In the wild most birds are foraging for food for hours at a time, and when they are not resting, they are playing. These activities occupy huge amounts of the bird’s day. In captivity, they have food served to them “on a silver platter” with no effort or work. The rest of their captive day can therefore be VERY boring. A bored bird has a higher risk of developing behavioral problems such as feather picking.
Birds are highly intelligent animals and toys are an important part of their mental health as well as their physical agility. Toys encourage exercise and provide good wear for the beak and nails. Birds need a variety of toys, some of which should be destructible and other “puzzle” toys that challenge their dexterity and mental faculties. Toys can be rotated in and out of the cage every couple of days such that the bird does not get bored. Do not crowd a cage with too many toys. A good rule of thumb is that your bird has at least one space inside the cage to spread its wings and flap without striking toys.
Safety is top concern. Most bird toy manufacturers are very vigilant regarding safety. Birds can injure themselves even on the safest toy, but the goal is to minimize injuries. Seams of plastic or metal toys should not be loose enough for toes or nails to get trapped. Loops in leather or rope toys should not be of a size that the bird may get its head caught. Also consider that screw-on chain links or clips should not be able to be opened. Birds can hook their lower beak within such clips and severely damage their jaw. Stainless steel, natural non-toxic wood, rope and acrylic make great materials for puzzle toys.
Chewables include branches, pine cones, rawhide, natural fiber rope, cloth and soft pine.
Soldered and galvanized metals, should be avoided as they are toxic. Also avoid easily dismantled toys such as balsa wood, small link chain items, toys with metal clips, bell clappers or those with lead weights. If a potential toy is child-safe, it’s probably parrot-safe although some electronics would not be appropriate (e.g., if the bird can tear out the electronics and chew on batteries or circuitry).
Before giving any non-toy items to your bird to use as a toy (e.g., decorations, ornaments, or jewelry), carefully consider what it is made of and how easily the bird will remove and ingest pieces. Often such decorative items can be made from toxic substances such as leaded crystal or lead- or zinc-containing paints.
Give a new toy a chance, because some birds are afraid at first. Play with it yourself and show the bird. Introduce the toy slowly. The bird will decide in time if it likes a toy. Experiment and use your imagination – safely. You and your bird can both have fun.