3 Herbs (and 15 Houseplants) Not Safe For Your Cockatiel


Feed your feathered friend might not be an easy task. Cockatiel are curious animals that nibble on what they found around. What’s happened if your cockatiel starts munching on your herbs or houseplant? This article has you covered with expert pet owner experience and scientific data.

Hence, which herbs your cockatiel cannot eat? Among indoor herbs, the ones cockatiels must avoid are:

  1. Chives
  2. Parsley
  3. Foxglove

Among common houseplants, the following have mild to severe impact on cockatiels’ health and so need to be avoided altogether:

  1. Lily of the Valley
  2. Yew Taxus
  3. Dumb cane
  4. Philodendron
  5. Pothos
  6. Peace lily
  7. Schefflera
  8. Kalanchoe species
  9. Kalmia species
  10. Rhubarb
  11. Cycad
  12. Sago
  13. Zamia palms
  14. Autumn crocus
  15. Oleander

These are the herbs and plants you should not place at the reach of your feathered friend. However, what are the effects in case of ingestion, what can you do to prevent such problems? Let’s dive into more details!

The Three Herbs To Avoid For Your Cockatiel

There is nothing better than the satisfaction to grow fresh garden herbs chemical and pests free that can we securely use as part of our Cockatiel diet.

Among all the herbs you can grow indoors (so many!) the ones you have to keep away from your feathered friends are Chives, Parsley and Foxglove.

Can Your Cockatiels Eat Chives? Avoid if Possible

Chives are not recommended to cockatiels, and despite small quantities are likely not to cause harm, the risk of potential blood issues is high.

Chives, onions, garlic, leeks, scallions, and shallots are part of the Allium family where such Latin word means “garlic.” These plants are known for their strong aroma and flavor, which makes them popular for cooking and safe (and very healthy) for us. However, the same does not apply to birds.

Around the web, you can read that some owners fed their cockatiel with chives claiming that they are not harmful while others sustain avoid them altogether. Who is right, then? Both?

For the case of chives, the real problem is the amount and frequency! Indeed, if your cockatiels feed only once a week, chives are likely not to harm him. However, larger exposure is definitely dangerous. Indeed, chives are a “mild” member of the onion family. One of the substances common to such families under the “Sulfur” family umbrella.

These natural chemicals, generally harmless to humans, turns into other substances (like Thiosulfinate) that can break bird blood cells, causing anemia (in birds called hemolytic anemia). More details in this interesting post from a veterinarian.

As detailed in this veterinary resource, onion and garlic are classified as dangerous. Although chives are not clearly mentioned, they also contain the same active chemical (although in smaller amounts) and so they can potentially trigger similar symptoms.

Also, the pet poison control resource claims that the onion family can seriously affect your feathered friend.

Can Your Cockatiel Eat Parsley? Yes, but in Moderation

Parsley is safe for cockatiels, but due to its calcium-binding properties, only a couple of times a week and part of a balanced diet.

The effect of Parsley on birds is quite often misunderstood. This is related to the presence in parsley (and many other excellent herbs and vegetables like spinach) of Oxalic Acid. There are many great detailed resources like this one or this one if you are curious about its effects.

In short, this acid can bind calcium that it then becomes unavailable to the bird body. However, this only valid to the calcium contained in the parsley (the same applies to vegetables like spinach). The parsley oxalic acid does not stop the calcium from other foods.

Hence, if you feed your parrot mainly (or even worse exclusively) with parsley, this will be the main source of its nutrients. However, due to its oxalic acid content, the calcium in the herb (the only source if your parrot eats only parsley) is missing. No long time before kidney problems might arise.

The Windsor Animal Hospital, very likely for precaution, recommends avoiding feed with parsley more than once or twice a week. The only study slightly related to birds was an experimental documented case of parsley intoxication in ducks and ostriches, as discussed in Chapter 37 of the book written by Dr. Genevieve Dumonceaux.

Can Your Cockatiels Eat Foxglove? No, Hearth at Risk

Foxglove is not safe for cockatiels due to potential heart problems that chemicals in this herb might trigger.

