When discussing bird toys, there are two very common statements made: “I don’t give my bird toys anymore, she never plays with them.” and “Whenever I get my bird new toys, he just destroys them.” Do either of these sound familiar? Read on…
Toys are multi-tasking things. They should be fun, educational, provide challenges and satisfy a bird’s instinctive needs. They are there to fill the void that a caged bird might feel with limited space and social activity. They exist to be chewed on, smacked around, yelled at and reduced to splinters. An utterly annihilated toy, is one that has been most enjoyed. So, to the guy who laments over his bird’s destroyed toys: well done. You found the perfect toy for your bird! For the guy whose bird doesn’t play with toys: keep looking! You just haven’t found what interests her yet.
Toys are there for the use and enjoyment of your bird. While we may think that the giraffe shaped pinata is adorable, your bird may have no interest in that type of toy. I will venture to say that most parrots really don’t care that a toy looks like a monkey or a snowflake. In fact, your bird has no idea what either of those things are. It is the texture and functionality of the toy that interests your bird. Be careful not to buy the toys that are appealing to only you.
Toys are expensive and it’s hard to be able to afford to experiment with a $40 toy that your bird may not like. Try some things from around the house to test the waters. Here are a few suggestions:
- Offer a paper towel or paper bag. See what she does with toilet paper or paper towel tubes Your bird might prefer shreddables.
- See how your bird reacts to pieces of an old t shirt or a facecloth. She might like fabric toys .
- Go to Home Depot and buy a couple of small wood scrap pieces from untreated pine 2X4s for the larger birds, and watch the gnawing begin!
- Fold a favorite treat up inside a unwaxed dixie cup to inspire her to learn to forage. How well she does with this simple forager will tell you if your bird might be ready to try a more sophisticated toy.
Once you get a feel for the types of materials your bird prefers and makes the best use of, look into the different types of toys available that have that composition. Try, also, to get a feel for the activities your bird prefers. My umbrella cockatoo loves to put things inside of other things. Often I find he has jammed bits of wood into any crevices he can find in his cage. I have noticed that he has a longer than typical attention span than most cockatoos when it comes to accomplishing tasks. Puzzle toys are right for him, but he is very particular about the ones he likes.
I had several friends in Austin who own parrots. We had an arrangement for toy swapping so that we could experiment with what our birds liked. I bought a Rain-stick for Linus once. He hated it and actually got angry when he would hear the sounds it made. I swapped it with an African grey’s owner for a moving parts toy that is now a favorite to Linus. We would ONLY do this with plastic or metal toys that could be sterilized before passing them from bird to bird. It saved us a ton of money on wasted, unused toys.
Once you decide what your bird’s preferences are, look into these options:
- Foraging toys: Foraging for food is an activity that occupies a great deal of a wild bird’s day. Our companion birds benefit both mentally and physically when we create a foraging environment for them in their cages.
- Puzzle toys: These are the educational toys. They can keep your bird busy for hours with different tasks.
- Wood/shreddables: Your bird has an innate need to chew. Gouging out a tree cavity or creating materials to line a nest are behaviors performed by your parrot’s wild cousins. This is hard wired into companion parrots as well. Providing toys that satisfy this urge will hopefully make the furniture less appealing.
- Preening toys: These are great for the bird who would spend hours on your shoulder grooming your hair. If you suspect your bird is an over-preener, or might be heading in the direction of feather destruction, these types of toys might distract him from that.
- Plastic toys: From pony beads to bullet proof acrylic, things that spin, slide, and speak. These are toys that will last a long time, but are not always the favorite. These are great toys to use in rotation in the cage to offer a variety of activities throughout the month. Since they don’t serve a purpose as far as destructibility goes, they should provide a fun/educational activity instead.
Toys are an essential part to your parrot’s well-being. Unused toys in the cage are no better than no toys in the cage. Observation and a little inexpensive experimentation will give the info you need to provide just the perfect ones for your bird. The pictured toys and more are available in our store.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.