Posted by Deb White on 10/1/2020 to Materials Safety
Providing adequate opportunities for birds to chew is vital to their mental and physical well-being.
In the wild, most parrots hollow out nest cavities in trees. Chewing is an instinctual behavior for parrots and wooden toys are an excellent outlet to satisfy this strong drive.
Wooden toys are meant to be destroyed and it can get expensive. As frustrating as that might be to bird owners, our birds aren’t doing this out of spite, they are simply satisfying a natural instinct. Wouldn’t you rather have your bird satisfy their chewing needs with an approved outlet rather than destroying unapproved household items like furniture, doors and molding? Undoubtedly, if you only provide non-destructible toys birds will often find other, more expensive ways to satisfy their chewing needs.
Both soft and hardwoods are commonly used in toys. You want to make sure that you choose wood components of an appropriate hardness and dimension for your bird. For example, a parakeet will not be able to successfully destroy and therefore benefit from, a piece of manzanita. Conversely, a piece of our lightest woods (sola or balsa) would not be suitable for a mighty macaw. Thinner pieces of wood will be easier for a small beak to destroy than a thick slab meant for a larger bird.
Making DIY wood toys can lessen the expense of providing enrichment to your parrots. Of course, the wood items sold on our website are made from safe species of wood. However, if you are collecting branches or buying lumber from other sources, it is important to know what woods are safe for your bird.
Commonly used Safe Woods (not a complete list):
Pine, Balsa, Birch, Basswood, Poplar, Maple, Walnut, Ash, Apple, Elm, Cactus (Cholla) and Manzanita
Unsafe Woods (not a complete list):
Cedar, Red Cherry, Plywood, Oak
If you are interested in researching another type of wood, one of the most comprehensive lists of safe and unsafe woods can be found at www.mdvaden.com/bird_page.shtml
As to the safety of wood products, there are several additional points to mention:
- NEVER use pressure treated wood, it is treated with arsenic and could poison your bird.
- If using natural branches:
- make sure they have not been exposed to insecticides (i.e., avoid collecting near farm fields)
- take care to collect branches in areas removed from highways where plant life may have absorbed toxic emissions from cars.
- Disinfect branches by soaking in a dilute bleach solution (1/2 cup per gallon), rinse thoroughly and dry in an oven set to 250 F for at least an hour. The thickness of the branch may necessitate longer drying times.
- If you need to clean dyed wood toys, don't soak them. It is best to wipe them clean with a damp cloth or sand the soiled area until clean.
- If your bird likes to dunk his toys beware that moisture can promote bacterial growth and the toys should either be discarded or thoroughly cleaned and dried in the sun or in a low temperature oven before returning them to the bird.