November 30, 2011 § Leave a Comment
I’ve never been one to make friends in the avian retail products community based on my congeniality with other parrot product retailers…and this post probably will not earn me any additional friends in the industry. Oh well. My main concern is about the birds; I’m about the health, safety and overall well-being of parrots, especially after what I have been through with my business and now, in addition to my business, my brand new future hopes of a non-profit foundation and private trust… Who better to be an outspoken advocate for parrots than someone who has literally gone through the worst of the worst? I figure I’m a pretty good candidate for that position, therefore if anyone wants to be the judge of what I recommend for the well-being of parrots, let them step up and be the first one to throw the first stone when all I have are the best of intentions for these dearly beloved creatures.
Okay, that off of my chest and having been said, let’s get right into what constitutes, in my opinion, the safest of the safest parrot toys for your own beloved feathered friends!
The holiday season is upon us and many of you will be purchasing brand-spanking new toys and enrichment tools for your birds. And just as we are warned on the nightly news about which toys are, and are not, safe for our children and grandchildren, we need someone educating us about bird toys as well. Yes, there are many, many toys on the market that birds absolutely should not have on their gift list this holiday season no matter how much they plead with you and Santa that they want that toy! If you have already purchased that “oh, so much desired bird toy” and you may learn after this post it isn’t all that safe, then return it as soon as you finish reading! It just doesn’t matter how much “Polly” in the picture is seen loving her new toy…if it isn’t safe, it isn’t worth the money you pay for it!
Let’s begin with the hardware because this is where most people think it’s okay to accept second best, and it’s just not “okay” because this can be one of the most deadly decisions you make in choosing your bird’s toy that doesn’t show up until much further down the road. The hardware are the parts that literally hold your bird’s toy together, the chain, the washers, the O-rings, the swivels, the quik links, you know, the nuts and bolts of the toy. Zinc, aluminum, steel (iron), brass, copper, and other metals are completely out of the question, most of us bird lovers know that because they are “heavy metals”. The reason for this is that ingested or even licked they can cause, and most likely will cause, metal toxicity. Have you ever seen a bird with metal toxicity? You don’t want to. It becomes clumsy, even to the point of falling off of its perches, lethargic, looses it’s desire to eat, and eventually dies.
Many people will tell you it’s “acceptable” to use nickel-plated hardware because it’s plated solidly to the steel that’s underneath the nickel and nickel isn’t toxic to our birds. Hold on…did I say it’s plated to steel? Yes I did. That means that there is the possibility of the nickel flaking off at some point down the road. And come on; let’s get really real here, what do birds do with their awesomely strong beaks? They nibble, chew, ply, pull and literally destroy. We can’t see little, tiny bits and pieces that might be flaking off of these coated pieces and getting swallowed, before the bigger chunks begin to alarm us, but be assured, it’s happening. The main reason nickel-plating begins to flake off in the first place is because the metal under it is beginning to rust! That in itself should caution us that using this kind of hardware for our birds is just not worth the risk! As much fluid as our birds’ toys are around, and the slight bit of moisture that the hardware is exposed to from our birds’ mouths and tongues, on a constant basis, is reason enough for me to stay as far away from nickel-plated as I can just in case there is a slight crack in the plating, giving way to moisture seeping in allowing rust to begin, only adding to more flaking of the plating.
So what’s the better, safer choice all around for the hardware? Stainless steel and the highest grade of stainless steel you can find, the harder the stainless steel, the better. You want toys that are constructed with stainless chain, washers, O-rings, S-hooks, swivels, quik links, whatever, you always want to find toys that use only stainless steel for the health and safety of your bird. Will you pay more? Yes, of course, but it’s well worth it when you consider you may literally be saving your bird’s life! And if you are constructing your bird’s toys yourself, my advice is to adhere strictly to stainless steel unless you absolutely cannot find the hardware part you need available in stainless steel. And if that is the case, then you may need to redesign the toy around the hardware.
Secondly, let’s talk about the quality of any woods used in the construction of your bird’s toys. Not all wood is the same. Now, I’m not talking about whether you choose hard woods or soft woods that choice is up to you. Obviously hard woods are going to last longer, and you will pay more for these woods. The thing is about the “kind” of wood being used is that you want to ask that particular question to make sure it’s not a wood that might be poisonous to a bird. But what I’m mainly speaking of is whether the wood is “treated” or “untreated”. Many lumber yards buy wood that has been treated with chemicals to help prevent both fires as well as degradation by fungus, pests and just the plain old aging process. So you want to make absolutely sure the toys you are purchasing are constructed with wood that has not been treated with chemicals of any kind.
