Though this time of year is fun for Americans, who get to visit with friends and family, and eat fabulous foods, it isn’t without serious risks to our feathered companions. Even though it may not be apparent, Thanksgiving presents several health and safety risks to parrots whose owners aren’t prepared. To be sure that the festivities are fun for people and parrots alike, keep the following things in mind.
Avoid sharing holiday foods with your birds.
Many of the foods that we prepare for Thanksgiving are actually very nutritious, however, it’s how we tend to prepare them that makes so many of our holiday dishes inappropriate for sharing with our companion parrots. Sweet potato, squash, and yams are all high in vitamin A – an essential nutrient for our parrots – and can be shared, but be sure to set some aside before you add butter, salt, and other flavorings, and make sure that your guests are aware that sharing with your birds is a no-no.
Keep decorations at a safe distance.
Birds are inquisitive, and many of our decorations are simply too tempting to our feathered companions. Popular Thanksgiving decorations often include candles, flower bouquets, and cornucopias full of (real or synthetic) fruits and veggies, many of which contain shiny, birghtly colored components, and all of which pose serious safety hazards to curious beaks. To lessen temptation, move your bird’s cage (and play areas) away from areas you’ve decorated, or decorate only areas away from your bird’s cage and play stands.
Take a moment to speak with your guests.
Though many people have a strong interest in parrots, few know much about keeping them as pets. Take a moment to remind your guests that parrots do not behave like dogs or cats, and that interacting with the bird (if you allow it) may result in being bitten, scratched, or pooped on.
Keep your bird out of the kitchen.
The average kitchen poses a serious risk to parrots on any given day, but especially so on holidays. Thanksgiving is a holiday that revolves around food, and that means mixing, chopping, dicing, shredding, mashing, boiling, broiling, and baking, and all of the utensils that go along with those actions. Silverware, particularly knives and forks, have sharp points and edges; food processors and blenders have the allure of a tasty meal coupled with the danger of falling in and coming into contact with those sharp blades. Hot ovens and stovetops pose burn risks, and unattended parrots might find themselves in a too-hot dish of freshly cooked food. (I also hear that not every human is okay with pre-beaked bread or parrot tracks on their pie!)
Keep other pets safe, too.
If you have other pets, or if your guests bring along theirs, keep them – and your birds – safe by preventing contact with your parrot. Things may happen quickly, and this is doubly true when animals are in stressful situations!
Listen to what your bird tells you.
The holidays are stressful for everyone, and that includes our birds. Even well socialized birds may get stressed from the noise and activity that comes with having several guests in their home, so keep a close eye on your parrot and listen to what his body language and behavior are telling you. Look for cues that he may be feeling overwhelmed by the festivities, and do your best to place him (along with the familiarity of his cage and toys) in a calm, quiet room.
A special note for flighted parrots:
To avoid heartbreak, flighted parrots should be housed in a secure cage for the day, and this is especially true if your parrot is not yet reliably trained to come to you when called. Flighted parrots should always be securely caged when the oven or stovetop are in use, and when there are sharp or otherwise dangerous items available that your parrot may come into contact with.
If you feel your parrot must come out at some time during the day, be sure it is after all cooking and baking is done, and knives and other utensils are away. Be sure to securely lock and door that leads outside using more than one lock (for example, use both the lock on your door knob as well as a chain lock) and post signs around all entryways stating that your bird is out. Please, for the safety of your bird, do not leave a flighted parrot unattended during the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving!
Enjoy your holiday, and stay safe!