reminder: All articles and posts on my website are written by me and from my own perspective (Sophie The Pigeon) and often I'm typing it aimed at other birds πŸ˜‰

Human Hygiene

It might be quite obvious that your hygiene could also affect us birds, but there are most likely aspects which you might have overlooked when it comes to this. Therefor me and my pet humans decided to create this article to give some additional tips on your own (human) hygiene to keep us (and thus your) birds healthy.

Washing your hands

This is obviously number one in hygiene which most of you humans would understand. But to ensure that you keep your pigeon(s) healthy, there are most likely more situations when you should wash your hands than if you would not have pigeons (or any other birds) as pets.

Washing hands: When coming back home

Lots of people probably don’t wash their hands if they just have been to the grocery store for a few minutes for example. Doing this is however not only better for your own health, but it can also contribute to lower health (and contamination) risks for your pigeon(s). You can for example limit the exposure to viruses and germs from outside (and everything you might have touched on your trip), but it will for example also wash off any pesticides you might (accidentally) have touched. These pesticides could be on vegetables, fruits etc in the store, and even if you yourself didn’t touched any of them yourself, there is a slight chance that another customer before you did, and that he or she touched the same product you just put in your basket.

Washing your hands when coming back home will also decrease the risk of exposure to possible bird deceases and bacteria from wild birds (even if you didn’t touched any wild birds, there is still a slight chance that they might have ‘contaminated’ a surface which you have touched while on your trip. Think of things like railings, (public) doorknobs, those push buttons at traffic lights and more of the alike.

Washing hands: When you’ve touched or petted another animal (either wild or a different pet) or insects

If you have touched or petted another animal/pet (either outside or while visiting friends or family), you should always wash your hands to make sure that you don’t ‘contaminate’ your pigeon(s) (or other birds) with possible bacteria from the other animal(s). If the other animal for example has just received ‘anti-flea-drops’ or is wearing an ‘anti-flea-collar’ it could cause serious health issues for your bird(s) due to the toxicity of it when it gets on your hands and then transfers over to your bird’s feathers.

This ‘washing your hands after petting or touching another animal’ however also goes for when you have touched another bird which is not part of your ‘own flock’. Because there are quite a few bird deceases and bacteria which can be transferred over to your bird (and vice versa) if you don’t maintain a proper hygiene in between handling/touching the animals.

Even some insects could potentially transfer bacteria and deceases over to your bird via your hands if you have been handling them, so please keep this in mind if you are one of those people whom loves to look at and pick up insects while being outside πŸ˜‰.

My advice would be to even disinfect your hands with something like alcohol after you’ve touched a ‘foreign’ animal, and then thoroughly washing your hands until the alcohol vapor and residue are gone from your hands before handling your bird(s) (or any other animal) again (just to be on the safe side).

Washing hands: After gardening or any other (planting) activities like that

There are quite some flowers, plants and trees which are toxic to us birds, therefor it is highly recommended to wash your hands thoroughly after you’ve been working with plants, flowers or anything alike. The same by the way also goes for stuff like fertilizers and such.

Washing hands: After using ointments, sunscreen/sun block, moisturizers etc etc

Lots of chemicals, perfumes or additives in products like these (and more) can be toxic to us birds, and if you transfer them over to our feathers when you are touching us, we will most likely ingest them during preening. We can however also be ‘contaminated’ by them through our feet if we are ‘just perching’ on your fingers or hand(s). So please make sure that your hands are ‘all natural’ and clean before touching or handling us birds.

Washing hands: After you’ve worked with cleaning agents, chemicals, glue’s, paints, inks, oils, fuels, makeup etc etc

This should already be a no-brainer, but please do make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after you’ve used or worked with products like these and more. Even if you don’t smell them on your hands (anymore), that doesn’t mean that there isn’t still residue left on your hands which could transfer over to your bird(s).

Washing hands: After you’ve prepared and/or eaten your own (human) meals

Lots of human foods can be toxic or at the very least be very unhealthy for birds, and although most would not pose too much of a threat when you have touched it and then later touch your bird(s) (as long as you don’t actually give the human food to your bird), it is still highly recommended to wash your hands after preparing and/or eating your meals anyway. Simply because there actually are quite a few foods, spices, liquids etc which can pose a health risk for your bird(s), and like it has been said many times before on my website: it’s just better to be safe than sorry.

