Many bird owners take great care in providing an enticing and nutritional diet for their birds. Additionally, they physically play and cuddle with their birds and spend hours teaching them to talk, sing and whistle. However, many birds belong to a single parent or parents who both work and as a result they also spend a lot of time alone in their cage. What does a bird do during the 8-10 hours that he is alone? Many become bored and lethargic, others pick their feathers and others develop an attitude and act it out when Mom or Dad come home. Providing stimulating and fun toys is an answer to the above problems by providing the bird with hours of entertainment and exercise, thereby keeping it alert, happy and healthy.
As a pet in captivity, birds dont have the opportunity to engage in the activities that they naturally would in the wild. Avian behaviorists who have spent time observing parrots in the wild have reported that playtime ranks second only to food gathering in priority. Birds have a natural craving to chew and a daily need to forage for food. In the wild, a parrots behavior is very active and playful. They have been observed stripping bark off trees, biting off and flinging leaves and twigs, swinging from and climbing on vines all the while chattering gleefully with the rest of the flock. Instinctively, companion birds are still very much like their wild counterparts. Playing with toys is a vital substitute for natural behaviors such as foraging, nest building and interactions with their flock. Toys and playtime address several important functions:
In young birds, playtime is part of the learning process in which birds start to identify textures, colors, shapes and it also helps to develop coordination and dexterity. Exposure to a wide variety of objects at a young age helps to create a more confident less fearful bird.
Toys provide an outlet for natural aggression and an opportunity to expend energy through exercise. Instead of directing aggression towards their owners they can instead direct their aggressions towards the toy by shadow boxing, flapping and swinging.
Playtime helps to foster better mental health and a sense of independence. Birds provided with a variety of toys are less self-absorbed and exhibit fewer negative behaviors such as:
Feather picking and self-mutilation
Screaming for attention
Fear of unknown objects
Aggressiveness towards humans
Destruction of household furniture, moulding, etc.
Toys promote exercise and therefore physical health and longevity. Birds who play by climbing and swinging on their toys reap the benefits of increased movement. Playing with and or chewing toys also helps with beak and nail conditioning. These activities also provide for off-perch time and flexing which helps with dexterity and foot health.
Confinement of parrots without providing outlets for exercise, entertainment, comfort and mental challenge will result in boredom, depression, poor physical health and ultimately in an unsuitable pet!
TYPES OF BIRD TOYS There are many bird toys available on the market and the choice is daunting to some bird owners. It is helpful to understand how various categories of toys help to enrich their feathered companion's lives. Birds should be provided with a cross section of toys from all of the following categories to ensure that their physical and mental needs are being addressed. The key categories are:
Foraging Toys: Foraging toys provide and excellent outlet to require your bird to work for it's food as it would have to do the majority of each day in the wild. Examples of foraging toys are those in which treats can be hidden, skewered and or imbedded. Foraging toys should be placed at a variety of levels throughout the cage to encourage movement and exploration.
Chewing Toys: Chewing is a major activity in the wild, especially during breeding season when birds are actively burrowing nests into tree trunks. It is imperative that birds be provided with destructible wood toys. Wood and leather toys provide hours of safe chewing fun. Remember, these toys are for your bird so don't become alarmed or upset if over time they destroy them. Chewing is a natural activity for your bird and they should be provided an opportunity to do so. Larger birds should be challenged with harder woods. Balsa, pine or vine based materials are excellent for smaller birds.
Comfort Toys: In the wild, birds enjoy physical contact with their mates, often snuggling up to them on branches. Caged birds, especially when they are alone, like to snuggle up to or crawl into something soft and cuddly. this alleviates their stress and provides them with a sense of security. Examples of comfort toys are the Peekaboo Perch Tents and Snuggle Rings.
Exercise Toys: Swings and bungees are two excellent examples of toys that encourage movement and provide birds with an outlet for exercise.
Preening Toys: Boredom and stress in caged birds can often lead to over-preening or feather pulling. Rope preening toys provide an excellent outlet for birds to satisfy their desire to preen and to discourage feather picking and mutilation.
Manipulative/Mechanical Toys: Birds are very intelligent and inquisitive creatures. Many are reported to enjoy untying knots, undoing nuts and bolts and deconstructing cages to escape. Providing puzzle solving toys and toys that require manipulation will stimulate these birds mentally.
Your bird should own a wide variety of toys but remember it is important to rotate the toys in and out of the cage weekly to stimulate curiosity and prevent boredom.
Now that you know how important toys are, make sure you check out makes a safe toy both in regards to components and design in our toy safety section.
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