Implementing Parrot Enrichment: No-Brainer Foraging

November 11, 2013 § 7 Comments

A few posts ago, I summarized a few excellent articles and a DVD on parrot enrichment.  (You can read that post here.)  Although I included examples in that post, I thought it would be helpful to show how I’ve since integrated what I’ve learned about parrot enrichment into my girls’ lives.  I personally felt that the biggest takeaway from my research was just how important foraging is: it covers four out of the five major categories (occupational, physical, sensory, and nutritional) and is a natural behavior that all birds exhibit in the wild.  So I have begun integrating as many foraging opportunities as possible for my two, making sure to switch them up and to keep them guessing.

There is a myriad of excellent information about foraging on the web, and tons of sites with fantastic ideas.  My ideas draw from many of them, and are only a drop in the bucket compared to just how many brilliant ideas there are out there.  But I try to focus on natural materials, and easier foraging opportunities.  My parrots are beginning foragers, and foraging is a particular challenge with a bird as tiny as Sabrina is, so these are the few foraging tips that I’ve decided to implement for right now.  Those with more advanced parrots will probably not find this entry particularly illuminating, but if you are getting started with foraging or just looking for different, easy tips to expand your foraging repertoire, I hope this helps!

Lola’s food bowl covered with kraft paper

Lola sticking her head under the paper instead

Some of the easiest foraging toys involve simply adding paper.  The first thing I’ve started doing with Lola is simply putting some paper on top of her food bowls, and securing it with a little masking tape.  I use natural Kraft paper and Japanese washi tape.  (As a side note, I find Japanese washi tape particularly useful because it is reusable, and also because you can find it in about a billion colors and prints and patterns!  To go with my natural theme, I use natural tones [browns, tans, dark leafy greens] and a wood grain washi tape.)  It costs next to nothing and it takes about two seconds, so there’s no excuse not to do it– except that Lola absolutely doesn’t get it.  For some reason, she doesn’t understand what in the world she is supposed to do.  I can lift up the paper a million times to show her the food underneath it, but once I re-secure the paper, she stares at me like, “Well??  Where’s my food?  What am I supposed to do with this?”  She even walked on top of the paper across the bowl and looked under the bowl as if the food was hiding from her.  Silly bird.  I’ll keep trying 🙂  This is something I really want her to learn how to do because it’s one of the only ways I can think of to combine her fresh foods plus foraging.

more easy paper ideas

In fact, there’s an entire world of foraging ideas out there that just use paper.  An assortment of some of the things I use is photographed above: mini kraft paper boxes, tiny tiny kraft paper bags, slightly larger kraft paper bags, one of my rolls of washi tape, and natural mini cupcake liners.  The possibilities are endless.  For an incredibly easy fix, wrap treats, squares of bird bread, or anything else in cupcake liners or dixie cups.  If I hand Lola any nut wrapped up in a cupcake liner or a dixie cup, she knows exactly what to do, and she wastes no time getting to it.  

miniature (2.5″ x 4″) kraft paper bags

Lola foraging with her paper bag almond treat

Another thing I absolutely love are these tiny little 2.5″ x 4″ kraft paper bags.  They perfectly fit most in shell nuts and are adorable!  I wrapped one up and secured it with some thin leather cord, and Lola loved it.  The paper is actually a little bit thicker than most kraft paper bags, so it makes for a good treat wrapper.  My good friend at Avian Avenue made a post about these bags and I have been obsessed ever since.  (Actually, a lot of these ideas are things that she came up with first!!  She is a truly inspirational parrot owner and has endless ideas for foraging toys and enrichment.  The paper wrapped toy below is an original of hers, and I only found out about washi tape because of her as well.)

I buy all sizes of kraft paper bags now, and they are so versatile and easy to use.  With a slightly larger bag, you can fill it up with any assortment of treats or foot toys or anything else and just hang it up in the cage.  It’s like a parrot pinata and by changing the contents with each bag, you’ll keep your parrot guessing.  (And again, it’s something that takes about 5 seconds and costs very little!)

diy paper wrapped foraging toy materials

step two: tie knots between each treat

the finished product!