As detailed by Dr. Richardson in his notebook, Foxglove (scientific name: “Digitalis Purpurea”) is classified as a “cardiotoxic” herb.

Indeed, this herb contains a chemical called cardiac glycosides that, as detailed by a study from the University of Louisville School of Medicine, can “inhibit the pump activity” of the hearth.

However, as stated by Dr. Jill A Richardson from the University of Illinois here, Foxglove is one of those herbs whose effects have not been studied in detail. Nevertheless, many are the expert that agrees on the potentially severe impacts on birds as well as small mammals.

Take away: although there is not a finite conclusive indication on the dangerous of foxglove on birds, several adverse effects on other similar mammals have been observed. So, on no occasion, such herb should be made available to cockatiels.

The above is a list of the most common herbs that grow indoors. However, given their large number and possibilities on what you can possibly grow, here you can find a more detailed list.

Herbs That Your Cockatiels Can Eat? Here The List

You know those indoor herbs (perhaps you are growing them in a basement as detailed in this indoor basement gardening guide) that you should avoid/limit. It is now time to see which indoor herbs are most commonly grown indoor and that you as well you might have hanging around and are totally safe for your feathered friend.

  1. Basil: Cockatiels have shown a preference for such aromatic herbs that are totally safe for them. Here a short video of two cockatiels munching on a basil plant;
  2. Chamomile: this herb is mainly used to produce some relaxing tea from your cockatiel, as you can see here provided through a mug held by the owner. Of course, no sugar, milk in it as poisonous for birds and it should be warm (20C) no more to avoid harming the bird;
  3. Cilantro: some cockatiels show to appreciate coriander as Mike showed for his feathered friend in this video;
  4. Oregano: as Zara, a cockatiel owner helping in running a cockatiel-focus forum, Oregano is among the safe herb for your friend;
  5. Rosemary: no evidence of rosemary being of any harm as also many owners that they already fed their companion with it claimed here;
  6. Spearmint: The strong aroma of such herbs has shown to be attractive to them, as shown in this video. Indeed, as the same owner claimed, the whole mint plant lasted only 2 days. However, a few bird owners do recommend only a leaf per day. Indeed, due to the high oil content of this herb, this can irritate their bird intestinal tract;
  7. Lavender: Here, you can have a quick look at a cockatiel nibbling on an indoor lavender herb without any consequence;
  8. Marjoram, Lemon balm, Thyme: they do not appear in any dangerous list or database, and they are classified as safe in many resources. Among them, it is worth to mention this and this as they are well-known references among cockatiel owners.

Although I did not find any evidence to back up such a statement, a few cockatiel owners suggested limiting the intake of potent aromatic herbs (like mint). This is because their higher than other herbs oil content that can irritate the mucosa and intestinal tract of cockatiels.

Other Plants Safe To Eat For Your Cockatiels

We focused on herbs so far. However, you might also be wondering about different plants. Here you can find a list of no-herbs that you might have indoors that your cockatiel can feed on safely:

  • Shrubs – some of you might also growing shrubs at home. Although they may not have some high nutritious value for your parrot, they will probably serve as a chewing toy. If your aviary is outside (enjoy the summer light), adding shrubs will make it look cooler, and, as a plus, it offers adequate protection from the wind.

Some of the safe shrubs for cockatiels are bamboo, olives, figs, gardenia, dogwood, rose, willow.

  • Climbing Plants can provide a lot of activity and fun if they twine around your aviary. Bear in mind that grape and Swedish ivy are safe for Cockatiels, while any ivy is dangerous for them.
  • Weeds – although they can be very annoying in your garden, they are a great addition to your feathered friend’s diet. Dandelion, chickweed, comfrey, thistle, and white clover are some safe weeds for Cockatiels.

