Non-Food / Toy Foraging Opportunities for Pet Birds
Birds are intelligent, curious and naturally active
A busy bird is a happy bird. Lingering in a cage without any activities is not going to yield a happy and emotionally healthy companion bird.
Providing your pet bird with exercise and activities is not hard - and the most appreciated toys are FREE or can be obtained inexpensively.
Here are some inexpensive and simple foraging ideas:
- Empty cereal boxes with favorite toys inside.
- Recycled Telephone Books make great shredding toys for your birds. Hanging them up in your bird's cage, or simply placing them in or on top of the cage will provide your "shredder" with hours of fun.
- Foraging Baskets (big favorites - easy to make and inexpensive!)
- Non-toxic and Care-fully Cleaned Natural Branches from outside provide hours of entertainment. Please refer to the photos to the right as examples. (Photos courtesy of Gay Noeth).
- Newspaper Pretzels: Diane Sanborn came up with this great idea to entertain her feather-plucking grey: " Take 1 large piece of new paper, roll and twist it tight to simulate a thick rope, then tie into a knot. I make 2 or 3 of these every night (and Ray [her grey] watches intently while I do this) and shove part of it through cage bars. Since he was plucking early morning we now see shredded paper in the AM instead of feathers. It has worked and now that he's getting better light and better nutrition we hope the feather plucking is behind us."
- Untreated Lumber: Available at your local home improvement store (i.e., Home Depot). Most stores have cutoff bins in the back of the lumber department, enabling you to buy lumber in various sizes at very little cost. You can cut these into smaller pieces, then string on short chain, sisal or cotton rope, stainless steel toy holder; or simply place in the cage as a foot toy. For even more fun, you might drill holes in the wood and stuff with treats or beads.
- Buy a large bag of natural rafia at your local craft store. Tie up bunches of it with twine or birdie safe rope. Cut smaller bunches and tie them together in a strand. Hang at the top of the cage.
- Tie a bunch of plastic straws tightly together in the middle with twine or any other bird-safe rope. Tie another rope from the middle to secure to the top of the cage. You can also cut the straws in half and secure in the middle and make smaller bunches and tie together and make a long strand.
- Brown paper lunch bags with toys hidden within.
- Cardboard egg cartons with favorite toys hidden inside.
- Take a roll of adding machine tape and slide it through a wooden perch/dowel and attach to cage. Birds love to shred these! (Remove the roll before the paper on it is used up as the adhesive in the machine tape roll may contain zinc.) . This may not be an appropriate toy for heavy chewers.
- Plastic Toys: Do make sure that your parrot doesn't ingest any of the plastic. Examples of fun toys made from plastic that may not be made for parrots, but also make great toys for them are: infant rattles and key rings, linking rings (some birds have problems with these as their beaks get stuck in between the linking ends - supervise your bird), measuring spoons on a ring, beads from discount stores or craft stores, plastic bottle tops and big buttons.
- Grapevine or Willow Wreaths: These items can be found at craft stores during the winter holiday season. (You get great deals on these immediately after the holidays.) Attach wooden pieces, beads, leather and paper strips, attach nuts into the wreaths. Make sure the wreaths are not varnished (they will look very shiny), painted or sprayed with glitter.
- Paper Balls: with a surprise in the middle, which can be a treat or beads, etc.
- Dog Toys: Dog pull or chew toys, available in various sizes.
- Typically recommended are sisal or cotton rope with lots of knots and/or beads. However, a web visitor pointed out the fact that many chemicals are used in growing cotton, and its production is very dangerous for workers and wildlife. Her pet developed a tumor in its crop which could possibly have caused by these chemicals.) Natural Sisal rope is considered a safer alternative, as long as it is oil and pesticide free.
- Spiral-swings/rope perches with things tied to them.
