(Post edited on 3/22/18- the online picture and article that inspired this post have been removed, but the post itself is still very informative and helpful.)
...it was no surprise to find out how many people had bought that toy. It is available at Walmart. Worse, it is also available in pet stores including PetSmart, a huge pet retailer chain that most would believe carried only safe products, a fair and reasonable assumption. Pet stores are supposed to be all about our pets and their welfare, but that is not how it goes in reality. They are retailers first and foremost whose primary interest is the bottom line. (I know that we have several people in our community who work at pet stores. Please do not think that this frustration is directed at you. I know you are there for the right reasons. But, for the most part, your employers suck. I hope they know how lucky they are to have you as the front line representing their company.)
It seems clear that we are getting too comfortable with the selection of toys available. It is a shame that we always have to assume the worst. But it is what it is…
What you need to know:
- Bird toys should never have painted surfaces or use glues to hold pieces together. There is the toxicity aspect, but even if non-toxic paints or food-grade glues are used, there is another problem that is just as serious. Paint and glues are applied to surfaces. They don’t soak into surfaces like dyes do; they dry on top of a surface. This is a part of the toy that might attract the attention of an observant parrot during play. While our fingers are not well designed to removed glue or paint, the parrot beak makes short work of it. If these chips are swallowed, they can be deadly even if they are non-toxic in nature. They can get lodged in the digestive system causing a serious blockage. Most dyes are soy based (vegetable) and are a safe colorant choice.
- Leather toys parts should be vegetable tanned only. Tanning is a soaking process that converts animal skin to leather. It is usually done with acidic chemicals, but vegetable tanned leather is soaked in tannins made from plant matter and is free of dangerous chemicals.
- Metal hardware should be stainless steel or nickel plated. The hardware pieces should not be removable or indigestible. Also, they should not have crevices or be shaped in ways that might get stuck on a beak or nail.
- China exports pet products by the tons. Cages and toys are continually found to be made from parts known to be toxic. They use paints or powder coating that contain known toxins. Sadly, they also manufacture pet foods that have been responsible for countless pet deaths. Still, their products are being widely distributed because of their affordability. This is good for the wallet– very bad for the pets. Beware of products manufactured there.
The smart parrot owner will look closely at the toys they are considering, inspecting them like Sherlock Holmes for safety and durability. But doing that at the pet store creates another set of concerns. Parrot toys that are meticulously handled by parrot owners can transfer disease.
Did you know that the PBFD virus can survive on surfaces for months? Pretty scary, huh?
We have no way of knowing that our birds are sick without monitoring their weight and droppings. They don’t begin to present symptoms until they are very sick. I think it is fair to say that most bird owners are not monitoring their bird’s health, and they remain unaware that their bird is ill.
If an owner were to handle their sick bird prior to handling toys while shopping or if employees were to handle a sick bird being sold at their store and then go about stocking the shelves, there is the very real chance of spreading disease that way.
This concern is multiplied many times over at bird fairs where all of the customers are bird owners coming in from all around looking for toys and other bird products.
Until bird stores and the vendors at bird fairs start using one toy for display and send their customers home with toys kept untouched in a stock room, I will continue to buy the majority of my toys online.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to a single idea: know and trust your bird product sources. If you do not have a specific manufacturer whose products have always been of good quality, then shop from a store that is reputable and conscientious about the products they carry and from one you can trust to make good choices on your behalf.
Our personal choice for toys at BirdTricks is Planet Pleasures, an environmentally and socially conscientious fair trade organization who supplies the toys for our toy program.
Please take a second to check out Parrot Toys By Mail program. It is very reasonably priced, totally convenient and completely safe for your birds. These are the same toys we give to our own birds.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.