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Selecting Safe Toys for Your Bird

By: Dr. Don Harris

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It's no secret that birds are highly intelligent. In fact, some birds are as choosy about their toys as children are. So when choosing a toy for your pet, keep in mind the same considerations that apply to a child's toy: First, make sure it's safe. Second, choose one that will entertain him without frustrating him.

Some toys are downright harmful – even fatal. Birds can strangle on loose ropes. Also, "S" hooks, used to suspend toys, frequently get caught on the lower beaks of birds, sometimes perforating the skin at the floor of the mouth.

Don't Improvise Playthings

Owners sometimes improvise playthings – with catastrophic results. Keys and key rings may contain toxic levels of zinc; split rings can get caught on beaks. When offering your bird a toy, remember that his ability to disassemble things can get him into serious trouble. One owner handed over a piece of costume jewelry, unaware that it was welded with a lead-based solder, which poisoned the bird. Another stuck a beaded coin purse in the cage. The bird picked off the beads, swallowed them and developed an impaction that required major surgery.

Still, some of the best toys are simple things found around the house. A soft, unpainted wooden block can be used like a pacifier. Paper towel tubes, plain paper plates, manila folders and practically any nontoxic wooden or paper item that can be picked apart can safely keep birds busy for hours.

Pet Birds Need to Be Challenged

Because they're so intelligent, pet birds need to be challenged. In the wild, nearly anything worth getting requires some work: Almost all food requires peeling, cracking or digging. Building a nest requires brain-power as well as brawn-power. Even preening consists of tedious measures to assure that each and every feather is precisely manicured.

You should encourage your companion bird to do a little work. One of the best toys is one that forces the bird to retrieve a nut from inside a hollowed wooden object. The bird must chew through the wood to reach the nut, keeping him busy and forcing him to earn his treat.

In fact, too much food may be the most toxic toy of all. Endless snacks and too little exercise add up to a fat bird. Toys that give him a workout – mentally and physically – will keep him sleek and healthy.

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