But you don’t only have to use kraft paper bags as bags.  I have some larger ones around 9″ long and I will cut them in half (so that they’re two detached sheets rather than a bag) and use them to create this paper wrapped foraging toy.  In each section, there’s a treat: in this one, an almond, a hazelnut, and a dried cranberry.  I am going to hang this up in Lola’s cage and she’ll have to forage her way to treat-dom.  You can make even longer or shorter versions of it, or put anything you can dream up in each pocket.

a ton of different foraging ideas

Those paper boxes are also great.  I put them together and poke holes through to skewer them (see the toy on the right in the above photo), but I am also going to try to side mount one with some stainless steel hardware.  Above the cardboard box in the photo is a little wooden treat box that opens.  There’s another super simple idea.  You can find little wooden treat boxes or cups like this at most craft stores, or you can buy them online.  I purchased this one from Things for Wings, where Danita is kind enough to drill holes through them, or add some stainless steel hardware to make a side-mounted foraging cup like Lola has in her cage.  And on top of that there is a vine ball, which has endless possibilities (more on vine balls below).

In the center of the above photo is actually a deconstructed toy that I skewered.  It’s actually a Planet Pleasures two that’s much larger (has two of those coconut feeders) and comes on a long piece of metal chain.  I’m not a big fan of chain and I don’t use any non-stainless steel metals, plus the toy was ginormous, so I took the toy apart and made a smaller, skewered version.  I actually really love the parts to this toy because aside from being made from great natural materials (just bamboo and coconut shells), it’s an awesome foraging feeder that requires Lola to stick her head in the coconut hole, but the upper coconut piece actually moves along the skewer and can be lifted up, so that there is no chance of her getting her head stuck.  With a lot of the foraging toys out there that consist of a wood, bamboo, coconut, plastic, etc. base with a hole in it, you must be very careful to make sure that it is properly sized for your parrot and that your parrot won’t get his or her head stuck in it while busy foraging.  This one bears no such risk and I think it’s a great toy.  Plus the bowl is very generously sized, and is a great alternative to just putting a seed mix or pellets in a normal bowl everyday.

Finally, on the left in the photo up above is another toy that I deconstructed and made my own.  I actually don’t know the name of this toy or the brand, but in store it comes with a bunch of dyed parts and other things stuffed inside the cardboard peanut base and attached to it elsewhere.  I took all of that stuff off and skewered the cardboard peanut.  I’m going to stuff it with some paper and other materials, and use it as a treat cage.

One more awesome foraging material: skewers!  Skewers are so easy to use, and they’re reusable, and they make the perfect safe toy base for any size bird.  Unlike rope or cord or chain, there’s no chance of a skewer getting tangled around your bird’s neck or toes, and they are great for toys or simply for skewering fresh veggies or food.

Lola and her cornucopia toy

Now back to vine balls.  Vine balls area amazing.  Strangely, I didn’t know this until I ordered this very cool toy from Things for Wings called the Cornucopia.  Lola has always been such a wood chipper and has never really taken to shredding, so I had really stopped buying toys with vine balls or using them on my DIY toys.  I’m not sure what possessed me to buy this toy– probably how cute it is– but it’s awesome.  It’s a whole bunch of delectable parts in a basket (which is yet another great foraging toy part), which Lola loved to begin with, but she truly went nuts for it when I finally thought of putting treats inside the vine balls.  Not only did it turn her on to a new toy part to play with, but it also got her exploring a lot more.  I would put treats in some of the vine balls on some days, other vine balls on other days, and sometimes nothing, but every single day, she checked the entire toy without fail.  And the more I introduced vine balls in other toys, she did the same thing.  One of the best things about foraging is that when your parrot learns that there could be treats lurking in anything, they are way more willing to try new toys and to dive right in, and they are willing to go to different parts of the cage to explore and find them!

vine ball foraging toy

For example, once she learned that vine balls could contain treats, she would seek them out wherever she could.  I threw together this ugly skewered vine ball and wood toy in about 10 seconds, and it kept her busy for hours.  She could chip away at the wood and she could break for snack time, all from one spot.

