by Nora Caterino
Parrots love to play and love to eat. You can provide a combination of these two activities for your parrot's enjoyment by creating food treat toys easily and quickly. Your parrot will love them and have a good time eating, or in some cases, tearing up the treats. This is also a great way to get a parrot that isn't eating any people food to begin trying new foods.
Treat Idea #1: Popcorn Toy
Cooked, unsalted popcorn makes a great food treat toy for a small to medium sized parrot. Simple remove some popcorn from what you cook for the family before adding additional salt. If you use microwave popcorn, choose the type that doesn't have extra butter flavor or, even better, choose the low-fat selection. Using a needle and thread, knot the end of the thread and begin threading popcorn, just as if you were going to use it to place on a Christmas tree. Make the treat about 6 to 8 inches in length. Most parrots will thoroughly enjoy this food-based toy, eating pieces and simply removing other pieces.
Treat Idea #2: Cereal Toy
Another easy to make food treat toy can be made from low-sugar breakfast cereal that has a hole in the middle or somewhere in each piece. Honeycombs, Cheerios and Fruit Loops are not low-sugar, but you can include a few in the toy. Using a needle and thread, knot a plastic or metal button onto the end of the thread. Then begin stringing cereal until you reach the length you desire. Because this toy is made from cereal that already has holes in it, you can supply a blunt needle and let the children make this treat for your parrot. Simply hang the food toy where your parrot can reach it easily. Your bird will enjoy removing the cereal as well as eating some of it.
Treat Idea #3: Veggies, Fruits and Nuts
As you prepare a fruit salad for the family's meal, reserve some pieces of fruit for your parrot (remember that parrots can't have avocado or fresh fruit seeds). As you prepare fresh vegetables for the meal, reserve some pieces for your parrot. Also have on hand some of the nuts your parrot prefers. Again, using needle and thread, create a string of food, alternating fruits, vegetables and nut halves. Hang the food toy inside the cage or on your parrot's playground. If you have a large parrot, you can use this idea without the nuts by saving larger pieces of fruits and vegetables and thread them onto a metal rod. A piece of unpainted metal coat hanger, for example, with one end curved to form a hook and both ends sanded smooth so that rough ends can not cut the parrot.
Treat Idea #4: Find the Treat
The "find the treat" toy requires a bit of creativity in deciding exactly what to use for this toy. You'll want to locate two matching objects that can be punctured and placed on a string or rope. The creativity is required because different size parrots need different objects.
For a macaw or cockatoo, coconut shells work great. For a budgie or cockatiel, the little cups that restaurants use for condiments, either plastic or paper, work just fine. For parrots in between, you will probably be able to find what you need in the kitchen or another part of the house. Be creative. The toy is created by drilling or stabbing a hole in the bottom of each container. If the container is plastic, often a heated piece of metal such as a coat hanger, can be used to create the hole. Locate a thread (and needle), string, or piece of rope (depending on the size of the container and your parrot's size) of the length you desire and make a strong knot in the end. Thread the first container onto the string so that the bottom is next to the knot. Then thread the other container onto the string so that the bottom is up. Be sure the hole is large enough to allow the top container to move easily on the string. Prepare the string so that it will hang in the cage or on the parrot's playground. Then fill the container with any foods that your parrot considers to be treats. If you limit sunflower seeds, you can place some of those inside.
Pecans, walnuts, peanuts, fruits, vegetables, even a small piece of cookie, whatever your parrot loves, can go inside. Let the parrot see that the top container can be lifted and that there are treats inside. Then sit back and watch your parrot figure out how to get to the treat! It can be great fun and your parrot will be amused for minutes - or hours in some cases - finding out how to get to the treat. This food treat toy can be reused over and over again. You should wash (or replace if you used a paper container) the containers after each use, however, to prevent bacteria from growing inside. Fill the toy with different foods so the parrot doesn't get bored.
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