Using Rope Toys and Perches (Plus, a Review!)
April 28, 2011 § 14 Comments
Using natural cotton rope in cages is something that I often go back and forth on. Even though there are certain toys I would never purchase — ones with very long, dangling strands of cotton rope marketed as “preening” toys — I have purchased many toys that use cotton rope as the base, only to realize after the fact that perhaps this too could be a safety hazard. I was looking at some of my older photos recently and found this one:
I couldn’t help but wonder to myself, wow, could that dead toy have been a safety hazard? After all, there are three or four strands of cotton rope right there, each about four or five inches long. Am I lucky that Lola didn’t strangle herself, or lose a toe? I have no idea. Regardless, lately, I have been a lot more cognizant of purchasing toys made with cotton rope, and I do make a point of avoiding it. It’s easy enough to find safe alternatives, and since I make most of Lola’s toys anyway, it’s not really an issue.
I felt good about my decision, especially after reading this great but very sad post on the Phoenix Landing blog about fabric causing blockages in a lory’s body and leading to his very death. In the blog post, titled “Yet Another Cautionary Tale,” their vet notes that for parrots “that like to pick on thread or fabric,” even very tiny pieces, “a mass can form that plugs the bird’s stomach.” So not only are there strangulation and toe-catching issues, but even ingestion ones from just tiny pieces of fabric, cotton, or whatever the culprit.
And if you scan the online parrot forums and communities, banning cotton rope toys is actually a relatively common thing to do. (I say that because I do admit that many of my no-no’s are ultra paranoid and definitely do not represent the norm, but for once this is not just me!) Many, many parrot owners will specify that they do not want their toys strung on any sort of cotton rope nor do they allow any cotton rope toys in cage. There are even some parrot toy stores that don’t use any cotton rope at all now as well.
It has always seemed strange to me, then, that most parrot owners do not feel this way about cotton rope perches. After all, don’t they pose a lot of the same dangers as those cotton toys that most parrot owners would regard as dangerous? Whether in toy or perch form, toe-snagging threads can easily come loose and pose a safety risk to a parrot. I know many of us are very diligent at inspecting all perches for loose threads daily, but what about when we are at work and aren’t there to see our parrot chew up a rope perch into many loose threads, only to get a toe stuck a few minutes later? There are so many safety risks that can happen in the span of a few minutes, or even seconds. Is there a reason why so many parrot owners seem to feel differently about cotton rope in toys as opposed to cotton rope perches?
Although not for cotton rope safety reasons, I actually stopped using cotton rope perches in my cages a long while ago, when I realized that all of them have galvanized wires inside of them. Thankfully, however, Mother Pluckin’ Bird Toys now has a great selection of cotton rope perches with stainless steel wire inside of them! Ironically, I purchased a whole bunch and they arrived around the same time that I decided to stop using cotton rope toys in cages. Although I did test them out, I realized that they really do have all of the same safety risks, and wasn’t sure I felt comfortable using them. That, coupled with the fact that Lola loves to chew on this blissful and soft cotton rope, made me have flashbacks about that poor lory. (All that aside, these are excellent and super high quality rope perches and if you do feel comfortable using them in cage, they are fantastic!) So, I attached a few outside of their cages, and left it at that.
Even more recently, I was rearranging cages, and then realized: wait a minute! Charles’s very favorite swing of all time, his custom-made sleepy swing from Grey Feather Toys, has cotton rope. Why have I never even thought twice about letting him have this swing in cage? It made me realize something very special about the way that Grey Feather Toys wraps their swings and boings.
On their website, they advertise that “Most swings are made by tucking the wire within the center of the rope. Grey Feather Toys completely wraps the stainless steel wire base with natural rope giving you almost a triple wrap.” I will be honest — I used to think this was a silly marketing ploy that really didn’t make a difference. In fact, I have read this on other boing and swing makers’ sites — that it doesn’t make a quality difference at all. But there is one really important implication of this process: they use smaller diameter rope. Smaller diameter rope means a much tighter weave that the thicker diameters simply can’t have. Even on their thicker diameter rope swings that I have, the actual diameter of the rope is probably only about 3/8″ or maybe 1/2″. Therefore, the threads of the ropes that they use are incredibly unlikely to come loose. Plus, they wrap them incredibly tightly and secure them with tight knots as well.
I realized that of all of my Grey Feather Toys swings (and I have a lot), I have scrubbed them, cleaned them, run them under hot water, let the bids chew them up, etcetera– and I have never had a single thread even begin to come loose on a Grey Feather Toys swing. They are wrapped so tightly and the threads themselves are so tight that it simply isn’t an issue. Charles and Sabrina gnaw their swing every night– they rub their mash-covered beaks on it and I have to take it out and scrub it, very harshly, every morning– and it still looks new.
You know what happened next– I contacted the company about making some custom rope perches with stainless steel wire inside. Rebecca Wells, a woman with the patience of a saint, was nice enough to oblige me! I am so happy with these extremely high quality, durable, and most importantly, safe rope perches. I haven’t put them inside the cages just yet because the flock just had their cages rearranged, but I won’t have to think twice about the safety of doing so in the future. Not only do they feature their typical tightly woven rope, but Grey Feather Toys also welds the stainless steel wire to the connectors inside the perch to hold the rope in place because of their no glue policy! Because of the welding, they do have to use a very stiff wire, making the perch somewhat difficult to bend (on par with the Mother Pluckin’ rope perches), but they are also extremely sturdy. Lola can land on the budgie-sized perches and they don’t give at all under her weight.
Of course, I purchased Lola-sized ones as well, and they are so well made. As you can see, the cotton rope is woven so tightly that I am confident that there won’t be loose threads. Of course, I will continue to monitor all cotton rope items daily for any safety hazards, just in case. But I am so happy with the excellent quality and safety of these rope perches, and I am glad that I can worry about one less thing. Yay!
Anyway, back to the original subject: what do you guys think? I am actually very interested to know who feels cotton rope is safe or unsafe, who makes a distinction between cotton toys vs. cotton perches, and why?