a skewered plastic cup, vine ball, and natural box

Here’s another easy peasy foraging toy using a vine ball.  This one’s also got a plastic cup and a little foraging box too, but it was still a breeze to make.  With plastic cups nowadays I will usually wrap the treat in paper first (like one of those mini paper bags or mini cupcake liners), unless I know the plastic is food safe.

natural foraging materials

Those little boxes are really great resources as well.  A lot of bird toy stores carry little boxes or containers in all shapes and sizes, made out of great shreddable material.  These are just a few examples.

foraging toys made from natural shreddables

Stick them on a skewer, and suddenly you have a new toy!  Lola loves this one in particular for some reason, and it’s really funny to watch her stick her whole head and half her body into this toy to fish out one measly sunflower seed.  She pretty much always has some variation of this toy in her cage, and she forages for all sorts of dry foods out of it.

Similarly, natural baskets make great foraging toys.  You can skewer them, hang them, or side mount them, and throw some stuff in there.  Alternatively they also make great foot toy buckets.

shreddable bags

In the same vein, little shreddable bags also make great foraging toys, in particular for the little guys.  I often find it challenging to create foraging opportunities for Sabrina, but this is one of her favorites.  If I stick natural items or treats or anything into a little shopping bag like this one, Sabrina will go in and fish it right out.  She loves these little bags and has gone through a ton of them.  This one in particular is from Things for Wings.  Be careful about the handles when using them and make sure they are either too small for your bird to get his head through, or large enough for him to get his whole body through.  If they are somewhere in between, I’d snip the handles.

soft balsa wood toys

Soft woods make awesome foraging toys.  Just like the balsa wood toy on the right from I Got a Woody, I often take all sorts of soft wood and push little treats into them to embed them in the wood.  It will get your bird foraging but it’ll also help get them started destroying their toys and playing more.  I do this with yucca and cork as well, as they are both very soft and great for embedding sunflower seeds or pine nuts.  Mother Pluckin’ Bird Toys carries corks in all sizes, but they also carry jumbo size ones I haven’t seen anywhere else that make awesome foot toys.  Loofah is another cool toy part that also makes a great foraging base.

an extra small fantastic foraging block

Soft woods are great for embedded treats, but hard woods can do the trick too!  The wooden block toy above is an awesome (and actually very cost effective toy) from Kris Porter called the Fantastic Foraging Block.  (They also happen to be on sale right now!)  As you can see above, you can stick hole veggies in the holes (like I did with the carrot tops), or you can put pieces of them in the slats (like I did with the actual carrot).  Another great choice is are the wood toys from Parrot’s Treasure.  I’m sure if you were handy with a drill, you could also make some awesome ones on your own.

DIY foraging toy 1

DIY foraging toy 2

DIY foraging toy 3

Don’t get me wrong– I’m absolutely not handy with a drill.  But if you’re like me, you can still buy the parts for cheap and with a little patience, turn them into really cool toys!  Here are three toys that I’m extra proud of.  The one on top has a longer channel in it and three big hole openings, but you can make them more challenging by tying leather cord in them like I did so that the treats don’t just fall out and require some manipulation.  Below that, the middle toy has a ton of fun wood to chew and destroy, but also holes embedded in the center blocks for treats.  And finally, the one below it has two long foraging tubes that also have leather strips in front of the holes to make them more challenging.  Notice that all three of them are based on my trusty stainless steel skewers as well!

DIY bridge / ladder swing

detail shot of the foraging blocks on the swing

My masterpiece is the DIY bridge / ladder swing above, which also marked my official retirement from DIY toys.  (Just kidding.  Sort of.  I don’t take anything ambitious on anymore, at least.)  But this is a really cool project, and I even managed to slip some foraging opportunities in there for Lola while she’s hanging out and swinging.

