How to DIY parrot toys

I’m so excited to write this article because its one of my favourite topics!

Buying parrot toys from the pet shop can be expensive, especially if you have to frequently replace them after your parrot has shredded and destroyed them. But making your own parrot toys can be a fraction of the price of the toys you can find in the pet store, or be EVEN FREE!!

Before I start my post. I would like to share with you why DIYing toys is super awesome.

1. You will save so much money

Many many fun and enriching toys can simply be made for your parrot using items found around the home at almost zero cost (unless you purchase some parts). When you DIY, you do not have to spend money on toys that get shredded and chewed to bits within a few days. If you have multiple parrots, you can save SO MUCH MONEY!

2. You will be able to provide your parrot with a greater variety of toys

Continuing from my previous point, the high cost of parrot toys do deter owners from providing their parrot with an appropriate number and variety of toys. When you save money on foraging toys, shreddables, chewables and hanging wood toys, you can use the money to spend on professionally made toys and accessories that you probably might not be able to do it yourself, such as perches, swings and a good sized cage.

3. Your parrot will be so happy and enriched

In my previous post, I wrote about how important it is for your pet parrot to be able to spend hours in the day foraging and playing with an interesting and changing variety of toys. Because you can make many toys with just a small amount of materials and almost zero cost, you will be able to (and afford to) keep providing new and interesting toys that your parrot will be enriched by.

4. Making parrot toys is a fun bonding activity - both for your family and parrot!

When I DIY Daffy and Penguin’s toys, they get interested in what I’m doing and join me in testing out their toys :D I have a lot of fun having a free afternoon making toys with fellow parronts too!

5. It’s a wonderful recycling activity

Instead of throwing out biodegradables such as paper bags, kraft wrapping paper and toilet rolls, you can give them another life as toys for your parrot!

I hope I have convinced you with the benefits of making toys for your parrot. In this post, I will write about types of toys you can DIY, the basic materials you would need, precautions and the examples of toys I have DIYed.

What kind of toys can be DIYed?

1. Foraging toys

As I have written in The 9 types of toys your parrot should have, foraging toys have treats in them that encourage parrots to find a way to retrieve the treats. It is somewhat like a puzzle toy that can vary in difficulty and complexity of the task of getting to the treats. As wild parrots spend most of the day foraging for food, we can provide the same type of enrichment and prevent boredom by DIYing a variety of foraging toys.

2. Shreddable toys

Although there can be quite a few shreddable toys commercially available in the market, I don't find them worth the money because the toy gets destroyed very quickly (which is a good thing cos it means your parrot is LOVIN’ the toy!) for the price. The same effect of shredding can be accomplished with free/super cheap items you can find in the house as well.

3. Chewable hanging wood toys

Wood toys are a little harder to find materials around the house, but you can potentially make your own parrot wood toys from trees you find around if you’re sure that you know what tree it is and if it is safe for birds. Also, you’d have to disinfect any raw branches you harvest very well to be sure. Alternatively, you can find wood sticks made for rodents or untreated wood materials like baskets and beads to use in hanging wood toys.

Materials you can find/collect/buy to make DIY toys at home:

1. Toilet / kitchen towel rolls

2. Empty tissue boxes

3. Kraft paper bags / wrapper

4. Cardboard boxes

5. Plain white / colour paper

6. Coconut hulls

7. Paper, unwaxed, non-foil cupcake liners

8. Wrapping paper made with recycled paper

9. Pasta (farfalle or penne is the best!)

10. Empty biscuit cardboard boxes

11. Paper plates

12. Shredded paper/tissue paper (you can get them from the trusty ol' office shredder)

Materials you'd probably have to buy in a store:

1. Paper twine (can be bought in any craft store for super cheap for a huge roll that lasts FOREVER)

2. Sisal rope

3. Natural twine

4. Dried loofah

5. Untreated wooden beads (can be bought from any craft store)

6. Untreated wooden rings

7. Rattan balls of various sizes

8. Rattan basket

9. Pandan leaves or dried corn husks

10. Untreated seagrass mat

11. Untreated wood pieces

12. Zip ties

Instruments you would need:

1. Scissors

2. Hole puncher (it's best if you have the single hole puncher cos it makes it more convenient, but the regular ones would suffice)

3. Electric drill with wood drill bits (for the wood pieces and coconut husks)

4. Newspapers or a mat on the surface of your work area to catch all the mess

Now let's get started!!

Daffy took a break from sitting on her eggs to help me out!

How to make super simple foraging treat bags

Foraging treat bags are super fun and easy to make, and you can make lots of them in one sitting that can last your parrot quite some time. To make these, you simply need:

1. (Different types of paper) cut in small squares big enough to make a 'dumpling' shape like the one pictured above

2. Paper twine

3. Treats (mixed seeds that you don't already feed your parrot as a diet, commercially available parrot treats such as Nutriberries or avicakes cut into small sizes. Nutriberries are the best shape for this! You can also use dehydrated fruits and vegetables)

The thinner the paper, the easier to wrap and the easier for your parrot to get to the treats inside. The paper type I'm using for the treat bags are cupcake liners, which are perfect because you can simply wrap treats without needing to cut pieces. But my lovies know whats in this bag so they easily rip them apart, so I increase the foraging effort by adding more layers of cupcake wrappers. You can use other thicker paper such as kraft paper or coloured paper.

