Is Stainless Steel & Zinc Metal Safe for Parrot Birds?

Zinc in the environment is quite likely to have a negative impact on parrots, which is a fact that needs to be acknowledged. Wire cages are the most frequent type of housing for parrots. The majority of birds that are kept outside or in avicultural settings are confined in wire cages made of galvanized steel. Powder painting has emerged as an increasingly well-liked method for finishing steel cages in recent years. Because of the enormous popularity of the parrot as a pet, numerous cage manufacturers have begun making attractive powder-coated cages in the moderate price range. These cages may be found in pet stores. However, parrots will be parrots, and the majority of them consider their cages to be another item to gnaw on.

Toys of many shapes and sizes are typically offered to companion parrots. Chains and hangers made of metal are used in several of these. Shiny things can sometimes be irresistible to parrots. In addition to this, parrots typically have a great deal of idle time in which they can play with, chew on, and otherwise destroy everything that is within their grasp. As a result of the recent surge in popularity of parrots, a massive industry has emerged to fulfill the seemingly inexhaustible need for entertaining items for parrots and the people who own them. Many toy producers include robust chains and gear in their products in an effort to produce toys with a longer lifespan.

Unfortunately, zinc poisoning is just waiting to strike when it comes into contact with a parrot. The myth that parrots are delicate creatures, which has been perpetuated for a long time but has been disproved by recent research, has been dispelled. It seems that despite the overwhelming odds, they are able to make it through and even thrive. Many different symptoms associated with captivity have been reported by avian medicine and aviculture. According to my thinking, the zinc epidemic will be yet another. As is the case with the majority of disease syndromes that might affect parrots or other animals, there are a number of intricate elements at play that influence how an individual will react to environmental pressures. When dealing with zinc poisoning, there are a lot of different factors that need to be investigated. How tolerant an individual is of zinc will be determined by factors such as their general health as well as their behavior and the way they are managed. It is possible that as we continue our research, we will discover predisposing characteristics such as personality, beak size, and species that will alter a bird’s tolerance or intolerance of zinc. These factors will be found in birds.

Over the course of the past year, we have gained a deeper understanding of the issue at hand. In January of this year, a Mollucan cockatoo successfully digested a metal key ring. The bird displayed symptoms of gastrointestinal distress. The sliver of metal was in the ventriculus for a total of nine days. The item was able to pass through as a result of flushing. Zinc and lead levels in the birds’ serum reached an all-time high. The bird felt significantly better after chelating therapy and after the removal of the foreign body. The lead level immediately returned to normal, but the zinc level remained elevated throughout the process. The bird’s habitat, together with its food and water, was carefully examined over the course of several months while the zinc level remained high. All possible sources of zinc that could have been used were methodically eliminated (toys and hangers). Zinc levels in the bird remained abnormally high after the elimination of all other potential sources. Following a series of eliminations, we decided to test the powder coating that was applied to the cage. It was discovered that the levels were 1200 ppm. The findings were validated by conducting the same analysis in a different laboratory. The bird had removed a sizeable portion of the powder coating with its beak. In the same family as the cockatiel lived an African gray parrot that was kept in a cage made by the same company as the cockatiel. In addition, there was a consistent increase in the level of serum zinc in the gray. The gray was also known to nibble on the cage bars.

Over the course of the previous year, over sixty birds were examined. Every bird that was examined was in danger. Our point of view is that they are putting themselves in danger if they chew on galvanized or powder-coated cages, if they suck on quick links or hardware, if they eat from galvanized plates, or if they have metallic foreign bodies. The majority of the birds either picked at their feathers or displayed symptoms of gastrointestinal stasis. Some just felt horrible. A significant number of birds may pluck their feathers when zinc levels are high. Testing for viruses, cultures, and chemical panels was typically included in the majority of medical workups in order to discover concurrent issues. A solution of DMSA (Dimercaptosuccinic acid) 25mg/ml was used to chelate zinc and administer treatment to the affected birds. This solution was prepared locally by Rincanada Pharmacy. We have utilized the recommended dose of 30 milligrams per kilogram. The surroundings of the bird were improved, and subsequent assessments were carried out. Treatment with DMSA on its own, without any changes made to the surrounding environment, will merely assist contain the problem. It is vital to get rid of the zinc sources that are causing the problem. In principle, once a source is eliminated from the equation, excess quantities of zinc should be cleaned out of the body on their own. The rate of spontaneous clearance is not something that we have tracked or studied. As a result of the resolution of zinc toxicosis, there has been a significant improvement in the process of feather picking in many instances. We have suggested that you only make use of hardware and toy hangers made of stainless steel. These can typically be found in places that specialize in marine supplies. A significant number of customers have decided to purchase stainless steel cages. Another alternative would be to strip the cage and powder coat it with a substance that is suitable for food contact.