But there’s so much more.  I recently mentioned the acrylic drawer toys from Parrot Island Inc.  Still love ’em!  They do admittedly require more of an upfront investment, but they are so well made that I am sure they’ll last forever.  Another easy toy to make yourself: a measuring cup or stainless steel spoon toy.  You can use what you already have, or buy a cheap set from the store.  I also recently purchased some paper straws, which I’ve seen really cool toys made out of.  I haven’t gotten them yet but will post some ideas once I receive them and figure out how to make something.  Another thing I’m working on is creating foraging trays for my guys, both Lola and Sabrina.  They’ll be wooden trays and I’ll fill them up with wood pieces, fresh branches and leaves, and other foraging material, and hidden will be some seeds, nuts, etc. that they will forage for.  It’s a similar idea to creating a foraging food mix rather than just a dry food mix, which I’ve seen some manufacturers actually create now.  I first learned about it here (a really cool link!).

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now, until my guys advance to more difficult foraging tasks.  I hope this has given you some ideas.  For me, the key thing is to keep them guessing and keep changing it up!  You might have noticed that Lola has about a billion different types of “bowls” in her cage: three food bowls, two foraging bowls, a coconut cup (will post about that soon), skewered boxes that serve as food bowls, acrylic drawers, a stainless steel toy bucket, etc.  (Yes, Sabrina has a ton too.)  They’re never all full at once, but she knows that I might put food or treats in any of them on any given day, so she checks them all.  This keeps her busy and hunting around for food– foraging!  It’s all about keeping her mind and body busy, and keeping her enriched.  

For way more ideas and inspirational articles, definitely take a look at the following: Desi Milpacher’s article on foraging toys and Kris Porter’s two awesome enrichment books.

Lola’s Latest Cage Setup!

November 9, 2013 § 3 Comments

I have to tell you, getting my S.O. to watch the enrichment DVD from my last post with me was about the smartest thing I’ve ever done.  We were rearranging Lola’s cage yesterday (which he insisted so that we can “make sure she is fully enriched!!”) and he basically took over the operation!  I was only there to put washers in place and screw on a few wing nuts.  Actually, he did a really great job.  He configured some things in new ways that I hadn’t thought to before, and Lola really seems to be enjoying it.

the whole view!

I couldn’t get a very good photo of the whole thing because of the way the room is– this is about the best I could do.  But it’s the whole picture, with Lola on the top left in the photo.

with the door open

So here it is with the door open. The first thing you see is that there’s her trusty double-sided ribbonwood perch from the Birdsafe Store right on the door, and a cute little flagstone porch at the bottom from Bird on the Rocks.  Her foot toy bucket is next to it, on the left.  (Unfortunately, the company that made this awesome stainless steel bucket– Grey Feather Toys– is no longer in business, it seems.  It’s really a bummer because it was one of our absolute favorites.)

the upper left-hand side of the cage

On the upper left, there’s an awesome grapevine wood perch that you can’t see too well here, but Lola loves, and a mini side-mounted foraging pot, both from Things for Wings.  The stainless steel toy in the back there is a MegaFone, also from GFT and no longer available, and the toy that Lola is playing with in the photo is one of Kris Porter’s fantastic foraging blocks.  The big wooden slab toy with the coins is from I Got a Woody.

left side view

Here’s a better view of that mini foraging pot.  Isn’t it cute?  Right in front of that,  the little stubby perch is an awesome willow step from the Little Perch Company— she is obsessed with ripping the chunky bark off of these.  I actually originally purchased them for Sabrina but it turns out Lola likes them a lot more.  Below that is a pretty beat up Things for Wings toy that she loves, as usual, and then a gorgeous sandblasted manzanita forked perch also from Things for Wings.

the center / back of the cage… and Lola photobombing it

In the center there’s her absolute favorite supreme cotton rope swing from Big Beaks Bird Toys, a perennial favorite.  Sadly, it’s blocking a great Avian Stainless noisy toy, the Major Tude.  Behind all that is one of those extremely cool shelf-style cork perches from I Got a Woody.  I was going to stick it in the like a normal shelf perch, but my S.O. insisted that we angle it so that she had to climb it.  I was skeptical that it would be wide enough for her to be able to do so, or that my clumsy bird would be able to make her way up, but I let him try it.  To my surprise, Lola absolutely loved it!!  She spent a good while on the perch climbing, inspecting, and chewing it up.

Lola on her cork shelf

Below that is a rope perch, the last one we have left from GFT 😦  We are really sad about that.  But the S.O. took it and wound it in a cool way so that it goes from the center back of the cage all the way up to the front, right-hand side of the cage, almost like stair case.  I think Lola likes this mode of transportation from one side to the other.  It also means that I can hang more toys in the center area of the cage and she can actually reach them!

the right side of the cage

Here’s the right side.  You can see that the rope perch goes all the way up, and there are several skewered toys around it.  First is just a simple pandan box on a skewer, which is one of the ways I get Lola to forage for some of her food.  Behind that towards the back is the Basswood Stairway to Heaven from I Got a Woody, which I skewered.  You can barely see the last skewered toy I just realized– you can kind of see a wood chunk on the far right– but that’s an ugly foraging toy I made for Lola.  In that back corner area there are two food bowls (one you can’t really see, but it’s on the left of the pumice perch), and of course the very noticeable pumice perch.  The look of those perches still cracks me up, but hey, they get the job done.  Down below, there’s a big beautiful Things for Wings Toy, cornered by a lovely sandblasted manzanita perch and a Manu Mineral perch on the left.

view from the right side feeder door

One last angle so that you can see the acrylic foraging toy in the corner.  I absolutely love these toys, made by Parrot Island Inc.  I am very conscious of using food-safe plastics for foraging toys, but the vast majority of foraging toys on the market are all made with polycarbonate, which has BPA.  Parrot Island Inc.’s toys are all made with acrylic, which is food safe.  They are also incredibly thick and durable and very well made!  I highly recommend them.  You can also see another adorable little foraging pot on the right, and then a cool natural wood perch that actual swivels and can be configured to point at any angle!  That’s from Expandable Habitats.  I had forgotten about that perch for a while but it’s great for those hard to reach spots when a straight perch just won’t do.

And there it is!  I think he did an awesome job of designing it.  There’s a great mix of natural wood perches, from sandblasted manzanita to grapevine wood to cork to willow to ash, a pumice perch, a flagstone perch, a soft cotton rope perch, and platforms as well.  There are snappy wood toys, foraging toys, skewered toys, softer cork toys, noisy toys, shreddable toys, pretty toys, and ugly toys.  There’s a nice swing and even a crooked perching surface.  Lola seems extremely pleased with the new look herself, which is of course what matters most.

Lola’s New Setup

July 12, 2012 § 6 Comments

Well, summer is in full swing and yet things haven’t slowed down one bit here!  We’ve had a very busy past month or so what with lots of traveling and temporary stays and a recent move as well.  We’re juggling some unique challenges with our new home, but the cages, at least, are finally all set up and things are starting to feel somewhat normal here.  While we’re still easing into our surroundings, I thought I’d share Lola’s latest cage setup.  I’m not quite sure if it’s perfect just yet but I’ll be moving things around and tweaking positions as necessary while I observe her.

In case it’s been so long that you’ve forgotten who Lola is, here she is checking out her new surroundings!

a full frontal view of her new setup

There it is!  And there she is too.  That’s what it looks like with the door closed, but let’s go ahead and peek inside…  I apologize for the poor quality photos.  There’s ample light in the room but for some reason, my camera insisted on using the flash.  I’ve also never been a great photographer.

Here it is opened up!  On the door, there’s a really neat grapevine perch from Things for Wings, along with an acrylic foraging chest with great drawers that slide from side to side rather than opening from the front (they’re a bit more challenging).  It’s one of my favorite foraging toys (and it’s made from a food safe plastic!), and it’s from Parrot Island Inc.

