A Parrot’s Busy Beak is a Happy Beak

A Beautiful bird in Costa Rica

A Beautiful bird in Costa Rica

Some birds in a cage want and need things in the cage for them to play with or to help simulate their natural environment. We sometimes call these toys although they may not look like toys to our trained eyes. But we are thinking of human toys, not bird toys.

Good toys have different shapes and textures for the bird to explore and destroy.  At least three toys should make a bird work for food    Working toys are toys that make them work for their treats or favored foods. Parrots in the wild will spend the majority of their waking hours, hunting and foraging. Toys stimulate their mind and help replicate actions they would execute in the wild. Proper toys and placement enhance a Psittacines life in captivity.

Parrots think they’re working for food while an avicultural outsider sees birds playing with toys as birds; playing with bird toys. Your companion parrot is always thinking, and since nothing has changed in their minds, playing with toys is their job. It’s what Mother Nature gave them to survive, this need to forage.

If you provide no means of foraging, your bird will seek other avenues. It may be furniture or personal affects, usually because they are easy and plentiful targets. It’s important to encourage your companion parrot to work for food because it’s a natural behavior of the bird.

Three or four toys should be made of soft wood. Soft wood allows you to push your fingernail into the wood forming an indent.

The next toys depend on the bird. Large birds like macaws and Cockatoos may have a huge appetite. Introduce hardwood toys into cages and perhaps toys with hard plastics so they can spend more time on the various pieces. Toys may be strung together with rope, leather, chain or a combination of materials.

The balance of toys should be easily shredded. Toys may be store bought or home made. Parrot toy parts are available and helps keep toy making economical.  Soft wood, paper, leather and other textures are important for the bird to explore and destroy

Introduce pieces of food like broccoli or corn, using one of many commercially available or home made toy holders. The food on the toy holder rewards them for playing.

The more textures, shapes, sizes and colors the better.  Diversity is important because in the wild your birds eat a diverse diet. An eclectic selection of toys helps maintain your feathered companion’s interest.

Watch a bird in its natural habitat and you’ll see them chewing soft bark and hard tree trunks. Toys made from compressed palm leaf or treated Yucca introduces hours of “pecking pleasure” Interactive toys made from Plexiglas are very effective at reducing birdie boredom.

The majority of toys should hang or be placed in the upper third of the cage. Introduce a few more to the middle third (without hampering access to food dishes) around a perch made from soft wood, comfortable to grasp depending on the size of the bird’s feet. The bottom third of the cage should remain relatively uncluttered to allow the bird to walk freely.

Spot-check toys and perches on a daily basis looking for frayed or sharp edges that may potentially harm your bird.

The more you change the toy and perch arrangement, the more you challenge your companion parrot. It helps them socialize and helps avoids “toy-phobia”

Parrots can develop phobic reactions to new people, new furniture, and even new birds.

Here are a few household items that toys can be made from:


Adding machine tape

Toilet paper roll

Nuts hidden in nested paper cups

Phone book slipped through cage bars

Wrapped straws – cable tied

Fortune cookies

Saltine cracker packet

Junk mail

Cotton swabs

Doggie rawhide

Shoelaces strung with beads or Cheerios

Branches with leaves

Breakfast-food bowl with newspaper taped to top

Spend an hour or two and grab some or one of the above and create a toy for your bird. He or she will thank you and if you are lucky will tear it to pieces.


Bird quotes you cannot ignore
There’ll be white blackbirds before an unwilling woman…