Budgies, cockatiels and other small birds need bird toys in their cage so they'll be happy and healthy.
"Birds are intelligent animals and, as such, need methods of providing outlets for natural behaviors, such as chewing, foraging, problem solving, physical activity, climbing, shredding and destroying,” said Ohio’s Chrys Meatyard, who has raised budgies and cockatiels for 18 years.
Greg Burkett, DVM, Dipl. AVBP, described foraging as "the most important play behavior one can encourage their bird to do.” There are many toys and more coming out that encourage this behavior, he added.
Variety is the spice of life for birds, too, especially when it comes to toys. "You may have to try different types of toys until you discover what your bird enjoys,” Meatyard said. "Start out with two or three toys. Don’t overcrowd the cage with toys so that the bird doesn’t have enough room!”
Some toys are ideal for small parrots, and many of them tend to like ladders. Meatyard has found that her flock really enjoys the colorful, acrylic link toys that come in different sizes. "My ‘keets like the bigger links better because they can sit in or climb through the big links, whereas with the smaller size, they mainly climb on them. ‘Tiels and lovies seem to like the smaller size because they can get a better grip on them.”
Selecting toys isn’t all fun and games. Some that look fun can be dangerous, and toys aren’t fun anymore when they cause a trip to the vet. "Some birds remove and swallow the clasps in bells, and some toys can be made of toxic materials,” Meatyard warned. "When deciding on a toy, look at it carefully for ways your bird might become injured or hurt before making your final selection. I recommend leather over string and chains in toys because of potential hazards.”
Looking for a decoration that might do double duty as a toy? A bird-safe plant might do the trick. "Live plants help produce a healthy environment for parrots, as well as people. However, the use of plants can have drawbacks, depending on the individual situation,” said Meatyard. ”Parrots love plants. They like to chew on them, they will perch on their leaves/branches if they have access to them, they will dig in the dirt of plants and eventually destroy most live plants.”
The challenge lies in the location. "Hanging plants and plants that sit on furniture are most susceptible to parrot destruction,” Meatyard said. "Hanging plants also pose another problem in that if a parrot can climb up the hanging planter to the ceiling, it might chew the ceiling itself. This can result in a toxic hazard for your parrot.”
Another item that does double duty is a playgym. Ones for small birds are easy to carry from room to room so your bird can get some out-of-cage time in a different room with you.
"Good features on a playgym are toys to pull at, like beads on strands of rawhide, ladders to access perches, feed bowls or cups and mirrors,” said Diane Grindol, a BirdChannel columnist.
Want to learn more about bird toys?
Pet Bird Toys & Safety
Make Bird Toys Exciting For Your Bird