Jeff Sexton

Monday, January 09, 2017

DIY Bird Toys

I've never had birds before. So since we added Ed and Olive Cockatiel to the household, we have learned quite a bit about birds. 

For starters, we knew that intelligent birds need a lot toys to avoid boredom. But you don't have to spent a lot of money. It's easy and fun to create your own toys using a few simple and inexpensive bird safe materials.

For example, I found the birds love to chew leather. At first, I was using sisal rope more in toys, but leather just lasts longer and they seem to like it more. Vegetable tanned leather materiel, plain as possible, works great! It is available both in sheets that cut easily with scissors, and in cord. Bits of leather work well into small toys, along with other parts and pieces. The cord I got seems like a lower grade than the sheets. Ed in particular can crew through it in time, and it has an occasional weak point that breaks easily. But tried with knots and strung through other items, it works great.

Some toy parts where just items found around the house, for example they seem to love plastic poker chips. I drilled small holes in them so they can be hung up and attached to other items.
I also had a few small pieces of rubber (real rubber is a completely organic substance). Rubber sheets are available at hardware stores. Thicker pieces hold up well, even to Ed's beak. I still watch them though with these toys, to make sure they don't bite off and swallow any. So far, the rubber has held up unbroken.

Wooden (pine), uncolored, beads I found at a local craft store. I died them by soaking them in water with food coloring. Heating the water helped get a much deeper color. I soaked them overnight, completely submerged. They float so you have to put something on top of them.

I found that stacked zip ties, like this toy has, were popular with Ed and olive. I trim all the zip tie ends off at varying lengths to make the toy smaller, and to add interest.

This toy also features a poker chip that they like to just carry around, and a couple beads.

I understand that you have to be careful of bells, but we did use some. It seems to be most important that they can't get the metal clapper out (and swallow it), so the completely enclosed type seems like a good choice.

I put them at an end of a toy, away from the most interesting parts. That way they get the bell sound, without focusing directly on the bell.

I also used a thick gauge copper wire. It's important to get real copper. uncoated in anyway. And I was careful that the ends of the wire, which I suppose could be sharp, are completely inaccessible.

I bought copper that was thick enough to be strong - they can stand on it, and a good fit for the beads.

Vine-based bird toys a extremely popular with Ed and Olive. Ed in particular can destroy these pretty fast though, so it's best to buy them in quantities. They are easily combined with other materials to make a toy that lasts much longer overall. The "mini" balls I found online are small, but a relative bargain. The vine rings are bigger, made of thicker material, and last longer.

There are many recommendations out online about bird toys, especially for medium birds. "pear links" are the item of choice for attaching hanging toys in the case. They are light, strong enough, and don't include any sharp corners or cracks that can cut a birds tongue.

The birds love zip ties. Cheap and colorful assortments are available that make a great addition to toys. They can be used as-is, and to attach bits and pieces.

The also love Qtips. I found the wooden ones were a little more popular, and last longer. They pull at the cotton. When it's all strung out I just pulled it off and toss it. They will continue to enjoy the stick until they turn it to dust.

Yucca gets called "catnip for birds". That's about right. It is available in bulk bags where you not only get significantly more for the money than in a ready-made toy, but I found the pieces to be harder. They last larger. For our smaller birds the pieces get broken down in smaller ones. But the larger pieces are big enough to stand on when fixed to the side of the cage.

Sisal rope, with no treatment, is a must-have for bird toys. I wrapped wood with it (pine is safe for birds, I read) for climbing. I also found that thicker rope is easily unraveled into thinner lengths for use in small toys.

Here's a full list of items that worked into bird toys well.
  • Parts of paper egg cartons
  • Q-Tips, the wooden ones
  • Paper tubes from paper towels and toilet paper roles
  • Natural sisal rope
  • Zip ties
  • Poker chips
  • Rubber
  • Vegetable tanned Leather
  • Pine and birch dowels of various diameters
  • Paper bar coasters (clean)
A few things I've learned (so far)...
  • Make sure the type of wood you want to use really is what you think it is and that it is safe for birds. Not all wood is.
  • Toys can be "in cage" and "out of cage". Out of cage toys are for use when you are there to watch. For in cage toys, be extra sure of their safety.
  • I tried to avoid any loops of zip ties or rope that were large enough for the birds to get their heads or legs caught in. There are many sad stories out there of birds hanging themselves on toys and being severely injured or killed.
  • Toys not attached to the cage should be fairly small and simple for best results. It's easy to get carried away.
This platform holds a four hole section of an egg carton. We put food in there and then the whole thing hangs for a hook at the top.

The birds get a feeder, paper to shred and a swing, all in one.

They pretty destroy the egg carton in 5 or 6 days.

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