A parrot with toys is a happy bird! Birds need to be taught to entertain themselves. A good place to start is with toys. Toys can help in keeping their beak nice and trim but also aid in preventing behavioral issues such as screaming, biting, and plucking. Toy-making can be relaxing and also can be quality time spent with your flock while making their toys. Let them be your guide. Knowing your bird is a big part of it. Analyzing what their likes and dislikes are. My birds like excitement in their toys!! Makes toy making for me all the merrier
It is always good to rotate your toys periodically. Rotating toys every other week will help pattern your bird to readily accept new toys without fear, and helps them to retain interest in toys that were stored. Keep an eye on toys and check them daily to ensure they are in tact, safely attached to the cage and no loose parts. When giving your bird a new toy, watch to see if he/she is chewing or eating the toys. Remove the toy if your bird is eating the parts. Watch for the fraying of material or rope and cut it back immediately. Your bird could get entangled (leg, wing, or their toe). Close supervision is always highly recommended.
. Utilizing a spare Food Cup that affixes to the side of the cage (near a perch or on the bottom), fill the toy box with toy parts. Wood toy parts (rings, spools, shapes, blocks, etc), small strands of bird safe vegetable tanned leather and cotton rope, marbella beads and rings. Remember to use the right size toy part for your bird. Never give a Parakeet toy part to a Macaw or an African Grey and visa versa.
I can not express enough the enjoyment my flock has with their toy box. Oliver, my eldest Grey, had the attention span of about 10 seconds. He literally spends **hours** playing in his toy box. He takes two parts at a time and tries to fit one inside the other. This also aided in keeping his mind occupied pro-actively and made time spent in his cage more enjoyable.
Always be sure to purchase bird safe products. Never using painted or lacquered wood parts (certain paints/lacquers contain zinc and other harmful chemicals/additives). A helpful tip would be to order a few items if you are not sure your bird companion would enjoy it as much as we would like them to.
It is my opinion, dyed toy parts are more for humans than it is for birds. However, birds that are already accustomed to colored toy parts may need more "convincing’ but can be patterned to like the undyed toy parts easily. Dye free toys are a natural stimulus to birds and are readily accepted by birds. It is my experience, that phobic/inhibited birds shy away from colored toys. You can save yourself a lot of time and energy by not coloring wooden parts. Please take note when your bird is chewing dyed wood, some of it may be ingested. Warning: Never use flavorings to color your toys. This will encourage them to eat the wood parts.
Some safe woods are: Pine, Maple, Apple, Arbutus, Aspen, Beech, Birch, Cactus, Cottonwood, Crabapple, Dogwood, Elm, Hawthorn, Larch, Manzanita, Ash, Poplar, Willow, Ribbonwood, Grapevine wood. Warning: Never use pressure treated woods or Oak.
Helpful Tip: Popsicle Sticks can be purchased at Craft Stores. They are very handy easy toys and can be used to distract your bird. For small to medium sized birds only.
Vegetable Tanned Leather. Shop around and find a place that has the right type of leather. There are various widths and thickness of vegetable tanned leather strips. Be sure to purchase what is most suitable for your bird and the size of the hole that is drilled. Be sure it is bird safe leather and not treated with any chemicals or dyes.
100% Cotton Rope. There are several different types of rope. Two popular types are solid braided rope and twisted rope. Some are harder to find than others. Some birds enjoy unraveling the rope, then they can preen it. Be sure all the frayed ends are trimmed so that your bird does not get caught. Warning: Unraveled rope poses as a serious threat to birds. As the rope frays it becomes a trap for your bird. Ensure the rope is 100% cotton. Any alternatives are not considered bird safe.
Cotton Material. 100% Cotton Material can be cut into short strips and tied onto toys to encourage preening. Colored material can be purchased and using a Pinking Shear will discourage fraying but always be sure to trim the frayed ends back daily.
Toy Attachments. Quick links are the most common form of attaching toys. Parrots are naturally inquisitive, always be sure to check that Quick Links are always secured tightly to the cages. Some folks like to utilize leather strips and cotton rope to affix toys to cages and playstands. With my flock, I am in the habit of attaching toys half in and outside the cage. This way if they happen to be on top their cage playing they have toys inside and out (two toys in one). Remember: stainless steel is the best method and is zinc free. Brass and some quick links contain zinc. Be sure to ask for stainless steel to ensure they are bird-safe.
Not Recommended: Key Chain Rings, Clips. Birds can get their beaks and/or talon nails caught in them.
Chains. Chains come in various sizes and metals. Same as quick links. They come in various sizes. Always buy the right size for your bird. Too large or too small can be harmful. Be wary of chains made of brass or zinc. Zinc poses a serious threat to birds. Stainless steel is zinc free.
Sisal Rope/Jute. Similar to cotton rope, sisal rope comes in various widths. Be sure to know your source when purchasing it. Some places that sell Sisal/Jute may apply chemicals and/or harmful oils in the processing. Take note if the rope has a smell to it, it may be harmful to your avian companion.
Things to avoid: Colored Magazines and Colored Newspapers, Felt, Toothbrushes, Cardboard, Toilet Paper and, Paper Towel Cardboard Tubes, Plastic Bags, Cellophane and Plastic Coated Wires. For a more in depth look at toy safety, read our Toys Frequently Asked Questions article.
Colored magazines contain harmful inks and chemicals, when ingested can cause harm. Cardboard and Cardboard Tubes contain harmful glues which contain Zinc. Toothbrushes contain nylon fibers and some contain lead metal parts to hold the bristles in place. Plastic Bags, Felt and Cellophane can be ingested and will not pass through bird's digestive system. It may cause a blockage and much harm to your feathered loved one.
Now the fun begins… assembling them. Be creative, let your flock be your guide. If your bird loves toys with dangling parts ~ make an octopus toy. If your bird loves thin wood parts, be sure to try 3/16" thick toy parts and measure what the proper width should be. I have found that for medium sized birds (Greys to small Cockatoos) the best width of rope is 3/16", it is easily made into knots and threading through holes. If your bird happens to love the color pink, buy some pink marbella beads to encourage him to play with it. If your bird is a bit phobic, make simple toys that have only one long string with simple parts hanging on it with knots to separate in between. Dye is not needed to attract a bird, you can accent a toy with high impact plastics like marbella or other acrylic parts.
You can also make some fun talon toys. My birds LOVE to climb around the cage with a talon toy in their beak.
Toy Tips for birds with behavioral issues: Toys can be a great distraction for birds who are bored. Take a sheet of plain white paper and a small piece of cotton rope or jute. Tie the rope around the paper and let your bird shred it. Another tip would be to thread "Leafy Green Vegetables" through the bars. Nutrition and Toy in one! Read our Foraging Toys Article for more tips. Sometimes simplicity in a toy can be fun for your bird. Take a piece of cotton rope, jute or Vegetable Tanned Leather ~ tie knots in it every 1.5 inches. This can be a toy for when you sit with your bird or in the cage. I have met some pretty great Houdini's with undoing the knots! Food for Thought: A bird interested in toys will be less likely to pluck or pick at their feathers.
Let your bird sit with you while you are making the toys. They will get extremely curious of what you are doing. Allow them to wander through the pools of toy parts (of course making sure there isn’t anything dangerous nearby like scissors, needles, plastic wrappers, etc). This will encourage them to explore the toy once it is complete and placed in their cage. P.S. Be cautious of what your birds may get into when toy-making. They are always getting their little talons into something :) As you can see from the photo to the right.
More importantly, have fun with it. I find my flock helps me relax and release up some of those built up energies of day-to-day life.
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