Twelve Days of Holiday Gifts for Parrots

1. Chew Toys – Parrots don’t brush their beaks after eating, but you may see them rubbing against a perch occasionally. This helps sharpen the ever-growing beak and keep it in good shape for the serious business of nut and seed cracking. Chewing on things also helps keep the beak from over-growing. Wood is usually the first choice, and if no toys are present, the parrot will look at furniture and walls, anything he or she can get that beak around or in to. This site (http://www.northernparrots.com/parrot-toys-dept195_pg1/) has some pretty awesome toys, all rated for safety. And the key to that is to pick the right parrot at the top so you can see the size of the toys you need to look at. What may harm an African grey by catching his beak in a link would be no issue to a budgie. Additonally, this site (http://theparrotforum.com/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=7264) will give you lists of items that can be used to create your own bird toys. Some of the items are thrown away in most homes, so be creative but think safety first.
2. Foot toys – Parrots like to play. I know a lorikeet who likes to hold a toy in one foot and hop around the bottom of her cage on her free foot. She’s adorable and a very happy parrot. I give bottle caps from 20 oz. drink bottles to my cockatiels. They like to carry them around, put them in the food dishes, and then forget about them. But at least for a while, they are entertained. This site has many toys and pays particular attention to which toy is safe for the type of parrot you have. (http://www.mysafebirdstore.com/TOYS_BY_SIZE_TYPE-FOOT_TOYS.html)
3. Bells – I know we covered this in the safety tips post, but repetition is often useful. So, be sure to get a bell that is size appropriate to your bird, has a clapper that can withstand extra attention, and a safe way to attach it to the case. NO JINGLE BELLS! Sorry, the Grinch wins this one. These bells are ideal: (http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=22066)
4. Chains – I used plastic chains to make a bridge from a love bird cage to a playtop on another cage. The lovies soon learned to use it, and even after their wing feathers molted and grew in again, they liked to climb on it and chew the links. This site (http://www.windycityparrot.com/Chomping-Chain-7-Plastic-Links-Parrots.html) has a short chain with links of different shapes that may appeal to your bird, and offers it in appropriate sizes for various species. And if you scroll down that page, you will find lots of plastic chain and accessories for making and hanging your creations.
5. Foraging Toys – Are you aware that the majority of the day for a parrot in the wild is spent in finding, eating, and gathering food? Our sociable birds get bored when their food is presented in a bowl. This is why toys play such a huge part in their mental well-being. And that’s where foraging toys come in to play. I have found it’s best to make your own foraging items. Throw a few raw almonds and broccoli spears into a brown lunch bag, tie the top of the bag with a safe rope or twine, and either hang it somewhere or lay it in the bottom of the cage. The problem often encountered is that the bird at first has no idea what the bag is, and they open it so that the contents scatter through the grate at the bottom of the cage, and are lost. But that hopefully is a learing experience, and the next time the bird will be more careful. Just don’t give up. Or hang it over a food dish. And here are some good ideas for putting together foraging opportunites. (http://foragingforparrots.com/)
6. Ropes – Give a parrot enough rope and he very likely will hang himself. I’ve seen it in smaller birds more often, but it’s easy to imagine a larger bird doing the same thing. So the rule with rope is to make it short, and to use a safe type. This site (http://nalanitoys.com/Paulierope.htm) not only sells super safe Paulie Rope in pretty colors, there are many foraging toys and toy parts available.
7. Another Parrot! – Well, this comes with a cautionary truism. Birds are mostly flock creatures, and that sociability makes them good choices as pets. However, if you have one bird by his or her self, you must be that bird’s flock. Lots of contact, lots of snuggle time, and so on, are important. However, if you have a parrot for whatever reason that is not a good pet, such as my half-moon conure Beeby, then another parrot is esential. We were lucky to receive a sweet green cheek conure, Esme, and paired her up with Beeby. She keeps him in line, will put herself between him and anyone who comes too close to the cage, and snuggles and preens him regularly. He is sweet to her in return. We were not so lucky with our Congo African Greys. As you may know, Io is blind, and Bobo has no toes on her feet. I imagined the two of them living happily together, Io not being so terrified and alone, and Bobo having someone to groom her where she can’t reach with her beak. Unfortunately Bobo is a bad roommate. She followed Io around pulling his tail feathers. That freaked him out seriously, and he spent the whole hour of the experiment crying piteously. So be very sure you are prepared to have two birds in separate cages. Here’s great information of the subject: (https://companionparrotonline.com/another_parrot.html)