Third, what about all of those beautiful and bright colors? We love color don’t we? But have you ever thought about the safety of those colors, those dyes and your birds getting them into their mouths and ultimately their bodily system? There are mainly two kinds of dyes that are used, artificial and natural, or organic. Obviously we want to stay away from the artificial dyes because these are chemically produced and contain an entire laundry list of “FDA” approved chemicals. But as we have come to understand, the FDA approves many, many items that are not necessarily suitable for consumption that we later learn should have never been approved in the first place…we learn that they may cause allergies at minimum and at worst may be highly carcinogenic. But what about the “natural or organic” dyes, are they okay for our birds’ toys? In my own opinion, absolutely not! And I have a two-part answer for you.
First of all, something has to be used to preserve those dyes, otherwise they will spoil. And most likely the preservative of choice, when these dyes are produced on a mass scale, will be a chemical preservative, usually some form of MSG (monosodium glutamate) that can wreak all kinds of havoc in our birds’ delicate system. It is hidden is all sorts of other “ingredients”, I encourage you to click on the previous link to learn more about it. So if you are not purchasing toys that are literally handmade and dyed with organic dyes and preserved with natural preservatives like herbs such as rosemary, then beware!
But there’s a stronger reason you may not want to buy toys with bright and loud colors. And this may come as quite a surprise to many of you, but I assure you the information is well-founded by the research studies I have performed with my very own flock. I am absolutely convinced and because of it I will no longer be supplying colored toys, whether they are wood or acrylic, to any of my personal birds. And that is on the subject of hormonal stimulation. It is fact that birds “display” their color when mating season arrives. You can find this research information, shared with the public, just about anywhere. And one of the main reasons they do this is to stimulate the opposite sex into the desire to mate. In other words it stimulates the hormonal activity in both birds. And when does this breeding behavior occur most in Nature? Usually around the time most plants and flowers are in bloom in their natural origin and location, when everything is in full color. Could it be then, that we are actually stimulating our birds to remain in a type of breeding state during the full calendar year by hanging all of these colors in and around their environment? Even to the point of painting their bird rooms with bright colors? I personally think so. It could be that we are causing our birds to become, and remain, “sexually frustrated” on an ongoing basis by the use of all of these brightly colored objects and painted environments. In my opinion this is just one factor leading to “The Mutilation Syndrome” in so many of our captive companion birds. In order to mimic their surroundings we need to step back and really look at the “normal” environment” they would be living in on a day-to-day” basis, not what they would be living in only during the mating season. For this very strong reason I implore you to purchase toys that are only natural in color, no colored plastic or acrylic parts, and no colored wood, whatsoever.
Now, if after offering you my reason why we should not be offering colored toys to our birds, and adding to that my own personal belief that color is more for “us” and then it is for our birds, you are determined to have colored plastic parts on your bird’s toys, I’m about to help you choose the safest plastic parts to have on those toys. Soft plastic, or even semi-soft plastic, like the plastic chains, contains a lot of zinc, a heavy metal that causes metal toxicity. Zinc is what is used to bind the color to the plastic. Please do not purchase toys with soft or semi-soft plastic parts. The only “plastic” parts that are safe, and it really isn’t plastic at all, is acrylic. This is so hard that you don’t have to worry much about your bird ingesting too much of unwanted material, although birds with really strong beaks, such as Macaws, Cockatoos, African Greys, Amazons and the like, can still get little, tiny pieces off with their mighty beaks.
The last topic I wish to discuss with you is the overall safety of the toy. No matter how safe we try to make bird toys, there is always some amount of harm that can come from any toy, it just goes with the territory. Birds can get their feet or their beak tangled up in rope, leather strands, chain, raffia, grasses, all shreddable materials, this is the mischievous nature of birds, and they are naturally curious creatures. And any tiny parts that can be popped off, or accidently broken, can be easily swallowed, this is why you don’t want these parts to be cheap metal, or colored with dyes that are chemically derived or preserved, or made of plastic that contains zinc as a binder. A number of “accidents” can happen during your bird’s play time fun and what was meant for an enriching experience can all of a sudden turn deadly. It is important to carefully watch our birds as they play with their toys, just as we would with a human child, to make sure they remain safe at all times.
Please understand, I don’t mean to put a damper on your bird’s activities, or your holiday gift-giving, I just simply want to help you choose the safest toys and tools possible to help eliminate most of the dangers in your bird’s environment! The main idea though is to watch with an attentive eye when your birds are most active and see what fascinates them the most. Many times this will be exactly what you need to make sure is the safest part of the toy!
With all of this in mind, may you and your flock have a happy and SAFE holiday season!
Well, we are seriously thinking of bringing all of our SAFE natural, organic toys back to market for your birds to enjoy! Obviously our end desire is to bring all of our foods back to market, but we need to fund our capital in order to accomplish that goal. Beginning with the toys would provide a foundation for that end goal.
So what do you think? Give us your opinion.Your vote is completely confidential.
“I look forward to getting more toys from you. Yours ARE the best!“ Nancy H. of CA on 12.12.11
Thank you for sharing your opinion!
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Machelle Pacion / The BEST Bird Food / BirD-elicious! / Passion Tree House LLC © 2012 All Rights Reserved
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