Coating with Powder Powder coating is a relatively recent innovation that has gained popularity in the industry that deals with pet bird cages. Electrostatic application of the powder is used on the cage, which is typically composed of cold-rolled steel, as an alternative to painting it. After the application, the cage is heated to a temperature of around 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In comparison to painting, this method is friendlier to the environment. The result of the coating is often a secure and non-hazardous protective coating for the cage. Powder coatings are mostly sourced from a variety of different principal sources. Formulas might vary depending on the company. Most contain no zinc. There are three different ways in which zinc can be added into the mix. To begin, zinc oxide can be utilized as a pigment, particularly for the creation of white colors. Zinc is another option for providing protection against corrosion. It is not believed that either of these things is a factor in bird cages for pets. However, the third method can be significant for bird cages used for pets. Zinc hardeners can be added to the mix at a rate ranging from 0.05 to 0.5 percent. When employed in this manner, zinc acetoacetate catalysts have the potential to produce finishes that are more durable and that cure more quickly. Primers with a high concentration of zinc could be a contributing factor to the issue. This issue is gradually being brought to the attention of the industry, and actions are being taken, in general, to determine and address the issue. We have examined approximately 15 different cages. Many have zinc levels between 0-50ppm. The range of 500 ppm was found in several different cages. There is a risk of illness for the birds kept in these cages. At least 8 cages produced by a single manufacturer have contained more than 1100 ppm. Zinc was found in one of the cages, although its source was unknown. The majority of cage firms have swiftly taken action to rectify the situation.

Zinc Trivia

Zinc is a naturally occurring metal that is found in abundant amounts all over the natural world. Zinc has the atomic number 30, making it an element. The atomic weight of this substance is 65.37. In the periodic chart, zinc may be found in group 2B with the other metals. One of the best-reducing agents is zinc. Zinc dissolves in aqueous acids or bases. In its +2 oxidation state, zinc can form compounds with other elements. The color of zinc is typically a drab gray. It is not overly difficult or easy. Zinc is an excellent conductor of electricity but becomes brittle when it is allowed to reach room temperature. The most common application for zinc is in the process known as galvanization, which is used to prevent rust on iron and steel. Zinc is the more powerful reducing agent of the two metals, hence it prevents steel and iron from rusting when it comes into touch with them as long as the contact is maintained.

Zinc Biology

Zinc is an element that is required in the human body in minute quantities. The majority of the body’s bioavailable zinc is found in the enzyme carbonic anhydrase, which is found in red blood cells. Zinc is required for the optimal function of vitamin A in humans and is required for the action of over 20 enzymes. Zinc is an essential mineral. Zinc deficiency has been linked to a number of negative health outcomes, including slowed growth and dermatological issues. 15 milligrams of zinc per day is the minimum quantity required for human beings to maintain their health (USDA). The typical range for zinc concentration in human serum is between.75 and 1.5 PPM. On humans, zinc serology testing is performed quite frequently. Zinc deficiency is the most common cause of zinc-related disorders in humans. Zinc, in the form of lozenges, is currently being utilized as an assist in the prevention of cold viruses. These lozenges have a total dosage of 15mg.

Zinc has traditionally been regarded as an essential trace metal or mineral for health by the field of veterinary care. The majority of what we know about zinc toxicosis comes from anecdotes. The vast majority of instances are brought on by dogs eating zinc coins, zinc-based gear, or zinc oxide. Intoxication typically causes discomfort in the gastrointestinal tract, along with the possibility of hemolytic anemia.

Because of recent developments in our capacity to test serum zinc in avian patients, it is now possible for us to explore the effects of zinc on pet parrots. Histopathology or tissue determinations were required in order to make a diagnosis of zinc intoxication prior to the introduction of this method. In most cases, these were conducted on birds, and metal toxicity was presumed to be the cause of death in each case. If we were to believe that the few examples found in the literature are representative of the clinical or subclinical occurrence of this condition, we would be foolish.

