One question that seems to come up a lot (at least based on Google searches that drive traffic to this site), is about pet birds not playing with toys.

Q: Why won’t my parrot play with his toys?

It’s possible your parrot doesn’t know how to play with toys. If he’s never learned, your pet bird may need you to show him. You might want to take a toy and play with it in front of him; it helps if there are a couple people doing this. Don’t give it to him, just demonstrate how much fun you’re having (don’t feel silly about being overly animated). You can even make a show of keeping it away. This should stoke your parrot’s curiosity. Like children, they want to know what the fun is about and have what they think they’re not supposed to.

After a while of having fun with the toy yourself, include your bird. Show him how it’s supposed to be played with and then play with him. Once he understands the concept he will very likely start playing with it by himself.

If you do that a couple of times, he’ll probably have an “ah ha” moment when he realizes that toys are meant to be played with and he’ll start playing with other toys on his own. And “toys” don’t need to be limited to stuff that’s marketed as “bird toys.” Anything made of bird-safe materials can be fun!

Photo of Hector by redvers

If your parrot is afraid of toys or new things in his cage, you can take a similar approach. In this case, you’ll want to keep the objects out of his cage and let him look at them from across the room — allow him to get used to and comfortable with the toys from a distance. After a day, you can bring the object just a little bit closer to his cage and, again, let you watch you play. If he’s fearful, you might need to tone down your enthusiasm and play with the toy gently. Hold it against your face, stroke it, show him that it’s something gentle and nonthreatening.

Do you have the wrong kinds of toys? If you bought lots of acrylic toys because they’re marketed as being “bird proof” and indestructible, you also have toys that aren’t as much fun to play with. Parrots like to… they need to… destroy things. It’s an instinct they need to satisfy.

Sometimes people stop buying wooden toys for the parrots because “my bird only destroyed it.” That’s great! To a bird, that IS playing. The whole purpose of wooden bird toys is for parrots to make toothpicks and sawdust out of them. Indestructible toys just aren’t very satisfying if that’s the only kind of toy your bird has.

Buying new toothpick-making materials on a weekly basis can get pricey, but there are plenty of sites on the web that will show you how to make cheap, fun toys for a fraction of their retail cost.

Photo of Kiwi by The Gut

Some birds, especially larger parrots, are big fans of puzzles and mechanical objects to manipulate (like screws and bolts). I’ve read more than one story about cockatoos and macaws dismantling their own cages. For those kinds of birds, a playstation with bird-safe stuff to manipulate can provide lots of entertainment. Other birds might not be interested at all. I got Stewie a toy with gears and cranks and he couldn’t care any less about it.

You’ll need to experiment to see what tickles your individual bird’s fancy.

Q: What are some of the best toys for conures or other parrots?

The simple answer is: the ones your bird will play with. Like I said earlier, that may require a little bit of experimentation. Just because you bought him a toy once and he didn’t touch it, doesn’t mean that you should stop giving him things to play with.

Photo of Hatch by lkalliance

You also want to provide your bird with a wide variety of toys: toys that birds can manipulate, shredder toys, toys to preen, toys that encourage foraging behavior. (Check out Stuff My Conure Likes for Stewie’s toy and treat recommendations)

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