why are candles unsafe for parrots?

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

Certain types of candles can be dangerous for parrots. That’s because candles emit fumes, soot, smoke, and fragrances that can be harmful to your parrot’s 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 into the air. The parrot’s respiratory system will absorb fumes and smoke. Essential oils, lead core wicks, and synthetic fragrances are candle ingredients to avoid.

While it’s tempting to light a candle at the end of a busy day, even small quantities of fumes and fragrances can have a catastrophic effect on the respiratory health of parrots. So, you may want to consider removing candles from your home altogether to keep your parrot safe from harm.

Why Are Candles Unsafe For Parrots?

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

Under the Animal Welfare Act, all owners must provide their animals with good levels of care. If you use candles around your parrot, you need to ensure adequate ventilation levels around the home to keep your parrot safe.

Zinc Alloy

Most candle wicks are made with zinc or zinc alloy, which can also be toxic to parrots when burned. By lighting candles around parrots, you’re exposing them to additives, essential oils, and fragrances that may irritate your parrot’s respiratory system.

are candles okay for parrots?

Carbon Monoxide

All flames release a certain amount of carbon monoxide (CO), and parrots are adversely affected by this toxin. Parrots have an efficient respiratory system because they need to absorb lots of oxygen when flying. This means that carbon monoxide is easily absorbed by parrots, as is smoke and other toxic fumes.

This is the reason why birds were 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 the mines.

House Fire Risk

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

Parrots are at risk of flying into the open flames that candles produce. They can easily knock candles over without noticing, especially when flying, causing a fire hazard inside the home.

Harmful Ingredients in Candles

When checking the ingredients of candles, look out for the following:

Essential Oils

Essential oils like tea tree oil, ylang yang, and eucalyptus are toxic to parrots. Some oils don’t mix or dilute properly. If these substances touch the parrot’s eyes, pain or temporary blindness could occur.

Many essential oils require diffusers and wax warmers to release the fragrances, which are hazards in themselves. It’s difficult to know how a parrot will react around oils. Sensitive birds are more prone to becoming ill, and you don’t always realize until your parrot becomes very sick.

Similarly, citronella candles contain essential oils that fend off mosquitoes. Once heated, they become toxic, so candles should never be lit around parrots.

Lead Core Wicks

Some candles are made with 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 still make their way into U.S. stores. When buying a candle, make sure it has a cotton wick. Wicks with a metal base are hazardous.

Synthetic Fragrances

Scented candles contain 3,000 to 5,000 different chemicals, many of which haven’t been tested. Not only do they cause headaches, but they release toxins such as formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, limonene, alcohol, and esters.

These chemicals can affect a parrot’s ability to breathe and can even lead to cancer if lit regularly. Yankee Candles, in particular, are a best-selling fragranced candle brand that should also 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

Beeswax is a natural ionizer, which 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 toxins and particles into the air.

However, not all beeswax candles are created equal. Scented candles sometimes contain hidden chemicals that can affect your parrot. When it comes to scented vs. unscented beeswax candles, opt for unscented, and always check the ingredients list for anything that may cause harm.

Soy

Soy candles are thought to be the only kind that is safe around parrots, especially if they have 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 cancer-causing carcinogens into the air. However, they should always be kept away from your parrot because the flames can easily burn your parrot 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 irritate a parrot’s lungs and respiratory system.

A study by Environmental Chemical Letters found that smoke from burning incense created both 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. 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 from the home. But, depending on the severity of the parrot’s breathing problems, your parrot may require treatment.

Supportive care is usually offered to the parrot to make it more comfortable. Some antifungal medications or antibiotics can treat the problem, but sometimes a flush of the nasal and sinus cavities is also required. 

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

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

Homes aren’t natural environments for parrots to live in. It’s easy for owners to forget that candles and other household items pose a threat. As parrots have sensitive respiratory systems, candles are more deadly than they seem. 

If a lit candle seems to be making your 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 your parrot outside for some fresh air. However, be sure to keep it in its cage or on a harness in case it flies away. Once your parrot’s breathing returns to normal and you’re confident the fumes are gone, you can return your parrot to its usual living area.

If your parrot exhibits breathing problems that don’t get better once the candle and fumes are removed, take it to an avian vet to get checked over.

How To Make A Parrot-Safe Candle

If you’d prefer not to give up candles, you may wish to consider creating your own parrot-friendly candles instead. This soy-based candle is easy to make and is safe to burn inside a home where your parrot resides. To ensure a clean and safe burn, don’t add any fragrances or essential oils.

Ingredients

  • Soy wax
  • 100% cotton wick
  • Mason jar

Method

  1. Melt the wax in a slow cooker or using a pan on the stove. Melt slowly on a low heat so that it doesn’t burn
  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 your melted wax into the jar around the wick. Be careful not to pour the wax onto the wick
  4. Let the wax set. Place the jar in a room temperature room so that cracks don’t form. Leave it overnight until the wax hardens and trim the wick

Never light wax candles if you share a home with a parrot or any type of bird. 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.