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Feather-friendly renovations: tips for updating your home with a pet bird in mind

Renovating your home can be exciting, but it can also be a stressful experience, especially if you have a pet bird. In this blog post, we will discuss how to safely complete home updates and renovations with a pet bird.



 

Disclaimer: this blog post contains links to products. The author is not affiliated with any of the companies selling these products nor do they receive any benefits from the promotion of these products, except where clearly indicated by the inclusion of a discount code.


If you are a pet bird owner, you know how important it is to provide a safe and healthy environment for your feathered friend. This becomes even more important when it comes to renovating your home. Renovations can be stressful and overwhelming for both you and your bird, and it's essential to take steps to ensure that your bird stays healthy and happy during the process. Whether you're planning a major renovation or a simple makeover, this guide will provide you with tips and strategies to make the process as safe and stress-free as possible for you and your pet bird. From choosing the right materials to preparing your bird for the changes, we'll cover everything you need to know to keep your bird safe and healthy throughout the renovation process.


Plan Ahead


If you have the option, complete your renovations before moving in. Home improvements like painting and floor remodeling can produce odors and dust that can be harmful to your bird's sensitive respiratory system. If you can literally let the dust settle before moving in, that’s going to considerably reduce the risks of exposing your bird to potentially harmful irritants.

That said, unless you just bought a new house, chances are you are trying to update your home while living there. If this is the case, move your bird to a room that is separated from where you are doing work, and make sure that room is well ventilated. Ideally, wait to complete home renovations until the weather is nice so that you can keep windows open and help keep the house as ventilated as possible. I also highly recommend using plastic sheeting around entrances to the room you are renovating to help keep dust from spreading to other parts of your house. If possible, you may also want to consider boarding your bird with a trusted friend or family member while you complete your home renovation projects (for some helpful tips, check out this blog post).


Painting

When selecting paint, choose a fast-drying, low VOC (that's volatile organic compounds) paint. Many paint companies make it easy for customers to see if their products are low VOC by seeking certifications such as Greenguard Gold, which limits total detected VOCs to below 0.22 mg/m3. For our home improvement project, we went with Sherwin-Williams SuperPaint Interior Acrylic with Air Purifying Technology in the satin finish, which is not only Greenguard Gold certified but also actively reduces VOC levels and odors in the home! It also contains antimicrobial agents that help to inhibit the growth of mold and mildew.


Flooring

Carpet may be comfortable underfoot, but it's far from ideal for us bird owners! Hardwood floors are my personal favorite, but when it comes to installing flooring in spaces where your bird is going to spending a lot of time, you may want to instead opt for a more durable and waterproof option. That's why laminate and luxury vinyl tile (LVT) are popular choices for those with pet birds. Whereas laminate flooring is glued down and thus emits VOCs during installation, click-lock LVT can be installed without glue. LVT has gotten a bad rap in the past for containing harmful plasticizers called phthalates, but modern LVT options are typically phthalate-free and have very low VOC emissions. Companies often seek certifications like Greenguard and FloorScore to ensure their products are safe for indoor air quality. For our floors in the walk-in aviary space, we went with Lifeproof Rigid Core luxury vinyl flooring in Baileys Beach Oak, which is waterproof, phthalate-free, formaldehyde-free, and antimicrobial (you can see the technical data sheet and FloorScore certification in the links provided).


Kitchen


When it comes to home improvements, kitchens are often at the top of the list! For us bird owners, the two areas of the kitchen that are particularly important to consider are the cabinets and the heated appliances. Regarding cabinetry, my biggest recommendation is to install them to the top of the ceiling so that there's no gap between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling. This is to prevent your flighted bird from landing on top of the cabinets, which puts your cabinets at risk for being chewed/pooped on. What's more, the space between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling might make the perfect nesting spot and can trigger some "hormonal behaviors." Yikes!


Regarding heated appliances, gas stoves are on their way out due to their production of potentially harmful air pollutants, but for a long time were regarded as the best type of stove to have. It’s no wonder then that so many homes have them! Although the risks associated with using gas stoves are minimal on the individual human level, birds have considerably more sensitive respiratory systems than we do, especially as it pertains to gas exchange. This, by the way, is one of the main reasons why I always recommend keeping your bird out of the kitchen while cooking, regardless of what type of stove you have!


If you have a gas stove, there are ways to mitigate risks such as using the hood vent while you are cooking, opening windows when feasible, and consistently using a HEPA air purifier with an activated carbon filter. We have the Oransi Mod air purifier and absolutely love it (side note, use code PETRIE10 for 10% off site wide!). If it is within your budget, swapping out your gas stove for an electric or induction stove is a great way to reduce gas pollutants and improve air quality, but keep in mind that any type of cooking has the potential to produce ultra-fine particles in the air. All of that said, there’s absolutely no need to panic or immediately swap out your gas stove for an electric or induction stove! By taking the steps outlined above to reduce risks associated with gas stoves (and stovetop cooking in general), there's no need to worry!


