think seriously about taking your bird with you. This should not cause major problems on a short journey, but  it is safer to transfer the bird into a special carrying box, placed within its cage. Birds become far more stressed if they have to travel clinging on to the sides of their cage, plus there is the additional hazard that the car seats may be soiled with its droppings.  Beware if the weather is cold though - move your pet to its temporary home as quickly as possible, trying to avoid detours to drop presents off on the journey.

9. Be prepared!

Do not forget to take seed with you if you are going away, and it will be worthwhile obtaining a sufficient supply to last right through the holiday period, if for no other reason than it’s something to have to worry about when you should be relaxing!

10. Don’t forget a gift...

Many owners are now giving their pets presents, and your parrot too may feel left out of the festivities if it does not receive any gift. The choice of course is up to you, but there are now plenty of toys to choose from, which should keep your pet playing happily throughout this festive season . . .

 .