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All bird breeds, large and small, need toys.
All parrots and other companion birds need to have certain objects in their environment that interest them, as well as the opportunity to engage in activities that emulate behaviors in the wild.
So, for example, if you give an African Grey a puzzle toy with a hidden treat that sits at the bottom of the cage, it satisfies the Greyís natural instinct to forage (work) for food.
This article focuses on bird toys which are necessary for an acceptable quality of life for pet birds. But it takes more than bird toys to keep a companion bird sufficiently stimulated mentally, emotionally and physically. Companion birds absolutely require attention from the person they bond withÖand lots of it. They also need out-of-cage playtime on a routine basis to get a refreshing change of scenery and also for getting additional exercise.
These fascinating creatures are far more intelligent than most people realize. They definitely can and do become bored, even depressed, if there is a lack of stimulating things for them to do and see. (In the wild, birds are busy all day looking for food.) And a bored, depressed, unhappy bird is likely to be a badly behaved bird.
Bird toys are a big part of helping to create a healthy, stimulating environment for your pet.
Puzzle Toys for the "Einsteins" of birds.
Einsteins, Poindexters...call them what you like. But a puzzled Macaw is a busy, occupied, happy Macaw. They stand out among other parrot breeds, not alone, but certainly the most avid puzzle-solvers. They love a good challenge, especially since there is usually a yummy treat to be had when the puzzle is solved.
Macaws are considered to be among the most intelligent birds. Some studies have suggested that Macaws can have a similar intellect to that of a small child. Much like children, Macaws (and other parrots) need to be consistently active physically as well as stimulated intellectually in order to develop and maintain their overall health. Bird toys, puzzles and play activities all support mental, emotional and physical health.
A bird playgym or playstand is a great idea for parrots or any other breed of companion bird. This not only gives them a chance to be out of their cage for a change of scenery, but it allows for more exercise.
Play stands usually have at least a couple of perches, if not more, and play gyms have items that encourage activity such as ladders or ropes to climb. Exercise is important for all living creatures and birds are no exception. As a bird owner, itís up to you to make sure your feathered friend does not become a "perch potato".
Bird playstands are also nice because they are usually easy to move around. A lot of people will allow their bird to "hang out" with them while doing chores in the house such as preparing dinner or working on the computer or whatever it may be.
Birds like to hang out with their people, to be included, even if they are not the center of attention. Of course, thereís always a good chance of getting a little treat if they hang out during meal preparation.
Bird playstands and playgyms are most commonly made out of wood, plastic, wrought iron or stainless steel.
"Trapeze Artists" and other circus bird acrobats
Certain breeds, such as Conures and Parakeets, love to swing on long toys hung from the top of their cage. Swingers are usually climbers, too, and enjoy ladders, ropes, and other climbing toys. Try not to hang toys or put ladders directly under perches or they will get soiled very quickly and harmful bacteria could become an issue.
"How much wood would aÖ"?
Itís probably never been studied, but if you own a large parrot youíd probably agree that a woodchuck has nothing over your feathered friend when it comes to how much wood they can and do chuck.
Itís true that all parrots chew to one degree or another, itís instinctual. But when you get to the larger parrots like large Macaws, well, these birds are champion chewers.
Thatís why wooden chew toys are highly recommended for all parrots. For large parrots like Macaws, itís a good idea to provide both hardwood and softwood chew toys.
If you give only hardwood toys to a large parrot, it could become a frustrating experience because they wonít be able to make any "progress" chewing on it. Give a softwood chew toy once in a while so they can chew it up. Donít feel bad when your bird has chewed up a wooden toy. That is what is supposed to happen. (Acrylic toys are the ones that are meant to last and last, not wooden toys.) As always, be sure to supervise playtime to ensure your birdís safety.
"Brides and Groomers"
In the wild, many birds mate for life (or a really long time) and part of their daily routine is to groom one another. If you have a single bird he or she may appreciate having something other than him or herself to groom. You can find grooming bird toys made out of rope that is purposefully frayed to present itself as something that needs grooming. Some birds really get into these and they are a great source of enjoyment.
But you should supervise your bird when playing with these types of toys because you donít want the frayed strings to get too long. They could wrap around your birdís neck.
Foot toys reside at the bottom of the cage and are meant to amuse your bird, of course, but also to provide an opportunity for him or her to use foot muscles they donít often get a chance to use in their normal routine. This is the same reason it is recommended that cage perches are made of different sizes and in natural wood. The irregular shape and contours of natural wood perches help to keep a birdís feet in shape. So too with foot toys. Plus theyíre good fun!
Who "Plays Nice" together, and who doesnít?
What kinds of birds can be kept together...happily? It is a common question with no real answer. However, conventional wisdom says that you will have better luck pairing birds of the same breed than trying to mix breeds.
Of course, weíve all seen a photo of a kitten snuggled up against his canine "mommy", so anything is possible. It depends on the personality of the individual birds. However, some breeds are known to be uber-territorial. Itís probably not a great idea to experiment pairing territorial birds with more docile personalities.
So definitely research the common personality traits of each breed before even thinking of trying to get them to live together. You may find it interesting that as a general rule, smaller breeds tend to be far more aggressive and territorial, while larger breeds tend to be more gentle and accepting.
Bird toys are not "one size fits all".
Even though all birds want and need toys, not all toys are right for all birds. And some toys arenít good for any birds. Thereís a lot to know about bird safety and we recommend that you research the topic and consult your veterinarian for any health or treatment advice.
However, a few common-sense precautions can take you a long way.
- Donít buy toys that contain toxic metals such as lead or zinc. Stainless-steel is a safe metal, and so is aluminum. Aluminum is not recommended for larger parrots because it is soft and they might be able to bend or break it. Itís hard to determine just by looking what kind of metal is used on bird toys. A common method used is "the magnet test". A magnet wonít stick to stainless steel or aluminum.
- Beware of toys with "jingle bells" on them. These bells are notorious for snaring bird parts; toenails on larger birds and even beaks on smaller birds. Of course, itís not just "jingle bells" but any toy or part of a toy where a wing, beak, head, foot or toenail could get stuck. A stuck bird will panic and thrash around wildly trying to get unstuck. More often than not this results in serious injuryÖor worse.
- Wooden toys are good, necessary in fact, but avoid wooden toys with paint or stain on them. Get them colored with food based dyes or just natural wood with no coloring at all. (Add color to your birdís toy collection with a vibrant acrylic toy.)