Companion Animals > Pet Care > Parrots > Handling

Playing With Parrots


All birds need a variety of toys; it is essential that they have different textures to explore with their beaks. A parrot's first sensory instinct is to touch something with its beak in the same way that humans touch things with their fingers. A happy parrot is one which has a variety of things to do. It needs to be able to chew on wooden toys and to destroy them sometimes. It needs to have some toys to shake and one of those thick ones made of twisted ropes to rub itself against and preen it as if it was another bird.

Some parrots enjoy having a 'project' which may involve problem-solving like 'how can I remove this object from where it is hanging up in my cage so that it falls onto the floor of the cage'! I have known a cockatoo which would be occupied all day doing it then watching the last piece of the toy drop with great satisfaction. Your parrot may enjoy the puzzle toys which are becoming more widely available.

It's a good idea to rotate toys every few weeks so that birds don't get bored.

Larger birds like macaws and cockatoos will need to have much bigger and stronger toys to play with than smaller parrots.

It is very important to consider the safety of toys before giving them to birds, especially those which are to be placed inside their cages.


It helps to remember that most parrots enjoy drama so it's helpful to save the dramatic mood for playtime rather than when your parrot does something unacceptable like biting. Getting excited when you play with your bird will encourage it to play, especially if you make a lot of different noises. A very simple way of playing with a parrot is to play some music + dance in front of it! This usually gets a good response and it's fun when a bird learns to copy the dancing in its own way!

Importance of repetition

1. The Gravity Game: drop the toy + get the human to pick it up. Most parrots adore this game + will play it for an almost indefinite length of time. If the game is going really well, it can get into throw the toy + get the human to retrieve it!
2. The Kitchen Drawer Game: keep some foot toys/teaspoons/anything your parrot can safely play with in a spare drawer + s/he will play for ages, picking things up, turning them over + dropping them.
3. The Rollover Game: it's a good idea to always say the same words before rolling your baby onto its back so that it will become used to what you are about to do. Many parrots will get used to this game if you do it from when they are babies. You have to gradually build up trust with this one.
4. The Blowing on the Tummy Game: my African grey loves to blow raspberries when he wakes up in the morning and it sounds exactly the same as the noise it makes when I blow on his tummy and then he shrieks with laughter (the same noise as my laughter which can be a bit unnerving sometimes!).
5. The Find the Treat Game: rolled up socks containing walnuts + foot toys.
6. The Singing Game: where you always do the same thing when you come to a certain word in the song.
7. Educational Games: where they learn to identify different parts of the body / colours / shapes through repetition.
8. The Foot Game: where the parrot learns to be expressive with its foot, offers a foot, waves a foot.
9. The Toothbrush Game: keep your parrot's own toothbrush in the bathroom + take him/her with you to clean your teeth. Your bird will imitate you + this becomes something that you can often do together.

Inexpensive Toys:

Wooden Spoons, Large plastic Legos, Paper Towel, Bow Ties, Tiny Boxes of raisins, Brown paper bags, large stainless steelnuts and bolts, stainless steel quick links, wood pieces (untreated pine), straws, wooden clothes pegs (without any metal), cardboard box with holes in it for hide and seek, cotton rope tied in several knots and hung up, cardboard egg boxes, big beads which are too large to swallow, paper cups and plates, plastic lids, clean hair brushes.