This question comes up fairly often this time of year, so it would seem a blog post on the subject is in order!
We are always looking for ways to keep our birds entertained because a happy bird is a bird that has destroyed toys littering the bottom of the cage. When nature offers us free “toys”, we should gratefully accept.
Pine cones are wondrous little things…they are shreddable, have interesting little slots for hiding things which qualifies them as foraging toys, and they are safe…well, with just a couple of minor tweaks:
How To Find Pine Cones
-You could cheat and go to a crafts store and buy pine cones there BUT there is every possibility that they will have been sprayed with something that makes them weather resistant for use in wreaths and/or with fire retardants making them NOT safe for birds. You won’t know by looking at them, and neither will the store employees you ask. Also, buying them conflicts with the “free toy” scam we’re running on Mother Nature.
-Find a tall pine tree. If you live in an area where there is the possibility that pesticides have been used on the tree or ground, you will need to locate a new tree. This may require city folk to commune with nature and perhaps even take a hike into the woods.
-Dust off your Pine Cone Collection Equipment. This is mine:
-Locate fallen cones, stealthily shove them into your bag and rush back to your vehicle! This is referred to as the snatch and grab technique used by professional pine cone rustlers.
How To Cook Pine Cones
-Once you have arrived safely back at home from your pine cone adventure, you can begin to prepare them for your bird.:
-Set your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit (93 degrees C). Remove any dirt or debris from the cone and place it on a baking sheet (the cone, not the dirt and debris):
-Bake for 45 to 60 minutes. The baking will kill any molds, fungus or insects in or on the cone. Baking WILL NOT kill pesticide, mainly because pesticide is not alive. Pesticide that is lightly toasted is still unsafe.
How To Have Fun With Pine Cones
Once they have cooled comes the fun part…
-DECORATE!! Unleash your inner artist!
I used frozen peas and corn, pecan pieces, banana chips and millet. My birds are familiar with pine cones so I already know they will be going for this right away, but if you have a bird that is shy about new things, only use dry ingredients. That way you can leave it in the cage for longer without worrying about bacteria until they get up the courage to explore. This is a great forager for pellets too!
Check out Cooking For Parrots/Healthy Holidays for some really creative ways to use pine cones in your bird’s diet.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.
This Information has been so helpful. Thank you!
I found it on here and Internet that you can wash or soak them in vinegar 30min.bake at 2oo for 1 to 2 hours.they close back up when wet,so baking opens them back up . I’ve a cockitoo also.
Great idea about washing in vinegar before baking. A tiny bit of peanut butter on the cone might entice a picky parrot.
Thank you. I will go scavenging for my babies.
I get fresh pine cones for the bird sanctuary where I volunteer. We’ve never baked them and the birds love them. Just like people, birds can be picky. Some of my guys absolutely LOVE them while others could care less. I’ve never had an issue until the othe day with pine sap. I picked up some cones from the Lake Tahoe area and they have sap on the ends of the “leaves” where the ones from my area don’t have that problem. Does anyone know if that is toxic or harmful to cockatoos?
I have a basket full of pine cones gathered last year from my own garden. I know they have not had pesticides used on them but are they too old to cook in the oven and use as toys for my Amazon?
Wow! It is a real art to cook for pets. My friend has a parrot. I will give him this idea for sure.
As far as mold is concerned on pine cones it is better to pick fresh fallen ones or ones on a tree instead of pine cones that have been laying on the ground for a long time. I hope this helps!
I wash mine in Mothers organic unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar before I bake them.
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