Bird room - Photo credit Lise Durocher

Bird Room Design Considerations

Safety & Hygiene Considerations

Whether you are planning to create an entire room for one or several companion birds, fully flighted or feather groomed, safety should be the first concern. Potentially harmful household items can be found in reference lists provided by your avian veterinarian. We have also compiled a short list of commonly found items in your home that could be harmful to your birds. We encourage your to join your local bird club as these topics are frequently discussed. Fellow companion parrot enthusiasts can be helpful in ensuring these safety considerations were taken when designing your bird room .Your bird room design can be fun and colourful and safe at the same time.

Electrical Outlets, Light Fixtures and Wires in the Bird Room

  • Cover all electric outlets in the room. Baby proof caps are easy to install and inexpensive. The colours of the caps preferably match the colour of the outlet, ideally a bland colour, to make it less attractive. They should still be monitored daily for signs of wear and tear.
  • Electric wires that are necessary to the bird room should be safely boarded over or encased in plastic tubing, and kept out of reach.
  • Lights bulbs in the room should be in a bird safe lamp fixture and not exposed. They should be encased inside a light fixture. Bulbs are not only a burn risk, but larger species are capable of eating them! Ceiling light fixtures are preferable as they usually don’t have exposed wires and cannot be tossed around.
  • If possible, ceiling fans should be removed from the room to prevent accidental injuries. If removal isn’t possible, the pull cords should be removed from the fan and a safety switch should cover the power control. Instinctively, birds often relate overhead movement such as produced by the ceiling fans to be perceived as predators such as a bird of prey.

Bird Proofing Windows and Doors

Secure all windows and doors, especially doors leading to the outdoors. They should close and lock even if your bird is flight feather groomed. Intruders that might come into visual contact with your birds through the windows, such as a cat or, bird of prey, may cause fright and stress to your birds who retain their natural prey instinct even if they were born in captivity.

Furthermore, ensure the doors and windows protected by a screen are bird proof and predator proof.

  • Decals should be stuck to the window or light fabric curtains should be hung to show the window is there.
  • Vertical blinds are very dangerous! Birds can get stuck and entangle themselves in the draw cord.

Dangerous Products and Waste for Birds

Candles can be dangerous in a bird room
Removal of unsafe decorative items or candles should also be taken into consideration.
  • Remove any hazardous products that might be stored in the room (hazardous products list).
  • Decorative items that could be unsafe should also be taken into consideration.
  • Candles, air fresheners, colourful thumb tacks, fly catchers, etc should be removed.
  • Food storage: to ensure freshness and prevent contamination, it is recommended to store your birds’ seeds, millet and extruded diets in resealable containers.
  • Of course, a garbage container comes in handy in a bird room. A safe container that has a flip top lid on it works well and is easy to clean. Ideally, garbage containers should not have plastic bags; these could pose a choking hazard to the birds. If a bird were to get into the container, he could entangle himself and suffocate. If there is a need to use plastic bags, they should not be scented.
  • Cleaners for windows, floors, cages and accessories should be bird friendly.
  • If you are remodeling and painting the room, be sure to check the safety of any paint that might be left exposed. Modern day paint is usually safe, but older painted walls, mouldings and furniture may contain lead. Any sanding and painting that will be done should be done prior to moving your pets in as volatile and particles can be harmful should your pets be exposed to breathing these.

Protecting Floors and Walls in the Bird Room

  • Ideally, remove all the carpeting in the bird room design; dust and dander stay trapped in the material. If these can not be removed, floor protectors such as rubber mats can be used to cover the carpet. Ceramic tiles or linoleum are best for clean up and air quality. Gaps between hardwood planks can also make it difficult for cleaning.
  • Plastic panels can be installed to cover the walls in close proximity to the cages. Plastic covered walls are easier to clean when soiled. They are also more practical to have than wood or drywall when birds are being misted.

Humidifiers, Air conditioners, Exchangers and Heating:

  • Depending on the climate in which you live, if the bird room is dry during winter especially if electrical heating is used to warm the environment, your birds could benefit from having a humidifier. These are notorious for harbouring bacteria and spores and so their maintenance is extremely important.
  • Air conditioners can also be installed to make the environment cooler, especially in the tropical climates, although the same considerations as for humidifiers regarding their maintenance must be ensured to prevent the air from being contaminated with bacteria and spores.
  • Birds can release a lot of dust especially when molting! Installing an air exchanger or purifier can be extremely beneficial to your family’s health and your flock. Air filters must also be changed regularly.
    Teflon or asbestos coated heating units should never be used near your bird room.
  • Considerations should also be taken when using wood stoves.

