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why are candles unsafe for parrots?

Can You Burn Candles Around Parrots?

Last Updated on: 26th November 2023, 04:29 pm

Many candles emit fumes, soot, smoke, and fragrances that harm the respiratory systems of parrots.

Wax candles are made from paraffin, a petroleum derivative. It doesn’t burn cleanly, releasing harmful toxins. Also, essential oils, lead core wicks, and synthetic fragrances are dangerous.

Lighting a candle to relax at the end of a hectic day is tempting. Unfortunately, even small amounts of fumes, soot, and fragrances affect parrots’ breathing ability, with life-threatening consequences.

Beeswax and soy candles are safer, but precautions must be taken. If you use candles in the same home as parrots, avoid doing so in the same room and create adequate ventilation.

Why Are Candles Unsafe for Parrots?

Here are the main risks of burning candles around pet parrots:

Zinc Alloy

Most candle wicks are made with zinc or zinc alloy. By lighting candles around parrots, you expose them to essential oils and fragrances that negatively affect the workings of 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 to get sufficient oxygen for flight. Unfortunately, they’ll also inhale carbon monoxide, smoke, and other toxic fumes.

Canaries 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 immediately 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 and knocking over candles.

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 is inevitable.

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

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 have lead core wicks, releasing lead into the air. The University of Michigan found that 30% of candles in the U.S. released more lead than was 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 like formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, limonene, alcohol, and esters.

Yankee Candles are the best-selling fragranced candle brand, but they should be avoided.

What Candles Are Safe for Parrots?

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


Beeswax is a natural ionizer because it cleans the air. 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 waxes, releasing fewer airborne contaminants.

Scented candles contain hidden chemicals that affect parrots. If you’re trying to decide whether to use scented vs. unscented beeswax candles, opt for unscented. Always 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. However, they should be kept away from parrots because the flames can burn them or cause a fire.

Can You Burn Incense Around Parrots?

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 nearly as harmful as cigarette smoke.

are scented candles toxic to parrots?

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 removed.

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. 

For allergies to candle soot, antihistamines and topical lotions are recommended.

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.

Put the carrot back in its cage and 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. Once the parrot’s breathing normalizes 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 (not the same room) where the parrot resides. Also, 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 stove pan.
  2. Set the wicks using something to hold them in place, like 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.