Scoop a small amount of mixed seeds or a few sunflower seeds in the middle of the paper and bunch the 4 corners together to make a bag. Tie it shut with a paper twine. Leave a good length of twine before cutting it (as pictured) so you can easily clip or tie the bags to the cage bars or to other toys!

Another variation of this treat bag is to tie it to other toys, or hide them within small cardboard boxes for increased level of difficulty. When first introducing this foraging toy to your parrots, I'd suggest to use 1 layer of paper to make it easier for them to get to the treats. If your parrots still do not know what it is, you can let them see you wrapping the bags, or poke little holes in the bag so they can see the treats, but the treats do not come out. After they have been introduced to this toy, you can increase the difficulty of the task to add some exciting challenges to their day!

*This treat bag is also a good way to include an appropriate amount of seeds in your parrot's diet, rather than feeding it as a main diet.

How to make pasta toys

I got this amazing idea from my friend @rosiethelovie and I have to share it with everyone! Penguin simply adores playing with this toy :D

It is amazing how a simple uncooked pasta can bring so much chewing joy to my lovebirds! Pasta seems to provide interesting textures to chew on, and the hard pasta is a great chewing toy. Some parrots even bite off small pieces to eat. The best thing bout pasta that @rosiethelovie and I have agreed is that pasta toys are such unmessy toys! They merely break into pieces which can easily be picked up, something I can't say bout seed hulls and millets :P Also, probably everyone has at least a bag of pasta in the kitchen, and so many toys can be made out of it!

For a variety of pasta toys, you'd need:

1. Pasta such as fusilli, alfredo, penne, macaroni (basically pasta that can be strung together or tied together. Long string pasta like spaghetti and fusili might not be as easy to handle)

2. Paper twine

3. Small pieces of paper to wrap the pasta like a sweet (like the toy in the picture!)

You can either give a piece of pasta to your parrot to play with, tie it with paper twine like in the picture above, wrap it with paper twisted both ends (like a sweet) or put it in a treat bag style (above)! When introducing pasta toys to your parrot, i’d suggest that you give it straight to them without hiding it in paper. Once your parrot shows interest in playing with it, you can make it into foraging toys to give your parrot a challenge! Tie it, clip it, even attach it to other toys for more variety!

How to make shreddable toys

Making shreddable toys can be a very fun recycling activity where you can make lots of varieties of toys in different look, shape and colour just from household items. It can also be personalised - if you notice that there is a particular material that your parrot seems to like to shred and destroy, you can use more of that particular material in the shreddable toys.

For a variety of shreddable toys, you can use any of these safe tearable materials:

1. Toilet / kitchen towel rolls

2. Empty tissue boxes

3. Kraft paper bags / wrapper

4. Cardboard boxes

5. Plain white / colour paper

7. Cupcake liners

8. Wrapping paper made with recycled paper

10. Empty biscuit cardboard boxes

11. The thin tracing paper used to wrap lingerie

12. Shredded paper/tissue paper

13. Dried loofah

14. Recycled egg cartons

15. Paper twine

16. Sisal rope

17. Natural twine

Pierce a hole or use a whole puncher to make a hole in the materials and then string the materials together with twine or rope. Loose, flappy paper and a variety of textures (cardboard, lingerie paper, card stock etc) will make the toy even more exciting to destroy! You can even cut paper or paper rolls into 'octopuses' like this:

Start collecting these materials in the bag and soon you'd have a bag enough to make weeks worth of toys!

An even easier shredding (and preening toy) can be just shredded paper bunched together by a cable tie or twine. Hang on the walls of the cage beside a perch or from the ceiling bars of the cage.

How to make hanging wood toys

Hanging wood toys are great to climb on, beak at and gnaw the wood into pieces! As most parrots like to chew the bark (and even the whole piece of wood) into pieces, they have a similar use as shreddable toys as I explained earlier, but as wood is of a tougher material, they work well in keeping the beak naturally trimmed. Wood pieces to DIY toys can be found in:

  1. Craft stores

  2. Rodent wood toys (hamsters, rabbits, gerbil) in the pet store

  3. Online shops that sell craft materials

  4. Hardware stores

Do remember that if you do source for wood pieces in a non-pet store, do take note of the type of wood used and whether it has been treated (with lacquer, dyed or painted). The best options are non-treated wood pieces that are also not dyed.

Although it is likely that you would not have ready materials at home, making wooden toys out of them is definitely much cheaper than toys you'd buy at the store. If you have the time to source and make these toys, they can be a good substitute to store-bought toys. For my toys in the above picture, I used sisal rope twine instead of paper twine so I can wash and reuse.

For wood pieces, use a wood electric drill bit to drill holes through the wood (such that they look like beads) so you can string them up. An interesting idea for a thick block of wood is to drill holes of different sizes into the wood (but not through it) to form a little crevice to stuff treats as a wooden foraging toy block.

One of my favourite wooden toys that is also very simple to DIY is to buy a cheap rattan basket (I bought mine for $2) and tie sisal rope twine at 3 points to form a hanging basket. My birds love swinging, foraging, and even eat their chop sometimes in the basket! You can do the same with clean and dried coconut husk as well - although you’d need a wood electric drill bit as well.

There you have it! I hope I've inspired you with a few ideas of how you can make your own parrot toys with items that you'd usually trash. Do share with me if you do DIY any parrot toys in the comments on this blog or tag @lifewith.parrots in your pictures! I'd love to see what ideas you have ;)