As shown before, a lot of indoor plants are not safe for your bird. Hence, if you are thinking about what to plant to avoid any risk here a list of safe plants for Cockatiels:

  • Spider plant, Rubber Plant, Zebra Plant – they are easy to grow, and in a hanging basket can be a beautiful decoration for your home. At the same time, they are safe for Cockatiels.
  • Jade (money plants) – impressive looking, easy to grow, and low maintenance plants are always a favorite choice. Safe for birds.
  • Impatiens – if you want to add some color in your living space, impatiens are a great choice as they come in every color you can imagine, and will not harm your parrot.
  • Roses, African Violet, Bamboo, Boston Fern, Rubber Plant, Hibiscus, are all plants you can add to your Cockatiel “safe to eat list” while making your home a colorful and beautiful.

Just remember that even if the plants are non-toxic, residuals of chemicals like insecticide or fertilizer can be extremely harmful to the bird.

Herbs and any other edible (grain, fruit, and veggies) could become toxic even if they were on the “safe list” if mold and fungi are present on them. Indeed, these can produce a dangerous chemical called mycotoxins toxic for your cockatiels, as also broadly discussed in this scientific review from the University of Massachusetts.

Molds can be found in any environment, outside and indoors. Mold growth is encouraged by humidity and warmth. In these conditions, spores are produced and can quickly become airborne. Hence, avoid feeding your friend with an herb that has been cut for more than a day or two (especially in summer). Ideally, cockatiels should eat directly from the plant.

White mold on a leaf. Even eye-clean leaf should not be given to your cockatiel if even one leaf of the whole plant present mold

Although mold can be easily spotted on veggies and roots, it is not enough to just remove the moldy parts of the vegetable. Indeed, the toxin may have spread through the food and not being visible at the human eye despite its ability to do significant damage to a small animal of a few hundred grams like a cockatiel. So any herb that presents mold should be thrown entirely.

If you are worried that your cockatiels ate something that could be dangerous or you notice any symptoms (vomiting, weakness, diarrhea,etc.) contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. Indeed, due to their fast metabolism, symptoms (and damage) might appear rather quickly.

Adding a healthy nutritious and organic variety to their diet is obviously important, but just make sure you are the one who decides what they can and cannot eat. If you have one of the above herbs/plants, not to let them roam freely in the same room with them. Indeed, those toxic herbs and plants to not generally repel you feathered friend, that, out of curiosity, might start nibble on them.

When in doubt – do not allow them to eat it and consult the list provided in this blog! and below!

Why Cockatiels Eat Potted Soil?

Cockatiels, as well as other domestic birds, has been found eating soil from home plants. Indeed, cockatiels are curious animals that get in almost everything in your house. Hence, if you love plants, no wonder that on the first occasion, it will land on them and play/eating around (potting soil include!).

A cocktail should not eat potting soil in any condition

However, sometimes, you might notice that your cockatiel prefers soil and ignores the tasty plants. This is something that you should worry about as it might be the sign of a mineral or protein deficiencies.

Potting soil or any other dirt your cockatiel might attempt to eat usually contain chemicals (such as fertilizer), compost, manure, and even water-holding particles (water crystals). None of the mentioned is designed to be eaten and can seriously affect the bird digestive system.

Related Questions

Whare fruits are safe for cockatiels? Many are the fruits that can be typically found in a house that are safe for cockatiels. Among the year around fruit there bananas and apple. More seasonal ones there are grapes, nectarines, peaches, apricots, pears, and strawberries.

How much food (in weight) a cocktail should eat? This depends on the age of the cocktail. However, a healthy adult cocktail should eat 15-20g of food (given by a variety of vegetables, fruits, and seeds)

Further Readings

A known blog for cockatiel owners – http://www.cockatielcottage.net/

Scientific study on mycotoxins – https://www.annualreviews.org/doi/abs/10.1146/annurev.pa.15.040175.002253?journalCode=pharmtox.1

How to grow a basement garden – https://yourindoorherbs.com/9-easy-steps-to-grow-herbs-in-your-basement-or-in-winter/

Veterinary Resource – https://avianexoticsvet.com/10-everyday-items-that-are-toxic-to-birds/

Forum on Cockatiel – https://forums.avianavenue.com

Andrea

A young Italian guy with a passion for growing edible herbs. After moving to the UK 6 years ago in a tiny flat, it was impossible to grow herbs outside. So I start my journey in growing indoor and so I decided to share my knowledge.

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