Washing hands: After you’ve touched, prepared or have eaten (fresh) fruits

Kinda the same as the previous one, but did wanted to address this one a little bit extra. Simply because it is possible that some fruits for example have pesticides on them, and this could potentially pose a thread to your bird(s) if they lick, nibble or preen your hands after you’ve touched, prepared or have eaten those (fresh) fruits if you would not wash your hands.

Washing hands: After smoking or vaping

If you are a smoker (or vaper) that is all up to you and your business, do however make sure that you do not do it in the same home as your birds are living in! Because the nicotine can and will contaminate a lot of surfaces which will negatively affect the bird’s health, even if you don’t smoke in the same room as your birds, or only when they are sleeping in another room.

But even if you are a ‘well mannered smoker’ which does actually smoke outside for the sake of his or her bird’s health, you can still cause serious health issues for your bird if you (accidentally) transfer nicotine from your fingers to your bird. Therefor it is VERY important that you very thoroughly wash your hands (with a natural bird safe soap) after you’ve smoked your cigarette or after you’ve vaped.

NOTE: Nicotine transfer to your bird(s) can still occur from your clothes and other things it can (and will) get into, so please keep this in mind and try to avoid this as much as possible. And it would be even better (also for your own health) if you just quit that stuff altogether πŸ˜‰, but that is all up to you of course. My website is about pigeons and not some ‘anti-smoker-campaign-website’ 😝

Washing hands: After going to the toilet

This should obviously for proper hygiene already be something you should do every time you’ve used the toilet, but if you are one of those people which every now and then think “ah well I’m in a hurry, I can skip it this time for once“: DON’T! And just do wash your hands! Not just for your own (and other people’s) hygiene, but also for your bird hygiene and health. Bacteria from your human urine or ‘number 2can cause serious health issues for your bird if you don’t practice a proper hygiene.

Did you knew that some viruses which can be transferred as STD or via genital contact, can also be transferred to animals like birds (through your hands)? Some strains of the herpes virus can for example be transferred from humans to animals (and cause serious health issues). #TheMoreYouKnow

Washing hands: After cleaning up droppings or cleaning the cage

While all the other ‘Washing Your Hands Tips’ where mainly about our health and safety, this one is actually for your own health and safety. After you’ve cleaned up our bird droppings (poopies), cleaned our cage or changed/cleaned our flyper (bird diaper if you use one for your bird(s)), you should always wash your hands for proper hygiene. There are some infections which can be spread by infected pigeons to humans, including some lung deceases when you breathe in dust created by cleaning up our droppings. But in general when you only have one or two healthy pet pigeons, there isn’t much of a risk if you practice a good overall hygiene (both for you and the bird(s)).

Just make sure to clean the droppings as soon as you see them (especially with free flighted birds in your home), and make sure to maintain a good Cage Hygiene. Nonetheless you should for proper hygiene always wash your hands after cleaning up our droppings, but that should already be quite obvious right πŸ˜‰? Lots of humans will however eventually stop doing this and just pick up the droppings with a paper towel for example, and this fine as long as it didn’t get to/on your skin.

If you accidentally got it on your skin, you should just wash your hands (obviously) right after it happening for proper hygiene and minimizing any risks.

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Keeping your nails clean

This might look like an obvious thing to say, but without noticing it, still quite a lot of dirt gets under your fingernails. And lots of this ‘dirt’ could potentially be bad (or even harmful) to us birds. Think of things like: salts & spices (from your food), dirt/sand (from gardening), oils and many other things. Therefor it is highly recommended to use a nailbrush when washing your hand to clean your nails (if you didn’t already). My pet humans for example use one of the nailbrushes illustrated here.

We pigeons (and maybe some other bird species) sometimes like to ‘preen’ the nails of our humans, especially if they have a good/strong bond with them. In such cases it is especially important that you keep your nails as clean as possible.

Are there any (extra) precautions recommended during avian flu?

Yes! most definitely! but those are described on their own page, I have written a special page dedicated to avian flu, how to deal with it, and how to keep your pet pigeons as safe as possible during an avian flu outbreak. You can find my Avian Flu And Pet Pigeons page here.

Can I just use any hand soap when washing my hands (for my birds health)?

NO, definitely not. It is very important that you use a natural soap which doesn’t contain any chemicals or strong perfumes. Even if you have a ‘natural soap’, do make sure that it doesn’t have strong smell (less is more!). The respiratory system of us birds is very sensitive and can easily be irritated by strong smells and/or perfumes, therefor it is best to use a non-scented soap.

