Can Parrots Play With Pipe Cleaners?

As a child I was quite typical – my parents would buy me a brand new $30 toy and all I’d want to do is play with the box.

You could buy me all of the most expensive toys in the world, but I was always more entertained with the smaller things. And one of my favorite toys?

Pipe cleaners.

I loved pipe cleaners as a kid.

Twisting them together, making crafts, gluing them to paper – there were so many things you could do with them.

As I was thinking about this today, it made me wonder – can parrots play with pipe cleaners too?

How awesome would it be if my parrot could get as much enjoyment out of a pipe cleaner as I did?

The answer to this question is not yes or no. Rather, it’s up to your own discretion. Surely your parrot would be able to entertain themselves with  pipe cleaner, but there are certain risks you should be aware of. At the same time, if you are going to allow your parrot to play with pipe cleaners, supervision is required.

Today we’ll dive deeper into the question of whether or not your parrot can play with pipe cleaners and will help you to make an educated decision as to whether or not it’s a toy you want to provide for your bird.

So what are we waiting for?

Let’s start answering some questions!

Can Parrots Play with Pipe Cleaners?

Again, the answer to this question is not a matter of yes or no, it’s a matter of personal preference.

Some people allow their parrots to play with pipe cleaners, while others feel that it is unsafe. But what’s deemed unsafe about playing with pipe cleaners?

Firstly, many parrot owners are concerned about the materials that pipe cleaners are made of. If you own a parrot, there’s a good chance that you already know that they put everything in their mouth. As a general rule of thumb, if it’s in their cage, they will test it with their beaks.

For pipe cleaners, this could be a problem because depending on the brand of pipe cleaner, the “fluff” can easily be pulled out. Quite obviously, this could pose a choking hazard, especially for smaller parrots. Even for larger parrots, if the fluff were to end up in their digestional tract, this could also pose a risk.

The second concern for parrot owners is the material of the metals within the pipe cleaners. Depending on what brand of pipe cleaner you buy, the metal could contain zinc which can be harmful to parrots.

But let’s dive a little deeper into both of these topics and talk a little more about what pipe cleaners are made of.

What are pipe cleaners made of?

Did you know that there are actually two different types of pipe cleaners?

The ones we most often think of are the ones that we use for crafts and kids activities. But pipe cleaners are actually called “cleaners” for a reason, and that’s exactly what the other kind is suited to – cleaning pipes and other hollow objects.

With that being said, the design of a pipe cleaner is basically the same regardless of its use. They are made of twisted strands of metal around threads of absorbent materials. The type of material used for the absorbant threads can vary from brand to brand, but most pipe cleaners designed for cleaning are made from cotton.

Some brands may also be made from things like viscose, nylon, polyester, or polypropylene. In terms of crafting pipe cleaners, these are most often made from tinsel, nylon, or chenille.

The problem with this is that regardless of what type of fabric material is used, it can cause harm to such a small species if it ends up in their digestional tract. Parrots are likely to put everything in their mouth, so it wouldn’t be too far fetched to say that they would probably swallow some of the fabric.

In terms of the metals used for the wiring in pipe cleaners, these can vary from brand to brand as well.

Some pipe cleaner brands use metals like steel or aluminum for the wires, which are both safe for parrots. Other brands use metals like zinc and copper which can be potentially fatal for birds. Let’s talk a little more about that…

The problem with zinc and copper

When it comes to parrots, the problem with zinc and copper is that they can lead to heavy metal toxicity. If not treated right away, this can be fatal.

What is heavy metal toxicity? It’s a condition that occurs when a parrot has swallowed or ingested a piece of metal that can be harmful to them.

Most commonly it occurs from chewing on some type of wiring or swallowing things like pennies. When metals like zinc or copper are ingested, any piece of the metal that isn’t passed through the digestional tract will stay in your parrots stomach and will continue to release toxins into the body. Over time these toxins will build and illness and disease can result.

What does heavy metal toxicity look like?

When a parrot has been poisoned by a heavy metal they may show signs and symptoms of:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Extreme thirst
  • Abnormal stools (diarrhea, blood, change of color)
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness
  • Seizures

In return, you want to keep your parrot away from pipe cleaners made from copper or zinc. If you are going to give your parrots pipe cleaners, double check what they are made of and that it is safe for parrots.

What should you do if you have already given your parrot a zinc or copper pipe cleaner?

If you have already let your parrot play with a zinc or copper pipe cleaner, don’t panic. There is a chance that your parrot will be totally fine.

With that being said, keep an eye out for the symptoms listed above. If you notice your parrot engaging in any abnormal behaviors or have noticed any changes to their mood or droppings, call a veterinarian immediately.

The good news is that most heavy metal poisonings are treatable if they are caught early enough.

Depending on the severity of the poisoning, your veterinarian may prescribe medications or chelation therapy to help remove the metals and toxins that remain within your parrot’s body.

Having said that, if you notice signs or symptoms associated with heavy metal toxicity, don’t wait too long to take them to the vet. Its treatable if it’s caught early, but if left too long it could cause irreversible damage.

Are there any other safety concerns related to pipe cleaners?

Yes. The other concern that a lot of parrot owners have with pipe cleaners is that the ends of them can be sharp.

If your parrot were to bite down on the pipe cleaner the wrong way, it could scratch the inside of their mouth.

Furthermore, pipe cleaners not only pose a hazard for the mouths of your parrots, but also other parts of the body. If a pipe cleaner is sticking out, your bird could easily walk into it and “stick” themselves. In worst case scenarios, they could even poke themselves in the eye.

What can I use pipe cleaners for?

If you have already bought a bunch of pipe cleaners and have decided not to let your bird play with them, then why not use them what they were originally intended for? Cleaning!

Pipe cleaners can be a great way to get into the corners of your bird cage that are otherwise difficult to reach, so don’t throw them away – just give them another use.

What if I decide to let my parrot try playing with pipe cleaners?

If you have read all of the precautions here and would still like to try your parrot with pipe cleaners, proceed with caution.

Make sure you read all materials used within the pipe cleaner and choose a high quality pipe cleaner that is not made from zinc or copper.

Furthermore, if you are giving your parrot a pipe cleaner, always be sure to closely supervise to make sure they are not swallowing any of the fabrics or metals.

It’s best to keep pipe cleaners out of your parrots mouth at all. If you find them putting it in their mouth, take it away immediately.

In conclusion, it’s up to you if you let your parrot play with pipe cleaners but I would strongly advise against it.

There are many other toys out there that your parrot would love and that are much safer for them to play with. Leave the pipe cleaners alone, or use them how they were intended to be used – for cleaning and crafts.

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