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The Importance of Parrot Toys
Parrot toys are more than just play-things. Different types of toys serve different physical and emotional needs for your little feather fluff.
Snuggle Toys: Soft materials, plush toys, or corner snuggies are like blankies to baby birds and gives them something to snuggle when you are unavailable. Bonus points if it’s machine washable for easy clean-up.
Chew toys: Parrots need to chew on things because their beaks never stop growing. A healthy parrot will chew his beak down on toys (wood, leather, rawhide, rope, etc.) and you won’t have to worry about it. If a parrot does not have enough things to chew on it will start to chew on YOUR things, and as a bonus the poor birdy’s beak might get overgrown and then you have to take a file to it and it’s better to just not go down that road. It can be frustrating buying these toys because inevitably they just get destroyed and they aren’t inexpensive, but I like to think of them as Destruction Distractions. I subdivide chew toys into Quick Wins and Long Hauls.
Quick Wins: Chew toys that will be destroyed within an hour or two at most but are of high interest. This is kind of terrible parenting 101 but sometimes I need Choco to shut up while I do something, so I give him Quick Wins. The key here is not to give the same ones out too often or they won’t be of interest anymore. Sometimes I use cheap or on sale small bird toys for this purpose but I also frequently use garbage. The occasional plastic soda top will entertain Choco for 15 – 30 minutes and an empty lip balm container is like a magical free hour of silence. I usually pull out the ‘guts’ and then stuff the empty tube with treats, but Choco is often more interested in the toy than the treat. If you’re using garbage, make sure it’s non-toxic and thoroughly cleaned.
Long Hauls: Chew toys that Choco will have to work at for at least a week to destroy. When he was a baby a sturdy small bird toy would keep him busy for up to a week and a smallish toy for medium birds was extremely difficult for him to dissemble. There is a learning curve though and as they get better at destroying things you have to get more durable toys. Choco currently takes about a week or two to get through a sturdy toy for medium sized birds but he prefers small toys for large parrots such as Macaws. When I buy toys at a new pet store I frequently get told that what I’ve picked will terrify an African Grey. This has never been the case, as of yet. (The only toy that Choco was ever afraid of is what I refer to as The Little Blue Devil Ball – a tiny little blue ball that spoke like a chipmunk when you moved it. I never did figure out what it was about that particular toy he was so afraid of, because it wasn’t the color or the noise which he had on other toys.)
Thinking Toys: Intellectually parrots are far smarter than they are generally given credit for and boredom can lead to unpleasant behaviors. Toys that stimulate your little buddy’s brain will enhance overall learning potential and will make tricks and training easier to teach them as well. The problem with a lot of puzzle toys currently on the market is that they are mostly food-motivated or treat-motivated and I don’t really use treats as reward. I’ll stuff them in there, but Choco just isn’t that motivated to get to the treat. Choco enjoys dissembling tricky things like such as screws or switches and the like. Simply sliding a toy from one side of a bar to another hasn’t interested Choco since he was a tiny fluff ball, but screwing a nut from one side of something to the other keeps him quiet for hours. Another tactic that keeps him occupied is the really interesting tactile ball/object he can’t get out. The kind of thing where he can get his beak into the toy to feel it and taste it but he just can’t quite it out. I’ve recently discovered he loves human metal puzzles toys (the kind where there is a trick to getting them apart) but I worry about what kinds of metal they are made of and if it could be toxic. He also enjoys toys where things are hidden inside of things that are hidden inside of other things, like a footy-toy hidden in a box hidden in a more complicated box.
Footy toys: Small toys that can be held in one foot and played with or chewed on or whatever. I’d love to find some footy toys that were also puzzles, but mostly these are either Quick Wins, various pieces that came off larger toys, or something resembling a tiny dog rubber chew toy.
Interactive toys: Toys that you can play with together. Choco enjoys peekaboo (I hide behind something and then jump out and say peekaboo, or Choco hides behind something and then runs out and says peekaboo. Actually he just says peekaboo a lot during the whole game, so it’s kind of crossed with hide-n-seek a bit I suppose, but none the less it brings him great joy. It’s also adorable. Another game he really likes is what I call ‘Fort’, which he learned by watching a small child building a fort out of sheets and pillows. Choco then proceeded to do the same thing with the newspaper on his play stand – he dragged the paper up so that it made a tent over his perch and proceeded to play peekaboo from inside it. Much like a child enjoys a refrigerator box, Choco enjoys a more appropriately sized cardboard box now and again.
Water toys: There are a couple of toys that Choco really likes to play with in his water dish for whatever reason. I generally encourage this because it ends with him bathing willingly. None of these toys was really designed for that, but I’d love to find some that were. I’d also like to find a better bath for him than his water dish, but the ones I’ve seen on the market are too small and light for him to get properly clean.
Climbing toys: Parrots have claws and they can get kind of sharp. Really sharp actually. Climbing toys with rough surfaces that require gripping will wear new nail growth down at a natural rate. Choco also chews the sharper bits off his own nails because he doesn’t like scratching up my shoulder when he’s perched there.