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Updated: Jun 4, 2022

I am blown away every time I venture online and look at the parrot toys that are out there for sale, from all over this country and the world. The toys are original, creative, colorful, engaging enrichment, and many are very expensive. But sometimes it’s not feasible to spend a lot of money on parrot toys, and now, (trust me, I know!) shipping parrot toys, especially ones that have size and weight to them, can add a huge chunk of change to the cost. It can be prohibitive for some parrot owners.

If you are in the parrot toy making business, it is an unspoken given that you don’t copy others’ designs and resell as your own original work, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from looking at a toy, imagining it with modifications for their own birds, and then making something similar for their bird with what materials are on hand. These parrot toy businesses and their designs can be inspirational for those of us who love to make toys for our own flocks. If we can’t afford the prices, we can at least glean ideas from what we see and adapt what we can. Chances are though, if you are not in the toy making business, having all of the supplies that you see in a pre-made toy are not in your arsenal of toy parts. I’m here to say, that’s ok.

Let’s just be honest: we ALL want to have really colorful wooden blocks, in a variety of sizes, chunky wooden beads, in a variety of sizes, leather strips, bells, in a variety of sizes, parts, parts, and more cool parts for our birds’ toys. And again, I’m here to let you know that keeping a well-stocked inventory of toy making materials is an expensive endeavor. Inventory…way over-rated.

WE want symmetry. WE want spic and span new toy parts. We want our birds’ cages and play areas to display a variety of enrichment that looks straight out of Parrot Vogue. But let’s be honest, do our birds really care about all that stuff or do they just want something that engages their brains, their beaks, their feet? My money is on they just want to be engaged and busy. How can you do this?

You don’t have to be the original, creative toy maker. You don’t have to be gifted at this. Your birds don’t care. Simple is good enough. Not new (but cleaned up and re-configured) is good enough. Not colorful is good enough. Not symmetrical is good enough. A bit chewed on (or “loved” as we refer to it) can also be good enough. Your birds will just love exploring and having something to do.

There are only two criteria here for making toys for birds: 1) Is it safe? and 2) Is it size/species appropriate? Please, with a guilt-free conscience, take “Is it absolutely perfect?” off of the list.

What can you use then if you don’t have oodles of money to spend on toy parts or new toys? Get that pile of old bird toys out, clean everything that is still safe and usable. (And don’t ever throw out an old bird toy without giving it a complete post-mortem inspection. That means take it apart, examine all of the pieces, and salvage as many parts as you can to be recycled into your upcoming “good enough” creations.) Sort what parts you have into foundations (or potential foundations), ropes, chain, beads, quick links, beads, O rings, etc. Keep everything organized in Ziplock bags or Rubbermaid Take-Away containers or clear shoeboxes. And then, check your home for clean cardboard (possibly packing material in Amazon boxes or the Amazon boxes themselves). Get a sharp utility knife and cut some cardboard shapes. You now have a great starting place to provide worthy enrichment for your birds.

Here’s an example: Take a few of your salvaged toy pieces, a chunk or two of cardboard, and string it all on a bit of sisal rope, tie knots on the ends and voila! a foot toy. Toss that into a small box at the bottom of your bird’s cage (out of the way of projectile droppings if possible) or drop it into a hanging bucket on the side of the cage. Your bird will love it.

There are an abundance of options for you and your birds in case you just don’t have piles of toy pieces laying around. I’ll be posting ideas for you with short videos on how you can Get Creative for your flock with what you do already have on hand, even new parrot owners.

And remember: beautiful new parrot toys are awesome, but sometimes that isn’t an option for us for a variety of reasons. Our birds need a constant source of enrichment and good enough is really good enough.

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