Toys for Birds

By Gregory Rich, DVM; Rick Axelson, DVM

How are toys beneficial to birds?

In 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 with no effort or work. The rest of their captive day can therefore be VERY boring. A bored bird has a higher risk of developing behavioral problems, such as feather picking and constant squawking.

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 bird.

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 with the ones he/she has become tired of. It is far preferable to find things that your bird likes to play or interact with. Do not crowd a cage with too many toys.

"A good collection of toys will provide hours of entertainment and exercise for your inquisitive bird."

What types of toys are ideal for birds?

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. In many cases, it may take your bird hours to get a favorite nut or seed out of a puzzle toy.

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 objects include untreated wood blocks, branches, pinecones, rawhide, natural fiber rope, cloth, and soft pine.

What types of toys are unsafe for birds?

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. The most common problem is getting one or more toes caught. If spaces are too big, your bird's head can get caught. If spaces are too small, toes will get caught. Check out each toy carefully for your specific bird. Once your bird has begun to unravel or shred rope toys or perches, they need to be removed because strings can become entangled around toes or legs and cause serious damage.

"Soldered and galvanized metals, such as chains, hooks, connectors, and other hardware, are toxic to birds."

Soldered (contains lead) and galvanized (zinc-coated) metals, such as chains, hooks, connectors, and other hardware are toxic to birds. Avoid easily dismantled toys, such as balsa wood and small link chain items, as well as toys with metal clips, bell clappers, or lead weights.

What if my bird doesn’t like a new toy?

Give the new toy a chance; some birds are afraid of the novelty at first. It may take weeks or months for a timid bird to approach a new toy. Play with it yourself and show the bird how fun it is. Introduce the toy slowly. For birds afraid of new offerings, place the new toy alongside the cage for several days, then hang the toy on the outside of the cage for several more days. If this process still makes your bird shy away from the toy, wait several weeks and then try one more time. Experiment with different types of toys to find out what your bird likes. That way, you and your bird can both have fun.

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