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:

Lola perched next to a former toy, now reduced to cotton rope

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?

Lola on a Mother Pluckin' Bird Toys cotton rope perch

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.

Charles on his very favorite custom-made swing from Grey Feather Toys

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.

Charles on his custom rope perch from Grey Feather Toys

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.

A thick custom rope perch for Lola

A close-up of the tight weave on Lola's rope perch

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?

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§ 14 Responses to Using Rope Toys and Perches (Plus, a Review!)

  • Ming-Ming says:

    I’ve started to become a bit paranoid about stuff like that too. Old rope perches are getting replaced ASAP, and if anyone of them start to fray I will through them out. But most of my rope perches are placed in not as popular places, so they aren’t used as much as my wood perches!

    That being said, my birds don’t chew on the perches. If they did they would be removed right away!

    I’m starting to get a bit paranoid about the cotton rope toys too! All the toys I have are made of superior cotton, so i don’t need to worry about getting tangled or strangled, but I never thought about ingesting it!!!!
    Kyoko’s favourite swing is made of superior cotton! I’ll have to think about whether I want to risk it or not!!!

    What are your thoughts on Oliver’s Gardens? A close friend of mine had her conure chew off all her toes because she got caught in a rope swing, and I was trying to find similar alternatives, and I thought about OG.

    I also ADORE those perches from GFT! I am definitely going to need to order some of those one day!

    • Coco's Flock says:

      Reading that blog entry about ingestion also made me paranoid about superior cotton rope. Lola’s favorite swing is superior cotton too. She does like to chew on it but how would I know if she ingested it or not? 😦 I removed it this week.

      I LOVE Oliver’s Garden, you know that. But, I do still feel the same way about their stuff. They use all natural cotton so it has the same potential for toe tangling that any other rope swing, perch, or toy would.

      By the way did my box to you arrive yet? 🙂

  • HungryBird says:

    Those are the coolest rope perches I’ve ever seen. Are they comfy for their feet? I don’t see them on their site, are they custom perches?

    I don’t buy toys with rope unless it is leather and not too much. I recently bought a foraging toy with a chain and some leather rope attached and I threw those things out because they seemed unsafe.

    I’m going to have to try this company now too. You keep posting all these wonderful things and I still haven’t been able to get to half the stores on my list of stores to try!

    • Coco's Flock says:

      Aren’t they cool?! The little ones have these really pretty, heavy duty beads at the ends. I love them! They are indeed custom, but if you email, Rebecca Wells is super nice and happy to oblige. They are definitely very comfy… still that soft cotton feel but very tightly woven. Seriously, I LOVE Grey Feather Toys– you’ve got to try their stuff!

  • Erika says:

    What a fascinating article, thank you for taking the time to write it. 🙂
    -I wonder if you realize how much money you’re saving me?? I pay a little extra up front for quality items, yet I know I’ll reap the rewards later as Bean grows up with minimal risks and hopefully very healthy and well rounded.

  • Saemma says:

    This was a very informative post! Will certainly consider some rope perches from Grey Feather toys!Thanks Lotus!

  • […] For those of you who expressed interest in the awesome Grey Feather Toys rope perches in my last post, they truly are awesome BUT just know that they are NOT on the website; you have to email Rebecca […]

  • […] the right side.  The perches include one of the very beautiful Grey Feather Toys custom rope perches, a sandblasted manzanita corner perch with a food bowl, a ribbonwood perch, and a really awesome […]

  • […] as available on the site.  Anyway, I wanted that characteristic extremely tight cotton weave that I’ve written about, only very, very hard and thick plastic beads for the decoration (Lola can now snap through the […]

  • […] of its size, but I am so pleased with the construction and the very tightly wound rope.  As I’ve said before, I truly think Grey Feather Toys does an exceptional job with their cotton rope products.  I […]

  • Danielle says:

    Unfortunately, Grey Feather Toys appears to have gone out of business. Are there any other places that you’re aware of that sell rope perches constructed the same way? Thanks!

    • Coco's Flock says:

      I’m so disappointed about Grey Feather Toys too. Unfortunately, I don’t know of any right now, although I have been in contact with several toymakers to see if they might be willing to try (so far, no). Things for Wings does make a boing for small birds using the same method of tightly wound, smaller rope– but there are no perches, and nothing for the bigger guys either.

      • Danielle says:

        It’s such a shame that no other toymakers seem to be interested as I’m sure they’d be very popular! I’ll check out the boing at Things for Wings (might be suitable for my canary or ‘tiel) and besides that, I guess I’ll just have to keep an eye out for some good sisal perches. I have found someone local (in Australia) who makes sisal toys but am waiting to see whether she can make what I’m after.

      • Coco's Flock says:

        I mention this in my post, but Mother Pluckin’ Bird Toys has great quality rope perches as well. They’re not wound in quite the same way but they are still great products.

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