It's also worth noting that although polytetrafluororethylene (PTFE) and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs) are common concerns among bird owners, most oven ranges do not contain these materials as they can easily degrade at the temperatures reached inside the oven during the self-cleaning feature (over 900 degrees F). Reports from devastated owners of their bird falling ill or passing away after using their new oven for the first time often place the blame on PTFE; realistically, the culprit is far more likely to be leftover oils/lubricants from the manufacturing/transportation process or left-behind plastic protective films. Thoroughly checking your new oven for any protective films, which are easily missed, and cleaning your new oven to remove any oils or lubricants leftover from the manufacturing process can prevent such tragedies from occurring. To be on the safe side, you may want to run your oven on a high-heat setting for the first time with your bird out of the house (often called a “burn in”). Additionally, to be extra safe, before purchasing a new oven range, you can check with the manufacturer about the presence of any PFAs or potentially hazardous materials.


It should be noted that non-stick cookware, which may contain PTFE coatings, can pose a threat to your bird if overheated, which can easily occur if left on the stove. Check out our Household Hazards guide for detailed information.

Lighting


If you have a flighted bird and chandeliers, you may have experience with your bird flying up to that chandelier and hanging out for a while. I love encouraging flight, but I also don’t want my bird to poop or chew on my light fixtures! If you are considering updating your light fixtures, look for shapes that aren’t attractive for your bird to land on (such as a dome shape). Making changes to the environment to set yourself up for success is a common first step in any training program, which leads me to my next suggestion: if your goal is to reduce the likelihood of your bird landing on your light fixtures, offer them an alternative landing spot by installing perches high up on the wall! This way, your bird can still enjoy flying up high, and you still have opportunities to train useful flight behaviors like descents!


Windows treatments


Curtains have many appeals, but can create some challenges for us bird owners! We commonly think about placing curtain rods right above the top of the window, but by placing it near the ceiling instead, you not only reduce the chances of your bird landing on the curtain rod and chewing on window trim, but also lengthen the appearance of your room! Nonetheless, birds will be birds, and sometimes that means landing on the rod anyway or climbing up the curtains. We can use training to reduce these behaviors, but if you know that this may be an ongoing challenge for you, I recommend going with a curtain fabric that is durable and can be easily washed. As far as blinds go, I’d recommend against standard vinyl slat blinds and for something like Roman or roller shades. These types of shades do not have slats that your bird can land, climb, or chew on. We were lucky that our house came with roller shades already installed!

Power tools


If you are using power tools, it’s important to keep in mind that they can be quite noisy and create a lot of dust. Both of these factors can be very stressful for your bird. Try to use tools when your bird is in a separate room with the door closed, or even better, consider working outside.


Cleaning up


Home renovations can be messy, so be prepared to do a lot of cleaning throughout the process! I highly recommend investing in a shop vacuum (we have this one) with a bag to contain dust. Additionally, household cleaners (especially aerosolized ones) can be hazardous to birds, again owing to their sensitive respiratory system. Much of the time, a simple solution made from water and vinegar or water and mild detergent can do the job without posing a risk to your bird.


Preparing your bird for changes

Unpredictable changes can lead to some unpredictable behaviors in our pets, and if you've ever moved before, you know that things have a tendency to not go as planned. The good news is that there are things that we can do to help prepare our pets to better tolerate change and unpredictable situations. Though not directly related to moving or renovating your home, helping your bird build a large repertoire of skills can protect them against becoming stressed or engaging in undesirable behaviors when presented with change. In the end, this really highlights the importance of good training and building behavioral fluency (meaning that your bird knows how to do certain behaviors in many different environments/contexts).


During a home renovation project, your bird may be restricted to one area of the house, be relocated to a different cage, or even go and stay with a friend or family member. Before you embark on this home renovation journey, try to think about how doing so will impact your bird's daily routine. Doing so can help guide you on what type of behaviors may be important to reinforce in the weeks approaching your renovation. For example, if your bird usually spends a large portion of the day out of their enclosure but will have to spend significantly more time in their enclosure during the renovation process, you'll want to make sure that your bird has a strong positive relationship with their enclosure. This may mean slowly increasing the amount to time your bird spends in their enclosure each day while also increasing their access to high-value activities/reinforcers within their enclosure. If your bird doesn't know how to forage, this is an ideal time to work on building those skills! Training can be challenging and can look very different from bird to bird, so if you are unsure of where to start and want one-on-one guidance, booking a consultation with us is a great way to make sure you are starting off on the right foot!

 

In conclusion, completing home updates and renovations can be stressful for both you and your bird, but by taking the necessary precautions, you can minimize risks and ensure a safe and healthy environment for your feathered friend. Always prioritize the health and safety of your bird and seek professional help if you are unsure about any aspect of the process. Ultimately, with a little bit of planning and care, you can successfully complete your home updates and renovations while keeping your pet bird safe and happy.


Stephanie Rosenbloom has her Ph.D. from Cornell University and has been caring for parrots her entire life. She believes that we can all benefit from asking more questions, seeking knowledge from reliable sources, and giving others the benefit of the doubt before drawing conclusions. She applies these concepts to her practice as a parrot behavior and nutrition consultant.

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