How to choose the right toys for your bird

How To Choose The RIGHT Toys For Your Bird

 August 5th, 2010
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Military Macaw

When discussing bird toys, there are two very common statements made:  “I don’t give my bird toys anymore, she never plays with them.”  and  “Whenever I get my bird new toys, he just destroys them.”  Do either of these sound familiar?  Read on…

Toys are multi-tasking things. They should be fun, educational, provide challenges and satisfy a bird’s instinctive needs. They are there to fill the void that a caged bird might feel with limited space and social activity. They exist to be chewed on, smacked around, yelled at and reduced to splinters. An utterly annihilated toy, is one that has been most enjoyed.  So, to the guy who laments over his bird’s destroyed toys: well done. You found the perfect toy for your bird!  For the guy whose bird doesn’t play with toys: keep looking!  You just haven’t found what interests her yet.
Toys are there for the use and enjoyment of your bird. While we may think that the giraffe shaped pinata is adorable, your bird may have no interest in that type of toy. I will venture to say that most parrots really don’t care that a toy looks like a monkey or a snowflake. In fact, your bird has no idea what either of those things are. It is the texture and functionality of the toy that interests your bird.  Be careful not to buy the toys that are appealing to only you.
Toys are expensive and it’s hard to be able to afford to experiment with a $40 toy that your bird may not like. Try some things from around the house to test the waters. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Offer a paper towel or paper bag. See what she does with toilet paper or paper towel tubes  Your bird might prefer shreddables.
  • See how your bird reacts to pieces of an old t shirt or a facecloth. She might like fabric toys .
  • Go to Home Depot and buy a couple of small wood scrap pieces from untreated pine 2X4s for the larger birds, and watch the gnawing begin!
  • Fold a favorite treat up inside a unwaxed dixie cup to inspire her to learn to forage.  How well she does with this simple forager will tell you if your bird might be ready to try a more sophisticated toy.


Once you get a feel for the types of materials your bird prefers and makes the best use of, look into the different types of toys available that have that composition. Try, also, to get a feel for the activities your bird prefers. My umbrella cockatoo loves to put things inside of other things. Often I find he has jammed bits of wood into any crevices he can find in his cage. I have noticed that he has a longer than typical attention span than most cockatoos when it comes to accomplishing tasks. Puzzle toys are right for him, but he is very particular about the ones he likes.
I had several friends in Austin who own parrots. We had an arrangement for toy swapping so that we could experiment with what our birds liked.  I bought a Rainstick for Linus once. He hated it and actually got angry when he would hear the sounds it made.  I swapped it with an african grey’s owner for a moving parts toy that is now a favorite to Linus.  We would ONLY do this with plastic or metal toys that could be sterilized before passing them from bird to bird. It saved us a ton of money on wasted, unused toys.

Military Macaw

Once you decide what your bird’s preferences are, look into these options:

  • Foraging toys: Foraging for food is an activity that occupies a great deal of a wild bird’s day. Our companion birds benefit both mentally and physically when we create a foraging environment for them in their cages.
  • Puzzle toys:  These are the educational toys. They can keep your bird busy for hours with different tasks.
  • Wood/shreddables: Your bird has an innate need to chew. Gouging out a tree cavity or creating materials to line a nest are behaviors performed by your parrot’s wild cousins. This is hard wired into companion parrots as well. Providing toys that satisfy this urge will hopefully make the furniture less appealing.
  • Preening toys:  These are great for the bird who would spend hours on your shoulder grooming your hair.  If you suspect your bird is an over-preener, or might be heading in the direction of feather destruction, these types of toys might distract him from that.
  • Plastic toys: From pony beads to bullet proof acrylic, things that spin, slide, and speak. These are toys that will last a long time, but are not always the favorite. These are great toys to use in rotation in the cage to offer a variety of activities throughout the month. Since they don’t serve a purpose as far as destructibility goes, they should provide a fun/educational activity instead.

Toys are an essential part to your parrot’s well-being.  Unused toys in the cage are no better than no toys in the cage.  Observation and a little inexpensive experimentation will give the info you need to provide just the perfect ones for your bird.  The pictured toys and more are available at

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121 Comments on “How To Choose The RIGHT Toys For Your Bird”

Farhana  08/16/2010 4:40 am

Hi there
My African Grey is petrified of any new toys I introduce to him. I have used it in the way prescribed by hanging outside the cage,etc then when I eventually put it inside he is not interested! Any tips

Rena  08/16/2010 10:40 am

My bird is a small lovebird and if I buy him a new toy he will love the toy more then me.I will try 2 take him out of his cage 2 play with him but he will just bite me and just want 2 play with the toy.So i dont know what to do?

Patty  08/16/2010 11:10 am

Hi Kathy,
It sounds like your breeder errs on the side of caution. I like that she takes the time to educate her bird’s new owners and ween her birds slowly- it sounds like you have a great, responsible breeder. Safety is much more the use of common sense than it is old fashioned, nothing has changed in terms of what is safe for parrots. It’s hard, though, to be sure. The best advice I can give you in selecting things that are safe for parrots is to use that common sense. If you suspect your birds can remove unsafe parts from a toy, like a bell clapper, it probably can. Like children, they can get into anything, it’s just that some choose not to, until the one day that they do. Take a look around from a bird’s perspective, and from their eye level from the cage and on the ground. You’ll be surprised at what they see.

Whispr0_0  08/16/2010 7:25 pm

HI, I have one bird who loves preening toys.
One is a big bunch of strings with a little bell in the middle with a wire holding it all together, another is sort of a straw like material that pokes out of a bunch of woven rattan woven stuff, another is a bunch of little straw like rings dangling with a type of very simple cotton soft rope which he can unwind and plull individule strands apart. They fuss and preen these for hours at a time some days.

