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are paint fumes bad for parrots?

Is Paint Toxic To Parrots?

Last Updated on: 26th September 2023, 05:00 am

If you intend to paint or redecorate your home (or spruce up a worn and dull-looking birdcage), remove the parrot from the area and keep it in another room until the air is toxin-free.

Parrots are curious and will investigate potent smells and bright colors. If a parrot swallows paint, it could consume zinc (lead is unlikely). If a parrot gets paint on its feathers, removal will be difficult.

Paint fumes are even more dangerous to pet birds like parrots. Oil-based paints and some water-based alternatives release chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Water-based paints (like emulsion) must be touch-dry for at least 24 hours before being safe. If you use oil-based paints, at least 7 days must elapse before a parrot can be returned to a room.

Can I Paint a Room a Parrot Lives in?

We all like to refresh our living space occasionally, which can involve repainting the walls and ceilings. If you intend to paint a room that houses a parrot, you must temporarily move it to a safe location.

Redecorating a room can enhance a parrot’s quality of life. Applied Animal Behavior Science stated that parrots like certain colors, so they’ll enjoy their new, revitalized living space.

Exposure to fresh paint can be life-threatening to birds because the fumes are toxic if inhaled.

bird-friendly paint

Can I Paint a Parrot’s Cage?

You don’t need to paint the walls of a room to introduce more color and vibrancy to a parrot’s life. Some owners paint a birdcage a different shade to freshen up the surroundings.

You could use spray paint, which will dry faster, even if it takes longer for the VOCs to subside. The same rules apply when applying color to a pet bird’s cage as painting a home.

Oil-based paint that hasn’t fully cured can be chipped away with the beak and swallowed. When exposed to oxygen, oil oxidizes and hardens, so always allow a minimum of 7 days for the paint to cure.

Is Paint Toxic to Parrots When Swallowed?

Parrots are drawn to bright colors. So, they may investigate a freshly painted surface, swallowing wet paint or ingesting flakes they break off a wall or cage with their strong beaks.

Lead is a deadly toxin to parrots, but lead-based paint has been banned for home use since the 1970s. According to the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, some paints are zinc-based.

Keep a parrot away from a room or cage that’s been painted. Also, keep the door closed so toxins can’t escape, and paint cans, trays, and brushes are inaccessible to curious birds.

Are Paint Fumes Bad for Parrots?

Breathing in paint fumes is harmful to parrots’ respiratory systems (air sacs and lungs), especially oil-based paints, because they contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as:

  • Formaldehyde.
  • Toluene.
  • Ethylene Glycol.
  • Xylene.
  • Acetone.
  • Methyl Ethyl Ketone.
  • Naphthalene.

VOCs are chemicals used to make paints and primers, often as solvents or thickening agents. They’re also found in wallpaper, which is only marginally safer than painting.

Veterinary Clinics of North America: Exotic Animal Practice stated that parrots frequently breathe in toxic fumes from their surroundings, so the risks surrounding paint should be taken seriously.

As awareness of the risk of VOCs has grown more pronounced, most paint manufacturers offer low-emission paints. While they’re safer for humans, they aren’t safe for pet parrots.

VOCs are released until the paint has cured. The more time that elapses, the fewer VOCs will be released.

Protecting Parrots from Paint Fumes

The only way to protect parrots from paint fumes is to keep them 2-3 rooms away behind a closed door. Alternatively, ask a friend or relative (who the bird knows) to house the parrot for a week.

Low VOC paints will be safer sooner, but a parrot must reside in a VOC-free room.

Follow these steps to expedite the paint-drying process:

  1. Open windows to let VOCs out and speed up paint drying.
  2. Use a fan to distribute air around the room.
  3. Apply a heat source, like a central radiator. Avoid small, direct heaters due to streaky drying.
  4. Get an air purifier or put plants in the room to remove airborne impurities.

When opening windows or using fans, ensure the parrot is caged (and the door is closed) several rooms away. The last thing you want is for the bird to escape or to blow VOCs into its living space.

paint safe for parrots

Warning Signs of Paint Toxicity in Parrots

If a parrot has been exposed to paint, learn the warning signs of toxicity. These include:

  • Lethargy and a generally dazed demeanor.
  • Gasping for air.
  • Gastric distress, like diarrhea or vomiting.
  • Blood in the stool.
  • Muscular tremors, potentially leading to convulsions and seizures.

If a parrot has paint toxicity, seek urgent veterinary counsel. Toxicity has high mortality levels in pet parrots, so a rapid response is needed to maximize the likelihood of survival and recovery.

What Paint Is Safe for Parrots?

While no paint is entirely safe for parrots, some types are less hazardous than others.

This table outlines the different paints and their suitability:

Acrylic or Ceramic PaintAcrylic and ceramic paints are often used by pet owners, those with children, and people with repressed immunity against respiratory conditions.
Emulsion PaintMost emulsion paints are water-based and have lower VOC levels.
Enamel PaintOil-based enamel paints have one of the highest levels of VOC release. Water-based enamel paint is better but should be approached with caution.
Latex PaintLatex paint must be avoided if you have a parrot. This paint emits the most dangerous fumes, even if the label states the paint is water-based.
Milk PaintMilk paint is made from casein, a protein in cow’s milk, alongside calcium carbonate and sodium borate. It doesn’t emit fumes and dries in 30 minutes.
Spray PaintSome bird owners use spray paint because it dries quickly, often in under an hour. If you let them dry, Krylon or Rust-Oleum are safe paints for bird cages.
Watercolor PaintWatercolors are the safest paint because they don’t release fumes and dry quickly. They’re unsuitable for cage painting but are good for artwork.

Water-based paints and basic primers are safe sooner than solvent and oil-based paints. Most paints, varnishes, glues, adhesives, and carpet cleaners give off VOCs.

How Long After Painting Is It Safe for Birds?

Don’t allow a parrot near a decorated wall until the emulsion paint has been dry for at least 24 hours. If an oil-based gloss has been used on a door or skirting board, it’ll be a week before the parrot can return.

Always be cautious, even if it temporarily involves rehoming the parrot during redecoration.