Unsafe Bird Toys: How To Avoid Them

Unsafe Bird Toys: How To Avoid Them

 November 2nd, 2014
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I came across this post in my Facebook newsfeed recently. It scared me to death. I posted it to our page right away. Immediately, we started getting posts from people our community who were scared because that exact toy hung in their bird’s cage. I got several personal messages as well.

It was no surprise to find out how many people had bought that toy. It is available in Walmart. Worse, it is also available in pet stores including PetSmart, a huge chain pet retailer that most would believe carried only safe products, a fair and reasonable assumption. Pet stores are supposed to be all about our pets and their welfare, but that is not how it goes in reality. They are retailers first and foremost, whose primary interest is the bottom line. (I know that we have several people in our community who work at pet stores. Please do not think that this frustration is directed at you. I know you are there for the right reasons – but, for the most part, your employers suck. I hope they know how lucky they are to have you as the front line representing their company.)

It seems clear that we are getting too comfortable with the selection of toys available – it is a shame that we always have to assume the worst. But it is what it is…

What you need to know:

  • Bird toys should never have painted surfaces or use glues to hold pieces together. There is the toxicity aspect, but even if “non-toxic” paints or food grade glues are used, there is another problem that is just as serious. Paint and glues are applied to surfaces. They don’t soak into surfaces like dyes do – they dry on top of a surface. This is a part of the toy that might attract the attention of an observant parrot during play. While our fingers are not well designed to removed glue or paint, the parrot beak makes short work of it. Should these chips be swallowed, they can be deadly even if they are non-toxic in nature. They can get lodged in the digestive system causing a serious blockage. Most dyes are soy based (vegetable) and are a safe colorant choice.
  • Leather toys parts should be vegetable tanned only. Tanning is a soaking process that converts animal skin to leather. It is usually done with acidic chemicals but vegetable tanned leather is soaked in tannins made from plant matter and are free of dangerous chemicals.
  • Metal hardware should be stainless steel or nickel plated. The hardware pieces should not be removable and ingestible or be shaped in ways or have crevices that might get stuck on a beak or nail.
  • China exports pet products by the tons. Cages and toys are continually found to be made from parts known to be toxic or use paints or powder coating that contains known toxins. Sadly, they also manufacture pet foods that have been responsible for countless pet deaths. Still, their products are being widely distributed because of their affordability. This is good for the wallet – very bad for the pets. Beware of products manufactured there.
Military macaw with Parrot Toys By Mail toys

Military macaw with Parrot Toys By Mail toys

The smart parrot owner will look closely at the toys they are considering, inspecting them like Sherlock Holmes for safety and durability. But doing that at the pet store creates another set of concerns – parrot toys that are meticulously handled by parrot owners can transfer disease.

Did you know that the PBFD virus can survive on surfaces for months? Pretty scary, huh?

Without monitoring our bird’s weight and droppings, we have no way of knowing that our birds are sick. They don’t begin to present symptoms until they are very sick. I think it is fair to say that most bird owners are not monitoring their bird’s health and they remain unaware if their bird is ill.

If an owner were to handle their sick bird prior to handling toys while shopping, or if employees were to handle a sick bird being sold at their store and then go about stocking the shelves, there is the very real chance of spreading disease that way.

This concern is multiplied many times over at bird fairs where all of the customers are bird owners coming in from all around looking for toys and other bird products.

Until bird stores and the vendors at bird fairs start using one toy for display and send their customers home with toys kept untouched in a stock room, I will continue to buy the majority of my toys online.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to a single idea: know and trust your bird product sources. If you do not have a specific manufacturer whose products have always been of good quality, then shop from a store that is reputable and conscientious about the products they carry and whom you can trust to make good choices on your behalf.

Our personal choice for toys at BirdTricks.com is Planet Pleasures, an environmentally and socially conscientious fair trade organization who supply the toys for our toy program.

Please take a second to check out Parrot Toys By Mail – it is very reasonably priced, totally convenient and completely safe for your birds – these are the same toys we give to our own birds!

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16 Comments on “Unsafe Bird Toys: How To Avoid Them”

Christine Muncil  11/05/2014 5:17 am

I recently read an article about wild birds. It stated that they “sleep” for only a few minutes at a time. Do domesticated birds also sleep like that? If so, why do we cover and isolate them overnight for long hours at a time? I stopped regularly covering my conure, except on cold nights for his comfort. What is your take on this? Thanks.

dr shazia  11/05/2014 6:31 am

It was a useful information and I appreciate sharing it with all bird owners.