Looking a little bit closer, on the far left up top there’s the Oliver’s Garden Skywalk platform perch with beads (a favorite of Lola’s), along with a great comfy cotton rope perch, a custom item from Grey Feather Toys.  Behind that is her favorite snuggly swing, made from supreme cotton rope by Big Beaks Bird Toys, and below that are some different natural wood perches, her stainless steel toy bucket, and her MegaFone.  On the left there’s a corner style sandblasted manzanita perch. What you see in front on the skewer is an ugly home made foraging toy that she likes to fish dry foods out of.  I have a second one that I’m going to install somewhere else as well (she forages for a lot of her food now, which is great).  There’s also a water bowl somewhere over there, but I’m not sure if it’s visible.

Okay, and on the right side we have some more fun.  Behind the big natural wood toy (another ugly homemade creation) is a bamboo perch, flanked by two great stainless steel toys.  I situated those two toys in those places because they are above food and water bowls, and I don’t want Lola chipping her wood into her food or water.  There are a few other perches: more sandblasted manzanita, manu minerals, and some other natural wood, along with a neat corkscrew from Mother Pluckin’ Bird Toys loaded with almond-stuffed wood blocks and, I believe, one more ugly homemade toy.

I know it’s not quite easy on the eyes, but we’re waiting on a nice big box from Things for Wings with what I’m sure will be beautiful toys, so for the time being Lola has to make do with my thrown-together creations.  So far, she doesn’t seem to mind too much.

In other news, she’s been talking up a storm and absolutely loves singing and dancing.  It’s beyond cute.  If I’m on the computer or preoccupied with something, she’ll start bopping her head and singing to herself.  The budgies are also doing well.  I don’t want to jinx it, but they’ve been living together harmoniously for the past few days!  They have a divider between them, but rather than a solid acrylic one, it’s stainless steel barred, and they haven’t been bothering each other at all.  I’m crossing my fingers that soon, they won’t even need a divider and they can share the entire space.  Setting up their cage with the divider can be a challenge.  I’ll post photos of that next time 🙂

Using Safe Plastics with Food

March 20, 2012 § 10 Comments

I tend to go into detail in my entries about why I purchase the products I do purchase, but there are, obviously, a myriad of parrot products I do not purchase.  There are, in fact, a lot more products that I won’t purchase than products I will, and I am very frequently asked what I think about certain products if I have yet to write about them on the blog.  Why don’t I make these types of questions and answers public?  It is not my intention at all to discredit or defame any vendor publicly, and I’m not trying to put anyone out of business; rather, I’m trying to do just the opposite: showcase those vendors who I think are creating top notch, unique, safe, and enriching products.  I also know that many people do not quite share all of my same standards or paranoias about food, toys, or toy parts, so just because something isn’t right for Charles, Lola, or Sabrina doesn’t mean it won’t be right for somebody else’s flock.

There are, however, a few things that I’m a big believer in: shopping bird-free, for example, is a big concern of mine, as is using stainless steel.  Another concern of mine is using safe plastics, in particular with food-related products or foraging toys.  I get this question extremely often, and I figured that it was worth addressing publicly, because safe plastics don’t fall under any one brand but rather are simply one of the many materials used in bird toys by almost every company.

Whether or not you feel comfortable giving your birds plastic toys is very often an individual owner’s decision, and definitely requires knowing your bird.  I know that Lola, for example, has way too strong a beak to be able to play with plastics safely, and she tends to harbor little pieces of plastic in her mouth for long periods of time.  Thus, plastics are a complete NO for her, unless they are very large pieces of extremely hard plastic beads (like marbella beads) that she absolutely cannot chip or destroy.  But generally, I simply say no plastic toys for her.  On the other hand, both Charles and Sabrina can play with plastic beads in a completely safe way.  They can beak and beat and batter them and never chip them even a little, so plastic beads are completely fine as toy parts for them.

But there is a different consideration that I would argue should be ruled out for every bird owner, whether or not your parrot can play with plastics safely.  This consideration is using unsafe plastics in food service applications.  Unlike plastic beads or toy parts whose safety can vary depending on bird size, power, and style of play, using unsafe plastics in food service applications is dangerous for all birds, regardless of size, strength, or habits.

