Blue and gold macaw playing with hanging parrot toy while laughing.

How to Choose the Right Parrot Toys

How to Choose the Right Parrot Toys

An unemployed parrot is a frustrated parrot. The word, toy, misrepresents what's going on in a bird's brain. They think employment opportunities. Parrot toys are irreplaceable, mandatory, and are going to be destroyed.

In their wild instinct, our companion parrots need to constantly be analyzing, searching, upgrading, communicating, sharing, building, discarding, compiling, acquiring, and procreating in their world. Out there, it's a big world. There's a lot to consider and even more to investigate. In our house, not so much. And yet, they wake up every morning with these instincts that scream, "LET'S GO!"

You can see how a parrot may seem poorly behaved in a human environment. How do they know that rattan chair isn't for nesting and sheltering material? Of course, they go into the dog water bowl, it's water.

A toy by any other name, is still employment.

The parrot toy industry has categorized toys for the buyer:

  • Foraging
  • Educational
  • Natural 
  • Chewing
  • Shredding
  • Preening 
  • Unbreakable
  • Refillable
  • Reusable
  • Foot
  • Beak
  • Edible

The labels tell us what the toy is meant to provide. Ultimately the parrots tell us what it's really providing.

Toys, and the amount required, is directly impacted by the amount of time your parrot is alone in a cage. Toy needs are also affected by the parrot's age, and personality. There are parrots who could care less about toys and would rather change locations regularly and ponder the world. There are parrots who cannot sit still to save themselves. They must always be working on something.

How Do you Judge a Toy?

You don't. They do. Bring home a foot toy, if your bird throws it on the floor and ignores it, try taking that rejected foot toy and attach it to an already hanging toy in their cage. Modify your idea to their requirement.

  • Do they need to fly with a toy in their foot?
  • Do they prefer traveling by foot dragging a toy on the floor?
  • Do they dunk toys in their water bowl?
  • Prefer hanging toys?
  • Like banging, clanging, noisy hanging things?
  • Drop and retrieve toys just to hear the crash or clunk?

What of naturally derived materials toys? Are they better?

That depends on where and how they came to be, and how they were handled.

  • What glue was used to get that mass of fun put together?
  • What coloring?
  • Most grass, bamboo, cork, etc. toys were imported in parts and assembled here, or those buyers purchased in mass bulk imported already assembled from the Pacific markets.
  • Made in the USA isn't a guarantee that the individual elements are from the US, conversely made in China is also not a guarantee the parts were individually derived from China. We are a global community and parrot toys have always been a parts import driven industry.
  • Some materials are not native to the States and can never be grown here.

Better to judge a toy by material quality, value of play, metals safety, and design for life expectancy.

    Check the wood. Cork, balsa, and soft woods. Awesome for the little guys, but medium to large parrots will destroy these toys in a matter of minutes. There is soft and hard pine wood for these guys. Look closely at the wood chunks. Where is the grain of the wood going? Think woodworker thoughts. The closer the lines of the wood, the closer that wood came from the heart of the tree. Heart wood is tough stuff. Know your wood grains. Colored wood isn't mandatory, unless your bird says it is.

    Consider Value of Play. The quantity of ways your parrot can play with a toy is its value of play. Parrots do not play or think linear. Consider hanging toys that offer climbing, hanging, chewing, and hiding variables. Parts that offer foot holds, parts that offer an item to hide behind, parts that offer chewing while hanging upside down. We see a hanging toy as a simple vertical item. They see it from all angles and all options. The more the better.

    Check that metal. Hooks, rings, and locking mechanisms are generally made of metals. Unless it claims stainless steel, it is not. Watch those elements and when they show deterioration, throw them in the recycle bin.

    Understand Toy Life Expectancy.  The lifespan of a parrot toy is directly related to the sum of its parts. In the end, a toy with a long life could be a toy that wasn't loved in life. (Outside of stainless steel of course.) Expect destruction!  Embrace this as a seal of approval, and a job well done by you. Natural material toys will not live through any of this.

    Find your parrot's Arch Nemesis. All parrots appreciate one toy that is their arch nemesis. The toy that needs fighting, murdering, and conquering every day. You can't shop for this toy specifically, but one day, you will bring one in that is chosen as the coveted "beat it up, smash it up, scream at it" toy.

    When that toy is chosen, go back and get a couple more. Once an arch nemesis is named, they rarely fall out of favor. And the nemesis never changes.

    Kathy LaFollett is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

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