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Bird Toys & Lovebirds

Keep your lovebird busy — and safe — with these indispensable bird toy picks and ideas.

By Mattie Sue Athan

Subscribe to BIRD TALK MagazineMany pet birds exercise famously cautious (read here: “picky”) attitudes toward toys but not lovebirds. Hang a bird toy in a lovebird’s cage and the bird better not be in there or you might receive an impatient bite. If you can get the lovebird unlatched from your finger, it will explore the new bird toy before the gash in your cuticle clots. Provide four bird toys at once, and your lovebird will check out all four — dismantling some — within the hour.

With lovebirds, toy acceptance is not an issue. The question isn’t “Will my lovebird like the toy?” but rather, “Is the bird toy safe?” or even, “Will my lovebird like the bird toy too much?” Will the toy be good, bad or provide potential for overbonding?

Lovebird
Lovebirds love bird toys ... sometimes too much.

It’s hard to imagine a more anthropomorphic behavior issue than becoming too attached to toys, but like people, lovebirds love their toys — sometimes too much. (Remember your friend who got the new laptop and was never heard from again?) Is your lovebird spending too much time with a certain toy? It doesn’t take much to stimulate breeding behavior in a lovebird — a simulated cavity, nesting material and/or a perceived mate substitute like a similar-sized toy can result in territorial behavior or masturbation. Be alert to these types of behaviors. You might need to remove the toy.

Because of their curiosity and activity level, lovebirds are particularly adept at making ordinary objects into toys. Unfortunately, this puts them at risk for plenty of accidents in the home, including: suffocation/smashing dangers (bed covers, furniture), hiding in places where they might not be found for a while (infrequently-used drawers, couch cushions) or entanglement (afghans, drapes, rope toys).

Lovebirds Love To Snuggle
Fascinated by tiny spaces that they can crawl into, lovebirds make their way into sleeves, drawers, microwaves, etc. Protect your birds from accidents by giving them approved areas and toys to hide and snuggle into when they want. They also like to hide or play peeking out games from behind a toy. For this purpose, the larger the toy, the better. 

There is no cavity too small for a lovebird to try to explore, no enemy too large to be challenged by this little feathered dragon. These qualities account for a major part of the mystery and enchantment of the lovebird. 

Bird Toys For Every Lovebird
A solitary lovebird with nothing to do might lose interest in almost everything except eating and preening, occasionally even overpreening and destroying feathers. Fortunately, this is extremely rare because of its penchant for finding ways to play.

Gail Hail of Aussie Bird Toys suggests appropriately-sized foot toys as a lovebird’s first toy — even before the bird learns to perch. This introduces safe play with its feet and beak and contributes to the development of coordination. Whether it’s a bit of plastic rope with a bead knotted on it or a tiny wooden dumbbell, a simple foot toy can provide hours of entertainment. Offer your lovebird a daily basket of foot toys.

As your lovebird matures its toy preferences might vary from year to year or even day to day, but always provide it with a good variety to sample.

1) Destructible bird toys appeal to a parrot’s instinct to chew, but use them with caution for lovebirds. The chewing instinct of most lovebirds is probably geared toward the production and collection of nesting material.

Instead, opt for chew toys that don’t come apart in strips. These include leather, sisal and plastic ropes of appropriate length and design; soft woods that splinter; bird-safe materials that break apart in chunks — any items that don’t resemble nesting material. Paper and plastic straws are appropriate unless the bird begins collecting them and using them for nest construction.

2) Sound-related toys create or enhance sounds, which appeal to the lovebird’s instinct to communicate. Bells are unquestionably the most common and easily accessible sound-related toys. I often hear the stainless-steel or nickel-plated “liberty” bells referred to as, “My lovebird's hat,” because many of these little feathered imps like to sit around with their heads in their bells, chattering or napping.

Bird-safe liberty bells are now especially designed for safety with one-piece clappers that drop to the floor when removed by the lovebird. You might also try plastic pipe bells, rattles and clackers with hard plastic beads, because they make sound but create less noise. Lovebirds use toys with cavities of any kind for resonating — for chirping into and listening.

3) Interactive toys appeal to the lovebird’s intellectual and emotional needs. Usually constructed of indestructible or difficult-to-destroy materials, these toys challenge your smart, busy bird. Food or destructible elements incorporated into the design get the bird’s initial attention.

Foraging toys, whether foraging is the primary function of the toy or a small part of its function, offer long-term play opportunities. Lovebird owners sometimes just clip a spray of millet someplace unexpected to encourage their bird’s foraging instinct.

Lovebirds seem exceptionally drawn to snuggling or comfort toys. A piece of soft fabric quickly becomes a buddy for a single-kept lovebird.

Just as they love to snuggle with toys, lovebirds also like to fight them. This surrogate enemy or rival is often metal and probably hangs near the side of the cage where it can be loudly banged against bars. A lovebird might have many surrogate enemy toys. If a toy isn’t a surrogate enemy, it could be a surrogate mate. It might be both.

Many pet birds are attracted to mirrors, but provide these to your lovebird with careful observation. Actual glass mirrors have the potential for both behavioral and physical damage because of their very accurate images, their backing and breakability. Some birds become obsessed with their reflections, sitting in front of them for hours while they talk and show off for their friend. Shiny acrylic, stainless-steel or nickel-plated mirrors are more durable and behaviorally desirable for their indistinct, inaccurate reflections in which the bird can see movement but not another bird.

4) Exercise toys are especially important for lovebirds with trimmed wing feathers to maintain good health and disposition.

Many lovebirds love swings and do so vigorously, almost violently. Some swing front to back in the manner of traditional human swings, but many enjoy swinging side to side or in circles.

Many lovebirds like to hold onto their perches and flap their wings. To facilitate this healthy behavior, outfit your bird’s cage with grippable perches, something small enough to be gripped all the way around rather than simply stood upon.

Although some people don’t allow parrots access to the cage top, I believe that birds with trimmed wing feathers require at least a little time atop the cage to hold bars and flap vigorously. 

Large spirals of stiff cotton rope perch, boings, provide many happy hours of swinging, bouncing and climbing. A boing placed over a toy also provides more opportunities to present toys in interesting ways as well as exercise.

Lovebirds love to bathe and will do so in any manner they see fit — in the sink, the water dish or any bowl of water. Because these bold feathered explorers love water they’ll also hop into a toilet, a half-full glass, a mop bucket or an undrained bathtub — all of which pose drowning hazards. Keep an eye on your bird when its out of the cage.

If the bird’s environment, whether it’s a cage or open perch, provides a companion parrot with a sense of choice, the bird will remain a satisfied, well-adjusted, independent and exploratory individual. I don’t recommend removing any toy that the bird is actively using, because a well-designed toy might retain a bird’s attention until there’s little or nothing left of it.

The world of indoor lovebirds might seem limited in scale, but, thanks to the magic of toys, we can create an almost unlimited potential of exciting things to do.

For monlthy information about pet birds and parrots, subscribe to BIRD TALK Magazine by clicking here.


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