Essential Oils and Parrots

February 22, 2012 § 22 Comments

In the past several months I’d been slowly hearing and reading about more and more people touting the health benefits and healing properties of essential oils for their parrots.  My gut reaction was: no!  Anything scented is something that I don’t want near my parrots at all, ever.  I’m pretty extreme in that regard: not only have I ruled out air fresheners, candles, incense, scented sprays, and similar products in my home, but I myself no longer wear perfume or scented cosmetic products either.  But when I’d read that a holistic avian veterinarian also promoted the use of essential oils along with some of my most trusted and knowledgeable parrot owning friends, I decided to do some more research.

What I learned was very fascinating.  Yes, it’s true– in general, most scented items like the ones listed above are indeed harmful for our birds.  But, some (very few actually) extremely high quality and high grade essential oils can actually be incredibly beneficial.  I’ve learned so much over the past few months that it’s difficult to compile it all; in writing this post, I changed my “starting point” three times.  But finally I’ve chosen somewhere to start: at the beginning, with the essential oils themselves.

What exactly are essential oils?  At their most basic, they are aromatic, volatile liquids found in plants, and as their name suggests, they are vital for a plant to grow and live.  One website calls them “living energy” and a friend of mine describes them as the life blood of a plant: just like we wouldn’t survive if we didn’t have blood, a plant wouldn’t survive without its essential oils.  They support various life processes and regulate plant functions.  Different oils have many different properties, from healing to purifying to protecting.  Many are antibacterial and antifungal.  Research shows that they may have been used as early as 4,500 BC, and the Ancient Egyptians used them for treating illnesses as well as for religious ceremonies and rituals.

They sound pretty incredible– but there is one big caveat.  Essential oils come in many different grades, and can be easily adulterated with different chemical and synthetic additives in order to make them cheaper to produce for companies.  These essential oils are the reason why the vast majority of parrot owners have always been told that essential oils are a big no-no: these essential oils are actually harmful and toxic to parrots.  Over 90% of essential oils on the market are not of therapeutic grade quality, and even of those that are therapeutic grade, there are differing levels of quality.  This is why it is incredibly important only to buy certain brands of essential oils.

In my research, only two companies are producing oils that are therapeutic grade and high enough quality (with the testing to prove it) to use around parrots.  The most highly recommended one that I have come across is Young Living, who create pure, unadulterated, therapeutic grade essential oils.  They begin with the soil: their plants are only grown on virgin land that has never been treated with pesticides or other harsh chemicals.  Once plants are harvested, they are distilled using a gentle steam-extraction technique that leaves their chemical composition and healing properties in tact.  Every single batch of oils produced is then completely analyzed for purity before being sold, ensuring the highest possible quality.  And unlike any other company, their spectrometry testing is actually available for each oil.  Many big believers and users of essential oils swear by Young Living and only use their oils, exclusively.

But why use them in the first place?  I don’t normally need to “heal” anything in my flock, since (knock on wood) we are lucky enough to be in good health.  (Ironically, we had an emergency situation with Sabrina this week, but the vet has been taking great care of her.  Otherwise, we’ve all been in great health as of late.)  For a few months I wasn’t interested in essential oils, simply because I thought they were more medicinal than anything else.  But when I began reading several reports of essential oils not only healing birds but helping birds’ moods and behavior and hormones, I became fascinated.  I’ve read testimonials of essential oils helping to calm hormonal birds, helping birds overcome the loss of mate or a friend, helping to increase birds’ appetites, helping to reduce screaming, and more.  Even more alluring to me were the many reports I’d read that essential oils also helped the parrot owners themselves: they felt less stress, more calm, more happy, and more at peace when using certain essential oils.  Parrot owners could also safely wear “perfumes” again in the form of essential oils.  But perhaps the most interesting facet of my research on essential oils was that almost all of these reported changes were instant: I saw many people purchase their diffusers and oils and report positive experiences within days!

After several months of deliberation and discussion with many essential oil users (thank you to all of you who answered my barrages of questions!) and essential oil producers, I finally decided that we would also try diffusing and using essential oils.  Although we are all healthy, I would love to see if perhaps some oil blends like Peace & Calming can help to calm down Sabrina a bit, or perhaps encourage her to get along with Charles a bit better.  I’m also interested in Thieves, which many swear by for its cleansing abilities as well as its immune system support.  It’s supposedly an all natural antifungal, antibacterial, antimicrobial essential oil that is 100% safe and non-toxic to use around birds.  I finally took the plunge and purchased a diffuser, a model recommended by a holistic vet, along with a few oils to begin with.

I’m taking things very slowly at first while I am still getting started, but hopefully I will have more to report soon.  My diffuser should arrive here on Thursday, and my fancy shmancy oils should be here soon after.  Once those arrive, I’ll post more about how to choose a diffuser and some benefits of different oils and oil blends.  This isn’t an inexpensive investment, but I truly believe that the rewards will be great.

For anybody interested in using essential oils with their parrots, don’t take my word for it: visit Dr. Melissa Shelton’s website on essential oils and animals, or visit the excellent Essential Bird group website.  Read more about Young Living Essential Oils in particular or to get started.  (If you do decide to get started, let me know if you need a referral number as they work through distributors and referrals.)  A little research never hurt!


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§ 22 Responses to Essential Oils and Parrots

  • wartica says:

    I totally agree; I had been using Eucerin for years, and just recently found out there are better options out there. I went with Sea Buckthorn body oil and it’s helped my skin, twenty-fold. Great post and I look forward to sharing more with you:))

  • Ming-Ming says:

    Man Coco! That sounds so awesome! But boy is it expensive. I’ll have to live it vicariously through you, haha!

