Safe & Toxic Metals For Pet Birds
It’s fairly common knowledge within the avian community that stainless steel is one of the safest metals for pet birds. When it comes to toys, feeding bowls, or cages, stainless steel is usually the best option.
But what other metals are safe to use for birds?
And more importantly, what metals are toxic and dangerous to our feathered friends?
This quick article answers these questions and lists some common household sources of unsafe metals that you must be aware of. You’ll also find information on heavy metal toxicity in pet birds and the common symptoms they show when poisoned.
Safe Metals For Birds
“What metals are safe to use for my bird’s equipment”
This question likely brought you here, and it’s certainly a good question. Knowing what metals are safe to use will help prevent potentially fatal accidents. The following metals are safe to use in your bird’s environment according to various credible sources (linked at the end):
- Stainless steel – The safest and most durable metal for birds
- Nickel & nickel-plated metals – I’d be careful with nickel as the CDC states that regular exposure to nickel can harm our human lungs, kidneys, and stomach. But birds are different to us, and Patty Jourgensen, an expert in avian health, says nickel-plated metal is safe for birds. Be cautious as the metal beneath the nickel plating could be toxic.
- Steel – Is safe, but can rust when introduced to water. Probably not the best cage material.
- Iron – Just like steel, it rusts when introduced to water.
- Aluminium – Is safe.
- Carbon steel – Exactly the same as stainless steel except with less chromium content, meaning it’s safe for birds.
- Wrought iron – Being made entirely from iron, it’s safe for birds and is often used for cages due to its high durability.
Toxic Metals For Birds & Parrots
While there are many metals that are safe for our feathered companions, there are just as many that are not. Your parrot will suffer from heavy metal poisoning if they chew on and ingest any of the toxic metals on this list.
No matter what, you must avoid providing the following metals to your birds:
- Galvanised metals – When a metal (iron or steel) has been “galvanised”, it’s been coated with a protective layer of zinc to help prevent corrosion. Since zinc is toxic, any galvanised metal is also toxic for birds.
- Brass – Being an alloy (combination) of copper and zinc, brass is toxic to birds.
According to TodaysVeterinaryPractice, lead, zinc, and occasionally copper are the heavy metals that most commonly poison pet birds. To me, this says that those specific metals are more common in everyday household items than other metals.
Common Household Sources Of Toxic Metals
Even when you know what types of metals are toxic, you still need to know what items contain those materials so you don’t accidentally give them to your birds. Here are a few common household items that contain heavy metals:
- Metal keys & locks (house keys, car keys, padlocks, etc)
- Galvanised cages, bells, and toy parts
- Modern-day coins (contain copper and zinc)
- Regular nuts & bolts (sometimes zinc-plated)
- Costume/fashion jewellery (often made from copper and brass)
- Most types of batteries (contain zinc and lead)
- Plumbing pipes and fittings (normally made from either copper or plastic)
- Cookware is usually made from zinc or copper
- Staples (zinc-plated steel wire)
What Is Heavy Metal Poisoning In Pet Birds?
As you’ve likely gathered at this point in the article, heavy metal poisoning occurs when a bird chews and digests toxic metal. Each type of metal will affect a bird differently and it doesn’t take much to damage a parrot’s sensitive body.
According to Wagwalking, consumed metals often wreak havoc on the:
- Digestive tract
- And the nervous system
If left untreated or undetected (which it often is), heavy metal poisoning can be fatal.
To detect poisoning, avian vets will use x-rays or radiographs to scan various parts of the bird’s body for signs of heavy metal ingestion.
Treatments are available if the poisoning wasn’t severe and the bird was seen by an avian vet in time.
So, if you ever catch your parrot innocently munching on a 50-cent coin you left lying around, it would be wise to take them to the vet before they begin showing symptoms.
Symptoms Of Heavy Metal Poisoning (According To Vets)
According to BirdVetMelbourne, birds with heavy metal poisoning will show one or more of the following symptoms:
- Fluffed feathers (for abnormally long periods)
- Have wet, green droppings
- Possible seizures
The best way to prevent heavy metal poisoning is to first identify household items containing toxic metals and then ensure they don’t come into contact with your birds.
Remember, stainless steel is the best and safest option to use for your bird’s cage, toys, and bowls.
Of course, iron, aluminium, and other bird-safe metals are good options, but stainless steel is a lot more durable and will last for years without getting damaged. And if you ever need to replace anything from the hardware store, it’s safest to ask for stainless steel.
Although it’s more expensive than most other metals, it’s also much better.
If you’re ever unsure of a specific metal, just don’t use it and try to find a safer alternative.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to your beloved bird’s life.
Thank you for reading!