The African Grey Parrot loves to explore new items and has an innate desire to shred things. Keep reading to learn more about toys for African Grey Parrots.
As with all things, safety first. Toys should be made of bird-safe materials. Avoid items with small crevices where a tiny toe may get caught. When providing rope toys, be sure that the toy can’t get wrapped around the bird's neck or leg. Resist the urge to provide indestructible toys.
The best toys for your African Grey Parrot may differ depending on the age of your bird. A young bird may still be learning how to explore, and may not have the confidence to begin exploring on their own. For these young birds, you will need to teach them to explore by showing them toys and how to play with them.
If your parrot pal doesn’t show interest in toys at first, the best way to pique their curiosity is to have a good time with the toy in front of them. Get another person to help you if you can. Show the toy to the parrot, but immediately take it away and give it to the other person. Let the parrot see them enjoying the toy as well. If it is a shreddable toy, then shred it a bit. If it is a noisy toy, make some noise, but be careful not to scare a shy young bird. Show the toy to the parrot again. Continue to do this until the parrot begins to show interest in the toy. They will lean toward it when it is presented, let them have it briefly, then take it away again. Continue this until the parrot is playing with the toy as intended.
Another possible way to introduce new toys is to have a few toys laid out on the floor, then let the parrot explore them together with you in this area. Parrots are a lot like people. They are relatively long-lived, and they are born not really knowing how to be a bird. They learn the proper behavior from their flock, which in this case, is you. So show them the behavior you want them to exhibit, reward the positive, play down any negative behavior, and they will learn which behaviors have pleasant outcomes.
Remember that in the wild, an African Grey Parrot never has to wonder what to do next. Every moment of their lives is taken up with finding food, finding water, evading predators, sleeping, and making more African Grey Parrots! Living in a cage, regardless of how luxurious it is, may eventually leave your companion bird bored! Don’t overcrowd the cage with every toy your parrot owns. Instead, cycle through toys leaving a few in the cage at a time and swapping different toys in on a regular basis. This way, your bird never gets too accustomed to one or two particular toys.
TOYS FOR THE MIND:
As for the types of toys that are suitable for African Grey Parrots, think of them in three (3) categories. Toys that are good for their brain. These are the ones that will help to exercise their mind to prevent boredom. Things like leather knots that your bird will enjoy untying, and toys where treats or foraging material can be hidden inside in order to allow your parrot to find them are excellent examples of good toys to stimulate the brain. Many toys will fall into multiple categories.
BEAK AND MOUTH TOYS:
The next category is beak and mouth toys. Now, many toys will actually occupy space in multiple categories. For example, a leather knot toy is a good brain toy, but it’s also a great beak and mouth toy. Birds explore things with their mouths. You can see a bird when they encounter something new, testing it with both their beak and their tongue in an effort to determine what it is. Is it dangerous? Can I eat it? Does it make noise when I bite or pull on it? All are questions that can be answered with an exploratory nibble.
Another aspect of chewable toys is beak maintenance. African Grey Parrots evolved over millennia to have very hard beaks that grow continuously. In the wild they are used for all kinds of things. Not least of which is cracking seeds and nuts to get to the good stuff inside. If they don’t have enough toys and foods that challenge their beak, it can become overgrown and interfere with their ability to eat properly. Allowing the beak length to be naturally worn down with hard toys and foods is always preferred over a trip to the avian vet.
TOYS FOR THE FEET AND LEGS:
Finally, we’ll talk about toys for foot enrichment. African Grey Parrots need a variety of surfaces to stand on, and to explore with their feet. They have evolved to stand on branches covered with bark, aka rough surfaces. When caged, they need a variety of surfaces on both their perches, and their toys. If you think about it, once a parrot is out of the nest, it is either flying or standing, unless it’s brooding. Companion birds typically don’t get the opportunity to fly as much as their wild counterparts, so they will spend, in some cases, 50+ years standing in one way or another. Imagine having to do that with sore feet!
Toys in a variety of materials, with a variety of textures are ideal for the African Grey Parrot’s feet. A toy that provides enrichment for both the feet and the mind is particularly welcome. In addition to toys, perches and swings with a variety of surface textures can also provide a good foot and leg workout. An African Grey who spends all their time on smooth surfaces will likely wind up with sores on their feet. This is because they will consistently be putting pressure on the same area of the foot all the time. It’s the bird version of a bed sore.
Natural sola and vine toys are excellent rough surfaces to tantalize the feet, and they also provide safe shredding opportunities to satisfy the Grey Parrot’s need to nest and forage. Once again, leather knots or rope twists offer varying textures with the opportunity to work out the puzzle the knot presents. These toys will give the mind, beak, feet, and legs all a stimulating workout, providing your African Grey Parrot with a rich and full life.