are cotton balls safe for birds

Last year a bright blue flash of color up in a tree caught my eye. An oriole had used discarded, degrading plastic newspaper wrappers in its hanging nest.

Visiting Tucson, I found cactus wren nests woven with plant tags amusing, but the nearby nursery didn’t. The birds had figured out how to undo loop tags, wreaking havoc with the inventory/pricing system and junking up every cholla cactus in sight.

Safe Materials

Small sticks or twigs are natural materials that birds could find on their own and make excellent starting points for nesting materials. In order to give birds easy access to materials they would otherwise have to search for, you can gather twigs or small sticks to pile or loosely bundle together in your yard.

Leaves and other yard waste: Instead of meticulously grooming your lawn for spring, leave trash and leaf litter lying around your yard. The birds will appreciate it, even though it means giving up a beautiful spot (as will your back)

Tiny straw fragments: The closest Home Depot or other home improvement store will have straw. Place the straw outside in a location that birds can easily find. You can also put it in a suet feeder or recycled berry container for the birds to yank out, which will increase the entertainment value.

Grass clippings: If you cut your grass, think about collecting the clippings on your lawn rather than discarding them in the garbage. If you choose this course of action, though, make sure your grass isn’t treated with pesticides, fertilizers, or other chemicals.

Native plants: Planting native plants in your yard is a great way to attract birds and give them easy access to safe materials for nesting. For instance, native milkweed yields the fluff that birds use to line their nests and the nectar that caterpillars of monarch butterflies prefer. Additionally, the caterpillars are a great source of food for young chicks. “Thats a win-win-win,” Rowden says.


  • Anything long, thin and strong, i. e. Human hair, yarn, string, and thread (which can entangle, strangle, or cause internal blockages)
  • Dog hair if treated with tick or flea medication
  • Fleece processed to remove water-repelling oils or treated with chemicals
  • Even without laundry additives, dryer lint (which absorbs moisture and disintegrates to leave a hole)
  • Plants sprayed with herbicides, pesticides, fungicides
  • Plastic strips
  • Tinsel
  • Cellophane
  • Aluminum foil
  • Artificial or non-biodegradable anything

Krafts By Kevin ™ is a Massachusetts business started by Cindy and John O’Connor to provide paid employment in a disability-friendly work environment. Their son Kevin, who has autism, is the first employee.

Its Nest-EZ TM Nesting Balls for birds are filled with “an all-natural, raw cotton ginning byproduct.” Cindy says, “More processing removes the natural oils from the cotton, which makes it unsuitable as a nesting material because it holds water when wet. Nesting material that remains wet may give birds pneumonia. ”.

Stuff natural, non-toxic, untreated materials into nesting balls so they don’t absorb moisture, deteriorate, or entangle baby birds.

The photo above shows a grapevine nesting ball stuffed with sheep’s wool and wisps of dried plant material, made by The Magick Garden in Maine.


Can I put cotton as a bird nest?

While common advice used to say that yarn was safe to put out for birds, we now know that advice is outdated. Yarns are not always made of natural materials (e.g., acrylic or nylon), and even wool and cotton skeins may be treated with chemicals or dyes that can harm the delicate skin of nestlings.

Is cotton okay for birds?

Because parrots love to shred, chew, preen using their beaks, cotton and fabric poses significant risks of chemical poisoning, strangulation, entanglement and developing a gastrointestinal blockage.

Do birds use cotton balls for nests?

Help your birds by offering this ready-to-hang ball made of natural cotton. The gold finches love to pull on the cotton and use it to build their nests. It’s fun to know that you gave their baby birds a soft place to start!

Are cotton balls safe for parakeets?

Fibre Ingestion and Constriction Many birds will chew at rope or fibres; most will spit out the fragments, but some will swallow them. These can build up in the bird’s crop and stomach causing serious problems requiring surgery. Fibres that have been removed from birds include cotton, plastic rope and human hair.