Which soap to use
I can’t and won’t recommend particular brands (so please don’t email, tweet or otherwise contact me/us about it), simply because it varies greatly which products and brands etc are available depending on your region/country. My pet humans use a 100% natural non-scented soap which for example also has a ‘Vegan Quality Mark’ (my pet humans are not vegan though), but they did some additional checks and research themselves anyway to ensure that it is safe (for me) to use on their hands.

WARNING: It being a natural/vegan soap doesn’t necessarily means that it is also safe to use around us birds! It could for example still be (too) ‘strongly scented’ (with natural scents), so do keep this in mind when ‘searching for the right hand soap’.

I personally would recommend googling for things like “Bird safe hand soap” and then research on the results for your region/country, or even just try to search for these terms in your own native language.

My pet humans got these soap hand pumps made with my 8-Bit Sophie Logo printed on them, and have placed them in the bathroom and kitchen. They always refill these pumps with the natural soap which is safe to use around me.

NOTE: These pumps are not for sale, they are not merchandise or in any way available through my ‘web shop’, so this is not a product/merch advertisement either.
I’m just showing what my pet humans made for me, and how they express (to visitors) that the soap in these pumps is safe to use around me.

Tip for when your bird(s) travel along with you (often)

If you are frequently taking your bird(s) along with you on outdoor trips, family/friend visits and more of the alike, then it is highly recommended that you always bring a little amount of (bird safe) soap with you. My pet humans also got these travel soap and/or alcohol dispensers made at the same time when they got the ones made for the kitchen:

One of these smaller (100ml) containers contains ‘my soap’ diluted with water so they can even wash their hands ‘in the middle of the street’ so to speak, and the other one contains 100ml of ‘my soap’ undiluted. This undiluted bottle is meant to wash their hands when we are visiting friends or family, simply because lots of people (we know) use heavily scented soaps which could irritate my respiratory system if they would wash their hands with it and then pick me up right after washing their hands.

Some warnings about shampoo and conditioners

Considering that washing your hair is also considered (human) hygiene, I decided to write some additional information regarding this topic on this page. Obviously many of you humans wash your hair using some sort of shampoo, conditioner etc, it is however of utmost importance that your shampoo doesn’t have a very strong smell if you will be sitting with your bird (on your shoulder) right after showering for example. It is also important to know that lots of shampoo’s and conditioners can/will be (highly) toxic to birds if they ingest it.

Now you might think: “Why the peck would I ‘feed’ my bird shampoo or conditioner!? What is wrong with you Sophie?! 😱”

Well obviously I never said you should feed your bird(s) shampoo or conditioner, duh πŸ€¦πŸΎβ€β™€οΈπŸ˜‰. What can happen though is that your bird wants to be ‘helpful’ or loving and that it starts ‘preening’ your hair, and if this happens to be shortly after you’ve showered, then it is very likely that he or she will ingest remains of the shampoo and/or conditioner. You should always avoid such situations at all costs, and if possible shower after your birds have gone to bed that evening.

Deodorant and other hygiene products

Many other (considered hygiene) products are bad for us birds when they are used/worn around us, for example aerosol products like deodorants and perfumes. Please make sure that you do not use those products near us birds, and that you don’t put on (or ‘wear’) any strong fragrances when you are near us, this can (and will) irritate our respiratory system (or worse).

Other Beauty products

Although not really ‘human hygiene’ products, I did wanted to give it a bit more attention here yet again: Do not use (apply) cosmetics like nail polish in the same room (or even on the same floor) as us birds! It is even recommended to do such things outside, so that the fumes can’t get to your bird(s) at all.

If you are one of those female human-beings which paints it’s face with a lot of that stuff you humans call ‘make-up’, then please realize that lots of those ‘make-up’ products can be highly toxic when (accidentally) ingested by us birds. Obviously you are not feeding your bird(s) make-up (at least I don’t hope so 😱!), but it is very well possible that we might ingest it if we for example ‘give you kisses’ or ‘preen’ you on areas where you have applied this ‘make-up stuff’. So please, please, please be very cautious with your make-up when being around us birds.

Closing Word

Of course there are many other things to take into consideration when it comes to (human) hygiene, but as long as you keep these things in mind and maintain a normal overall hygiene, you should in most cases be safe in regards to handling your bird(s).