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preparing pine cones for parrots

How To Sterilize Pine Cones for Parrots (in 3 Simple Steps)

(Last Updated On: January 26, 2023)

Parrots enjoy pine cones as chew toys and impromptu feeders. However, pine cones in your backyard are unsanitary; without properly sterilizing them, they can harm parrots.

Mix warm water, soap, vinegar, and a bird-safe disinfectant to wash pine cones. Soak them for 30 minutes and clean them with a cloth or sponge.

To bake pine cones, heat the oven to 390 degrees Fahrenheit and cook them for 20 minutes. Then, let the pine cones absorb the ambient heat for 2 hours before removing them.

Only harvest fresh pine cones between September and October. Avoid cones that are slick, slimy, or showing decay. Those covered with moss, mold, insects, or rot should also be avoided.

Preparing Pine Cones for Parrots

Let’s look at the steps of pine cone preparation for parrots:

1/ Early Collection

Gather pine cones immediately after falling to the ground, which should be around the end of September and the beginning of October. At the latest, do it before October’s rainy season.

Once the rainy season arrives, the pine cones will have absorbed mold, fungi, bacteria, and insects. These will be harder to wash or bake out, so you risk transferring harmful pathogens and pests.

According to Nature, pine cones release their seeds in the rainy season, which isn’t advantageous for parrots. So, they’ll lose out on the hidden seeds and be at more risk of contracting illnesses.

are pine cones safe for parrots?

2/ Select The Right Pine Cones

Ideally, you should select pine cones that are dry and light-colored. According to Interface, the driest cones will be opened at their widest point.

Avoid pine cones that display signs of mold, fungi, or moss, especially those wet to the touch. If you find slimy cones, pass them over, as they’ve begun to go rotten.

3/ Cleaning The Pine Cones

The most common approach for sanitizing pine cones is the baking method. As the name suggests, you’ll bake the pine cones in an oven.

If this doesn’t work for you, there’s also the washing method, where the pine cones are cleaned. If you want to be extra cautious, wash the pine cones and bake them.

Let’s explore these methods in more detail:

Washing Method

Even if you purchased the pine cones at a craft store, washing them ensures that no pesticides, bacteria, mold, fungi, perfumes, or sealants are on the surface.

Washing will take 2-3 hours per batch of cones. You’ll soak them in a solution with the following:

  • Warm water
  • Antibacterial soap
  • A cup of vinegar
  • A few drops of avian-safe disinfectant

Fill a tub or sink with the solution and ensure that all the cones are fully submerged. They may float to the top but dunk them several times.

Once this is done, allow them to soak for 30+ minutes. Then, rotate them in the water to ensure that the solution reaches every crevice. Afterward, you should:

  1. Take a cloth or sponge and clean the cones.
  2. Try to reach the inner layers.
  3. Rinse the pine cones in running water.
  4. Inspect each cone to check for mold, fungi, moss, or insects.
  5. If the pine cones remain sticky, give them an additional soak.
  6. If they’re unchanged after a second soak, consider making a fresh batch of the solution.
  7. Lay the pine cones on a clean towel or newspaper, allowing them to dry in direct sunlight.
  8. Space out the pine cones so there’s sufficient airflow.

Baking Method

This method can be used after washing your pine cones, as the heat can further disinfect the hidden crevices that scrubbing can’t reach. Here’s what to do:

  1. Preheat your oven to 390 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Take your largest baking tray and line it with tin foil. Pine cones are sticky due to their sap, and tin foil will prevent them from adhering to your pan.
  3. Bake the pine cones for at least 20 minutes or until the outside is no longer sticky.
  4. After baking, do not remove the pine cones from the oven.
  5. Turn the oven off but allow the pine cones to stay inside the oven for about two more hours.
  6. Cooking in the ambient heat will ensure that the pine cones are thoroughly dry.

Are Pine Cones Safe for Parrots?

Pine cones are safe for parrots to bite and play with. Parrot owners use clean pine cones as chew toys and beak cleaners because they’re made of bracts (branches of the cone).

These bracts are tough but malleable, making them fun to peck. The abrasive nature allows parrots to wear down extra growth on their beaks, keeping them trimmed.

Pine cones are even a snack. Between the pine cone’s bracts are small seeds, which are a reward for parrots that have torn through the layers. Some parrots will feed on pieces of the cone for fiber.

African Grey Parrots

Sterilized cones are safe for African Grey parrots. African greys are known for their sharp beaks, and those that love to bite and nip will enjoy playing with a pine cone.

do parrots eat pine cones?


Sterilized pine cones are also safe for cockatiels, which will enjoy foraging the seeds. Consider adding fresh vegetables and other treats to the pine cone for fun.


Pine cones are often given to larger parrot species, but budgies also find them entertaining.

The size difference will ensure your pine cones last longer and the budgie works harder. To make things easy, use small pine cones so that your budgie has a more enjoyable experience.

Are Store-Bought Pine Cones Safe for Parrots?

You may assume that harvesting fresh pine cones from your yard is less healthy than store-bought kinds, but both can be safe if disinfected.

Store-bought pine cones, such as those found at craft stores, often contain sealants, perfumes, and glitter. These make them more appealing and resistant to decay but are just as harmful.

All pine cones must be sanitized before you give them to your parrot. Avoid pine cones with obvious signs of decay or coated in eye-catching decorations like glitter.

Sterilizing pine cones is important to ensure the toys are safe for your parrot. These steps will help you provide cones that are safe, sanitized, and ready to become feeders or chew toys.