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PETS: Bird Proof a Home or Else | The Tragic Tale of Whitey

As a homeowner we do our best to keep our home safe not only for loved ones, but for guests and pets too. There are many dangers within the confines of your property that can be harmful, some deadly– I found that out the hard way this weekend…

With the touch of a button, the home environment that I take pride in became a toxic chamber for my bird, Whitey. The convenience of having a self-cleaning oven triggered respiratory failure and ultimately Whitey’s untimely death.

[IMPORTANT: This is a hard post to write, I’m heartbroken, but the outpouring of support that admittedly agree they too were unaware of this safety issue, prompted me to write this post. Please take a moment and share this information to raise awareness and prevent another bird to suffer like Whitey. See responses below.]

Meet Whitey (aka Coo-da), a white owl pigeon we rescued in August 2016. The bird fell in front of my husband’s feet while walking home from a bad day at work. He scooped up the bird and brought it home. Honestly, in the beginning I wanted nothing to do with the bird, I screamed at Sal to get him out of the house. This was our first interaction with the bird, which had been badly wounded.

Needless to say my home remedies weren’t working. We took him immediately to the vet, Whitey had a broken wing, broken leg and no feathers down his backside. Within a week and a couple thousand dollars later, we had ourselves a new pet — but before we left the vet they mentioned a few common risks of owning a bird. Their ability to fly, inherent nature to chew and delicate respiratory tract provides risks many other pets don’t have.

Whitey recovering in his new cage.

He Had Us at Coo-Coo

As Whitey recovered, our bond grew stronger. He fit right in with our family: he welcomed guests with his friendly personality and loved to play with our other pets.

Whitey sunbathing with Coco last summer.

 

 

The short clip above is Whitey talking to our cat Tigz. In just under two years Whitey became a staple in our home, it was a miracle he found us and survived his injuries. If only this little know fact was publicized he’d still be coo-cooing away today.

A typical night chilling on the couch: Sal, Whitey + Coco.

Researching the Silent Killer

The respiratory tract is unique in birds making them sensitive to aerosolized toxins. Teflon, a non-stick coating, found on pots, pans, inside some stoves and even toaster ovens.

In our case, the self-cleaning oven is a feature on many modern ovens that burns off cooking spills and splatters with an extremely high temperature (932 F° or 500 C°) to aid in cleaning. A cycle typically takes several hours to complete.

When these coatings reach high temperatures it releases a colorless, odorless vapor that, when breathed in by birds, causes fluid to accumulate in their lungs.

A Reader’s Digest article, “9 Things to Know Before You Self-Clean Your Oven” explains birds should be removed to another area of the home:

According to The North Iowa Municipal Electric Cooperative Association (NIMECA), as spilled food is burned during a traditional high temperature self-cleaning, enough carbon monoxide is produced to be a concern to the health and safety of not just birds and small animals but people too. They suggest that you open windows and turn on vent fans during this type of cleaning.

Beside Teflon, other airborne toxins to watch for include: cooking fumes, lit candles, incenses, spray cleaners and paint, which could irritate the lining of birds’ respiratory tracts.

So, what are the dangers of a self-clean oven? The risk not only harms birds, but other small pets inside the home, even young children and other family members could face carbon monoxide poisoning. Those who suffer from asthma or respiratory disease are highly prone to succumb to fumes.

It was common practice for Whitey to hang out on our shoulders.

Other Dangers + Resources

Although Whitey could never fly far, we always supervised him while outside of the cage. Your feathered friend can escape out a window or door, fly into glass or mirrored objects and could get clipped by a ceiling fan.

Birds can make their way into opened appliances, drown in a sink or toilet and don’t forget could get burnt in an open flame, hot beverage or boiling water. Here are a few resources from the experts to learn about all the dangers:

10 Home Dangers for Pet Birds, from PetMD.com

How to Bird Proof Your Home, from PetCoach.com

Household Hazards for Pet Birds, from Merck Vet Manual

Household Hazards and Dangers to Birds, from VCAHospitals.com

Whitey striking a pose on my head inside the home office.

Farewell Feathered Friend

My home office is now silent, no more morning coo-coo, quirky stare downs or comical dances. You were a unique, one of a kind pet, with a life of the party personality that loved to spend the evening cuddling. Whitey, I failed you – you looked to us to provide you with a safe cage “your house” in the confines of our home, which represents your “living environment.” I will never forget you!

While there are many hazards in your home for a bird, remember if you can smell it, consider it unsafe for the bird. Remove them immediately from the environment and ventilate the property well before returning the bird to the area to avoid a fatal mistake.

[IMPORTANT: Again, please take a moment and share this information to raise awareness and prevent another bird from suffering and the bird’s parents from dealing with the guilt I face.]

Happy Pet Parenting,