Bird toys of different shapes, sizes and textures are great for a parrot’s curiosity.
Chances are, most all of us remember our favorite toys from childhood. My favorites were model horses and coloring book, but puzzles were at the very top of that list. My prancing plastic ponies took me on all sorts of imaginary rides, and those coloring books beckoned their lines to be filled with my rainbow assortment of crayons, but nothing could truly capture my attention more than trying to figure out what piece went where in a puzzle.
The inquisitive natures that we have as children are not so dissimilar than that of our parrots. After all, most of our parrots are really just 5-year olds in feather suits! In studying my own parrots over the years and how they interact with bird toys, I came up with three personality “types” where play is involved, as well as certain types of toys best suited to each type.
Here are a few tips on discovering what type of toys are best suited for your type of parrot:
1. Parrot Playtime Personality: The Wallflower
Oh, the shy demure Wallflower — ever content to hide behind something, whether real or imagined, and watch the world go by. The Wallflower gets very used to their environment “just as it is,” and is easily intimidated by anything new.
Placing a new toy into The Wallflower’s cozy little world can often be traumatic because The Wallflower is easily threatened by “change.” And although change can actually be good for this personality type, HOW something is introduced to The Wallflower is very important.
It’s not the size, shape, or color of the toy that is important to The Wallflower; it’s WHERE you put it. Initially the farther away it is, the better. And sometimes “farther away” means clear across the room. Being able to see a new object from a distance is much less intimidating to the Wallflower-type. They need time to study and come to the conclusion that this new “thing” is not going to devour themŠeven if the parrot-eating toy/monster is no bigger than a ping-pong ball.
Once The Wallflower becomes accustomed to a new bird toy from far away, then it can be moved closer. Wallflowers are keen observers by nature, and their curiosity — as well as their confidence — can often be engaged by seeing you or other parrots interacting with a toy that they might be initially afraid to approach themselves.
The Wallflower usually does well at first with smaller forage-type bird toys that allow them to shred or pull apart little pieces. This is a great confidence-builder and also prepares them for larger toys later on. My timneh African Grey, Petrie, is a classic Wallflower, and his all-time favorite toy is a small stainless foraging toy stuffed full of crinkly paper that he can pick, pick, pick at all day long.
Placing a new toy into The Wallflower’s cozy little world can often be traumatic because The Wallflower is easily threatened by change.
Wallflowers can also take FOREVER to interact with a new toy, even when they are comfortable with it inside their own house.
It took Petrie almost THREE YEARS to play with the plastic ring jungle gym I made for him. I had hung all sorts of fun things from it; wiffle balls, shreddable toys, little blocks of wood, bird-safe bells, you name it. Of course, each little item had to be introduced individually from afar before I could put it all together. And then once I hung it up in his bird cage, he proceeded to completely ignore it.
One afternoon I heard Petrie working on his latest word, “Hey.” Everything that week had begun with “Hey.” I looked over where Petrie normally sat only to discover that he was not where he was supposed to be.
I decided to take a closer look inside Petrie’s cage where I discovered him quietly hanging upside down from his formerly feared jungle gym. He looked at me matter-of-factly. “Hey.” After three years, Petrie had decided that the plastic ring jungle gym and everything on it was safe and worthy of playing on.
If your parrot is a Wallflower-type, be prepared to be extremely patient regarding their desire to play. Just because they won? look at or interact with a toy at first does not mean that they are not interested in it. They probably are, but in their world, feeling safe is of utmost importance and play is secondary, and sometimes it takes a little while — or a long while — for both of those things to happen.
2. Parrot Playtime Personality: The Destroyer
“Wrecking Crew, Party of ONE…” That’s the motto of The Destroyer. Unlike The Wallflower, The Destroyer can’t WAIT to get their beak into a new bird toy, and there is absolutely NO need for acclimation from afar. You’ll be lucky if you can get it completely out of the package.
Some of the best bird toys for The Destroyer are ones that take a lot of work to tear up. Appropriately sized chunks of safe wood, natural leather, tightly woven palm leaves with other toys hidden inside, chewable soft (and safe) plastics and knotted cotton or sisal rope are all good things to start with. The more difficult something is to demolish, the more focused The Destroyer’s energy and attention will be on it versus looking around your house to see what they can turn into teeny little toothpicks.
Unlike The Wallflower, The Destroyer can’t WAIT to get their beak into a new bird toy, and there is absolutely NO need for acclimation from afar.
Puzzle toys can also be extremely effective in channeling the energy of The Destroyer. Heavy-duty acrylic puzzle toys are great for several reasons:
- They make playtime an absolute challenge for extremely inquisitive parrots.
- They are virtually indestructible, which is great from an economical standpoint because let’s face it; parrot toys aren’t cheap, especially when you have a Destroyer in your home.
- They can be filled with all sorts of things from shreddable paper to yummy treats, creating variety and interest each and every time.
3. Parrot Playtime Personality: The Clown
Clowns are the McGyvers of the parrot world, turning anything into something magical and fun.
Content with the most mundane object, The Clown plays happily and endlessly. Much like a human child, they have a never-ending supply of imagination. A simple plastic milk jug cap becomes a fancy tambourine, a very effective head scratcher, an extremely dapper top hat, and even a nice little scoop to happily fling water and/or food out of their bowls with.
The Clown rarely destroys their bird toys, and can sometimes be found having very pleasant little conversations with the former plastic cap, now imaginary friend. Unlike The Destroyer, the goal of The Clown is usually not to tear something apart, but apparently to develop a quaint little relationship with it.
Foot toys seem to be the most preferred for The Clown, because they are very “tactile” oriented and like to hold smaller, different shaped toys in their feet. They will often wave their toys around like they are conducting an orchestra.
Sometimes a favorite toy will often be tucked up under a wing. I have seen Petrie scratch his head with a dry rotini noodle and then stick it under his wing just in case he needs it later. He tried doing the same thing with an ice cubeŠonce.
It’s important to remember that once parrots becomes confident with new toys in their environment, they may migrate between these three playtime personality types instead of always remaining tentative, bold, or down right silly in their methods of play. It just takes time and patience on our part to allow them to develop their play styles with toys that bring out their curious, imaginative, and sometimes destructive natures.