The purpose of this blog is to share general information and is written to the author's best knowledge. It is not intended to be used in place of veterinary advice. For health concerns, please seek proper veterinary care.
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It’s safe to say there are few things more important for a bird than the material from which it builds its nest and perch. This is home to a bird, and it has to be the most secure and comfortable place they know.
If you own a bird, you understand that finding materials for a bird’s nest or perch can be surprisingly difficult. After all, you can’t allow your bird to go out and find sticks and nest materials of their own, so you have to provide it yourself.
However, we don’t always have the best sense of what’s best for our birds in terms of nesting and perch materials. What’s good for them, what do they enjoy – and is twine among them?
Types of Twine and Their Suitability for Birds
It has to be said that there are so many different types of twine that asking whether it’s good for birds is a bit like asking whether “food” is good for humans. The question itself is way too broad and the answer is completely dependent on what specific example is being considered.
To find out which types of twine are bird-friendly and which are less so, therefore, we need to take a deeper look at different types of twine.
These can vary in terms of strength and optimal usage.
For example, butcher’s twine, otherwise known as cooking or kitchen twine, is durable, low-stretch, safe for ovens, and is usually made of a blend between polyester, cotton, or linen.
Baker’s twine is much the same, also made from a cotton or polyester blend. Like butcher’s twine, it is food safe, but not intended for cooking (though that obviously shouldn’t matter much for your bird).
This type of twine is durable, has a bit of stretch to it, and can be distinguished from butcher’s twine in part by its striped appearance.
There are pros and cons to giving twine like this to your birds.
On the one hand, this kind of twine is typically soft enough to be pleasant to the touch for your birds. They aren’t going to cut themselves on it.
What’s more, because this type of twine is durable and is somewhat stretchy, you don’t have to worry about it going to pieces.
On the other hand, however, that isn’t to say that a bird’s beak can’t start to tear apart the fibers that make up this kind of twine. With enough time and determination, they may be able to do just that, and if they do, they could potentially swallow the twine, causing problems.
How likely that is will depend on the type of bird you have and their temperament. There is no easy answer here – like a parent giving a hard toy to a small child, if you give it to them, you should make sure to watch them closely so you can intervene if necessary.
By comparison, industrial twine is made from polypropylene, isn’t very stretchy, and is a lot stronger. That might actually make it safer for birds, since it means that there is less of a chance of the material snapping and the birds accidentally ingesting the twine.
By contrast, cotton twine is lovely and soft – but for that very reason can be torn to shreds by a diligent bird with its beak. This type of twine is typically not suitable for birds.
On the flip side, hemp rope is actually a pretty good material for bird toys and materials for their nest. Hemp is pretty durable, and a lot harder for a bird to tear apart.
What’s more, hemp is biodegradable and incredibly environmentally-friendly, so if you’re someone who’s into sustainability (and we all increasingly should be), it’s a great material to introduce to your birds.
Jute twine is another type of twine that you’ll commonly see listed as popular with birds. That said, there are a lot of stories from dissatisfied users as well.
What’s the reason for this disparity?
One is the smell. Jute twine can be inexpensive, and while that affordability is a huge boon for anyone looking for bargain twine for their own purposes, it doesn’t always lead to the best product.
For example, there’s a nasty tendency for inexpensive jute twine to be odiferous. Your bird may not care if their new toy reeks, but you probably will.
On the other hand, if you get high-quality, smell-free jute twine, it can make for a safe and biodegradable option for your pet bird.
Linen twine is made from flax plants and has antibacterial properties. That, combined with its low-stretch and surprisingly durable nature, means it has the potential to be one of the better twine options for your birds.
That said, linen can vary in its strength, and the same is true of linen twine. You don’t want to buy something that is going to snap off in your bird’s beak, so take some time to review the strength of the particular type of linen twine you are considering before buying it for your feathered friend.
Finally, we come to the question of synthetic twine. These are twines that make use of materials such as nylon.
On the one hand, these definitely aren’t as biodegradable and all-natural as some of the other options on the list, so if that’s your jam, you’re bound to be disappointed.
On the other hand, this is easily one of the most durable types of twine you can find, meaning that they have a good chance of surviving your bird’s beak and, thus, being safe for them to enjoy.
Birds vs. Twine
So where does that leave us on the all-important question of whether twine is allowable for birds?
As you can see, the answers are quite varied.
The biggest concern for bird owners looking to get twine for their birds is finding a material that will not tear or break. As mentioned above, this can lead to them ingesting bits of the material.
You may wonder what’s so bad about that. It may not be the tastiest thing in the world, but how much harm can a little bit of twine do for birds – after all, they eat worms, right?
Well, not all birds eat worms, but that itself points to the central issue here – namely, that bird digestive systems, as with that of any animal, are highly specialized.
Birds have, over the eons, evolved to be able to eat and digest a wide range of different things.
However, their stomachs have not evolved to handle some of the materials contained in twine.
In particular, materials such as cotton can cause bloating in their gastrointestinal system, which in turn can cause massive problems.
If your bird accidentally swallows cotton, linen, or any of the items on this list, you should watch it extremely carefully. If you see it start to act sickly at all, take it to a veterinarian licensed to practice on birds immediately.
Thankfully, there are some select rope and twine options such as hemp that are relatively bird-friendly. You still need to watch your birds diligently when they are interacting with this material, but the chances of them tearing and eating it or growing sick is much diminished compared to softer materials.