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Is Paint Toxic To Parrots?

(Last Updated On: March 25, 2023)

If you intend to paint the walls of your home or decorate a birdcage with a new color, you must remove the parrot from the area until the job is complete.

Parrots are curious and will investigate a fresh paint job, especially if it’s a bright color. If the parrot swallows paint, it’ll likely consume toxins, the most dangerous of which is zinc.

Paint fumes are just as dangerous to parrots. Oil-based paints, and some water-based alternatives, release chemicals in the air known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

These are formaldehyde, toluene, ethylene glycol, xylene, acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, and naphthalene.

Water-based paint must be touch-dry for at least 24 hours before you can consider allowing the parrot into a room. You need to rehome the parrot for up to a week if oil-based paints have been used.

Can I Paint a Room a Parrot Lives in?

Everybody likes to refresh their living space occasionally, which may involve painting the walls. If you intend to paint a room in your home that houses a parrot, you’ll need to temporarily remove it.

Redecorating a room can enhance the parrot’s quality of life. Applied Animal Behavior Science stated that parrots enjoy bright and vivid colors, so they’ll enjoy living in their new space.

This must be treated carefully, as a parrot’s attraction to bright colors could be detrimental. A parrot may investigate the wall; if the paint isn’t dry, this will cause smudges.

It also risks the parrot’s health, as many paints are toxic to birds if inhaled or consumed.

bird-friendly paint

Can I Paint a Parrot’s Cage?

You don’t need to paint the walls of a room to bring more color to a parrot’s life. Some owners paint a birdcage a different shade to vary their avian companion’s surroundings.

Painting a birdcage takes less effort than redecorating an entire room. You’ll need less paint and could use an alternative like 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 parrot’s cage as those associated with painting walls. You can’t undertake this task while the parrot is in the same room.

Is Paint Toxic to Parrots When Swallowed?

Parrots are attracted to bright colors. So, they may be tempted into exploring a freshly painted surface with its beak, swallowing wet paint, or ingesting flakes that fall from the wall or cage.

Lead is arguably the most lethal 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 still contain zinc, which is almost as dangerous as lead.

Any instance of a bird swallowing paint should be considered a medical emergency.

This is why you must keep the parrot away from a room or cage that’s freshly painted and remove any open paint cans or supplies once the bird is reinstated.

Are Paint Fumes Bad for Parrots?

Breathing in paint fumes is bad for parrots’ respiratory systems (air sacs and lungs), especially oil-based paints, because they contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These include:

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

VOCs are chemicals used in creating 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 of paint must always be taken seriously.

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

VOCs will be released as long as the paint is wet. To this end, parrots can’t enter a room until the paint has been touch-dry for at least 24 hours. “Almost” or “mostly” dry isn’t sufficient.

Protecting Parrots from Paint Fumes

The only way to effectively protect parrots from toxic paint fumes and VOCs is to keep your bird away from exposure. While the paint is still wet, it releases fumes. Low VOC paints will be safer sooner, but the parrot still needs space.

Follow these steps to speed up drying paint in a room or on a birdcage:

  1. Open windows to let VOCs out and encourage the paint to dry.
  2. Use a fan to redistribute air around the room.
  3. Apply a heat source, such as a central radiator. Avoid small, direct heaters, as these may lead to streaky drying.
  4. Get an air purifier, or place houseplants in a room that will perform this function.

Before returning the parrot to a room or cage, these steps must be taken.

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 general dazed demeanor.
  • Gasping for air.
  • Gastric distress, such as diarrhea or vomiting.
  • Blood in the stool.
  • Muscular tremors, potentially leading to convulsions and seizures.

If the parrot has paint toxicity, seek veterinary advice. Toxicity has high mortality levels in parrots, and a fast response is essential to survival and recovery.

What Paint is Safe for Parrots?

While no paint is entirely safe for parrots, some paint types are less hazardous than others. As a rule, water-based paints and primers are preferable to an oil-based alternative.

This table outlines the different paints and their suitability for use around parrots:

Acrylic or Ceramic PaintAcrylic and ceramic paints are popular with pet owners, people with children, and those with repressed immunity against respiratory conditions, as it doesn’t release fumes into the air. However, it must be allowed to dry.
BEHR PaintBEHR paint isn’t a style of paint but a brand. Check the label and ingredients of BEHR paint before using it near a parrot.
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 is best 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 claims the paint is water-based.
Milk PaintMilk paint is created using casein, a protein found in cow’s milk, alongside calcium carbonate and sodium borate. This paint doesn’t emit any fumes and usually dries within 30 minutes.
Spray PaintSome bird owners use spray paint as it dries quickly – often in less than an hour. Krylon or Rust-Oleum are safe paints for bird cages if you let them dry.
Watercolor PaintIf you’re painting a birdcage and watercolors will meet your needs, this is the safest paint you can use. Watercolors don’t release fumes and dry quickly.

The finish of these paints – whether gloss, semi-gloss, satin, eggshell, or matte – is less relevant. The content of the paints themselves will determine the risk to a parrot’s health.

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, it’ll likely be a week before the parrot can return.

There’s nothing to gain by risking a parrot’s health and allowing it near wet paint that emits fumes. Always be cautious, even if it temporarily involves rehoming the parrot during redecoration.