Toys are a part of an overall program called “environmental enrichment”. It is a means of providing activities to occupy time and outlets for energies. Field research reveals that the majority of a parrots waking day is spent foraging for food items. This is not the case in a captive environment where nutritional needs are delivered each day in somewhat predictable time slots. It is up to each owner to provide their companion with substitute activities to prevent boredom from creating destructive behaviors.
Commercial toys, home made toys, foraging techniques, food items and more, can be utilized to enrich a parrot’s day. Whatever means is provided it is the responsibility of each owner to ensure his or her birds safety. Toys with zinc parts should be avoided as zinc can become toxic if ingested. Rope toys should be carefully selected so as to be sure the bird can’t tangle itself or become strangled by a long strand. Rings or similar items should be large enough to prevent the bird from getting its head stuck inside or too small for the bird to get its head in to begin with.
Many birds have different play styles. Some will destroy things quickly; others prefer to “beat up” their toys. Still others like to make noise with their toys. Try a variety of things to discover what your parrot likes. Almost all large parrots need toys they can chew and destroy. Many species are natural chewers in the wild using such talents to carve out nests. Those energies must be channeled in the home environment. Failure to do so simply means the bird will find other outlets for pent up needs even if inappropriate.
Today there are a great number of foraging toys on the market making it even easier to provide extra stimulus for our companions. Foraging toys are those that allow an owner to hide food items inside which the bird must locate or solve a puzzle to obtain.
Toys don’t always have to be expensive. Something as simple as a bundle of newspaper strips tied together with a plastic cable tie can provide wonderful entertainment for a bird that likes to shred items. Local bird fairs often feature vendors with inexpensive toys for a wide variety of parrots. Online sources offer abundant choices and ideas for entertaining curious parrots.
Other parrot owners often have great ideas for toys, especially the home made kind. Local bird clubs and organizations can be a valuable resource for such ideas. Again, always ensure your birds safety. Use toys that are appropriate for your bird and its play style. Obviously a toy meant for a budgie would be inappropriate for a large macaw.
For information on how to make your own toys, I suggest starting here: