Foot toys can be a very important part of a pet bird’s life. If you are unfamiliar with what a foot toy is, it can be any small toy that can typically be grasped in a bird’s foot. It might be as simple as one wooden block or ball with a piece of rawhide through the middle and knotted on either side.
The foot toy should be sized appropriately for the bird. I use smaller beads for smaller birds, as well as thinner material going through the middle. Thin rawhide, twine, paper rope, and “Paulie” cord are all suitable materials for the smaller birds. For the larger bird, you can use a larger block or bead as well as the thicker rawhide or Paulie cord. I often add some smaller plastic beads on either side of the main bead as well.
Some birds really enjoy chewing on wood, and there is nothing more satisfying to those birds than a block of wood that can be reduced to splinters. For that reason, some birds should be given pine or other soft wood that they can destroy. Some birds are more drawn to chewing on the cord that goes through the middle. Rawhide (only vegetable-tanned, please) is usually perfect for those birds as they can get a lot of chewing enjoyment out of it. A plastic bead or other shape with rawhide passing through and knotted on either side will be a long-lasting foot toy for those birds. Although all birds may have their preferences, probably a variety of different foot toys is best. It’s important to avoid boredom in your pet bird.
In addition to having foot toys for the bird’s enjoyment when playing alone, they are invaluable as diversions for a bird that is apt to bite. Many young birds will go through a period where they get a bit “bitey” and seem to be testing the limits. I always tell people that it’s much better to use diversion as a way to avoid a bite than to try to correct it after the fact. You don’t want to spend all your time earthquaking your bird, or doing whatever method you use to deal with bites. It’s not fun for you OR your bird. Instead, keep an appropriate foot toy at the ready – next to you or in your pocket – at all times that your bird may be interacting with you.
Often we can see a bird begin to get antsy and that often will precede a bite. Time to bring out that foot toy and bring it up to your bird for him to check out. I should also mention here that if you are going to give it to the bird, rather than holding on to one end of it, you’d better have two or more toys at the ready because chances are that first one may get tossed or dropped. However, if you see the bird is grabbing the foot toy and tossing it immediately and ready to grab another, it’s probably not a good time to be interacting with the bird anyway. You’ve got to learn to read their moods. It’s a rare bird that is always in a good mood and never cranky.
With the little birds, like parrotlets, they can go from sweet to cranky rather quickly. I keep a foot toy handy when dealing with them. Usually they are fine on my hand for a period of time, but I can see when they are starting to get antsy and may nip. That is the time to offer them the foot toy. I like the ones with twine going through them for these little guys. Parrotlets can rarely resist chewing on the twine when you present that end to them. Diversion accomplished!
Birds alone in their cage will often enjoy playing with foot toys, too. One of our timneh greys would lay on her back on the cage grate and kick a foot toy up in the air repeatedly. It was the cutest thing to watch.
So don’t overlook the value of foot toys. If you’re making them, just be sure to use safe materials. I am now offering small as well as medium-large foot toy 5-packs on my Etsy shop. Check them out!