Even though I live in Central Florida and the coldest nights are no where near other states or countries, I still get asked how cold is cold and how do I safely keep my birds warm. Specifically they want to know how to keep these tropical birds warm without heating the entire house to 80 degrees in the dead of winter as well as taking away all the moisture in the air and thus irritating their skin and sinuses.
I’m not a big fan of heat lamps, although pretty safe, it doesn’t allow birdies to sleep, remember they need dark quiet sleep so this bright heat light is a bit disruptive to good sleep. Probably ok in the day but not something I’d use at night.
Instead, purchase only bird-safe heaters from sources that market them specifically for avian use. We carry thermo perches and Snuggle up warmers for inside the cages by K & H Manufacturing.
If you do use bulbs for warming be careful as some bulbs on the market are coated with a substance containing PTFE (polytetrafluoroethylene), the same polymer in nonstick cookware that can emit toxic fumes when overheated.
Infrared incandescent bulbs are frequently used for heat lamps however the infrared bulb warms objects rather than the surrounding air but does not disturb the avian sleep cycle, because of the unique red light.
Ceramic heating elements also do not disturb the normal day/night cycle, because they do not emit light. The Pearlco brand infrared heat emitter was designed specifically for use with animals and is available in 30-, 60-, 100-, 150- and 250-watt output.
The ceramic will not shatter if spattered by water, but it does get very hot and must be located out of the birds’ reach. Avi-Tech makes heating panels designed to produce even soft heat, these panels are ideal where space is limited.
The panels are very light and thin and can be hung on a wall like a picture 2-4 inches from your birds favorite roosting perch. They can be installed behind your bird’s cage, using an accessory cage mounts, and not even be noticed. The front surface reaches only about 150 degrees Fahrenheit, while the back remains near room temperature.
The panels are equipped with a power cord and are constructed of disinfectable plastic. This is also a great energy saver that won’t make your electric bill jump. The panel can be scrubbed and rinsed off easily. These are prices from $89.99 to $149.99. Not recommended for outdoor use.
If you are using a space heater make sure it is ceramic and not coated with polymers containing polytetrafluroethylene (PTFE), the same element in nonstick cookware that (when overheated) emits fumes deadly to birds, Teflon alert. By the way, I should mention most economical hair dryer also have this coating. Contact manufacturers for information about the specific item you’re interested in purchasing or using.
For more information, call the Consumer Product Safety Commission with questions about the safety of household appliances: 800-638-2772; Hearing impaired: 800-638-8270.
For extra safety, install a carbon monoxide and smoke detector in your home and be aware of the signs that a pet bird is overheating.
This should go without saying but please keep your birds out of reach of any of these heating devices, electrical cords, switches, heating elements, bulbs and lighting tubes, we want them warm not baked! Watch the temperature of any ceramic heat elements that you use for fire hazards as well as human children getting burnt.
Nor should your bird have access to a fireplace. If you like to occasionally run a fire during the winter, close the door to your bird room, so the fumes will not filter in to its air.
Signs of overheating
- Wings held away from the body
- Neck extended
Raise the Humidity
The cold winter is not your only enemy for your companion birds but the dryer air can also can wreak havoc on their sinuses and skin thus seeing a dryer duller look in their feathers. You may even see behavioral problems due to the dry air affecting their mood.
Alleviate problems associated with low humidity in several ways:
- Regular showers and baths.
- Run an air humidifier or vaporizer specifically designed for birds, such as the JWR Rain Forest germicidal warm mist air humidifier (www.aircleanersforbirds.com). Some standard cold-air electric humidifiers or vaporizers can increase the level of mold and dampness in a home and that’s not good for birds or humans.
Here are some natural ways to add moisture into your air:
– If you plan to bake, pre-heat the oven with a pan of water in it.
-Place a tea kettle or a pot of water on top of a wood burning stove.
-Leave the bathroom door open while you take a shower, or even better put birdies on a perch in the bathroom while you shower.
-Regularly mist houseplants to keep the transpiration (the process whereby plants release moisture into the air) cycle going.
-Doing laundry, hang our close to dry indoors instead of using the dryer.
Keep your pet birds warm and safe this winter!