Play Time
It's important that you schedule a daily, supervised "play time" outside of its cage for your bird. Many cages have play areas on top; some people have separate "T-stands" for their birds to play on. During its time out, the bird should play with you and your family and have "alone time" to play with a variety of safe bird toys on its own. This schedule helps keeps your bird hand tame and emotionally healthy.

Your bird should also have a couple of toys inside its cage to entertain it while you're away. Buy several and rotate them every week so your bird won't get bored. Your pet store can help you choose from safe, brightly-colored acrylic, hard-wood and leather toys. Avoid old-fashioned "jingle bell" toys and "key ring" type fasteners since they're infamous for trapping bird toes and beaks. (Ask for bird-safe "quick links" at your pet store.) Rope and fabric toys, which are great pacifiers for young birds and create the perfect diversion for "feather pluckers," should be supervised and discarded when overly frayed. (If your bird's nails are overgrown, take it to your bird groomer or vet for a nail clipping before you let it play with fabric or rope toys.)

It's a good idea to supervise your bird the first few times it plays with any new toy to be sure it's appropriate and safe for your pet. Be aware that some birds may be frightened of new things, while others may rush to play with anything that resembles fun.

If you have other pets, they should be removed from the room during play time. Dog and cat saliva is lethal to birds; neither species should ever be allowed to "play" with your bird. Species such as snakes, lizards and ferrets may see your bird as an appetizing snack -- keep these pets caged while your birds are playing and make sure they don't have access to your bird's cage at any time.

Before you begin training your bird, make sure its wings are clipped. Unless you are experienced, do not try to clip your bird's wings yourself -- ask a qualified bird groomer at your pet store or an avian (bird) veterinarian to do it for you. Clipping a bird's wings is not cruel; it helps it remain tame and safe; an unclipped bird can easily become frightened and fly into a window  wall or even onto a lighted stove. Be aware, however, that even a bird whose wings have been clipped can fly to a certain extent. (Slender, long-tailed birds such as cockatiels, budgies and macaws are exceptionally strong flyers even when they're clipped.) Never answer the door or walk outside with your bird on your shoulder ...and be sure all your windows have screens!

Bring your bird out of its cage by offering your index finger (for a small bird) or your entire hand, fingers together in a vertical position (for a large bird), and firmly say the word "up" while gently moving your finger/hand towards its abdomen. It will take a while for your bird to catch on, but in time it will understand that "up" means to get on your finger or hand immediately. If it nips or bites, simply repeat the "up" command again firmly. Never hit your bird; they don't learn from physical discipline, they learn from love and repetition.

The "up" command is crucial because it lets the bird know that you're in charge. And if your bird is ever in a dangerous situation and you need to get it out of harm's way, the "up" command could save its life.

Frequently Asked Questions About Bird Toys

Q. What size toy do I need for my bird?
Well, a big bird needs a big toy, and a small bird, a small toy. If you give the bird the wrong-sized toy, injury is possible. Most toys are labeled for small, medium, large, and extra-large birds.

Q. What kind of toy should I buy?
Depends on the bird. Some love bells, some like twirly, spinning toys, some like rawhide leather to chew on. Some prefer "hand-held" toys over those that hang from the cage. Wood is a good choice for any bird, it exercises the beak. Fabric is excellent for feather-pluckers. It all depends on your bird, and sometimes, finding the right kind of toy can be a hit-or-miss endeavor.

Q. How many toys should the bird have?
The bird should have a variety of toys, but only two or so in the cage at a time. Rotate the toys about every two to three weeks so the bird doesn't get bored.

Q. Can my bird learn to do tricks?
Birds can be taught to do behaviors such as basketball, roller skating etc. While all species can be taught successfully, individuals may vary in their willingness to learn. The key to success is regular training sessions, patience, repetition and rewards.

Q. My bird seems terrified of the new toy, what do I do?
Some birds can be suspicious of any new thing, including toys. It seems that a lot of African Greys are like this. The best thing to do is to put the toy on the floor of the cage orplaypen. When the bird starts poking at it and taking and interest, then try hanging it up.

***HELP! My bird HATES the twenty dollar toy I bought for it!***
Try putting it on the floor of the cage (see previous question). If this doesn't work, then you're pretty much out twenty dollars. Taste is a personal thing, and birds definitely do have preferences. Don't be upset or mad at the bird if it didn't like what you picked out. And definitely do not stop giving your bird toys!

