Looking to add a little enrichment to your parrot’s life? If you haven’t introduced it to foraging yet, be sure to give it a try. Parrot foraging toys are a fantastic way to stimulate natural food-searching behaviors in your feathered pet and make feeding time more exciting.
Keep reading to find out why parrot foraging toys are so important and a few of my favorite buy and DIY options!
5 fun parrot foraging toys to buy
Hanging ball toy
A classic! Hang or put the toy down in a place where your parrot can easily reach it and stuff it with some millet or other treats. Experienced toy enthusiasts will dig right in, and even the more apprehensive bird will eventually get over their suspicion of the big, colored object in order to get to the food.
My budgies often spend ages manipulating this toy, trying to get every last morsel of millet out. Just remove the bell if yours is one of those that likes to sit and ring it for hours!
Hanging cups toy
Here’s one for medium-sized parrots that are a little more familiar with the idea of foraging for their food. This hanging toy consists of multiple stacked transparent cups with loose lids. You can fill the cups with treats and then leave it to your bird to figure out how to reach them.
As fun as they are, most parrot owners do recommend removing bells from toys that have them in spots accessible to the bird. Not all are made of quality materials and some can rust. Additionally, there have been occasional reports of parrots getting their beak stuck on them.
Parrot pineapple toy
The Planet Pleasures pineapple toy is a pretty popular one in the parrot world. It’s made of colored palm leaves folded in such a way that the resulting toy has lots of little pouches. Perfect to hide treats in and encourage your bird to forage! Additionally, it’s shreddable due to the palm leaf material, giving parrots the opportunity to practice their instinctual chewing and preening behaviors.
This toy is available in four different sizes, so whatever kind of parrot you have, there’s always one that will match it.
As shown in a 2010 study (plus many parrot owners’ personal experiences), one very easy but effective way to get the most out of feeding time, preventing your parrot from gulping down its entire meal in under a minute, is to offer larger chunks. It makes them spend more time eating and less time sitting around being bored.
I like to offer my own parrots big chunks of vegetables and fruit using a hanging bird kabob. This is basically just a skewer that can be hung from the cage. It ensures the food can’t fall like it would if you place it in a food bowl (parrots are pretty good at dropping their meals) and the dangling adds a little extra challenge.
My birds’ favorites for the kabob are romaine lettuce and apple.
Parrot treat tube
Got a parrot on your hands that isn’t too sure how foraging works yet? I love this treat tube to introduce birds to the concept. Because it’s transparent, they can see the food inside and will almost always begin manipulating the tube to get their coveted treats. They soon catch on to the fact that treats may be hidden anywhere, and start to more actively search for them and become more accepting to foraging in general.
For an easy option, fill the tube with small bits that fall out if it’s rolled. To make things more difficult, stuff slightly larger treats inside that will take a bit more work for a parrot to get to.
3 fun DIY parrot foraging toys
I love coming up with my own (foraging) toys for my birds. It’s loads cheaper than buying new ones all the time, especially if you’ve got one of those parrots that manages to destroy their toys faster than you can buy them.
Additionally, going the DIY route is a great way to reduce waste: you’ll often have to remove toys from a parrot’s cage because they’re spent and can become unsafe, but if you take those toys apart, many parts will actually still be good to reuse. I like to save any reusable parts, especially clasps, and combine them with parrot-safe items found around the house. Some store-bought bits and bobs are perfect to finish it all off.
Parrots love everything they can chew, pull apart and destroy. Examples of parrot toy-making parts you could try include:
- Soft (balsa) wood shapes colored with vegetable dye
- Vine balls
- Coffee filters and cupcake liners
- Coconut shells (store-bought or cleaned at home)
- Shredded paper or parrot-safe wood shavings
- Loofah rings
- Cuttlebone and calcium blocks
- Clean popsicle sticks
- Cholla cactus and other natural wood
- Cork bark
And much, much more!
Below, you’ll find three of my recent parrot foraging toy creations that are easy to replicate at home. Mine are meant for my small cockatiels and budgies, but you can easily modify them for larger parrots by using sturdier items.
Parrot foraging box
A fun foraging toy can take many shapes! Thinking outside of the box helps to come up with the best DIY ideas, and surprisingly enough, may lead you to actually think of the inside of a box.
A parrot foraging box is a fantastic way to encourage even birds who aren’t too familiar with the concept yet to forage for their food. The idea is to take a simple box and fill it with all sorts of items parrots love, like small toys and treats. Then, you fill it with shredded paper, hay or parrot-safe wood shavings in order to hide those desirable items. And let the fun begin!
You can find out how to put together a foraging box for your birds in the full post on making a parrot foraging box!
Hanging coco parrot foraging toy
I buy fresh coconuts sometimes and open them by cutting off a small part of the top. That way I can use the large bottom part of the shell to make a nice hanging planter for my houseplants, and the small top piece for parrot toys! It’s not difficult if you have a small saw and a drill, although you can also buy coconut shell pieces in-store.
For this hanging coco foraging toy, you can obviously go for any materials you like, but I used:
- Wood clasp from an old toy, which can also be bought in-store
- Untreated hemp twine
- Store-bought loofah rings
- Store-bought vine balls
- Coconut shell tops
- Some leftover shredded paper
To make the toy, stack the items however you’d like, but include a part in the middle where you use two coconut shell pieces and vine balls to create a slightly opened ball. Stuff the ball with some shredded paper and your parrot’s favorite snacks. You can also press seeds or small pellets into the loofah.
Slightly loose stacking of the pieces ensures your bird can safely worm its beak into and out of the ball to get to the treats without the risk of getting stuck! Larger parrots may even manage to break the coco shell apart.
Calcium edible forager
I somehow always have half-spent calcium blocks laying around. I’m sure the same goes for many parrot owners! Since I live near the beach and can pick up and clean my own cuttlebone, I’ve got plenty of those too. So why not come up with a toy that combines basic foraging with these great sources of calcium?
In case you weren’t aware, getting enough calcium is very important for a healthy bird. They need it to produce healthy feathers and various other crucial bodily functions. Hens especially need lots of calcium when they’re laying; read more in the articles about cuttlebone and calcium blocks.
Aside from the calcium sources, you can again use any items you’d like for this toy, although I do particularly recommend the loofah rings. Those are perfect to press seeds or small pellets into for extra foraging fun for small parrots.
Here’s what I used:
- Quick link from an old toy
- Vegetable-dyed wood pieces from an old toy
- Cuttlebone pieces with drilled holes
- Old calcium blocks with drilled holes
- Loofah rings
- Aspen wood shavings (my cockatiels love pulling them out)
If you have any more questions about the best parrot foraging toys or would like to share your own favorite DIY toy-making ideas, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below!
Rozek, J. C., Danner, L. M., Stucky, P. A., & Millam, J. R. (2010). Over-sized pellets naturalize foraging time of captive Orange-winged Amazon parrots (Amazona amazonica). Applied animal behaviour science, 125(1-2), 80-87.