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Why Toys are Important
Many bird owners take great care in providing an enticing and nutritional diet
for their birds.
Additionally, they physically play and cuddle with their birds and spend hours teaching them to talk, sing and whistle. However, many birds belong to a single parent or parents who both work; as a result, they also spend a lot of time alone in their cage.
What does a bird do during the 8-10 hours that (s)he is alone? Many become bored and lethargic; others pick their feathers and/or develop an attitude and act out when Mom or Dad come home.
Providing stimulating and fun toys
is an answer to the above problems by providing the bird with hours of entertainment and exercise, thereby keeping it alert, happy and healthy
As a pet in captivity, birds don't have the opportunity to engage in the activities that they naturally would in the wild. Avian behaviorists who have spent time observing parrots in the wild have reported that playtime ranks second only to food gathering in priority.
Birds have a natural craving to chew and a daily need to forage for food. In the wild, a parrot's behavior is very active and playful. They have been observed stripping bark off trees, biting off and flinging leaves and twigs, swinging from and climbing on vines all the while chattering gleefully with the rest of the flock.
Instinctively, companion birds are still very much like their wild counterparts. Playing with toys is a vital substitute for natural behaviors such as foraging
, nest building and interactions with their flock. Toys and playtime
address several important functions:
- In young birds, playtime is part of the learning process in which birds start to identify textures, colors, shapes and it also helps to develop coordination and dexterity. Exposure to a wide variety of objects at a young age helps to create a more confident, less fearful bird.
- Toys provide an outlet for natural aggression and an opportunity to expend energy through exercise. Instead of directing aggression towards their owners they can instead direct their aggressions towards the toy by shadow boxing, flapping and swinging.
Playtime helps to foster better mental health and a sense of independence. Birds provided with a variety of toys are less self-absorbed and exhibit fewer negative behaviors such as:
- Feather picking and self-mutilation
- Screaming for attention
- Fear of unknown objects
- Aggressiveness towards humans
- Destruction of household furniture, moulding, etc.
promote exercise and therefore physical health and longevity. Birds who play by climbing and swinging on their toys reap the benefits of increased movement.
Playing with and/or chewing toys
also helps with beak and nail conditioning. These activities also provide for "off-perch" time and flexing; which helps with dexterity and foot health. Confinement of parrots without providing outlets for exercise, entertainment and mental challenge will result in boredom, depression, poor physical health and ultimately in an unsuitable pet!
(non-stained/treated) and (non-dyed) leather toys
provide hours of safe chewing fun. Remember, these toys are for your bird so don't become alarmed or upset if over time they destroy them. Chewing is a natural activity for your bird and they should be provided an opportunity to do so. Your bird should own a wide variety of toys but remember it is important to rotate the toys in and out of the cage weekly to stimulate curiosity and prevent boredom.
Safety Precautions for Bird Owners
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FOODS that are dangerous to birds include onions, mushrooms, avocado, guacamole, chocolate, cocoa, alcohol, caffeine, the pits of apricots, peaches, plums, prunes, and seeds of the cherimoya fruit, apple seeds, as well as foods containing large amounts of salt, sugar, grease, preservatives, artificial coloring, and other additives. Moldy foods and under-cooked or raw meat should be avoided as well. Birds are also lactose intolerant so milk products should be limited to very small amounts of cheese and yogurt. Peanuts in the shell can be contaminated with Aspergillus fungus, which can cause respiratory illness as well as producing a toxin (aflatoxin, a potent carcinogen). Shelled, blanched, unsalted peanuts are fine.
treated products, such as Teflon and other name brands of non-stick cookware kill birds by releasing odorless, deadly gases when overheated. PTFE is used in some space heaters, ranges, ovens, stove-top burner bibs or liners, heat lamps, irons, griddles, bread makers, woks, waffle makers, electric skillets, crock pots, popcorn poppers, coffee makers, roasters, curling irons, hair dryers, and more. Check labels before purchasing these items.
SELF CLEANING OVENS
use extremely high heat to burn off oven debris, and in the process create toxic fumes that can harm or kill parrots.
, especially those treated with PTFE emit harmful fumes during cooking that can kill birds. Any substance that releases smoke and/or fumes when heated should be avoided.
, especially when cooking is in progress, are unsafe for birds. The hazards of open flames, hot stoves, open pots of hot food or boiling water are as deadly as smoke or other toxic fumes. Dishwashers can be extremely toxic if a plastic item falls into a heating element during the dry cycle.
