| Is that toy safe? asks Rosemary Low|
Toys can provide hours of enjoyment and relieve the boredom that inquisitive and playful birds suffer. But don’t think a parrot toy is safe just because it comes from a reputable catalogue or shop. There are hidden dangers in many items.
Accidents, sometimes fatal, with parrot toys happen all the time, such as a parrot’s beak being stuck in the clapper of a bell. One toy on a chain held some wooden blocks and several plastic rings. One ring was just the right size for the lory’s head to go through. The lory would have been strangled had not the owner been there in time. Many toys feature wooden or acrylic rings. Look at these in relation to the size of your bird’s head. The danger should be obvious.
Safe toys, rotated frequently, can keep parrots occupied for hours
A friend described the traumatic half hour he spent with his Patagonian Conure. A minute cotton thread from a new toy had tethered the unfortunate bird to its perch by its foot and was tightly wound around its wing and neck. Because the thread was so small and buried deep inside its neck feathers, he feared he could strangle the conure in trying to remove the thread. He eventually released it unharmed but very stressed. Had he been out when this happened, he would have returned to a strangled bird.
The toy in question was a wooden one shaped like a person with knotted rope with beads for arms and legs. The offending part was the small raffia hat. The cotton thread was used within the raffia. There are a number of toys on sale featuring these raffia hats. The first thing a parrot will do is to shred the hat, thus releasing several feet of fine cotton. It seems that such toys are designed by people with little knowledge of the creatures they are intended for.
It is often safer to make your own -- and so easy. All you need is a drill, some small blocks of untreated wood (you can use offcuts), some strips of leather and perhaps some old cotton reels. Thread these on to a length of chain, put a dog clip on each end to secure the items on the chain and hang the toy!
Make sure you use stainless steel clips and D-clips. Cheap ones containing poisonous zinc are on the market. Another danger I spotted was a clip on a manufactured toy which was not closed properly. A parrot could have caught its beak or its toe inside this partly-open clip.
Frayed ends of rope are dangerous.
Cut them off!
Fine cotton from the hat of this toy nearly strangled a conure.
Rope toys start off as safe items but those that have free ends are quickly unravelled by some parrots, leaving a mass of individual threads. These are a hazard as they could become entwined in the feet or around the neck. Cut them short at the first sign that they are coming loose. The rope used around some toys is not hard or tight enough. It is easily unravelled by some birds -- lories, for example. Rope is especially dangerous when it is not tightly bound.
Rope toys can become very dirty so remember to put them in the washing machine every now and then.
Free-hanging ropes must be knotted at intervals to prevent the strangulation. Think carefully about possible accidents before putting any item in your bird’s cage. And when you provide a new toy, never do so just before you leave the house. You need to see the reaction -- fear, delight or exposure of a hazard. Some parrots are so nervous of anything new that the only way to introduce a toy is to leave it in the same room, gradually moving it closer to the cage. With parrots, you never know what they will do next!