Toys are an important component of your pet parrot’s environment. The absence of suitable toys can lead to boredom in your pet parrot and contribute to emotional and behavioral problems. Bird toys are available in a wide variety of types and styles, and the right kind of toys can make all the difference in providing a healthy and mentally stimulating habitat for your captive parrot.
Why Do Parrots Need Foraging Toys?
Parrots are extremely intelligent creatures. In their native setting, they need to spend their day foraging for food, avoiding predators, investigating their surroundings, and finding adequate roosting sites in order to survive. The activity that is required just to navigate daily life successfully keeps their minds mentally engaged and their bodies fully exercised and in good shape. Parrots that are not able to negotiate the mental and physical demands do not survive for long.
Contrast the way a parrot lives in the wild with the way a pet parrot interacts with the world. Rather than using their intelligence to search out sources of nutrition every day, your bird just moves to one side of its cage and feeds from a bowl of food that you have provided. If you have taken care to study your parrot’s nutritional needs, this food will provide the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that your bird requires to maintain its health.
Unfortunately, this reliance on food delivered by their human caretaker and the ease at which it is found and consumed leads to associated problems in your pet parrot. Obesity is a common problem in pet birds for this very reason. Having food readily available with no exercise required to obtain it often results in an overweight bird. The inclusion of toys so your bird can engage in activities such as chewing and foraging can help your bird lead a less sedentary life and burn off some excess calories.
Physical problems associated with the under-active lives of pet birds are not the only reason that your parrot will benefit from being provided with a variety of toys. Their intelligence helps them when foraging and interacting in their natural environments. Sitting in a cage all day with nothing to do can blunt this intelligence, and your bird can become bored and frustrated.
This boredom and frustration can be manifested in behavioral problems such as feather plucking and self-mutilation, excessive screaming, and increased levels of aggression. Obviously, this is not good for the bird or the humans in the home. While not all behavioral issues can be resolved by purchasing some bird toys, your bird’s mental and physical health will certainly benefit from the inclusion of toys in its life.
Choosing Foraging Toys for Your Pet Parrot
There are a few things to keep in mind when choosing toys for your particular species of parrot. Some aspects to consider are:
Size – Make sure that the toys you buy are sized appropriately for your bird. Toys that are meant for larger parrots will often appear frightening to smaller birds. Small toys, on the other hand, can pose a choking problem for larger parrots.
Material – Many toys meant for smaller birds such as parakeets are made of plastic. They are perfectly safe for those birds but pose a serious risk if used by larger birds with more powerful beaks. Plastic toys can be broken and their parts ingested, causing serious health problems for larger pet parrots. You should buy toys made of wood or unbreakable acrylic materials for larger and stronger birds.
Intent – Toys are not all created equally, and they can serve a variety of purposes. Bird toys can be specifically designed for chewing and beak exercise, preening, entertainment, and to exercise their foraging skills. A selection of different types of toys will give your parrot some diversity and keep it mentally and physically engaged.
Variety – You should have a selection of different toys that you can rotate in your bird’s enclosure on a regular basis. Even moving a favorite toy to a new location can spur different movement patterns and make your bird’s life more interesting.
Best Foraging Toys for Your Pet Bird
Now that we are clear on the importance of toys for your pet parrot’s mental, emotional, and physical health, let’s take a look at some toys that are specifically designed to appeal to your pet bird’s foraging instincts.
Foraging towers are great for keeping your birds puzzles and making them work for their food (just like the would in the wild). The video below demonstrates how parrots will interact with these devices.
One of the best manufacturers of these towers is the Creative Foraging Systems company. To see their product range click here.
This foraging toy is suitable for medium to large parrots like African Greys and mini macaws. It is comprised of a mat of natural seagrass that can be hung at various height in your bird’s enclosure. Attached to the mat are various foraging devices meant to hold food. They can be moved to different positions on the mat and are meant to make your bird exercise its mind while figuring out how to get at the food inside.
Here is a toy for small to medium parrots that allows you to hide treats or simply let them have fun chewing and pulling it apart. At about 6 inches (15 cm) it can be used for smaller conures and cockatiels as well as larger birds. Its colorful shredding tubes will appeal to your pet and the quick link makes cage placement easy.
This pineapple-shaped toy comes in a variety of sizes that will accommodate any pet parrot. It is constructed of natural, bird-safe palm leaves and makes an inviting item for your bird to use as a foraging toy. You can stuff some treats inside, or just let them pick away at it to satisfy their curiosity and inquisitive nature.
Here is another foraging toy that is ideal for small to medium-sized birds. Its colorful and bird-safe materials make for great chewing, and you can hide treats inside the ball for your pet to discover. It also features a bell, making it a nice all-around toy to help keep your bird occupied. Easily place the toy with the attached quick link.
This 6 inch (15 cm) diameter wheel made from clear, durable polycarbonate has five compartments that hold food and treats for your parrot. The bird can see through the clear sides of the wheel and can turn it to get to the selection that they desire. The wheel hangs on the side of the cage and is recommended for larger conures, mini macaws, and small cockatoos. This toy keeps your bird thinking and working as it feeds itself.
Here is another toy that hangs on the cage and offers larger parrots the opportunity to use their intelligence when foraging for food in their own enclosure. Each of the 4 compartments of this foraging toy open in a different manner and your bird must lift, twist, or spin them to access treats. It is designed to keep your birds mentally sharp as they find themselves a snack.
We hope that you agree that toys are a vital ingredient in creating a mentally and physically stimulating environment for your pet parrot. Experiment a bit and find what they like, and then let the birds play! All parties involved will benefit from the experience.
Want more advanced information about bird foraging toys?
Then check out this detailed video explaining bird foraging behavior and how you can improve your pet’s habitat.