On samples as small as 50 microliters of serum or plasma, Dr. Peter Jowett of the Louisiana Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Lab at the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 70803 (504-346-3193) conducts serum zinc determinations. The lab is located at 1909 S. Stadium Rd. In order to prevent contamination, the taking of the sample and the storage of it must both be done carefully. When injecting insulin, we utilize B/D 1/2cc TB syringes or insulin syringes with 28g needles. The vials used to store the samples are either heparinized Microtainer R or Terumo Capiject R containers. It is possible to collect samples in heparinized PCV tubes, then clay them, and spin them. It is not recommended to use EDTA when collecting samples. We make every effort to follow a standard procedure in order to prevent zinc contamination from certain rubber components. A flame atomic absorption assay is the type of test that is typically carried out. The plasma, serum, and cage samples are all put through the same test. It is believed that the current normals fall somewhere in the region of 0.9–2.5 ppm. Serum zinc levels in affected birds have ranged anywhere from 2.5 to 19 ppm. The clinical presentation of the patient must be used as the basis for determining toxicosis. There are birds that have not been found to have any metallic foreign bodies.

Dr. Jowett is also able to perform tests on samples of powder coating. The sample needs to be collected very carefully using a blade made of stainless steel, and then it needs to be packed in plastic baggies or plastic wrap. Analyzing the “paint” on the cage requires a sample that is around the size of a dime.

Galvanized Cages

In addition to galvanized wire, another common source of zinc poisoning in parrots is galvanized wire. Tinsley Wire has been considered the gold standard in this business for a significant amount of time. Following the welding process, Tinsley wire is galvanized. The actual material of the wire is drawn steel wire. The welds were created by a process called spot welding, which involves joining two pieces of steel wire using heat as the catalyst. The zinc coating is applied using a procedure called hot dipping. The grading criteria used in the United States do not apply to this wire. A galvanized wire must be graded according to the AISI standards in order for it to be used for welding in the United States. The amount of zinc that is coated on the wire is what determines it. The majority of cage wire is classified as class 1. This wire has a minimum weight of 0.3 ounces per square foot. Before being welded, the majority of wire that is manufactured in the United States is galvanized. Cages only account for a negligible portion of the market for welded wire. Aviary wire represents a more insignificant portion of that market. Before being welded, the vast majority of the wire offered through hardware stores for use as cage wire has been galvanized. When it comes to square corners, a lot of distributors and customers are more concerned about the wire spacing than they are with the galvanization procedure. Although any galvanized wire has the potential to be harmful to a bird that is kept in inadequate conditions, the danger appears to be significantly greater when the wire was galvanized before it was used for welding.

The preparation of any wire used in the construction of the cage is an essential stage. Before it is shipped, the majority of the wire is oiled and then coated. This must be removed before a bird may be housed in the cage since it poses a potential health risk. When the wire is galvanized, the procedure sometimes leaves behind zinc tags on the wire. A brush made of steel is required to get rid of them. These tags present a potential health risk to any birds who consume them. Before using the wire, the vast majority of competent aviculturists first brush it well and then allow it to cure in the open air.


Zinc toxicosis is most likely only one of many environmental problems that we may discover in the not-too-distant future that affect parrots that are kept in captivity. Having parrots as pets will always be difficult, but no one ever claimed that they were meant to be kept in our living rooms as a primary residence. They will keep us on our toes with their beaks, their boundless energy, and their acute intelligence as they pressure us to come up with adequate ways to house and entertain them. Even though the market for birds kept as pets is massive and there are no minimum standards in place as of yet, the industry is generally controlled by individuals who have a significant passion for parrots. It is my hope that any possible issues that are found would be addressed expeditiously by the producers of the cages and toys.

Avian vets are in a prime position to educate their clients and test their birds as necessary because of the specialty they specialize in. We will be able to determine the scope of the issue and formulate potential remedies once we have more time and more information at our disposal. In the meanwhile, it will be up to each of us to ensure that our birds have secure homes, dishes, and toys to play with.


I would want to express my gratitude to a number of individuals who have made significant contributions to this endeavor. In the first place, Elizabeth and Brad Baker, in addition to their parrot Chester, are deserving of our gratitude. We would still be in the dark if it weren’t for their tenacious resolve to figure out how to solve this enigma. Also, a big thank you to Dr. Peter Jowett, whose knowledge of clinical toxicology was important in solving the mystery. I’d like to extend my gratitude to everyone as well.

All of the powder coating firms, including Herberts O’Brien, Morton, and Cardinal, made themselves available to answer my many inquiries. Additionally, we would like to thank David and John at Component Finishing in San Jose for the knowledge and the wonderful refinishing services they did. I would like to express my gratitude to the manufacturers and distributors of steel wire who were nice enough to answer my queries. They include West Coast Wire and Steel, Glick Manufacturing, Keystone Wire and Beckert Wire. I would like to express my gratitude to my coworkers Marty Kuhn in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Jan Hooimeijer in the Netherlands for their involvement in this matter. I also thank my staff at For the Birds who bear up bravely through all the distractions and phone calls that are an inevitable part of such a project.

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