Foot toys are any toy in a species-appropriate size that is not connected to other parts allowing the bird freedom to grasp the toy with its foot and toes. There are two times in a bird’s life when foot toys are beneficial: as a youngster learning to play and all the rest of its life. Many foot toys can also be used as toy parts to create your own toy designs.
While birds know how to fly instinctively, playing is a learned skill. A baby bird in the wild looks to its parents to be taught what to eat and where to drink safe water – in other words, how to forage. Wild birds spend hours and hours daily just foraging for food and do not have much time for simply playing. When we humans choose to have birds in our homes or aviaries, they do not spend their time foraging and we must provide them with ways to spend their time that fulfills the time that would be used foraging. Toys of different sizes (within species-specific limits, of course), textures, shapes and colors are one of the ways we occupy our birds.
As just-weaned babies, commonly kept cage birds are rather clumsy yet this is the window in which we can teach our birds how to play and use toys. During this period we should keep perches low in the cage so the bird can learn how to balance without potentially-injurious falls. It can be difficult for a young bird only a couple of weeks out of the nest to coordinate perching while trying to grab ahold of a toy swinging on a chain. Lots of choices of toys should be provided to the fledgling. Many young birds even like to roll onto their backs and hold the toy in their feet while playing. Birds explore with their feet, beak and tongues, so they especially enjoy textures they can examine closely with their agile tongues right from the beginning of their play life.
Soon the young bird becomes coordinated and able to perch and climb all around its environment. It will be able to play with hanging toys, but variety is the spice of life so foot toys should remain a key part of their playtime choices. Foot toys are convenient to bring to the sofa or table, wherever you sit to play with your bird, so that it can interact with you and the foot toys. If you sit with the bird on a play stand near you, he or she will have tons of fun with the game called “drop the toy” (or whatever name you chose for the game) where the bird plays with a toy for a period of time of its choice, then drops it, looks down at it longingly, waits for you to pick it up and return it to their beak or foot, endlessly to be repeated. Don’t get annoyed by the game; your feathered friend is simply playing with you and increasing the bond of trust between the two of you.
Puzzle foot toys are important for inquisitive birds – and that includes most of them. Toys that can be felt in a foot and taken apart with the beak followed by a close tongue examination of exactly how each piece of the toy feels can amuse a bird for quite a while. Puzzles toys for the feet provide a treat reward when the puzzle is solved are also rewarding as a pastime for your feathered friend. The process of figuring out how to get to the treat reward inside the toy, then relishing the treat itself mimics the process of foraging, an activity our birds instinctually respond to.
Paper foot toys allow the parrot or other type of bird to enjoy the experience of destroying something that it is OKAY to tear up. After all, whenever your bird tries to shred the sofa or blinds, you ask it not to do that. Having something fun that it is permissible to destroy allows the bird to get this behavior out of its system and will likely preserve your home décor more easily.
Let your birds enjoy a selection of foot toys. These play items add a lot of value to your bird’s life at a low cost. The choices are checked for parrot safety and species-appropriate selections are used on a daily basis by our own birds, so we know birds love them. Do change foot toys often just as you change hanging and other toys. This keeps life interesting for your bird or flock of birds.