8. A Bigger Cage – Yes, if you have room. And maybe a second cage. Many companion birds have one cage just to sleep in, and a second cage or play stand where they spend most of their days. This encourages the parrot to associate the one cage with being quiet and sleeping. Parrots need 12 or more hours of sleep, and chances are they don’t get that in their human companion’s home. But if there is a sleep cage in a quiet room where they can be undisturbed, you have the makings of a happier parrot. Also think about an outside cage. Parrots use sunlight to create Vitamin D and to sanitize their feathers. If the sunlight is filtered through glass window panes or screens, not enough of the useful part of the light will get through. An outside cage, even if you don’t let the bird stay there all the time, will help improve the health of your bird. More great information on cage sizes and issues: (http://www.naturalinspirationsparrotcages.com/article%20confused%20about%20cage%20size.asp) And great information on separate cages for sleep and why: (http://www.pamperedpeeps.com/sleepcages.htm) Finally, a wonderful place to buy aviaries or aviary building parts: (http://www.kwcages.com/wingzcatalog/)
9. A Trip to The Park/Beach/Lake – Think of spending your whole day in one place. Now think of spending every day of your life in that one place. Scary, huh? Your parrot has more intelligence than we usually give him or her credit for. There are lots of safe ways to take the bird along. First of all, unless you have completed training and know your bird will always return to you on command, clip the wings before attempting this. Remember if you haven’t taken the bird out and about very often, there will be lots of new, scary things out there. Cars, cats, dogs, airplanes, other people, birds of prey! Taking trips with your companion won’t happen overnight if you have been keeping him or her locked inside most of the time. You have two choices in how to safely take your bird outside. One is a harness: (http://www.wikihow.com/Take-Your-Pet-Bird-Outside) and the other is a carrier. Some carriers are made specifically for outings, keeping the comfort of both bird and human in mind: (http://www.phoenixlanding.org/blog/2012/06/go-outside/) This article also suggests ways to make your own stroller, very helpful. But if you don’t have the time or resources to make that item, you can buy the wheels and the Pak O’ Bird separately: (http://www.celltei.com/birdcart.html)
10. Clicker Training – Remember, parrots are at least as smart, maybe smarter, than your dog. Learning to do tricks is fun for them, and creating an excellent communication system makes it happen quickly. This interview with an avian veterinarian explains why it can be important to the health of your bird: (http://www.clickertraining.com/node/285)
11. A Shoulder Cape – Like clicker training, this is a gift for both you and your companion bird. It’s a pretty simple idea, a circle of cloth with a front opening and a neck hole. Toys are attached by various means near where the shoulders will be. The bird sits on your shoulder, plays with the toys, and poops on something besides your clothing. Win-win! Here’s what it looks like: (http://www.birdshouldercape.com/)
12. Quality People Time – When you brought your hand-fed baby bird home, you spent hours, probably, interacting, learning foods that were acceptable, giving scritches, and being totally in thrall of this sweet creature. As Baby grew up, for whatever reason, you may have gotten out of the habit of spending regular time with your parrot. If the bird changed into a hormonal teenager with needs far out of your ability to provide, you possibly don’t know what to do now. Another scenario is that you adopted a bird from a pet store or an ad on Craigslist, and brought home the bird only to discover that the bird was only comfortable with the person who handfed him or her. Being properly socialized for baby birds should include being handled and cared for by more than one person. My beautiful Indian ringneck, Wraith, acted sweet and docile the first night I took him home. By the next morning, he had decided to be scared of everything and everyone. Luckily my husband has worked with him and established something of a relationship now. Since I hope to breed Wraith this coming summer, I am not overly concerned with taming him. But if I were, there are ways to make that parrot a sweetheart. This site gives a very clear, detailed instructions on how to do this. Warning, it’s not going to happen over night. Time and patience are required. If you do have a sweet baby bird, try to stay in the habit of spending quality time with your parrot. Then you won’t need these instructions: (http://www.critters360.com/index.php/how-to-make-your-parrot-love-you-3-32265/)

This site does a great job of summing up the information detailed above: (http://www.wingsofhope-nj.com/buying_making_safe_birdtoys.html) Have a great Holiday, and stay safe!

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