Whispr0_0  08/16/2010 7:25 pm

HI, I have one bird who loves preening toys.
One is a big bunch of strings with a little bell in the middle with a wire holding it all together, another is sort of a straw like material that pokes out of a bunch of woven rattan woven stuff, another is a bunch of little straw like rings dangling with a type of very simple cotton soft rope which he can unwind and plull individule strands apart. They fuss and preen these for hours at a time some days.

maryalex  08/16/2010 9:29 pm

i used some cardboard and shoe string, some old keys, and a baby bell and made a hanging toy and thats all my bird plays with. its a inexpensive toy to make, and u can say you made it!(-:

Robert  08/17/2010 12:35 pm

I have a 3 year old Green Cheek Conure named Reyna (Tagalog word, meaning Queen). She loves to forage. We noticed that she loves a small keychain stuffed animal. She’ll be doing something else, then casually reach up and yank on that toy to get it swinging, then she’ll go back to what she was doing. She loves taking apart plastic bead jewelry too.
And, I learned yesterday, she loves crawling through my pockets on my hoodie (the kind with the pocket that is connected).

She has an assortment of toys, that we try to rotate evry now and then.
The ideas you presented here will go a long way towards keeping her happy and occupied.

Saskatoon, Saskatchewan

Helen Waldron  08/17/2010 2:33 pm

Hi. My African Grey just loves his bell and the wooden pegs and the toilet roll inner. I’m a bit scared of giving him anything plastic like a plastic cotton reel or plastic straws. How can I be sure that he does not swollow the plastic? My “grey” is 20 months old.

Thanks !

Helen (South Africa)

Cynthia  08/23/2010 1:05 pm

One you make yourself from brightly colored biased tape, sewing section, large brightly colored buttons, at Wal Mart, wood pieces, from the pet store or your own wood working left overs, plain no stains or paints, and plastic beads & hand quilting thread, Wal Mart, this thread type is very strong and needed against our birds strong beaks.
You design it yourself, ie.; wood, buttons, beads, buttons, wood and so forth. Starting and ending with wood pieces will lengthen the toys’ life, they are short life toys, but just make two each time you’re making and you’ll be one ahead of your bird. When sewing the buttons and beads, sew them back to back, this makes them harder to destroy. Have fun creating and watching your bird have fun with his/her new toy!

Patty  08/23/2010 11:28 pm

Hey Cynthia!
Sounds like a great toy! Thanks for sharing your tip!

robin  08/24/2010 3:53 pm

is it safe for a red bellied parrot to chew up a hard plastic cat toy ball with a bell in it. mine will destroy one and loves it. hoping he doesn’t ingest any of the pieces. i dont think he eats any of it, but it does worry keeps him busy for hours destroying it.

Patty  08/24/2010 8:00 pm

Hi Robin,
The problem with the bells they put in the cat toys is that they have those slots in them where toes, beaks and tongues get caught. If your bird doesn’t break open the toy to get to the bell, then fine. Just be aware that he could be injured if he does get the bell out.

Devorah  08/25/2010 1:46 am

i have two quaker parrots and the male loves to build things like a nest or shelf with coffee stirring sticks from Starbucks. I have 2000 of them and have incredible pictures of what he has done. My 5 year old female finally, this year, has started building also, in the past she would walk around the entire cage with a stick in her mouth bobbing her head up and down……as he, in his cage, was building away. This year, she finally did it herself, but in a totally different way. He uses the bars to get started and uses both ends of the stick. She uses only one end, and has created a beautiful ‘landslide’ that twists and turns around some baby toy rings and 100% cotton rope. It’s beautiful. He will at times, go into her cage and rearrange the sticks. And she will go on top of his cage as he is inside and they work together, with her on the top and he on the inside. there are a riot to watch. STICKS from Starbucks, cotton rope from a fabric store, and baby teething rings from Walmart or wherever. cheap toys and let them go at it.

John Dosss  08/25/2010 1:52 pm

My bird Rio likes bells. He likes the sounds that they make. He wears them as hats. He bangs them into the side of his cage. I have several different sizes.

Sunaina  09/09/2010 7:09 am

U inputs are very helpful and have helped me make my inr parrot a happy guy.

sunaina  09/09/2010 7:21 am

Parrot toys r available in mumba India. There is a pet store in bandra on waterfield road. Do update r anil udeshi.

Geraldine  09/11/2010 7:04 pm

I am afraid to give my Conure Green Cheek paper towels, tissues, toilet paper and kind of soft paper like that because I don’t know if he would choke on it? He also likes to chew at my hair, is this ok, will it hurt him? He likes to “suckle” on fabric and me, is it ok to give him fabric? I am alittle of nervous of giving him things because I don’t want to harm him. Any help is appreciated!

Patty  09/13/2010 11:09 pm

Hi Geraldine,
The paper products you mentioned are a fun toy for all birds and I wouldn’t worry about it being a choking hazard. Just make sure to scrape off any glue from the rolls. Fabric is a material birds seem to really enjoy, but there are dangers involved if the fabric becomes too frayed.

nazia  09/24/2010 10:50 am

my grey african parrot took her stomch feathers off shes got a bold big pach. can some one pleasr tell me what to do please.

Patty  09/24/2010 8:26 pm

Hi Nazia,
Plucking is a difficult problem. Please read this article: There is a lot of info to help you understand plucking and how to go about finding a solution. However, it is not always possible to stop it once it has begun. I hope this is helpful for you.

Michelle Labry  10/25/2010 9:40 pm

thank you for the great info on bird toys. I know that my grey loves his rubber ball with a bell inside.
I would like to get some more. michelle