Friday, 6 January 2012

Toy Making - Part One

Many people find the cost of buying a parrot overwhelming.  If you go to a breeder, you're looking at spending several hundred for a small bird, such as a conure.  When you get into the larger species, such as cockatoos, macaws or amazons, you will be anywhere from $1,200 to $2,500 for a hand raised baby.  Then you have to option of looking at classifieds, or going through a rescue.  Even then, these guys (usually) aren't free, and then there's the cage.  How big should the cage be?  The bigger the better, and trust me they will use every square inch.  These can cost anywhere from $500 all the way to several thousand dollars.  A large macaw or 'too will require massive cages, and the way they are constructed is very important.  The metals must not contain zinc, and the bars must be strong enough to endure their powerful beaks.  Now, you're looking at food.  All seed diets are a thing of the past, and have been linked to many issues.  These include, but are not limited to, fatty liver disease, a slow in the growth of feathers, and malnutrition can lead to behavioral issues.  You must buy a high quality pellet diet, which has been formulated to provide balanced nutrition.  Vitamin supplements, fresh fruits and vegetables and grains which you must cook and prepare for your parrot.  That's right, you have to cook for these guys.   Every day!  And don't forget, your new friend will need a check up and health care, which will run several hundred more.  This is does not mark the end of your shopping list.

Toys.  Toys, toys and more toys!  These can range anywhere from $10-$80, each.  Your bird will also require a variety of perches made from different materials and textures.  This is important, so that your beloved pet is able to properly exercise their feet, beaks and imagination.  An important note on the subject, you must provide your bird with new toys constantly.  Without them, they become bored, loud and on occasion, self destructive.  This frustration will make life with them very unpleasant.  So how can your average person afford the very expensive upkeep of these beautiful animals?  Well, lets start with the toys!

Making them yourself can be fun, inventive, relatively simple and very affordable.  It is important to remember though, safety first.  Some babies toys can be safe for the smaller guys, but plastic can be dangerous for the larger parrots.  It is their instinct to destroy and forage, so that beautiful $50 wood toy with the colorful beads, thick natural rope, bells and whistles can quickly be reduced to a tooth pick by a busy bird.  So lets talk about materials.  You must make sure you are using untreated wood, natural in color unless you can otherwise ensure the dye used is safe and chemical free.  Popsicle sticks are a safe bet, clothes pins are great if you remove the spring (Ingestion of small metal objects can be fatal for your bird), untreated rafetta (straw like substance), plain wooden beads (can be found at bird supply stores or craft shops), twine, stainless steel wire, toilet paper rolls... the list goes on, but just make sure it has no toxic inks or treatments.  Many of these things can be found at craft shops, or dollar stores.  Dying them at home is relatively simple, inexpensive and it can be a lot of fun!  Using food coloring is a simple way, some use kool-aid but the sweet flavor can cause the bird to ingest the wood which can be dangerous.  So for the purposes of our birds, we use food coloring.  So, here's a shopping list to get you started:

  • Dowels
  • Popsicle Sticks
  • Toilet/Paper towel rools
  • Raffetta
  • Plain Wooden Beads
  • Twine
  • Stainless steel wire
  • Rope dog toys
  • Wiffle Balls
  • Plain Rawhide Chews
  • Uncooked pastas, the more interesting the shape, the better!
  • Wooden Buttons
  • Wooden Spools
  • Food coloring
  • Vinegar, which when added to your dye solution will increase the quality of your color.
In our next article, we'll go over how to dye these things to get you started on your way towards making your own colorful, interactive and fun toys!  Totally safe, natural and best of all affordable.

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