Cold Weather Safety for Birds
RI Parrot Rescue
To help with possible power outages during cold weather here are a few reminders and tips:
• You can keep your bird warm by placing her in a travel carrier and wrapping the carrier in insulated blankets. An insulated arctic sleeping bag would be ideal. Leave a small portion of the cage uncovered so that your bird gets fresh air.
• If you will be using a fireplace, be certain that the chimney has been cleaned recently and that the flue is open. Otherwise smoke will enter your house and can be very toxic to your bird.
• Avoid using scented candles, as these are also toxic to birds.
• Vapors from kerosene heaters are toxic to birds. Do not use them in the same room as your bird, and ideally don't use them at all.
• If your bird appears cold (shivering and fluffed up) despite your attempts to keep her warm, put your bird in a running car with the heat on until she warms up. Place blankets in the car near the heat vent to warm them up and then wrap them around the travel carrier before removing the bird from the car. (Do this in the driveway, NOT in the garage! Car fumes are deadly to you and your bird!)
• When you contact the power company to report an outage, let them know that you have a pet bird and that birds are much more sensitive to extreme temperatures than are dogs and cats.
• Green heat: "A simple and cheap heater can be made by taking any leaves from the yard as well as kitchen table scraps and like items. Place them in a double layer trash bag, wet the contents until they are slightly damp, then tie the bag closed. Put it in a trash can with a lid. This is my emergency heater for cold weather. The stuff in the bag starts composting and in several hours starts building up heat. Within 24 hours, it can almost get hot to the touch, and will radiate heat for a few days. Another thing that can be used to get the leaves and compost heating up quicker is Compost Starter, which can be found at some nursery and garden supplies."
• Heat Packs / Hand Pocket Warmers: Wrap your pet cages / carriers on the top and 3 sides with bubble wrap or thick towels / blankets. If you use bubble wrap, make sure the bubbles face away from the cage. Most drug store carry heat packs that you "snap" to activate the heating element. Attach them to the bottom of the carrier, and make sure your bird can't get in direct contact with the heat pack (or chew on it as contents are toxic). These heat packs / hand pocket warmers can usually be found in the "camping" section of your local drug store and are really recommended for such emergencies. They only cost a dollar or so and work well for small areas. If your bird will be in it's cage you can also place the heat pack under the grate so that the heat will radiate upwards.
• Hot water in glass jars wrapped in towels can provide temporary heat. The bird can move up against or away depending on how hot the water is. If you have a gas grill that can be used to heat water if you've lost the use of your stove. Hot water bottles work well too.
In temperatures above freezing, cold, itself, is not a killer, but the energy expenditure to maintain body heat weakens the immune system and leaves a parrot vulnerable to disease. If your bird is healthy and on an appropriate diet, it will be fit enough to handle the cooler temperatures of a drafty house or the relatively short cold period during a power outage.