Many pet bird toys and accessories are fashioned of rope. Rope perches provide secure, comfortable footing for pet birds. Because the rope does not conduct cold, it makes a good cool-weather perch. Rope toys are intriguing to most parrots and can also provide a diversion for pet birds inclined to pluck their feathers .
When rope accessories first appeared on the market about 20 years ago, there were a lot of parrot-related injuries associated with them, as pet birds became entangled in the strands of rope. Some parrots even managed to manipulate the rope and get caught between the coils. These products have improved over the years because manufacturers listened to pet bird owners and have made them safer. Rope perches and swings are now so tightly wound that it is unusual for a bird to become trapped between the coils. Many toys also feature shorter lengths of rope to reduce the risk of entanglement. Often, rope is not the main component of a toy, but merely a fastening device for wood parts. Many feature multiple knots to pique a pet bird’s interest.
While most birds use rope toys and accessories without incident, synthetic and cotton rope or string can be hazardous to pet birds under certain circumstances. The big difference between nylon, other synthetics and cotton is that synthetic fibers are stronger and usually finer than cotton, and this may make it more difficult for a bird to become disentangled if it gets caught in the strands. Fine, synthetic fibers can escape detection if wrapped around a little leg or toe. I’ve heard stories about finches and canaries getting human hair or synthetic nesting material wound around their legs as well. If you notice your bird limping or favoring one leg, investigate the cause immediately.
How can you reduce the risk of injury to your bird? Follow these pet bird tips:
- Examine rope perches carefully prior to purchase. Be sure that rope perches are tightly wound. Check the length of rope on toys. Shorter lengths are less likely to ensnare toes and legs. Examine the knots and avoid anything that looks like a noose. Be sure hardware is safe. Avoid dog-leash style snap-hooks and shower-curtain style hooks.
- Purchase the correct size rope perch for your bird. Ask your pet shop professional for advice.
- Observe your bird with the rope perch until you are sure it can interact safely with the item.
- If you are unsure about its safety, remove the rope perch or toy from the cage when you are going to be out of earshot. My African grey parrot, Bert, plays happily with rope and wood toys on his playgym instead of inside his cage.
- Discard rope perches and toys when they become heavily soiled or badly frayed.
- Keep your pet bird’s toenails trimmed so that they do not become caught in strands of rope.
- Observe your pet bird to ensure it is not actually ingesting bits of rope or string, because a crop impaction or digestive emergency can result. Avian veterinarian Robert Monaco of Long Island, NY, cautions that synthetics do not break down in the gut.
- There is no toy or rope perch that is 100-percent safe for all birds all the time. Know your bird and choose its toys and accessories carefully and regularly check them to ensure they are safe.
- Supervise, supervise, supervise!