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How to Choose Toys for Your Bird

How to Choose Toys for Your Bird

What's safe. What's not.

Just as we are warned about which toys are and are not safe for children, we need to be educated about what toys are safe for birds as well. Yes, there are many toys on the market that birds absolutely should not have in their environment. If you have already purchased a toy and you learn after reading this post that it isn’t safe, then return it as soon as possible! It 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!



This is where most people think it’s okay to accept second best. However it is not “okay” as this can be one of the most deadly decisions you make that won't show up until much further down the road. Hardware are the parts that literally hold your bird’s toy together; the chain, washers, O-rings, quick links, etc. Zinc, aluminum, lead, steel (iron), brass, copper, and other metals should not be considered because they are “heavy metals.” If ingested or even licked they can cause metal toxicity. Have you ever seen a bird with metal toxicity? You don’t want to. It becomes clumsy, may start falling off of its perch, lethargic, loses its appetite, and eventually dies.

Many will tell you it’s “acceptable” to use nickel-plated hardware because it’s solidly bound 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. 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 that 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 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, quick 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.



Let’s talk about the quality of 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 hardwoods or softwoods that choice is up to you. Obviously, hardwoods 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 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.


What about all of those beautiful and bright colors? We love color, don’t we? Have you ever thought about the safety of those colors and dyes, 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 items that are not necessarily suitable for consumption that we later learn should have never been approved in the first place…those items may cause allergies, and even worse may be highly carcinogenic. 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.



Something has to be used to preserve those dyes. Otherwise, they will spoil/sour. And most likely the preservative of choice, when these dyes are produced on a mass scale, will be a chemical preservative that can wreak all kinds of havoc in our birds’ delicate systems. It is hidden is all sorts of other food “ingredients.” So if you are not purchasing toys that are literally handmade and dyed with organic dyes and preserved with natural preservatives like herbs then beware!


​Hormonal Stimulation

There’s a stronger reason you may not want to buy toys with bright and loud colors, this may come as quite a surprise to you, but I assure the information is well-founded by the research studies I have performed with my very own flock. This is the subject of hormonal stimulation. It is a fact that birds purposely “display” color when mating season arrives. This research information can be found just about anywhere. And one of the main reasons birds do this is to stimulate the opposite sex into a desire to mate. 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 exposing them to bright colors in and around their environment? Even to the point of painting their bird rooms with bright colors? I think so. We may be causing our birds to become, and remain, “sexually frustrated” on an ongoing basis by the use of all of these brightly colored objects and environments. In my opinion, this is just one factor leading to feather destruction in so many of our captive companion birds. To mimic their wild surroundings, we need to step back and really look at the “normal” environment they would be living in on a day-to-day basis; mostly browns, greens and muted colors. 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.



If you are determined to have colored plastic toys in your bird’s environment, here are some tips 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 is acrylic.

But, no matter how safe we try to make bird toys some “accidents” can happen during your bird’s playtime 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.


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