In 2010, I wrote a blog post about Stewie’s and Mika’s favorite foraging toys. I recently found that post again and wanted to do an update. Their favorite toys have really changed!
All new Stewie- and Mika-approved recommendations for 2018:
Homemade Parrot Foraging Toys
Homemade = cheap. Hooray for cheap. Here are our favorite toy bases, with a focus on materials that can easily be destroyed.
Unwaxed Dixie Cups
Our #1 favorite foraging toy, talons down, is still the unwaxed Dixie Cup. Why? Dixie cups frequently have almonds inside them. Almonds are the best treat ever. What?! Your Dixie cups don’t come wrapped around your favorite treat? You should do something about that.
For beginning foragers, just place the high-value treat in a cup, and then put that cup someplace they can easily reach. For super-duper advanced foragers, you can tightly wrap a 3 oz cup around a good treat, put that cup inside another cup, tie it closed with a bird-safe bit of leather string, then hang the treat-on-a-string someplace difficult to reach.
Stewie loves shredding things like wicker, raffia, cardboard, and whatever birdie crack a “birdie piñata” is made out of, etc. So I picked up some bird-safe baskets, stuffed them full of various materials and various treats, then tied them together and let Stewie at it.
He very quickly chewed holes big enough to fit more treats into, so whenever I want to keep him busy, I just push something enticing into the toy and let him go at it. He enjoys shredding enough as a stand-alone activity, but adding just a sprinkle of broken up Nutriberries over the toy will keep him nice and occupied.
Pick up a basket at MakeYourOwnBirdToys.com and have fun.
Paper Egg Cartons
Mika seems to have eggs on the brain, so naturally she’s drawn to egg cartons. Har har. Egg cartons (the kind made out of pulp paper, not the styrofoam type!) are easy and fun. You can cut them up and string the cups onto a stainless steel skewer, you can fill a whole one with toys and treats and attach it to the side of the cage, you can incorporate them into other toys. Use your imagination. The pulpy paper is just another interesting texture that’s easy to shred, which is nice for smaller birds who might have a hard time with harder foraging toys. One empty six-egg package might last two or three days in Mika’s cage until it’s so hole-y that I can’t put anything in it. Your mileage may vary.
Commercial Foraging Toys for Birds
When it comes to acrylic toys, my birds like anything that doesn’t require too much work. Tough. Mama works hard for her money and she expects the birds to also! (Kidding, sorta.)
One of the challenges of puzzle toys is that they can be hard to figure out at first, which can be frustrating for your bird, who might then give up. But if they figure out the trick, then it’s immediately too easy. (Yes, they are definitely smart enough to remember a puzzle solution.)
This acrylic foraging wheel is great because even once Stewie and Mika figured out how it worked, it still takes more than a second for them to actually get to the treat.
Barrel of Fun
This one might be a bit too easy — probably why my guys like it. This toy has a compartment that you access by turning the end and sliding it out. The version we have is a bit more advanced than the one in the picture because it’s opaque; you can’t see if there’s a treat inside or not when it’s closed.
It’s really not that much harder for them because they leave it open, so if it’s closed they usually know I put something in it for them. For beginning foragers, the visual cue that there’s a treat to be had will definitely help get them curious.
Super Bird Creation Toys
We have a variety of toys from Super Bird Creations and they are all very well designed. They are visually interesting and fun to interact with.
I generally like to make my own wooden toys and save my purchases for acrylic puzzle toys I can’t build myself, but even their destructible toys are designed in such a way that it really captures my birds’ (especially Stewie’s) imagination.
Caveats About Puzzle Toys
Whenever you read reviews of store-bought foraging toys, you’ll inevitably see these criticisms from people who left low ratings: “Terrible! My macaw was able to break it easily.” and “Useless, my bird couldn’t figure it out.”
Most acrylic bird toys are not designed to withstand a beak as powerful as that of a macaw or cockatoo. It’s important that you understand your bird’s specific needs and pick toys accordingly.
Secondly, not all birds are naturally gifted puzzle solvers right off the bat. If your little one has never solved a foraging puzzle before, it’s not necessarily a sign of a badly designed toy if they can’t figure it out.
Again, it’s important to understand your bird — but keep in mind that foraging is a skill that can be learned! You may find that your parrot will figure that toy out later, once you’ve built up to a more advanced level of foraging.
That said, do check reviews for commercial toys to make sure that you buy something that is size-appropriate and safe for your bird.
As you can see, there are many types of foraging toys. Not just in terms of difficulty, but also in terms of what kind of behavior they are encouraging. Offer toys that get your birds to problem-solve, destroy, shred, use finesse, work hard, guess, get rewarded a little at a time, or earn a big reward. Variety is the spice of life!
Bonus video: … And who says Pionus are perch potatoes??!