Bird Room Design For A Healthy Lifestyle

To encourage versatility of lifestyle, accommodate the room so it is comfortable, and safe for your birds while they spend time in it. This will require some infrastructure such as a day cage. It must have a safe retreat to go to when it requires a break from the rest of the flock to rest or eat or simply to contemplate in solitude.

Some birds that cohabit in a bird room have developed a healthy social hierarchy within the flock and are able to behave, thrive and enrich their lives with the social aspect of this flock dynamic. Some achieve this due to the fact that they are retrieved by their caretakers in the evenings to their respective sleeping cages or simply enter their cage that is covered for the night. Accessories or boxes or anything that might resemble a nest or that can be perceived as such by a maturing juvenile or adult should not be introduced to the bird room, as this may trigger hormones and territoriality, most likely resulting in aggressive behaviour towards the caretakers or flock mates.

Bird Room Accessories to Consider

Place cages and hanging toys or ropes in such a way that the bird cannot reach light fixtures or switches, moulding, walls or the ceiling. Discard of any tattered rope toys that your bird might get tangled in. Jungle ropes, bird climbing nets, swings, perches, activity trees & play gyms should be well anchored if they are fixed into your ceiling or wall. A protector should be used to prevent direct access to walls and ceiling, as your parrots will readily chew through these. Some caretakers are quite creative and use safe recyclable materials to make their bird rooms functional and outlast their birds’ instinctive desire to chew!

Budgie with safe Spider Plant
If you are considering live foliage to enrich the environment and aid in the natural air purification, the plant species must be chosen with care as numerous house plants can be harmful to your birds if ingested.

Whether or not the bird room design allows for natural lighting to enter, it is best to foresee the installation of a full spectrum lighting fixture. A night lamp or emergency light (battery operated), can bring comfort to the birds should there be a power outage. Many choose to install night lamps in bird rooms to minimize night fright, commonly seen in cockatiels or physically challenged individuals.

Visual enrichment is quite in vogue in these modern days of parrot keeping. Television screens are often installed in a bird room to allow viewing of the parrot enrichment videos. The screen and electrical wires should be protected and birds should not have access to them. Wall mounted television screens are best.

Although window perches can be a favoured place to perch as it provides visual enrichment, you must ensure the bird can move from this perch if it so desires, especially if it has been flight feather groomed.

As an ethical caretaker, you must ensure all in the flock are compatible with each other. Should territoriality arise with a particular individual, retrieving this bird to separate sleeping quarters could help alleviate the aggressiveness and territoriality that has developed surrounding its cage. Ensure all birds in the room are healthy as a flock can behave instinctively and attack a weak or debilitated individual. Fully flighted birds can be more aggressive towards flight feather groomed individuals. Flight or bite response can also be witnessed during such interactions.

Goffin Cockatoo Shredding
To accommodate comfort and security while your bird spends time in the bird room, it must have a safe retreat to go to when it requires rest or to eat or simply to contemplate in solitude.

A viewing window can be practical to install in the bird room door to allow caretakers to see what is going on should the birds be left alone in this bird proof safe environment. The flock is more likely to behave if the mentor is visible or can be heard.

Video surveillance monitoring is now so convenient and affordable, as web cams can be linked directly to your smart phone or computers. They can be controlled at a distance to allow for easier visual monitoring of your entire bird room. This can allow you to monitor without the flock being aware of your presence. This technology also aids in the health monitoring of your birds when you are temporarily away from the bird safe room.

The feeding stations in the bird room should be more abundant then what is required per day, to prevent aggressiveness within the flock. Each bird should have a place to perch, eat and drink without being intimidated

Creativity as well as respecting the natural habitat of your birds can help you design various enrichment activities such as foraging opportunities, for example, ground foraging for the Australian parakeets and canopy foraging for the lineolated parakeets.

If you are still at the stage of conception of your bird room design, sound proofing both ceilings and walls can be an extremely valuable investment. Dual enclosures designed to allow birds to have access to an outdoor flight from their indoor bird room is another possible option, this will require structural considerations.

This is a great beginning to designing a safe and enriching environment for your birds.

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Hagen Avicultural Research Institute