By Christi Pugh for Nature's Gift
We had a question via email about using essential oils around birds & Marge deferred to me since I am the only bird owner at Nature’s Gift. The individual was thinking of using Peppermint Essential Oil in the bird cage which we would not ever recommend! (she was having a problem with ants in the bird cage)
Here’s my reply:
I would not use Peppermint Essential Oil anywhere NEAR your birds. (or mine!) Birds are very sensitive & can go into respiratory distress very quickly & die.
Some other ideas would be dried cut Peppermint Leaves or Peppermint tea bags in the bottom of the cage, underneath the grill but above the slide out tray. I personally use organic dry cut Eucalyptus Leaves (which the birds CAN eat) & Lavender buds in the bottom of my cage to deter mites, fleas, & other pests.
I cannot think of any essential oil I would feel safe about using on or around my parakeets. The threat of respiratory distress due to the potency of the oils is just too great. That said, I do use some hydrosols on them via a spritzer or atomizer. Hydrosols are much more benign & they love being spritzed with Roman or German Chamomile Hydrosol. Again, I don’t think I would use Peppermint Hydrosol, though.
As far as the ants go, I suspect your birds eat fresh fruit or maybe even some honey in their water? If so, that is what the ants are probably going for. In that case (and you may be doing this already), I would remove food cups & wash them at least daily with Dawn (or your favorite dish soap) & hot water, & remove any food scraps from the cage & wipe it down with dish soap & warm water and/or baking soda & warm water. I use an old toothbrush to clean crevices & other areas, & I would wipe down the area outside & around the cage & sweep & mop or vacuum the floor around the cage. I would do this every day.
Sometimes in hot weather, ants are drawn to water sources. Make sure the water cups are up very high in the cage as a deterrent.
Other than that, trying to locate the source where the ants are coming in to your house & treating it outside & at the point of entry would help. In that case, outside, Peppermint Essential Oil would be fine. In my house I place the oil on cotton balls around openings or inside my window frames. (places that can’t be accessed by my pets) I also use fresh garlic cloves in those areas which I was surprised to notice that this summer I’ve not had the ant problems of the past using both of those methods.
You might keep a small spray bottle filled with soapy water nearby to spray the ants if you see them headed that way.
Hope that helps!