I write a lot about enrichment, and that includes pets other than cats and dogs. Here’s what my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker, and I told a reader who wanted to make life joyful for her new parrot.
Q: I just got a yellow-naped Amazon parrot. What are some good toys for him?
A: Parrots are so bright and quick! Toys are a wonderful way to stimulate their highly intelligent brains, give appropriate physical exercise and keep boredom at bay, reducing the risk of health and behavior problems.
Appropriate toys encourage and facilitate natural bird behaviors such as exploring, taking things apart and foraging. Climbing, swinging and perching are important elements of play for parrots. Flexible rope perches are good for climbing, chewing and foot workouts.
Look for puzzle toys that hold food pellets, nuts or treats and require your bird to manipulate pieces to get at the goodies. Known as foraging, this is natural bird behavior and should be encouraged.
Other toys are made with shreddable fibers, paper and other materials your bird can pick apart as if he were foraging for nesting material or investigating a natural environment. Don’t think of these toys as a waste of money if your bird destroys them in a day; they offer foot and beak exercise and physical and mental stimulation. More important, they discourage unwanted destructive behavior and fulfill your bird’s normal needs.
Birds are attracted by movement, bright colors, unusual textures and interesting shapes. Look for toys that twirl, are shiny, can be chewed or make fun noises.
You can make toys from things you have around the house. Finished with that newspaper? Place it at the top of your bird’s cage so the pages fall through the bars and let your Amazon shred it. Birds love to demolish cardboard boxes. Choose one of an appropriate size and let him go to town on it.
Offer several types of toys, and rotate a couple out every week so your bird always has something different to tease his birdie brain.
There’s more – including what to do when your cat won’t eat – in Pet Connection, the weekly nationally syndicated pet feature I co-write with Kim Campbell Thornton and my daughter, trainer Mikkel Becker.