Avian enthusiasts often complain about the rate at which their birds destroy their toys and how expensive it is to constantly replace these items. A bird’s beak is designed for such destruction. In the wild, parrots spend their days foraging for food, often stripping bark from trees and cracking hard-shelled nuts. They also use their beaks to groom their feathers and to gently separate food from shells and outer skins. We should be happy when our birds tear through a wood block or peck away at a sisal rope piece. They’re behaving as happy, healthy birds should. There are, however, ways to stretch a bird toy’s life, so you’re not constantly reaching for your wallet.
Some toy companies have sprung from the creative minds of pet bird owners. Part of the price of that toy on the store shelf is the time and expertise that goes into its creation. For many toy manufacturers, price means better quality.
“To put it bluntly,” said Sally Zonner, owner of Avian Specialties in Florida, who has distributed and manufactured bird toys for more than 20 years, “You usually get what you pay for. Parts, labor and shipping are all figured into the final price, and a quality, domestically-produced toy will cost more than one imported from a questionable source.”
Thrifty Toy Tips
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To stretch your dollar, Zonner suggests purchasing “busy” toys that have a lot of features to keep your bird engaged. Buy prepackaged toy parts to replace components that have been soiled or chewed off. When a rope toy becomes frayed, cut the cotton to short lengths so your bird doesn’t get caught in the strands. Supervise your bird to ensure it can play safely with a new toy and to know which kinds of toys work best for your bird. You can avoid toys that are either inappropriate for your bird or fail to pique its interest. An appropriately-sized toy will last longer. Don’t give your cockatoo a small toy that it will destroy in minutes.
Rotate toys so that they always appear new to your bird. Rotating also lengthens a toy’s life by giving it a periodic break from your bird’s pummeling.
Does your bird have a favorite toy that you like to keep in the cage at all times? Shop for it in bulk, or buy several when it goes on sale to save a few bucks.
Stay In Shape
Make your toy dollars last by keeping playthings in good shape. Most birds like to poop in one particular spot in the cage. Don’t hang the toys there! If an accident does happen, wash soiled toys, and dry them immediately to prevent mold or mildew in cloth or rope fibers.
Your bird’s playgym could last years or weeks depending on your choice. Choose a durable material that has chewable but replaceable parts.
Similar to cage buying, amortize the cost over the expected life of your bird’s gym. Opt for a cage-top playgym or a bolt-on model if you’re tight on space. You can fashion your own using a variety of bolt-on perches.
Toys are a necessity for birds and should be factored into your monthly bird budget. Lanette Raymond of New York shops around for toys for her conure and six cockatiels.
“I spend between $10 and $20 a month on bird toys,” Raymond said. “I look for them at bird club meetings, bird stores and toy and craft stores. I recycle elements of an otherwise worn-out toy. I thread unused shapes from used toys onto the wires on my perch swings.”
Larger birds might up your toy budget. New York resident Joan Napolitano spends approximately $30 to $40 a month on large wood toys for her cockatoo, so she looks for the best deals.
“I buy most of my toys at bird shows where I can look for specials or discounted items,” Napolitano said. “Sometimes I buy online with discounts offered by the seller to my bird club. I typically receive a 10-percent discount, and that offsets shipping charges.”
Linda LaFleur of New York offered good hints for extending the life of her macaws’ toys. “I hang some of the toys on the outside of the cage. That way they have to pull them through before they can chew them up,” she said. Shop carefully, keep an eye on safety and take good care of your bird’s toys to make them last. Realize that most toys are meant to be destroyed.