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Make Bird Toys Exciting For Your Pet Bird

Pet birds love to play with bird toys, but if your parrot is reluctant to play, try these tips to get your pet bird playing.

By Diane Grindol

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Researchers and grad students at University of California, Davis, did some studies on bird toys. They found that pet birds felt as excited about getting a new bird toy as they felt when being fed. That’s pretty excited! Feeding time is pretty much the high point of the day for most animals.

You don’t need to get new bird toys to make your parrot think that a toy is enticing. Take down all toys but one; now, change the toy each day, rotating your existing toys in and out of the cage. That should become the highlight of the day for your cockatiel if the researchers are right! For many of us, one toy is too few. I leave three to four in a cockatiel cage, and only change one of them regularly.

cockatiel with bird toys
Psittacosis was once known as parrot fever.

If your pet bird is actually avoiding the toys (rather than just not playing with them), it’s time to start from scratch to reintroduce them to your bird. If a bird shies from a toy at first, don’t give up. Rather, place the toy somewhere outside the cage where it is visible. Act excited about the toy, touch it and play with it as you pass by it throughout the day. Move the toy closer after a few days, then start laying it on but not in the cage. Finally, the toy should be accepted in the cage, and your cockatiel should be eager to play with it.

One idea might be to twine some favorite foods through the toys on the side of the cage. Your bird will probably check out the toy if it’s laced with parsley or spray millet.

Pet birds are very visual. They’re also flock animals and they instinctively imitate the actions of their flockmates. You can use this to show your pet bird that the toys in their new location are interesting to you. Take time to play with the toys and touch them with your “beak” (aka nose). Pretend to nibble on the chewy ones. Your pet bird should get the idea and start imitating your behavior after a while.


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