The childlike curiosity of budgies is charming and endearing, but it also makes them vulnerable to household dangers. Naturally, as pet bird owners, we want to make the home safe for budgies.
Most of us know that hot stoves and cleaning fumes are bad for budgies. However, lesser-known risks include electric blankets, bird toys, potted herbs, and stucco ceilings. Too much confinement and mold can also cause atherosclerosis and aspergillosis, which are both deadly.
As you’ll see, keeping a budgie healthy at home is a careful balancing act. You’ll want to keep its cage clean without creating toxic cleaning fumes. Similarly, you’ll want to exercise your budgie enough without letting it fly into hazardous items like windows and ceiling fans.
What is Harmful to Budgies?
Ordinarily, homes are full of smells, noises, and products harmful to budgies (parakeets).
However, the home can be made safe for small birds. However, you need to be aware of budgie dangers in the home, especially the lesser-known ones.
They can be broken down into the following categories:
- Household smells that are toxic to budgies
- Foods and drinks that are poisonous to budgies
- Hazardous furniture and décor
- Cage-related dangers
- Dangers when you have guests over
- Pet-related risks
We’ll explore the risks and how to create a safer space for your budgie at home.
1/ Fumes from Non-Stick Cookware
Fluorocarbon gasses are produced by polytetrafluoroethylene (PTFE), a chemical compound used in many household products, including cookware, irons, electric blankets, and self-cleaning ovens.
Tefal, Scanpan, Duracote, and Resistal non-stick pans have inbuilt PTFE.
The problem with PTFE is that, when heated, the fluorocarbon gases it emits are extremely harmful to birds. These toxic gases enter the bird’s respiratory system and remain concentrated inside its air sacs. Most budgies will struggle to absorb oxygen properly and could die as a result.
For that reason, owners should avoid all forms of PTFE in the home (it’s not safe to ventilate the kitchen after cooking). Use cast iron cookware instead of ‘non-stick’ pans.
Also, remember to avoid electric blankets, self-cleaning ovens, and irons with PTFE.
Disinfectants produce strong scents that can be poisonous to budgies’ airways.
Science Direct recommends periodically disinfecting a budgie’s food and water bowls because it helps prevent diseases like chlamydophila psittaci.
Thankfully, it is possible to buy ‘bird-safe’ disinfectant. Remember that this should be used in all areas of the house, not just the birdcage.
3/ Essential Oil Diffusers
It’s tempting to think that anything that’s ‘natural’ must be safe for budgies. After all, wild birds enjoy thousands of earthy and floral fragrances as they soar through the air.
While that may be true, essential oils are highly concentrated natural oils and can be toxic for humans, let alone small birds.
Tea Tree and Patchouli are some of the most toxic essential oils for budgies, but all essential oils should be off-limits if you live in a house with birds.
Even very light diffusers can cause intense irritation to your budgie’s air sacs, skin, and feathers.
4/ Potted Herbs
Many herbs are healthy for budgies, while others should be avoided.
Sage (Salvia officinalis) is toxic for budgies. Also, sorrel (Rumex acetosa) is another herb that budgies shouldn’t be allowed near.
Budgies are curious, so it’s best not to keep certain herbs inside the house.
5/ Coffee Dregs
How often have you walked off and forgotten about your cup of coffee? It’s easy to do, especially if you have lots of chores to get done.
A budgie is likely to explore any unfinished drinks left around the house. Coffee dregs are especially dangerous because the caffeine could cause heart problems (and even cardiac arrest) in budgies.
6/ Stale Water
Any kind of stale drink could be bad for your budgie to drink. If a drink is stale or stagnant, it’s more likely to harbor bacteria.
You can dissuade this behavior by ensuring that your budgie always has access to clean and fresh water.
7/ Salt (Sodium)
Open-top salt containers are a no-no if you let your budgie roam free in your home. You should never feed your budgie a salted snack like a chip, nut, or pretzel.
Even small amounts of salt can cause dehydration, thirst, and high blood pressure (hypertension).
8/ High-Cholesterol Diet
According to AMVA, small captive birds are at risk of atherosclerosis (hardened arteries) if fed a high-cholesterol diet.
100% seed mixes are high in cholesterol and lack essential nutrients like vitamin A. Feeding your budgie leftovers is similarly problematic.
