Incense diffuses odors and adds a pleasant smell to a room. Many people burn incense freely in their homes, but this should never be done if you have pet birds.
That’s the case even if a budgie’s cage is kept in a room with good airflow, as incense is likely to have serious or deadly consequences.
Incense is bad for budgies because it releases carcinogenic smoke, particulate matter, and volatile organic compounds (benzene, toluene, and xylenes).
Budgies have sensitive respiratory systems and inhale twice as much of the toxic air around them as humans with each breath.
Unscented incense is still damaging to budgies, as it releases smoke, soot, and fumes. Even incense sticks made from all-natural materials are dangerous to birds.
If you want to freshen up the small of your home safely, you can use baking soda, simmer pots, or open some windows (while your bird is caged).
Can Budgies Be Around Incense?
Unlike certain candles, there’s no way to make incense safe for birds.
So, swapping out different components in your incense won’t lessen the harmful effects. Even subtle aromas or all-natural ingredients used to create the smell are problematic.
A trace amount in the air that doesn’t adversely affect you can still damage your budgie’s lungs and air sacs. Opening a window or promoting better airflow with a fan isn’t enough to make a difference.
Even if your budgie doesn’t immediately fall ill, that doesn’t mean its health won’t suffer. You should remove your budgie from any room where an incense stick has been lit.
Human vs. Birds’ Respiratory Systems
Budgies are more sensitive to air contaminants than humans because their air sacs and lungs are uniquely designed to take in higher oxygen concentrations unidirectionally.
Humans take oxygen directly into their lungs. Here, small structures called alveoli absorb oxygen and remove carbon dioxide. We have a two-directional (bidirectional) gas exchange.
The air budgies breathe flows through the nares (nostrils) and into the trachea. Some air enters the lungs, while the rest enters the rear air sacs, allowing budgies to intake twice as much air with each inhalation. Birds have a one-way (unidirectional) gas exchange, which is more efficient than mammals.
Budgies inhale twice as much oxygen as humans with each inhalation. It’s a highly efficient respiratory system when birds breathe clean, untainted air. However, if budgies inhale chemicals, fumes, and soot, their air sacs and lungs endure twice as much damage.
The unidirectional oxygen flow is advantageous to birds, as they fly in thin air over long distances.
That’s why owners are advised to keep their pet budgies away from the following:
- Teflon (non-stick) pans
- Air fresheners
- Cleaning products
- Hair sprays
- Colognes (aftershaves and perfumes)
Why Is Incense Harmful To Birds?
Even smoke from wood-fire stoves or outdoor campfires can be harmful to budgies.
Incense has the same effect. The word ‘incense’ comes from a Latin word that means ‘to burn.’ That’s made worse because burning incense doesn’t just involve burning a stick.
Incense is composed of the following components:
- Herbal and wood powder
- Adhesive powder
These ingredients are mostly (but not completely) harmless to humans, freshening the air with a calming effect. That’s why incense is often used in religious places of worship today.
Unfortunately, incense is unsafe for budgies due to how fragrances, chemicals, soot, and smoke are processed in birds’ air sacs and lungs.
The most common aromatics in incense are as follows:
A human would need to inhale a great deal of concentrated incense to experience the same harmful effects a budgie will experience in short order.
Are Incense Fumes Bad For Budgies?
The most harmful part of an incense stick is the fumes, which are a combination of smoke and fragrance.
According to Clinical and Molecular Allergy, one gram of incense produces 45 mg of particulates. You can compare this to cigarettes, which produce 10 mg of particulate for each gram of cigarette burned.
The compounds found in cigarettes are more toxic than those found in incense sticks. However, the ones that incense sticks release are still concerning.
According to the above study, these include the following:
- Carbon monoxide
- Carbon dioxide
- Nitrogen dioxide
- Sulfur dioxide
VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, are also released, including:
- Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
Does Incense Kill Budgies?
Incense can kill budgies as the compounds released into the air are classified as pollutants.
Here are some of the concerns raised by scientific research:
- According to Cancer, incense smoke is linked to an increased risk of squamous cell lung cancer.
- BMC Pulmonary Medicine determined that incense smoke triggered wheezing in asthmatic children.
- The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health determined that people who regularly burned incense in their homes were at a higher risk of high blood pressure (hypertension).
Smoke indicates that there are pollutants in the air, especially if you can see it with the naked eye.
Incense Alternatives for Birds
Unlike candles, no type of incense is considered ‘safer’ or ‘cleaner.’ If you want to make your home smell nicer, there are alternatives to incense, including:
If you don’t want to use incense to reduce foul odors, you can use baking soda instead. It won’t release any strong-smelling scents, and it’s not toxic to budgies’ delicate respiratory systems.
Put some baking soda in a shallow dish where your budgie can’t reach. You’ll need to replace the baking soda once every few weeks for it to continue to have air-purifying qualities.
Also, you can sprinkle baking soda straight onto a surface for spot-cleaning odors. Allow it to sit for 30 minutes, and vacuum the powder for immediate benefits.
Simmer pots involve simmering aromatic ingredients in a pot.
However, simmer pots should NOT be used in the same room as a budgie. However, as long as they’re not overly strong, the general aroma shouldn’t bother your budgie in a well-ventilated adjacent room.
Here are some ingredients to consider for your simmer pot:
- Star anise
Baking adds scent to the home. Some ingredients have stronger smells than others, but here are some favored ways to create a safe, balanced aroma in your home:
Budgies should never breathe in fumes of any kind. Incense can be harmful in the short and long term, and it may even kill your budgie after a short period of exposure.