All creatures are, by nature, driven to play and explore. It’s in the genetic makeup of all living things! It’s how we learn, grow and develop critical thinking. Playing is important for every person and animal, certainly birds are very much an animal that loves to play! Birds are fun, inquisitive, and vivacious and playing and interacting in different ways with their environment is essential for avian health and well being!
What are the benefits of bird play?
In the wild, birds play for social interaction, learning their environment, stretching their physical limitations, learning dexterity and coordination.
A domestic bird will need to do these same things. Starting avian enrichment at a young age will help your feathered friend be a confident, happier and less nervous bird!
Another benefit is that domesticated birds spend no real time foraging for or gathering food. This will leave your pet with a lot of time to get bored, which leads to bad social behaviors, such as aggressiveness and screeching, or self destructive outlets like feather plucking. Birds are intelligent and active creatures, as pet owners, you know the importance of play time and helping your feathered buddy practice natural behaviors.
What toy should you get your bird?
Birds are like people in many ways, in that they will not like every toy out there! They have things that they like and don’t like, just like you and me. For instance, many dogs will chase a ball all day long, but some only once or not at all. There are some universal standards that all bird owners should follow.
Types of Toys
Toys for your bird may be fun and colorful but they serve a purpose. These are the common ones you need to keep in mind when picking a toy for your pet.
1) Foraging/ puzzle and trick toys:
The most basic need of all birds is to forage. Birds are very smart and need puzzle and manipulation type toys to engage their brains.
Veterinarians and avian experts always tout exercise for your bird buddy and agree that toys that strengthen their wings, chest, back, legs and feet should be the target areas. These toys will include swings, bungees, ladders and ropes.
Dogs are not the only animals that are destined to chew! Chewing is what birds were born to do! Think about how much a bird chews in the wild, especially during breeding season where they would be tunneling nests into trees. As a pet owner, buying a great new toy only to have your buddy destroy it can seem like a downer but that is the purpose of these toys! It may not look pretty, but it’s healthy. One thing to keep in mind is that larger birds will do well with harder woods but smaller birds will need softer woods, like pine.
Almost every bird species is a “flock bird”, meaning they are mentally geared to be part of a larger social flock. Being lonely can lead to severe anxiety and destructive behaviors. Therefore, get them a cuddly! Toys that your bird can snuggle, cuddle and preen will add to your birds mental health, and how cute it is when they cuddle! Too adorable. Time for an Instagram win!
Did you know that a parrot’s foot has about 16 joints and muscles? The benefit of a bird foot toy is not only that it is part of foraging instincts, but that it helps with dexterity and exercising this crucial part of a birds make up.
All of these toys will fulfill your best buddies desires and needs for foraging.
How do you choose?
So, now that you know what kind of toy your feathered friend needs, how do choose?
Here are some top tips for safe and fun bird toys.
This goes without saying. A toy that is too big or one that has pieces that can break off and choke your pet is not a good choice. Make sure that your bird can’t get its beak or toes caught in any of the hardware of the toy. Use a manufacturer that only uses non toxic and avian approved materials. Make sure you read up on reviews from the pet supplier.
How your pet plays with the toy
Does your bird cuddle with the toy or destroy it? Observing behaviors will help you determine which of your pet’s needs are being met. Watching the play style will also ensure that your bird is safe with the toy.
Variety is everything
Variety is very important for your bird buddy! At any given time your pet should have 4-6 toys in their cage and there should be a good variety. This variety must include different textures, shapes and sizes. Change it up, a bird should never be bored! Yikes, that’s all bad!
Keep toys clean and in good shape. Check at least once a week, or more, depending on the type of toy. Make sure there are no safety risks to your pet. Check for loose, broken or worn out pieces.
And another thing
Introducing the toy. So, this one is super interesting. While birds are curious and smart, they can also be a little skittish about things. There is a protocol to introducing new toys to your bird. Check out this article:
Do you have some great toys you have given to your bird buddy that made them really happy or lasted for a while?
Where there toys that they never learned to love?
We all have stories, what are some of your best ones?