Smaller birds have a completely different set of needs, compared to larger birds. It only makes sense that these differences extend to the toys they play with. The bird toy market is saturated in brightly colored bits and bobs all with different sizes, materials, and costs; it can be an ordeal picking out the right toys for your feathered friend.
This guide will help you in choosing appropriate toys and maintaining a good variety for your bird’s health and happiness. You should keep in mind that all birds are different and some will have different preferences. The more you know about your bird’s personality, the easier picking toys will be.
What Toys are on the Market
There are many types of toys with different purposes in mind. Some are good for all birds, while others are specifically made for certain birds. Understanding these types of toys will help you in your decision on what to get your small bird. You should have at least one of each you in your bird’s cage so they never run out of variety.
Exercise toys like swings are built for hard play. They allow your bird to bounce, swing, and hang upside down, giving them essential daily exercise. It also allows a new avenue of movement throughout the cage that isn’t just climbing or jumping.
Foraging toys let your bird exercise their brain for a sweet reward. Food or other treats are placed inside the toy and your bird has to work to get these treats out. It’s a great way for them to learn by instinct and is a good source of both physical and mental exercise. Foraging toys are great for all birds.
Problem solvers, like color and shape separators, are used for critical thinking without the food reward that foraging toys provide. These toys are typically too big for small birds.
Preening toys are made specifically for your bird to preen themselves on. These help you bird in removing pin feathers and allow them to bond without human intervention, These can be especially useful for rescue birds who fear human contact.
Shredders are made with destruction in mind. They are often made of super soft materials like paper and wood and are built to be chewed, shredded, and obliterated. This is a big favorite in smaller bird species.
Noise Makers are toys that have bells or other shakeable objects inside them. Birds love to bang them around to hear the loud noises they make. This is another big favorite for smaller birds.
Sizes - Big or Small Toys
A good rule of thumb for any bird species is to buy toys that are either the same size or smaller than your bird. A lot of birds are daunted and frightened by toys larger than them and, while that may not be the case for all small birds, it never hurts to stick to toys that are smaller than them for their own safety and to elicit less stressful responses.
This isn’t to say that all birds prefer smaller toys. If you’ve just received a bird, get big and small toys for them. If your bird is playing with some toys and shunning others, then you have a good gauge for how big the toy can be before it makes your bird uncomfortable.
Materials - Soft or Hard Toys
You should always have a large variety of all toy materials in a bird’s cage. Plastic, paper, and wood are all things that a small bird will enjoy, although some birds will prefer one type over another. If your bird has a preference, then try to get more of that particular material, but don’t neglect to keep other types in their cage as well for variance.
I’ve seen smaller birds have wildly different preferences in toy materials. Some like paper most, others like hard plastic or soft woods. It’s all about watching your bird and knowing them personally.
Ensure you have more than 6 toys in their cage and that you rotate toys out every two months, that way your bird never gets bored with what they have. Bored birds can end up with behavioral problems such as cage aggression, feather plucking, and pica.
Play Style - Hard Play or Easy Play
Typically, small birds will not elicit hard play (swinging upside down, hard banging and heavy chewing, generally more aggressive toy behavior) and will do better with toys meant for passive chewing and foraging. Small foraging toys and shredders are super good for small birds to passively play with.
This is, of course, not always the case. Keep an eye on your bird to see how they play with their toys. If they attempt to climb and swing on them, invest in toys that are safe for climbing and swinging. If they like to bash them around (my current budgie likes to hit his toys as hard as he can off the cage bars) then get some hard plastic toys that won’t wear down as easily.
Mirrors and Other Toys to Avoid
You should never get a mirror for your pet bird. Your bird may love to chirp and peck at them, but they are horrible for their mental health as they are associating an inanimate object as another bird. They can also form a romantic interest with mirrors and attempt to court them instead of take care of their daily needs, leading to malnutrition and other health problems.
Bells are another hot topic on whether they are safe for birds. Cat bells can cause injury if their beak or toes get caught in the slit, so avoid them. Open bells should be made of a non-toxic metal and the inner clapper should be removed so your bird cannot ingest it if they manage to remove it.
Toys that come with long ropes or strings should also be avoided, as your small bird can easily become entangled in them and cause massive damage or even death. A good rule is to keep loose ropes no longer than one or two inches. If a rope starts to fray, cut the loose fibers off or remove the toy entirely.
Toys that contain PVC are a huge no-no. PVC is incredibly toxic when ingested. Make sure the plastic toys you are buying do not contain any PVC in them.
Every Bird is Different
I cannot stress it enough how each bird will be different. While one bird may be scared of anything but small paper shredders, another bird may be wholly adventurous and tangle with toys three times their size. You likely won’t know which toys your bird prefers until you have had months to watch them and understand their personality.
Watch them closely and sooner or later you will know just what kinds of toys are perfect for your bird.
If you have any questions, comments, or tips, don’t hesitate to comment below!