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Toys for Birds

By Rick Axelson, DVM

Care & Wellness, Pet Services

toys_for_birds-1In the wild, most birds forage for food for hours at a time, and when they are not resting, they are playing. These activities occupy huge amounts of the bird's day. In captivity, they have food served to them "on a silver platter" with no effort or work. Therest of their captive day can therefore be VERY boring. A bored bird has a higher risk of developing behavioral problems such as feather picking.

Birds are highly intelligent animals and toys are an important part of their mental health as well as their mental and physical agility. Toys encourage exercise and provide good wear for the beak and nails. Toys are used for holding, hanging, exploring and chewing. A good collection of toys will provide hours of entertainment and exercise for your inquisitive pet. Birds need an ever-changing variety of interesting, motivating and destructible toys. Toys can be rotated in and out of the cage every couple of days such that the bird does not get bored. Do not crowd a cage with too many toys. Toys that are not used are decoration only. It is far preferable to find things that your bird likes to play or interact with.

"Birds need an ever-changing variety of interesting, motivating and destructible toys."

There are puzzle toys available that challenge the bird to figure out a problem, such as how to get the food out or how to open it up. Some birds have to be shown how these toys work initially. It may take a bird hours to get a favorite nut or seed out of a puzzle toy.toys_for_birds-2

Safety is your top concern. Most bird toy manufacturers are very vigilant regarding safety. Birds can injure themselves even on the safest toy, much like a child having an accident. Your goal is to help minimize injuries. The most common problem is getting one or more toes caught. If spaces are too big, the bird's head can get caught. If spaces are too small, toes will get caught. Check out each toy carefully for your specific bird. Stainless steel, natural non-toxic wood, rope and acrylic make great materials for toys. Indestructible toys go against a bird's nature and are boring. Birds love to destroy things. Appropriate chewable things include branches, pinecones, rawhide, natural fiber rope, cloth and soft pine.

"Appropriate chewable things include branches, pinecones, rawhide, natural fiber rope, cloth and soft pine."

Sldered (contains lead) and galvanized (zinc coated) metals, such as chains, hooks, connectors and other hardware must be avoided as they are toxic. Also, avoid easily dismantled toys such as balsa wood, small link chain items, and toys with metal clips, bell clappers or those with lead weights.

Give a new toy a chance, because some birds are afraid of the novelty at first. It may take weeks and in some cases months for a timid bird to approach a toy. Play with it yourself and show the bird. Introduce the toy slowly. The bird will decide in time if it likes a toy. Experiment and use your imagination - safely. That way, you and your bird can both have fun.

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