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The Importance of Toys for Pet Birds

Petmate Academy

January 24, 2017


To keep pet birds mentally happy and stimulated, they need new and different types of toys given and exchanged out of their cage often enough that the birds don't get bored with them. Bored birds at the least can become an annoyance to their owners and at worst a danger to themselves. They can become physically destructive by plucking out their own feathers, start screaming, biting, and/or doing a behavior over and over again like head swinging, thus slowly going insane. The larger the bird, the more attention it needs from its owner and the more toys it requires that are both chewable and can keep the bird occupied.


Toys can be made from soft wood, hardwood, rawhide, rope, straw, metal, coconut shells, plastic and other materials. They can include beads, bells, nuts, mirrors, or can be filled with food, treats or things to chew on like wood pieces. The number of different toys available is amazing, and bird owners should give their pets toys that are destructible and those that are not. Parrots need to chew to keep their bill in good shape, and chewable toys along with beak conditioners will work the best. Even toys that are not easily destroyed, such as those made of hard plastic, are still great for birds to chew on. Note that many bird toys are very colorful which is great as birds can see all colors and will be more attracted to objects that are brightly colored, especially yellows, oranges, and reds.


Although most bird owners may think that only parrots need toys, this is not the case as finches, including the popular canaries, should be offered toys to play with as well. Finches love to pull on stringy types of material and chew on straw and hay. They also enjoy swings enormously and pecking at beads and small plastic chains.


Mirrors are one of the most misunderstood of the bird toy category. For years many pet owners have been told that birds should not get a mirror or they will become un-tame. This is simply not true. In fact, for smaller birds like parakeets and cockatiels, mirrors should be considered a necessity. It is extremely rare for a cockatiel or parakeet to become too attached to its mirror but if it does so, the mirror can be taken away. The mirror is a friend when the owner is not around, yet the friend disappears when the bird moves away and so the tame bird will then go to its owner for attention. Usually medium to larger sized birds like conures, Amazons and on up to macaws are not given a mirror toy, as they will often get too attached to a mirror and therefore act aggressively toward the owner.


Intelligent and foraging toys are getting very popular for manufacturers to offer and this is great for birds because it is important to give birds items that keep them busy. Some of these toys can have food put inside that the bird cannot get to easily and so it must figure out how to get the treat out. Chewable items like wood and rope can be placed inside a toy in a way that the bird must manipulate the toy carefully to get to the items on the inside. The more intelligent the bird species, such as large parrots, the more of these types of toys need to be given to keep the bird mentally healthy and avoid bad behaviors.


Robyn Bright, avian behaviorist

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