- Inexpensive finch nests make great "foraging containe.." (Please refer to images below.) Hide your pet's favorite treats and toys in one and hang it up. Great "fillers" are shredded paper, treats, pine cones, natural leather pieces, bottle tops, bamboo balls. Hours or even days of fun are guaraneed
- Alphabet Blocks: Either made for small kids or sold as bird toys. Drill them and hang them, offer as foot toys, include in foraging baskets (details below) or provide as foot toys. include as part of larger toys
- Shredded Paper in a Basket or other Container: Hide treats, beads, wood pieces or other foot toys for the pet to discover
- Wrap beads or other non-food items in paper, non-waxed paper cups or paper plates.String beads on a rope or short pieces of chain, cotton rope, leather strips or sisal with knots in between.Attach to the cage bars or offer as foot toys.Ensure that the size of the beads is safe for YOUR parrot.
- Mop Heads: Inexpensive mopheads can be converted into fun toys that particularly benefit feather plucking birds. For extra fun tie extra beads or nuts / seeds wrapped in paper into them.
This idea was submitted by Michael and Diane Rametta who were able to resolve their cockatoo Coco's plucking with inexpensive cotton mop heads that they hang on top of her cage and on her swing. They point out that they only purchase "cut end" mop heads (#24 "Cut End Mop" from Rubbermaid) to minimize the risk of Coco getting her feet caught or tangled. (A web visitor pointed out the fact that
many chemicals are used in growing cotton, and its production is very dangerous for workers and wildlife. Her pet developed a tumor in its crop which could possibly have caused by these chemicals.)
- Pine Cones: Pine cones make great food toys for parrots. Pick up any pine cones that are freshly dropped. Soak pine cones in a dishpan with vinegar water (about a cup of vinegar to a gallon of water) for 10-15 minutes - this gets all the dirt and bugs out. (PLEASE NOTE: HEATED vinegar emits toxic fumes similar to carbon dioxide. Bird owners have lost their pets by adding vinegar to their dishwashing cycle, or used it to clean coffee machines.) Then let them air-dry in a large colander for 24 hours. The second step is to put the pinecones on a foil covered cookie sheet and bake at about 150 to 200 degrees for 20-30 minutes to kill bacteria, molds, etc. Obviously, let them cool down before giving them to your pets. Both big and small birds treasure them. Offer as is, wrapped in other things (paper, cups, folded paper plates) or stuff treats (nut butters with seeds or dried fruit) into the cones.
Offer as is, wrapped in other things (paper, cups, folded paper plates) or stuff treats (nut butters with seeds or dried fruit) into the cones. You can hang them up as is, place them in different areas, or wrap them in paper, paper cups, paper plates.
- Commercial type piñatas are available and serve much the same purpose as the tamale wrap, but come in interesting shapes and colors.
- Coffee Filters, Paper Plates or Paper Cups: Add beads or wood pieces in between the layers and stacks of coffee filters, unwaxed paper cups or paper plates, hanging them up using sisal rope, cotton or leather strip or a stainless steel toy hanger. Cut the paper ¾ of the way through to the center, fluff up to form a ‘ball’. Make sure that your bird is not eating the paper.Remove if they do.
Take Your Bird Outside!
What can be more fun than allowing your bird to be outside -- to be part of nature; safely and under your supervision. Be Cautious! Many people believe firmly that their pet bird would "never fly off" ... Unfortunately, even if it may not want to what usually happens they get spooked by a car back-firing, a bird of prey (or just a plane - they don't know the difference) flying above them, that they will easily panic and fly off. Even clipped birds have been able to get amazing lift outside. In one case, a conure got scared of a hawk flying above it and flew off. The conure was clipped and was only able to fly a short distance - but this distance was enough for the hawk to get it, before the owner could even get to it. It is never ever ever a good idea to allow your bird to be outside without your close supervision. However, the following methods will allow you to take your bird out and enjoy the fresh air and nature in its purest:
- Take Your Bird Out On Your Bike! A pet bird or two may easily be carried in a bicycle basket -- but do make sure that the basket is securely attached to the bike and is covered with a mesh of some sorts to prevent the pet from escaping or falling out. Obviously, the mesh of the basket itself should be so narrow that birds don't fall through. For larger parrots, some people have simply attached another bicycle basket (upside down) over the one that is attached to the bike, thereby doubling the size of the interior space -- this will allow you to carry larger parrots. Again, for the safety of the birds, it is important that the top basket be securely fastened to the bottom basket. Lining the bottom basket with a towel will make the ride more comfortable for your pet. You may also be able to attach a bird carrier to the handle – all it takes is a little creativity and common sense and you and your pet will enjoy exciting adventures together. However, as always – play it safe!!