Helena  11/05/2014 6:35 am

I purchased a very similar toy in Australia and placed it in the cage of our 3 yr old Ringneck….. We were in shock to find he had passed a week later, but did not know the cause of death. To hear this news now makes me wonder whether the toy we purchased had anything to do with it… Still grieving for our boy 🙁

Tammy Coulter  11/05/2014 7:18 am

I agree with boycotting China for anything wooden! I watched a program last week that was making viewers aware of the Trees/Forests that are illegally being cut down from Russia then sold to China, where they make wooden flooring out of it, then 3X’s the allowable formaldehyde is soaked into it. So very dangerous for us, so it’s no surprise to me that anything wooden from China should be avoided.The wood is sold too Canada & the U.S. And there also destroying the natural habitat for the Bengal Tigers (only 500 remains) that live there. So for ours & the Tigers, & our Birds sake, ask as many questions as you can when buying wood imported from China. Better yet, don’t but it at all! For the love of all animals:)

Michael and Cookie  11/05/2014 9:49 am

We like our parrots to be happy and entertaine when we’re not hom, but do they really need toys?
I say no. Anything that hangs is a concern, getting hung up in it. Happens. I thought that you can’t go wrong with plastic toys. One day that changed. Cookie had a cat toy. Plastic, small, round at both ends with bars holding it together and a little bell inside. The bell had slots in it. She loved it.
She would hold it in her beak standing on one foot and go at it. Trying to get that bell. I guess. Once she was banging it on the floor of her cage trying to break it open. That or, I HATE THIS DAMN THING! After monthis of this I came home and she did it, the bell was gone. The toy still intact. She pulled it out through the bars. I know this because it was stuck on the bottom of her beak. For an unknown amount of time she couldn’t drink or eat till I came home. As for China, good luck finding anything that doesn’t come from China. Forget the toys and spend more time with your parrot.

Lynn  11/05/2014 11:22 am

My cockatiel has this toy !!!
I will Be taking it to the pet stores
Showing them this warning and
Asking them to take this product
Off shelves !!! I don’t buy treats
Or dog food from China and will
Boycott ALL products from CHINA!!!

Julie  11/05/2014 11:33 am

I have a question about cages. The cage I have for my Macaw is made in China. Cages for large birds are expensive and $1,000 is a good price for the larger type macaw/hyacinth cages. Believe me, I would love to get a stainless steel cage and I am really considering it. But in lieu of that, I’m wondering if I were to have my current cage powder coated without the zinc in the powder coat, would that rectify the potential threat of any toxins from the actual cage?

Monica Webber  11/05/2014 11:34 am

What about dog toys like big bones rawhide, greenies treats, puzzle, lamb tendon. All the animal based treats.?

Ellen Whatley  11/05/2014 11:38 am

I guess it should not be concidered paranoia to boycott a country that eats animals and sea life while still living.

Lee Rivers  11/05/2014 12:16 pm

OMG. This is just the kind of toy I would buy for my precious conure.

Thanks so much for this info. I never buy toys at WalMart, but I thought toys from the pet store were safe. I’m thinking toys for babies, made in USA.

Anything from China should be required to display a big red skull-and-crossbones symbol. Of course, that won’t happen because our government couldn’t care less about the public these days.

Julia  11/05/2014 12:22 pm

I would love to get safe toys from Bird Tricks but I have one African Grey and he would not go through three toys a month plus I can’t afford 45 dollars every month. It would be nice if you had other options for parrot owners to order smaller amounts or less often. He also has issues with new things so it takes a long time for him to get used to a new

Nancy Bart  11/05/2014 4:33 pm

I read the aricle, looked into my green cheek’s cage, and there it was! I am so fortunafte Louey didn’t get sick. I immediately through out the toy. Thanx so much for posting info about this toy. I will never buy from China or foreign again!!!!!!!

Shirley A. Martin  11/05/2014 5:16 pm

I haven’t bought bird toys in years. I don’t care how safe they look, our birds can find a way to get small pieces of the toys in their beaks. I Their beaks are very strong and if they bite the toy hard enough , something will break off and they will try to eat or swallow it. I just try to entertain them as much as I can and hope they will be ok when I have to leave them alone. It is better for them to be bored for a few hours than to choke or get hung up in a toy.

Dave  11/05/2014 10:37 pm


Aren’t toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls held together with some sort of glue?

Kathy Agee  11/06/2014 5:33 pm

Florida we have a lot of bird shows here they also sell these things there. And yes they are from China.

David Otto  11/07/2014 4:29 am

I want to thank Bird Tricks.com for posting this information. My brother and I bought 2 male cockatiels, from a pawn shop of all places. Luckily they were only in there over night. We basically rescued these 2 little guys. I can tell that they have come from a horrific past, but since Sept 17 2014. when we got them home they are starting to show signs of being able to relax. We can not seem to get any info about their past or who owned them. Who ever they are they want to hope I don’t find out! Well my brother and I are starting from scratch, with the help of Bird Tricks.com. and the information I purchased, CD’s and Digital books, Frankie & Johnny, (the new names of our birds) my brother and I, with time and much patients,will make a brand new beautiful life with and for Frankie & Johnny so they will finally feel LOVE and TRUST and HAPPNESS for ever. THANKS!