Some birds love to walk on the floor and pick up carpet yarn, lick dust, or just march around on the floor. You don't want to step on your feathered friend, so watch where you walk. Recliners or sofas chairs that revolve or recline can also pose a danger to birds. The bird may be walking under the foot-rest and if you should pull it back upright suddenly without looking, you may squash your bird in between the foot-rest of the chair.
COLD & DRAFTS
Keep the bird away from drafty doors, windows, and fans since they easily can become sick if a draft blows on them. A draft is different from just cold air. It cuts a path through warmer air. This is what is hard on birds. If your bird is near a window, make sure it's well insulated. To check it, hold your hand around the edges of the glass to feel for any "threads" of cooler air. Do this a number of times, particularly when it is windy outside, to make sure you haven't missed a drafty spot.
Even though many of our birds originate from very warm climates, over exposure to heat can be very harmful. If they are left in the sun with no place to escape the heat, they could easily become dehydrated and die. If you want to take your bird out for some fresh air, do not leave him out for long periods of time. As the sun goes across the sky, your bird may become trapped in direct sunlight. Also, you should never leave your bird alone in a vehicle in warm weather.
is not necessary for parrots and can cause impaction of the digestive system.
IMPORTED CERAMIC CROCKS
often contain toxic metals that can leach into bird food and water. Stainless steel, Pyrex and other glass is safer to use.
HALOGEN LIGHT FIXTURES
create extreme heat and can kill birds that land on them. Choose only bird-safe light fixtures for your home.
made of walnut shells or corn cobs can cause life-threatening impaction if ingested by your birds. They also harbor fungal spores and mold when soiled or wet. Newspaper is safer.
such as zinc, lead, copper, and iron can cause metal toxicosis if ingested by birds. Some sources include house keys, (especially gold colored keys), galvanized wire, lead-based paints, metallic paints, paints containing zinc, linoleum, vinyl mini-blinds, foil, lead weights, bells with lead clappers, stained glass, some improperly-glazed ceramics, costume jewelry, mirror backing, copper pennies, zinc oxide, artist paints containing cadmium, and cardboard or paper with high gloss inks. Aviary wire treated with zinc is also dangerous.
and other styptic products should never be applied to avian skin. They are safe for bleeding toenails when broken or cut too short, but they destroy skin. For broken or pulled blood feathers, either cornstarch or flour are safer. Aloe gel can be applied first to help the flour or cornstarch to adhere to the wound and to help with pain and healing.
(and many other pets) are a danger to birds. Cats commonly have Pasteurella bacteria as part of their natural flora. Even if your cat just bats your bird with its paw or gets saliva on your bird, you could end up with a dead bird. The slightest cat scratch can infect birds with the Pasteurella bacteria and immediate vet treatment is required to save the bird's life. Never allow birds to interact with ANY pet without close supervision.
FLEA COLLARS AND SPRAYS
for dogs and cats emit toxins into the air and should not be used in bird homes. Lice shampoo also contains dangerous toxins and should never be used on birds.
PESTICIDE SPRAYS, NO-PEST STRIPS, AND FOGGERS
poison the air and can kill birds. Safer solutions are roach traps, ant bait, and other solid insect poisons that can be safely secured in the back of cabinets and other areas that are inaccessible to birds.
for flying insects should always be enclosed in old cages or other containers accessible to insects but out of the reach of birds and other pets. Citrus oil or peanut butter can be used to safely remove sticky substances from feathers.
should be checked routinely each month to prevent flight-related accidents. Wing-clipped birds can often fly well enough outside with the natural air currents so they should be protected by a harness, leash, or carrier when taken outside.
TRANSPARENT AND REFLECTIVE SURFACES
like glass windows doors, and mirrors should be shown to flighted birds. Many birds can be trained to avoid large expanses of glass by repeatedly holding the bird on your hand and imitating flight toward the glass and then lightly pressing their beak, feet, and body against the surfaces. Decals can be used as a visible reminder. Blinds or curtains can also protect your bird from flying into window glass
should not be turned on in homes with flighted birds.
to birds are open windows and doors, hot pots and stove burners, open containers of water (sinks, toilets, tubs, boiling water), glue guns, hot tea or coffee, cigarettes, poisonous or thorny houseplants, electrical wires, medication, insect bait traps, and many other toxic substances.
, both new and used, should be cleaned and examined for loose parts that could lodge in a bird's throat. Loose strings and threads can trap and cut off circulation to necks, wings, legs, and toes. Use only stainless steel, or nickel plated (not zinc) quick links as toy fasteners and never use strings, chains or ropes long enough to wrap around a birds' neck or other body parts. Also to be sure to tightly close all the quick links on the toys. If left open they can get caught in their beak.
such as cedar and redwood are toxic to birds and cannot be used in cages, aviaries, or nest boxes. Newspaper is a safe cage liner and pine or aspen shavings are safer nest box substrate.