- The Only Safe and Secure Bird Harness: Please check out the Avianweb EZ Bird Harness and Flight Extension Lines -- there is nothing that could possibly enhance your pet's life more ... A great product.
- PVC Tubes: Available at your local home improvement store. Many pet owners build play gyms or foraging toys out of them. PVC is one of the biggest contributors to the flood of toxic substances that can cause severe problems for human health and the environment. Vinyl chloride is a known carcinogen. PVC is an environmental poison because of its high chlorine content and chemical additives. PVC bio-accumulates and becomes stored in body fat of animals and humans. With cumulative exposure, they are potential carcinogens and may cause reproductive or developmental health problems. Potentially harmful chemicals called phthalates are added to PVC to make it soft, for example for use in infant toys and can leach out of toys that are chewed and sucked. Phthalates are known to cause liver and kidney damage, endocrine disruption, reproductive system damage and cancer.
- Cardboard Paper Towels and Toilet Paper Rolls: Kimberly-Clark, one of the manufacturers of paper towels and toilet paper warns that the adhesive used to attach the first sheet of paper towel to the cardboard core contains zinc. Allowing your pets to play / tear up these rolls could result in zinc toxicosis. Kimberly-Clark's statement regarding this adhesive says: "Although the core glue is safe for its intended use, it is not intended to be ingested. It is not food grade and does not meet indirect food contact regulations. Therefore, we cannot recommend that it be used with pets". Zinc toxicity is very serious and can potentially kill a parrot. Kidney damage, digestive upset,, feather plucking and increased water intake are all signs of zinc poisoning. Other symptoms include: vomiting, loss of appetite and larger than usual green droppings. Sudden death is another sign.
- Styrofoam Containers - Shannon Armstrong from the Joshua Rescue Foundation points out to not ever use Styrofoam containers (cups, plates or containers). She points out: Styrofoam containers are DEADLY to birds. The Styrofoam is static and sticks to the inside of the mouth and throat. [T]hen it forms a static mass ... and kills the bird.
- Plain, uncolored wicker or palm fiber baskets (available at crafts store - buy the cheap ones)
- Plain brown paper bags from your grocery shopping
- Cardboard boxes
- Plastic containers (throw-aways from deli foods, small condiment containers) - Please note: Shannon Armstrong from the Joshua Rescue Foundation emphasized not to use the Styrofoam containers that some eateries use for take-outs.Styrofoam containers are DEADLY to birds.Stainless steel buckets can be purchased from feed-and-supply stores or pet supply stores.
Put something heavy in it to prevent it from tipping over, such as a brick.
Fill any of the above with shredded paper and hide treats, foot toys, pine cones, grains, paper balls, leather pieces / strips, sisal rope, cotton or leather strips, small branches, popsicle sticks, wooden clothes peg (the old kind without a spring), a piece of leather with a hole in it through which you pass a short piece of sisal string and knot on both sides, a couple of cat or baby toys, plastic rings, BIG plastic buttons, bright beads (too large to swallow / not glass beads!), etc, etc. You can add dry food tidbits hot peppers, dried fruit, sunflower seeds, a piece of garlic, a chunck of ginger, etc. Add a couple of nuts in the shell, maybe cracked at first, and "hide" the stuff with a few pieces of newpaper, "crumbled"... Attach to the cage or place on top.
This will provide hours of entertain and fun to your bird!
Species Research by Sibylle Johnson
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Recommended Web Resources: Redirecting Negative Behaviors in your Petbird for some excellent tips and tricks ... Bird Proof Your Home to Protect Your Furniture and Keep your Bird Safe ... Top Bird Killers ... Toxicities ... Toy Safety ... Aviary Photos / Indoor Set-ups
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