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why are candles unsafe for parrots?

Can You Burn Candles Around Parrots? (Scented vs. Unscented)

(Last Updated On: May 11, 2023)

Certain candles can be dangerous to the health of parrots because they emit fumes, soot, smoke, and fragrances that harm their respiratory system.

Beeswax and soy candles are safe for parrots. However, wax candles are made from paraffin, which doesn’t burn cleanly and releases toxins.

Also, essential oils, lead core wicks, and synthetic fragrances are ingredients to avoid.

While it’s tempting to light a candle to relax at the end of a busy day, even small quantities of fumes and fragrances can have a catastrophic effect on a parrot’s ability to breathe.

Why Are Candles Unsafe For Parrots?

As mentioned, most wax candles are made from paraffin, a petroleum derivative. Unfortunately, paraffin doesn’t burn cleanly and releases toxic smoke and soot into the air.

Under the Animal Welfare Act, pet owners must provide good care. If you use candles in the same house as parrots, ensure adequate ventilation levels around the home.

Zinc Alloy

When burned, most candle wicks are made with zinc or zinc alloy. By lighting candles around parrots, you expose them to essential oils and fragrances that may irritate the respiratory system.

are candles okay for parrots?

Carbon Monoxide

All flames release carbon monoxide (CO), and parrots are adversely affected by this compound.

Parrots have efficient respiratory systems because they must absorb sufficient oxygen when flying. However, they’ll absorb carbon monoxide, smoke, and other toxic fumes.

Birds were once used in coal mines to detect carbon monoxide and methane. If a bird fell off its perch, the miners knew that dangerous chemicals or toxins were nearby and evacuated.

House Fire Risk

As well as fumes, the flame can be a hazard. Vet Times explains how parrots are curious and often encounter dangers around the home, including candles and fires.  

Parrots are at risk of flying into the open flames that candles produce.

Harmful Ingredients in Candles

When exploring the ingredients of candles, check for the following:

Essential Oils

Essential oils like tea tree oil, ylang-ylang, and eucalyptus are toxic to parrots. Also, some don’t mix or dilute well. If these substances touch the parrot’s eyes, pain or temporary blindness can occur.

Many essential oils require diffusers and wax warmers to release the fragrances, which are hazards.

It’s difficult to know how a parrot will react around oils. Sensitive birds are more prone to illness, and you may not realize until the parrot becomes sick.

Similarly, citronella candles contain essential oils to keep mosquitoes away. Once heated, they become toxic, so these candles should never be lit around pet birds.

Lead Core Wicks

Some candles contain lead core wicks that release lead into the air. A study by the University of Michigan found that 30% of candles in the U.S. released a higher amount of lead than considered safe by the EPA.

While legislation banned lead-core wicks, imported candles can be found in U.S. stores. When buying a candle, ensure it has a cotton wick because wicks with metal bases are hazardous.

Synthetic Fragrances

Scented candles contain 3,000 to 5,000 chemicals, many of which haven’t been tested. They release toxins such as formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, limonene, alcohol, and esters.

These chemicals can affect a parrot’s ability to breathe. For example, Yankee Candles are a best-selling fragranced candle brand that should be avoided.

What Candles Are Safe for Parrots?

Most standard candles have a detrimental effect on a parrot’s health. However, beeswax, soy, and other plant-based waxes can be healthier. These include:


Beeswax is a natural ionizer because it cleans the air supply. Ionizers work by neutralizing particles from air pollutants while naturally removing harmful toxins.

Beeswax also burns at a lower temperature and more cleanly than most other wax, releasing fewer harmful toxins and particles into the air.

However, scented candles sometimes contain hidden chemicals that affect parrots. If you’re deciding whether to use scented vs. unscented beeswax candles, opt for unscented and check the ingredients list.


Soy candles are considered the safest, especially with a cotton wick. Soy candles are made from soybeans, making them safer than paraffin waxes derived from fossil fuels.

Soy wax candles don’t produce soot or release carcinogens into the air. However, they should be kept away from parrots because the flames can easily burn them or cause a fire.

Can You Burn Incense Around Parrots?

If you thought candles were bad for parrots, incense is even worse. Burning incense sticks produces chemical compounds that adversely affect a parrot’s breathing.

A study by Environmental Chemical Letters found that smoke from burning incense created fine and ultrafine particles that are almost as harmful as cigarette smoke.

are scented candles toxic to parrots?

Exposure to these particles can cause long-term damage to a parrot’s lungs and air sacs. The symptoms of respiratory disease or infection include:

  • Sneezing.
  • Coughing.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • Gasping.
  • Nasal discharge.
  • Open-mouthed breathing.
  • Pneumonia.
  • Wheezing or gurgling.
  • Eye infections.
  • Sticking eyelids.
  • Eye discharge.
  • Head bobbing or shaking.
  • Abnormal head or neck postures.
  • Depression.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Decreased thirst.
  • Weight loss.
  • Listlessness.
  • Dehydration.
  • Lethargy.

Respiratory problems caused by candles or incense smoke should ease once incense has been removed. A parrot may require treatment, depending on the severity of the breathing problems.

Supportive care is offered to parrots to make them more comfortable. Some antifungal medications or antibiotics can treat the problem, but a flush of the nasal and sinus cavities may be required. 

In the case of allergies to candle soot, antihistamines, and topical lotions are preferred.

What To Do If A Parrot Is Exposed To Candle Toxins?

If a lit candle makes the parrot ill, blow out the wick and remove the parrot from the room. Provide ventilation by opening windows and doors to let fresh air filter in to remove smoke, fumes, and soot.

You may also want to take the parrot outside for some fresh air. However, it must be in its cage to prevent escape. Once the parrot’s breathing returns to normal and you’re confident the fumes are gone, you can return it to its usual living area.

If the parrot exhibits breathing problems that don’t improve once the candle and fumes are removed, take it to an avian vet for emergency assistance.

How To Make A Parrot-Safe Candle

If you’d prefer not to give up candles, consider creating parrot-friendly candles.

This soy-based candle is easy to make and safe to burn inside a home where the parrot resides. Avoid adding fragrances or essential oils to ensure a clean and safe burn.


  • Soy wax.
  • 100% cotton wick.
  • Mason jar.


  1. Melt the wax in a slow cooker or a stove pan.
  2. Set the wicks using something to hold them in place, such as chopsticks or clothes pegs, while you pour the wax into the jar.
  3. Pour the melted wax into the jar around the wick.
  4. Let the wax set. Place the jar in a room temperature room so that cracks don’t form.
  5. Leave it overnight until the wax hardens, and trim the wick.

Never light wax candles if you share a home with a parrot or bird, as wax candles release fumes that are deadly to parrots.

Also, all forms of scented and infused candles should be avoided. If you must light a candle, use an unscented soy candle with a cotton wick in a well-ventilated space.