- Written by Quail Ridge Animal Hospital
Toys are essential to maintaining the physical and mental well-being of parrots large and small. Playthings help keep pet birds fit, while also fighting the boredom that can contribute to behavioral problems such as feather-picking.
There are toys your bird can hold, toys that hang from the top and sides of the cage, and toys that do double duty as perches and swings. Twirlies, holdies, chewies, puzzles and noisemakers can all keep your bird occupied. Although you can buy toys by major manufacturers from the big chain stores, it's also nice to choose from the variety of playthings lovingly made by a cottage industry of bird lovers that are available from independent bird shops, through catalogs and on the Internet.
Some basic rules apply when shopping for toys to ensure they are suitable and safe for your bird. Look for the following when choosing bird toys:
- Materials: Toys are subject to your bird's healthy urge to destroy, which means safe components are a must. Wood, rawhide, plastic or stainless-steel chain, rope, cloth and hard plastic are among the more popular materials that make up safe toys. Choose toys that break down into pieces that can't be swallowed. An exception: Toys made to hold food items, such as dried corncobs or fruit chunks. With these, eating is a large part of the fun.
- Construction: Challenging toys, the best choice for busy birds, feature pieces combined in ways that make it hard for the birds to pull the whole product apart -- but not too hard. Indestructible toys are not appropriate for most birds, because the time and energy used to rip apart the gadget is part of the reason toys fill such a need.
- Size: Little toys for little birds; big toys for big birds. A big bird can catch and lose a toe in a toy made for a smaller bird, and small birds can get their heads trapped in toys made for their larger relatives.
Some birds are apprehensive of new toys. If yours is one of them, try to set the toy outside the cage (but within eye range) for a day or two, and then put it on the floor of the cage for another day or two. Once your bird starts to play with the toy, you can go ahead and attach it to the cage. (Stainless-steel split-ring key chains, available at any hardware store, are a safe, secure and inexpensive way to attach toys to cage bars.)
Don't overwhelm your pet with toys. Instead, keep two or three in the cage and rotate new ones in regularly. Shopping for bird toys can be fun, but the costs do add up, especially if you have one of those gleefully destructive parrots. With some creativity you can make your money go further by complementing store-bought bird toys with alternatives.
The cardboard cores of toilet-paper and paper-towel rolls are perfect for shredding, especially for smaller birds. String those tubes together on a thick leather cord and hang them in your bird's cage. Other cheapies include ballpoint pens with the ink tubes removed, Ping-Pong balls, old plastic measuring cups and spoons, and plastic bottle tops. (Wash in hot soap and water, rinse well and air-dry before offering such items to your bird.)
Toothbrushes are another bargain toy -- sturdy and colorful. You can buy cheap ones new or give your pet your worn ones after running them through your dishwasher. (Or hand-washing in soapy water, followed by rinsing and air-drying.) The hard plastic keys on a ring sold for human babies are also a budget-wise buy that birds love, and real keys can be just as fun, after a scrubbing.
Keep your eyes and mind open for playthings your bird can enjoy -- you may surprise yourself with the possibilities!
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