I was shopping at my local bird store the other day following a large shipment of new toys. I wasn’t there for toys, but I went from shelf to rack to bin with a huge grin on my face because they were so adorable, and as they are made by a private party, unlike anything else in the other stores. It wasn’t long before I realized that my arms were loaded down with toys of various sizes, shapes and colors and I had already begun placing them in my bird’s cages in my mind.
Trying to get myself under control, I spread them out on an empty counter with the intention of paring down my choices to something more budget conscious. As my common sense returned to me, I was very surprised as I reviewed my toy selection. There was actually very little there that was practical for MY birds.
There was the cutest little monkey made out of plastic beads and tubes – my cockatiels would have liked it, except that the beads were too large for their beaks to grasp. What was I thinking?
On second look, I realized that the elaborate, indestructible toy I grabbed with Linus (U2) in mind would have just sat there rotting in his cage, literally. Linus wants no part of anything that he can’t turn into dust. But, it sure looked cool.
And perhaps the long, curling toy that looked very much like a snake was not a good choice for any bird.
I got carried away with my excitement and forgot that I was supposed to be choosing toys for my birds’ enjoyment and, instead, chose ones that appealed to me.
After the warm glow of cuteness has worn off, our brains will remind us that birds have no use for something because it looks like a caterpillar or a jack-in the-box. Our birds don’t know what either of those things are. Bird toys are often designed to attract the human eye – after all, it is a human that will be laying out the cash for it.
Your bird will not care if something looks like a soccer ball or a basketball as long as it rolls. The bright colors on the raffia butterfly might be attractive, but it is its shreddability that will win points in the end. It is a toy’s functionality that matters most to your bird.
Toy selection is not the only area where we can be opinionated – we also like to impose our preferences for food on our birds. We tend to serve most often the foods that WE like to eat and the ones we don’t like will not often find their way into the bird’s food dishes.
I am guilty of this more than I like to admit. Artichokes. I do not understand artichokes. They are hard and uninviting and far more effort to prepare than I find worthwhile. I don’t buy them. I also make no secret about my dislike for okra. Not only do I refuse to eat it, it is slimy and I will not touch it. Sorry birdies, I will try to get artichokes into your diet more often, but you will have live without okra.
It is hard sometimes not to think of our birds as feathery humans – they surely do act like it sometimes. It will help you to do best by your bird, though, by remembering that yours is a bird with a bird’s interests and a bird’s view on life. Our human opinions are really quite irrelevant.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.