9/ Inadequate or Unsafe Positioning
A budgie’s cage needs to be positioned in an environment that’s not too hot or cold. The temperature should be 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit (21-29 degrees Celsius).
A budgie can quickly turn ill if they become too hot or too cold, so it’s important to monitor the temperature. Also, ensure that your budgie can always take shade if needed.
Remember to put your cage where your family can easily visit and engage with your budgies. This is especially important if you have a single bird, as you wouldn’t want it to feel lonely or bored.
10/ Insufficient Exercise
Budgies love to flitter around. So, get the biggest cage you can so your budgie has ample space.
Allowing your budgie out of the cage regularly promotes blood flow and reduces the risk of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
If you don’t keep on top of cage-cleaning, mold could develop in your budgie’s home. Mold is most likely to grow in difficult-to-reach corners or under water dishes that are seldom moved.
It’s crucial to prevent mold as it can cause an infection of the lungs (aspergillosis) in budgies.
12/ Poisonous Perches
Budgies need at least three perches at different levels, but the following types are poisonous for budgies: laurel, sycamore, yew, and laburnum.
Safer alternatives are dogwood, ash, and pear branches. These should be disinfected with bird-safe disinfectant before being introduced to the cage.
13/ Ungalvanized Wire Mesh Cage
As advised by PDSA, you should use non-galvanized wire mesh, as this protects against zinc toxicity.
This is important if you’re re-using wire mesh/cages built several years ago, as they’re more likely to have zinc/lead solder on them.
14/ Mirror Toys
Some owners choose not to give mirror toys to their budgies.
This is because some small birds become depressed after using mirror toys. This could be because they believe the bird in the mirror is their ‘mate,’ yet he/she doesn’t reply when called.
Budgies are attracted to cords, but their legs could become trapped in the strings.
Additionally, very old blinds (made before 1996) could have lead in them, putting your budgie at risk of lead poisoning.
Don’t leave your budgie in a room with blinds unsupervised; you can also tuck away the strings. Very old blinds (made before 1996) should be replaced before bringing a budgie into your home.
16/ Electrical Wires
Just as budgies are drawn to string cords, they’re also drawn to electrical wires because chewing is a part of their natural behavior. Budgies chew to sharpen and wear down their beaks.
The biggest concern is that they could chew through the wires and become electrocuted. Even if not electrocuted, they could ingest toxic substances.
According to WatchBird Journal, a good way to prevent wire-chewing is to provide plenty of natural and healthy chewing material, like spider plant leaves and geraniums.
17/ Toilet Bowl
Water is a drowning hazard for any small bird. Leaving a sink full of water is perhaps the most obvious hazard, but the toilet bowl is similarly problematic.
It’s a good idea to shut all bathroom doors before letting your budgie out.
18/ Ceiling Fans
Fans are hazardous for budgies because they can’t see the blades when moving. This applies to ceiling fans and standalone fans, though ceiling fans are the most dangerous.
20/ Windows and Mirrors
Closed windows and mirrors are a hazard for your budgie because they could fly into them and seriously injure themselves. The cleaner the window/mirror, the greater the risk.
You can help your bird by going up to the window/mirror and tapping on it to show that it can’t be flown through.
21/ Stucco Ceilings
Your budgie could fly into this ceiling without appreciating its texture and cause damage to its wings. It’s sensible to cordon off areas of the house with stucco ceilings.
22/ Noisy Night-Times
Budgies are light sleepers and will struggle to relax if you’re watching TV, listening to loud music, or partying long into the night. Also, loud noises can startle them and cause them stress.
You may need to cover your budgie’s cage with a blanket to muffle the sound.
23/ Kitty Litter
We know that cats are predators of birds, but did you know that kitty litter can be bad for budgies? Since cat litter is typically made from clay, it’ll swell up if a bird ingests it, causing intestinal impaction.
Dogs and birds should always be separated.
Whereas a cat will usually ‘play’ with a bird before attempting to attack it fatally, a dog is likelier to kill straightaway. This gives you zero opportunity to intervene.
Leaving unattended alcoholic drinks around the house is dangerous, as this psychoactive substance is far too strong for a small bird like a budgie.