The cage may be your pet bird’s home within your home, but its playgym is its mobile home; your pet bird’s personal perch-on-the-go. A playgym gives your pet bird mobility in the sense that when you take your pet bird with you in a room of your house, even if you are happily holding it, you’ll eventually want to safely perch it somewhere.
This is where parrots are different from cats and dogs as pets; your cat or dog can follow you around without a problem — your pet bird flying after you and either landing on your head or the first spot its sees (the top of a curtain rod, a lamp shade, the little overhang on crown molding, etc.) can be a problem. Your lap dog can snooze on your lap while you finish your mystery novel; your parrot on your lap, however, might just rip its way through the pages (and, depending on the pages, you might never know how the story ends). The solution is to perch your parrot nearby, where it can enjoy being around you without being on you.
Perfect Perching For Your Parrot
A variety of perching options are available. Medium and large parrots seem to do especially well on a playtree or a rolling T-stand. These typically perch your pet bird about 2 to 4 feet off the ground, which is just about high enough to keep your parrot from climbing down (“just about” being the key words although; a determined parrot can still climb down). They come on rollers, which makes moving them from room to room quite easy.
“Playgym” usually implies multiple perches at varying levels to encourage climbing and foot exercise, as well as hooks to hang toys or swings. Many come with treat cups so your pet bird can spend part of its day there, and you don’t have to worry about it going without eating/drinking water. Playgyms are available in a variety of designs and materials, such as manzanita, PVC piping, stainless steel and hard plastic.
Tabletop playgyms and T-stands are also available. Some come with treat/water cups, which especially come in handy if you like to dine with your pet bird. Set the gym/stand on the table, drop a few bites of your healthy food in the treat cup, and you can enjoy your meal without worrying about your pet bird eating off your plate. A T-stand, which is basically a long horizontal post supported by a vertical post (hence the name), is often recommended as a station for training sessions with your pet bird, whether it be trick training, vocal training or teaching basic behavior cues, such as the step up. They usually take up less space on your tabletop.
If you don’t have a lot of floor space or are looking to give your pet bird a moveable place to perch (similar to wild birds bouncing on tree branches), you can look to the ceiling and install a hanging playgym, which will also give your pet bird a bit of a workout in addition to swaying fun. If you’re looking for still more variety, try a window perch, which not only protects your windowsill but gives your pet bird a safe, unobstructed view of the great outdoors.
You don’t have to stick with one playgym style. Your pet bird will appreciate having multiple roosts to choose from, just like it would in the wild.
Parrot Playgym Tips
1) If you have a clingy pet bird, it might take some patience and gentle reminders to keep it perched on its playgym. If your pet bird climbs down or attempts to fly to you instead of staying perched, stay close by at first to reassure your pet bird that the playgym is a safe place. Offer it a treat for staying put.
2) Until it gets used to its playstand, be prepared for your pet bird to try to follow if you leave the room. Use reassuring words, and distract it with a treat or a foot toy. Don’t show frustration, which your pet bird might pick up on and want to stay even closer to you for security.
3) Never assume that your pet bird will stay where you put it. Your pet bird might be happily occupied on its playgym one moment, and then it decides to see what’s going on in the corner behind your end table. Frequent supervision is still needed when a parrot is on its playgym.
4) Don’t forget to switch out the toys offered on the playgym; make it a place full of pleasant surprises!