PRESSURE TREATED LUMBER
, conventional plywood, and particle board contain a variety of toxic substances. Untreated pine boards are a safer choice.
and fertilizer including "fertilizer spikes" can poison birds so they should be kept out of their reach. Some of the most common poisonous houseplants are azalea, oleander, castor bean, sago palm, yew plants, dieffenbachia (dumb cane), asparagus fern, daffodils, flower bulbs, mistletoe, poinsettia, philodendron, and potato sprouts or "eyes". Choose only non-poisonous plants for bird homes.
CIGARETTES, CIGARS, PIPES, AND OTHER SMOKING SUBSTANCES
should never be used in air space shared by birds. Passive inhalation of smoke, including smoke from burning incense, damages the sensitive avian respiratory system, eyes and skin. Nicotine can settle on perches and other cage surfaces and cause the self-mutilation of feet and legs in sensitive birds, especially Amazon parrots.ESSENTIAL OILS
and potpourri oils should never be used in the breathing space of parrots. Perfume, hairspray, and other aerosolized grooming products can damage the avian respiratory system.
, including plug-in air fresheners and scented sprays are considered unsafe. Bird deaths from using Febreze in the home have been reported so until new research proves it safe, do not use it in bird homes. To safely freshen the air, simmer spices like cinnamon, cloves, vanilla, and citrus rinds and provide fresh outdoor air whenever possible.
release toxins when burned, so only unscented candles should be used in bird homes. (Be aware of the open flame). Beeswax candles are generally safe and unscented unless they are imported and contain lead wicks.
CARPET POWDERS AND SPRAYS
such as Carpet Fresh, as well as similar treatments for upholstery (like Febreze), often contain toxins which are dispersed into the air when they are vacuumed so they should never be used in bird homes. Carpets can be cleaned safely with solutions of water and baking soda, vinegar, or Grapefruit Seed Extract.
CLEANING AND DISINFECTING PRODUCTS
like pine oil, ammonia, mold and mildew cleaners, toilet bowl cleaners, drain cleaners, furniture polish, oven cleaners, dishwasher detergents, furniture polish, car cleaning products, and laundry products, including bleach, can irritate or burn the skin, eyes and respiratory tract of birds when used in their air space. Spray starch is also toxic to birds.
HOME IMPROVEMENT PRODUCTS
that create fumes include fresh paint, new carpet, drapes, furniture and flooring that uses toxic glues. The outgassing of toxic chemicals from new furnishings, paints, solvents, adhesives, various finishes, and other building materials are sometimes described as the "new smell" and can damage the avian respiratory system.
and natural remedies containing tea tree oil, which contains the oil of the melaleuca tree, as well as all over-the-counter medications should be kept out of the reach of parrots.
MOLDon food or in the air is dangerous to parrots. Aspergillus mold can cause the deadly disease, aspergillosis. It can grow on improperly handled and stored foods, especially grains such as corn. Excessive moisture in bathrooms promotes the growth of various molds in homes.
is an odorless, colorless, tasteless gas produced by furnaces and other heaters. Birds in poorly ventilated, heated areas are at high risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. It robs the blood of oxygen and can be particularly harmful to animals and humans with heart ailments when inhaled at levels often found indoors.
DRY CLEANED CLOTHING
should be aired outside or in an airspace not shared by birds until there is no remaining odor. The chemical "perc" (perchloroethylene) causes cancer in lab animals.
contain paradichlorobenzene. It also is found in toilet disinfectants and in deodorizers, and it causes cancer in lab animals.
should be avoided by quarantining all new birds from your existing flock or companion birds for one to three months. Taking birds to bird fairs, swap shops and other bird gatherings can expose them to deadly, incurable diseases
contains pathogens and bacteria that are deadly to birds. Never allow a bird to place its beak in your mouth or nose, nor to "clean your teeth". Never allow a bird to have any of your chewed food.
is important to the prevention of bacterial infections. Wash your hands frequently when working with birds and preparing their food and dishes.
EMERGENCY INFORMATION AND INSTRUCTIONS
should be left with your caregivers when you are away. Leave your vet's contact information as well as hotline numbers near the phone and advise your caregiver about potential emergencies and what to do.
When in doubt, ask for help
. We sincerely wish you a long, happy and healthy relationship with your bird!
You may also want to review dangerous plants for your bird
Check here for a useful guide on toy safety