I recently had someone ask me about making their own parrot toys for their cockatiel and other birds so I thought I’d write about it this week. So, “can I make my bird its own toys?”
Making your own bird toys is a fun and economical way to provide entertainment for a parrot of any size. Most of the online parrot toy stores and many pet stores now carry supplies for those of us who make their own parrot toys. I make most of my own. My cockatoos go through so much wood that I had to buy a table saw and a drill press. Making toys for the smaller birds is sooo much easier.
Cockatiels enjoy with plastic, wood, shredding materials and shiny bells, among other things. Most of these things can be found in a toy parts kit for small parrots. Everything will come with pre-drilled holes and usually with hanging material included. Shredding materials can be purchased by the roll and cut into strips that are the right length for a bird’s size. One thing to be wary of is what you string these toys parts on.
Yarn is not a good choice. A good parrot toy is one that the bird will chew on and play with, usually to its total destruction; an untouched toy is not being enjoyed and might as well be removed. As the bird nibbles away at the toy and pieces start to fall off, the chain or cord becomes exposed and it can pose the danger of hanging.
Yarn is very lightweight and can be easily tossed and looped around the bird's neck during play. For this same reason, you should never make a toy that forms a loop. Strands of small linked chain (ONLY stainless steel or nickel plated), leather strips (vegetable tanned leather ONLY), and cotton or natural fiber cords are a far better choice.
For my cockatiels and quaker, I often use things around the house. Paper towel rolls with the glue removed or cut away can be cut into 1/2″ to 1″ slices and, with a hole punched into each side, will slide right onto a chain or cord. Try alternating between these and 3″ or 4″ strips of Shredders for a quick, fun and safe toy. If you have a drill or a Dremel, drill a hole in your Popsicle sticks just larger than cord you will use and pile them on. It makes a really cute toy when you fan the sticks out.
Get creative and make foraging toys! Find ways to hide dried fruits and veggies in the toys you make. Wrap treats in tamale wrappers and tie them off at the ends. Buy some bamboo skewers and push lengths of Shredders, pieces of fresh or dried fruit, and plastic toys parts onto it and hook the ends into the cage bars. I have so much fun making toys for my smaller birds. There’s just no limit to what you can do.
If you want to color the toys, there are colorants on the market that are safe. The one I use is Vitacritter. It’s easy and the colors are stunning. Be sure to never use paint or glues of any kind, even if the claim to be non-toxic. Paint peels and glues chip, both can be ingested.
Toy making is not for everyone. When you purchase toys for your parrots, be sure they are safe and come from a trusted source.
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Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.