  • Maya says:

    I’m quite interested to hear more about your future experience with this. Though it’s on the expensive side, like Ming said, I’d be willing to pay the price (after we finish renovations LOL) if there is something out there that can help with Mika’s hormonal overload/immune system and Raptor’s aggression.

  • Maya says:

    Would love the referral number. The diffuser I want doesn’t ship to Hawaii, but there’s ONE on eBay… not sure whether I’ll get it now or not. I would like to at least start off with an oil or two to spray around the home in a water bottle. The orange and lemon have my name written all over it!!

    I’ve asked Ming to ask on her holistic parrot forum about which oils would be used for hormonal overload/constant heaving and aggression/being on edge… did you go to any specific site that tells you what each type of oil is used for (without having to click on each individual picture)?

    • Coco's Flock says:

      Sure! It’s 1304850. The Young Living site has a catalogue which tells you which can be used for what in a more reader-friendly format but as for parrot use and hormones I would definitely stick with the advice of somebody who has used them in parrot situations before. You should join the Holistic Avian Care group; do you want an invite?? (My FB name is Coco’s Flock.) It’s a really awesome resource.

  • […] my wonderful essential oil equipment and couldn’t have been more excited.  I mentioned in this post why I’m interested in diffusing (please read it if you are considering using essential oils; […]

  • Alys says:

    Hi Coco, I’ve been following your entries on essential oils for a while and finally decided to take the plunge and try it out myself. I was wondering though — 1. where can I find the holistic care group that you mentioned (is it on Facebook)? And 2. would you mind if I used your referral number for Young Living that’s mentioned above?

    I have a very rowdy sun conure myself, as well as a feisty female budgie. After reading the calming effects the oils had on your flock, I just knew I had to try it.

    Thanks in advance! 🙂

    • Coco's Flock says:

      Hi Alys, Thanks for your comments! Yes, absolutely use my referral number… I think you’ll be the first! 😀 And yes, the Holistic Avian Care group is on Facebook. If you send me a friend request (Coco’s Flock), I’ll request to add you. Admin are usually very quick to approve new adds.

      • The Playful Sprite says:

        Hi Coco,
        I too would like to be connected to your Facebook page and the holistic avian vet’s page. I am interested in the essential oils, mostly due to my concern about the musty/moldy basement smell I notice in my new apartment when I first arrive home. I want to remain healthy and I want my conure and 2 lovebirds to stay healthy too.

        Lately though my female lovebird has been right out of her tree. She is in mating mode and her partner is not. I feel so bad for her, but I don’t know what to do. Maybe there’s an essential oil that would calm her down. Any suggestions?

        The Playful Sprite

      • Coco's Flock says:

        To the Playful Sprite–

        I’m glad you are looking into EO’s as I have been very happy with the results!! Unfortunately, I’m very much still a beginner at these and definitely am not qualified to be making recommendations. There is a Facebook Group, however, called “Aromatherapy for Parrots” that would be much, much more helpful than I can be. I definitely suggest you join and pose your questions there as they have far more expertise than I do. Best of luck! 🙂


  • Thank you Coco. I did somehow recently happen upon and read a tread from the page you are recommending.

  • […] Essential Oils and Parrots ( […]

  • […] get started.  (If you’d like to learn more, I’ve written two introductory posts here: Essential Oils and Parrots on what essential oils are, why you should only use Young Living, and why you might want to use […]

  • Lynna Karanutsos says:

    Some produce negative ions n the air too! /!^_^!\

    I think they require carrier oils??

    I have A slender billed cockatoo…n CANARY s
    They All very HEALTH!
    I like to scare the mice away…w/ LAVENDER OIL!!!

    • Coco's Flock says:

      Hi Lynna, I’m sorry, but I’m not 100% sure. I know that my diffuser is safe and it says it’s an ultrasonic, cold mist diffuser, but it definitely doesn’t produce negative ions or require carrier oils. I tend to err on the side of caution, so I’d only go with one that is vet-approved.

  • Stephanie O'Malley says:

    I’m just starting to diffuse oils (youngliving, ultra sonic diffuser) and I would like to know what oils have you found that your birds react positively to and have you run across any negative information regardingdiffusing and birds. Thanks

    • Coco's Flock says:

      Hi Stephanie, thanks for your message. Some of my birds’ (and my) favorites include Thieves, Peace & Calming, Joy, Lavender, Purification, and Valor. I tend only to use oils that I know have been successfully and safely used and approved by a veterinarian, but off the top of my head I know that there are some conflicting opinions about the use of cedar and possibly tea tree oils. If you’re on Facebook, there are some great educational groups, including Aromatherapy for Parrots. I hope this helps!

  • Hi, So I was just wondering I’ve been looking into safe oils to use around my parrot and of course found Young Living to be good, but are their any other companies that would work.Through my research on oil companies I found Young living to be as good as some other high quality essential oil brands. Have you looked into the company , they seem to be as good if not better than young living.Just a thought.

    • Coco's Flock says:

      Hi Valerie, thank you for your comment! I have not looked into that company myself, but I use YL because it is by far and away the company that has been used and tested most extensively with parrots and found to be safe. As you know, parrots’ respiratory systems are extremely sensitive, and EOs aren’t extremely regulated and their quality isn’t always readily apparent to the untrained person. That’s why I prefer to play it safe and only use those EOs that have been widely tested for safety. The only other company I know of that’s used almost as extensively is Original Swiss Aromatics. I hope this helps!

  • Thank you for posting! I’d love to hear how it goes for you. I’ve just started misting my Senegal with essential oils from YoungLiving. His first response was to play with his toys and then have a nap. My guess is that it is helping him mellow out as he has a BIG character and I am constantly enriching his cage. Perhaps less screeching is in my future and more playing! Happiness all around. 🙂

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