Everything You Need to Know About Parrot Toys

macaw hanging off an interactive toy

Toys and play offer your pet bird an outlet for hard-wired behaviors, such as chewing, shredding and destroying things. Chewing and shredding also keep your pet bird’s beak trimmed and healthy. Without toys, your furniture, books and other items can fall victim to your pet bird’s beak. Save your valuables by providing toys that can be ripped apart, shredded and chewed on by your pet bird.

Another natural behavior is foraging. In the wild, parrots spend most of their day looking for food. In our homes, for the most part, all our pet birds have to do is go to the food bowl for their meals. This means they have a lot of time on their hands (or wings), and need to fill it with some activity.

Along with toys that can be destroyed, provide toys that offer an intellectual challenge for your pet bird. These are aptly called foraging toys (and/or puzzle toys). They come in all shapes and textures, but they have the same principle. They are designed so your pet bird has to work for a treat/toy inside that he really wants. This involves chewing things, opening up compartments or moving parts of the toy around until it opens up.

Toy Tips

Keep several types of toys in the cage (minimum three). Vary it week to week by switching a toy or two out and replacing it with another type. If your pet bird isn’t interested in a particular toy, replace it, and then introduce it to your pet bird at another date — or change the presentation. You can hang toys outside the cage so your pet bird can only play with the toys through the cage bars. You can also wedge things between the cage bars so your pet bird has to work on pulling the items inside.

Playgyms For Parrots

Have a separate area for your pet bird to hang out and play. This can be your pet bird’s playgym — a stand designed to hold toys and other goodies. Most gyms are made of hardwoods like Manzanita, and you will also find some made of other hard-to-destroy materials, such as PVC. A playgym is your pet bird’s home away from home or an activity center filled with tons of things for your pet bird to do.

Your Pet Bird’s Play Type

So how will your pet bird like to play? Look to your pet bird to find out! See what toys he naturally gravitates to, and provide variations of those toys. You can also try different things that other pet birds seem to like, based on species sizes.

Budgies, cockatiels, lovebirds and other small pet birds enjoy toys made from softer materials, such as yucca, balsa, wicker, paper, palm leaves, sea grass, etc. Small pet birds shred and chew these toys.

They also love bells, and you will often find your small pet bird going after his shiny bell, ringing it crazily and pushing it around. Leather and bead toys are also favorites, and no cockatiel or budgie will ignore a mirror. You’ll see your small pet bird chirping away to his reflection in no time!

Conures, caiques and lories all have something in common: they are hyperactive and love to play. They play hard too: wrestling, bouncing, jumping and tackling their toys. Keep your medium-sized pet bird o­ccupied with many different swings, foot toys, boings (springy-looking perches), anything that makes sounds and more! Chances are, if the toy is made for a pet bird or is safe enough that it won’t get a wing or nail trapped, your pet bird will love to play with it and, ultimately, destroy it — the pet bird equivalent of a good time. Expect destroy toys to be shredded quickly, so keep plenty on hand.

Pionus or Eclectus are far more laid-back and will not be as hard on their toys. Keep foraging toys and foot toys on hand for these calmer pet birds.

For macaws and cockatoos, their bigger beaks have more destructive power in them. They need larger destroy toys, like a chain of large wooden blocks or a thick tube of wood filled with items that can be shredded. Just as with the medium pet birds, expect destroy toys to be gone within a day (some owners even have claimed 10 minutes).

You might think to provide your pet bird with toys that aren’t so easy to destroy; however, your pet bird might grow bored if he can’t destroy a toy. An acceptable balance is to have a few toys that aren’t easy to destroy in the cage, along with the destructible toys.

Large parrots also need foraging toys to give their mind a workout. Many owners report that their pet birds figure out their foraging toys fairly quickly, so be on the lookout for toys that offer increased difficulty. Again, as with the destroy toys, if the toy is too hard, your pet bird will grow bored with it. Keep both easy ones and really hard ones on hand.

Smaller toys make great foot toys (toys that pet birds hold with their feet and chew on). Many cockatoo owners say that their pet birds like a simple nut-and-bolt toy, where the nut never comes off.

Parrots like to play, and your pet bird is no exception. Bring on the toys and let your pet bird have at them.

Toy Types

Destroy Toys: The description of these toys is in the name. They are meant to be destroyed. These are toys you should always have on hand.

Noise Toys: Like destroy toys, the description is in the name. A noise toy is anything that can make noise, like bells or music boxes. This can also include things like CDs, which you can play for your pet bird when you are not home.

Interactive Toys: Any toy that your pet bird interacts with. This is a broad definition, and it can include the destroy and noise toys. But this also includes the foraging and puzzle toys, and nontoys, like mirrors.

Exercise Toys: Again, these toys can fall into the other types and non-toy types, like swings, boings or playgyms. These toys keep your pet bird active and healthy.

Toy Safety

Don’t forget to check your bird toys to make sure they are safe! While not all pet birds are accident-prone, accidents can happen. Owners often share horror stories of how they rescued their parrot when his toe got caught on a loose thread on a toy. This could have happened in any number of possible ways: the bird’s toenails were too long; a thread became loose when the pet bird was destroying the toy, etc.

To help prevent an unfortunate accident, inspect your bird toys as often as possible. Allot 10 minutes in your morning for a daily toy check. Select bird toys that are the appropriate size for your parrot, and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Avoid ring clips or spring clips; a bird’s toe can get caught. Use stainless-steel clips, which are sold at most bird-specialty stores and online. When purchasing clips and toys, avoid metal toys that can contain toxins, such as zinc. (Stainless steel is OK.) Remove clappers from bells, especially for larger birds, so they cannot remove them and swallow them.

Keep an eye on toys made of rope or twine, and cut away any loose thread or strings. Once a toy has been damaged with splinters or cracks, assess the toy and decide if it’s time to throw it away.

Add a few long-life toys to your bird’s stash, such as acrylic toys on stainless-steel chains. These toys are less likely to be altered by your pet bird and made potentially dangerous.

Bird Toy Safety Tips

  1. Examine your bird’s toys for any damage, such as frayed rope, sharp points or anything loose, like a clapper on a bell.
  2. Supervise your bird with his new toy to make sure he is playing with the toy appropriately, even with toys that are designed with your bird’s size/species in mind.
  3. Keep your bird’s nails trimmed to prevent them from getting caught in loose rope or thread.
  4. Inspect bird toys daily and clean them as needed.
  5. Once a bird toy is damaged beyond repair, throw it away.

 Photo credit: Blue-and-gold macaw by Tracy Starr/Shutterstock

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1 comment

  • “….Pionus are far more laid-back and will not be as hard on their toys. Keep foraging toys and foot toys on hand for these calmer pet birds.” 😆😁🤣😂😅. Perhaps. If you have only one. I have two bronze-winged brothers. No toy — even the plastic ones are whole for more than give minutes. And firniture, books, the remote, the doors, the laptops are all constantly under attack. I’ve had macaws and cockatoos. I’ve NEVER experienced birds that chew things like these pionus chalcopterus do.

    DSE DUNN

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