Tips for Being Prepared for Winter Temperatures

As we move into winter temps across the country, warmth is necessary for us and for our birds.  

Whether you use electric or gas powered central heat, having an annual checkup of your unit and/or system is a good idea to make sure everything is safe and ready to go.

My birds are in a separate sunroom of my home with lots of windows and sometimes it gets a little colder than the other parts of the house at night.  I often add a little extra warmth to my bird room at night with a portable oil filled radiator.  My oil filled radiator is an older model and I have never had any problem with them.  It is plugged into a separate power surge protector for added safety.  A word of caution if you are purchasing a new oil filled radiator heater for the first time, I would highly suggest plugging it in outside your bird area and setting on a high heat to burn off any coatings the newer ceramic units may have.  Allow at least 24 hours of use in a vented area before adding to your bird's area.  Read the safety label thoroughly to make sure there is no nonstick coating on it that might be toxic. Below is a picture of a common oil filled radiator heater that can be purchased at most home goods or big box stores.

All other types of portable heaters other than the oil filled radiators should always be only in use when someone can monitor the heater.  Many electric portable heaters can overheat if they malfunction or run too long on high temperatures, or if close enough to other household object can put out enough heat to set fabric or other materials on fire.    

VERY IMPORTANT! Never use Kerosene heaters around birds as the fumes can be toxic and can kill your bird.

My personal research on the use of propane or butane heaters is a little confusing as it seems split 50/50 on yay or nay as to how safe they are.  Many avian experts say do not use either propane or butane heaters around birds.  However, some bird owners say they have used them in well ventilated areas with no ill effects on their birds.  One source I found states that butane is not a highly toxic gas and can be stored inside your home.  Whether that means you can also use it safely in your home with birds seems to be more of an unknown issue because storing it and using it are two very different scenarios.  Because birds have such a sensitive respiratory system that makes it a definite no for me.  I personally tend to err on the side of the "unknown safety", for me which usually means no safety guarantee at all.

It is, however a known fact that propane or butane heaters used without adequate ventilation can give off excessive carbon monoxide which is an odorless, poisonous gas, deadly to birds, and even humans. Early signs of carbon monoxide poisoning in humans are similar to flu-like symptoms, including a headache, dizziness, and nausea.  For birds sadly there would be no warning to let you know there is a problem.  

A gas burning fireplace has been considered unsafe by many in the bird world but some of the newer gas burning fireplaces may have extra precautions of safety built into them.  Again, I encourage everyone to research and even contact the manufacturer of your particular brand for more information and safety precautions.   

If you are planning to use a wood burning fireplace for heat, or even a supplemental heat source, make sure your room is well vented and no smoke is coming into the room where your bird is.  Before winter sets in it is a good idea to make sure your fireplace is clean and free of creosote and any leftover nesting materials by birds who may have set up housekeeping in the chimney over the summer if your chimney is not covered by a safety screen.  

Creosote is a residue that can accumulate in your fireplace chimney from wood burning naturally and can be extremely flammable if it accumulates too much in the chimney.  Most home fires that occur in a wood burning fireplace are the result of a creosote buildup which catches on fire and enable the fire to climb up a chimney and onto the roof of the home.  You can read more about creosote here:  Wood Burning and Creosote Information

I encourage everyone to do their own research into the various methods of supplemental heating as well as gas burning fireplaces before any emergency occurs.

Stay warm, stay safe, and enjoy the winter months with your birds.

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