As we all know, there are many, many different types of plastic, and I’m sure most of you are used to looking at the bottom of a plastic dish or tupperware to see if it is microwave safe or not.  Well, this relates to safe and unsafe plastics.  More recently, I’ll bet, you became aware of a substance called Bisphenol A, or BPA, in plastic water bottles or baby bottles.  Nowadays, it’s pretty much impossible to sell a water bottle that contains BPA, because consumers have realized that BPA is a chemical that is present in many plastics, that leaches into water after repeated use and washing.  Some countries have labeled it a toxic chemical, and scientific studies show links between BPA and hormone-like properties, cancer, thyroid problems, neurological problems, obesity, and other scary problems.  Plastics that contain BPA, such as polycarbonate, should not be used in water bottles or food service applications, especially with hot food or water, as these leach the chemical at a more rapid rate.

Most people purchasing new water bottles or baby bottles know this, but what about bird food and water dishes?  If you use plastic dishes, have you checked to make sure that they are indeed BPA-free?  Probably even more common are plastic foraging toys, which are hugely popular.  But every time you put food in one of those cool plastic foraging toys, and especially the more you wash it, it breaks down the plastic and more and more BPA is leached out onto the food, which is then consumed by your bird.

I’m well aware that many people will think to themselves, “Oh, but I’ve been using those for ages, and my birds are perfectly fine!”  Well, many generations of human babies were also raised on bottles made with BPA, and obviously we don’t have an entire generation of people who passed away without explanation.  But we do have studies that show that BPA can lower fertility rates and cause neurological problems in children, among other negative effects.  It can even manipulate hormones and cause issues with reproductive behaviors.  Your bird won’t drop dead from BPA, but he or she might be extra hormonal, or suffer neurological consequences.

The good news is, there are safe alternatives!  One of the safest plastics for use with food is acrylic.  But don’t be fooled: polycarbonate and acrylic are two very different plastics, even though they look virtually the same.  In fact, I’ve seen many bird toy websites that mislabel toys as acrylic when they are actually polycarbonate.  Polycarbonate is a huge source of BPA, whereas acrylic is completely BPA-free.  MOST foraging toys on market are actually made of polycarbonate, but there are a select few that are made from acrylic.  Don’t necessarily go by what it says on any website: if you are unsure, call the company and ask if their toys are made from polycarbonate or acrylic.  There is a vast difference.

an acrylic (not polycarbonate) foraging toy

This toy, for example, is a set of acrylic foraging drawers.  I am sure you have seen many polycarbonate models on the market, but this is the only acrylic version that I’ve been able to find.  It is made in house at Parrot Island Inc. and is a great toy that I highly recommend.  They actually make many different setups as well: two drawers, four drawers, six drawers, drawers that pull out front to back, drawers that pull out side to side, etc.  These toys are more expensive than the more common polycarbonate versions because acrylic is a higher quality plastic, plus these are made at a much lower volume.  But, they are worth every penny in terms of safety.

another acrylic foraging toy

Here’s another acrylic foraging toy that exists on the market, this one by Grey Feather Toys.  It comes in two sizes, 2.5″ or 4.5″, the larger 4.5″ model shown above next to Lola.  I feel completely safe using these acrylic foraging toys: not only is it extremely strong like polycarbonate, but it is far safer and contains absolutely no BPA that will leach into your parrots’ food or water.

There are definitely other acrylic toys out there on the market, but be sure to do your research, and do not assume that anything is acrylic.  Polycarbonate and acrylic look very much the same, so ask the manufacturer if you are unsure.  In a similar vein, double check any plastic food or water dishes you use with your birds, as well as water bottles.  You do not want this chemical interrupting any of your parrots bodily functions or systems.  (Glass, on the other hand, is completely BPA-free.)

Although there is much more to say about safe plastics in general or other unsafe plastics (don’t even get me started on soft vinyl), this is one of the most important issues with plastics that I have, and I hope that I can spread awareness about BPA in plastics.  There are so many great alternatives out there now that there is no reason to use plastics that contain BPA in food or water bowls or foraging toys.

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