Q. One bird chews, one bird plucks. Are there any special toys for them?
For chewers, try wood toys, if they destroy that, try an acrylic, which will last longer. Manzanita wood is really hard, too. Try toys by Manzanita Munchies and Naughty Acrylics(TM).For pluckers, try rope toys, like Byrdy Cable(r) by Booda Bone(TM) or the Polly Dolly(TM) by Lucia. The Polly Dolly(TM) has lots of different colors and cloth to pick at.

Q. How do I clean the toys?
A mild soap and warm water will usually do the trick. Rinse and rinse and rinse, and then dry well.

Q. What are some dangers of toys?
Hanging, either by getting caught in a clip used to attach the toy, (avoid those metal shower curtain hangers) or by getting wrapped up in a leather strip, or a getting hooked in a chain. Fibers from rope and cloth toys can be wrapped around toes, cutting off circulation and resulting in the loss of a toe or even a foot. If the toy is shoddily made from cheap materials, it might break off, and parts could be ingested. Paint might be toxic. Make certain that the clapper in the bell cannot be pulled out and eaten. Make sure the bell, clapper or other metal toys do not contain lead or lead paint. Be careful how you attach a toy. Some birds can unscrew C-links and might tighten them onto a toe or their tongue. Others seem to alway get tangled in hanging ropes or chains. If this is the case, give your bird a "hand-held" toy when you can't be around, and carefully observe playtime with hanging toys.

Q. Can I use some household items for toys?
Sure. Paper towel *tubes* seem to be resounding favorites, and they're cheap! Ping-pong balls are popular, along with ball-point pen tubes (with the ink cartridge removed) We have a ten-speed set up as an exercise bike in the living room, and our four birds love to "go biking" more than anything. Plastic measuring spoons and cups work well, and Josie the cockatiel loves to play with the plastic caps to soda bottles. But one of the best ideas has to come from Larry J. Brackney who writes:

     "My  wife and I are  firm believers  in giving our birds baby toys
      They  are  typically  MUCH cheaper than  bird toys, and generally
      hard to destroy.   All  of our  birds  love  interlocking plastic
      toys: hearts, fish, etc.   And you  can buy  them at discount and
      toy stores."

     "We also have good luck getting toys at  the local Goodwill.  They
      usually have a bin of $0.25 baby toys (plastic doo-dads, teething
      rings, etc.)  We usually pick through  them,  and try to pick out
      toys without small parts that can be broken and swallowed.   Once
      home, we wash and sterilize the toys."

Birdwalk Enterprises
P.O. Box 1555
Hollister, CA. 95024
(831) 637-4047
We sell trick toys for your birds!
Busy Beaks
P.O Box 179
El Paso
Texas 79942-0179 USA
Phone: (915) 842-0663
Fax: (915) 842-0664
Fowl Play
108 Charmont Dr.
Radford, VA 24141-4205
(540)731-3186 or (540)639-0764(fax)
Good Bird Toys
P.O. Box 130497
Ann Arbor, MI 48113
Toll-Free 888.855.TOYS
"Premium, Customized Handcrafted Bird Toys"
K.C. Chew Toys
located in Maine
Phone (207) 772-2651
FAX (207) 879-1419
Li'l Tweets (toys for small birds)
34822 South Rivals Rd.
Wilmington, Ill. 60481
(815) 476-2772
One Touch of Nature
9216 Easton Ct.
Manassas, VA 20110
Phone: (703) 330-7329
FAX: (703) 365-7909
Parrot Pleasures
P.O. Box 483
Orange Park, Fl. 32067-0483
Phone: (904) 264-8410 -10 am to 10pm EST
Fax: (904) 264-8410  
Pet Bird Xpress
3330 Seldon Court - Unit 3
Fremont, CA 94539
800-729-7734 or 510-659-1030
Fax: 510-440-1173
"Unique & Extraordinary Products for Pet Birds and Their Humans"
Polly Dolly Texture Toy
P.O. Box 701692
San Antonia, TX. 78270
Sonny Days Bird Toys
1019 Arbogast
Griffith, Indiana 46319
(219) 923-6492
Thee Birdie Bordello
526 West 182nd Street
Gardena, CA 90248
Voice: 310-323-4788
Fax: 310-323-2941