I wanted to contribute a bird toy to the Pets/ Animals Challenge for two big reasons:
1) Birds, especially parrots, need games and toys as a source of daily mental enrichment. In the wild they'd be challenged by foraging and entertained by their group's social structure, but a single bird living as a pet doesn't encounter these things. Giving your bird interesting objects and puzzles to manipulate keeps them in good psychological health, and will ultimately make them more congenial companions. Enrichment has become especially important for myself and my Pacific Parrotlet, PeePee, because my work schedule leaves him home alone more than he used to be. We'll check in with him later to see how he liked this new "Bird Buddy".
2) If you've ever shopped for bird toys, you know they can be shockingly expensive. It makes sense to build your own, especially since most birds love destroying toys.
This Ible will show you how to make an entertaining bird toy out of entirely recycled materials you have in your home right now. We'll also discuss how you can add treats and other interactive material to keep your birdie busy. This is an easy project for kids to help with and would make a great classroom project if done for the birds outside (see Step 8).
Step 1: You Will Need...
1 Empty Toilet Paper Roll (makes 2 toys)
1 Dried Chili Pepper --My parrot LOVES chewing on peppers, and you'll find bell pepper seeds in some popular commercially available treats. Birds seem to have a pretty high spice tolerance! If you're not sure about your bird's preference, you could substitute a piece of cardboard for this component.
Scrap of Colorful Tissue Paper
Scrap of thin cardboard --Boxes from your dry goods are perfect. I used a piece of a Girl Scout cookies box before putting the rest in the recycle bin.
Elmer's School Glue --Totally non-toxic and safe to use on a bird toy! Research revealed this was the best option for something a bird might nibble on (if it is safe for a school kid to eat, it is safe for your pet), and since this toy is meant to get beat up you don't need an adhesive with crazy longevity.
Small Clamps (optional)
Step 2: Cardboard Pieces
Using scissors, cut your toilet paper roll into slices about 1/2inch - 3/4 inch wide. This should yield 6 rings, enough for 2 of these toys.
Select 1 cardboard ring. Use your X-acto knife to make an incision in the center about 1/2 inch long. This slot should run parallel to the sides.
Step 3: Ball Assembly
We'll be building a hollow cardboard ball from our slices. This will be the body of our "Bird Buddy".
Insert a second TP tube ring inside your first, making the two perpendicular.
Dot your white glue on the top of the innermost ring.
Press the inner and outer rings together to adhere. You can hold them with your fingers for a minute, or use plastic mini-clamps to help.
Repeat for the bottom of the inner ring. Dot glue, then hold/ clamp. Drying time should be quick since there isn't much glue involved.
Insert a third ring inside the forming ball, filling the gap between the two you have already.
Repeat gluing: Dot glue on top of innermost (3rd) ring and clamp. Switch to the bottom, dot glue, and clamp.
You can leave your ball clamped together to dry wheel you move on to the next step. It'll be ready by the time you come back to it! Finished ball should look like the last photo.
Step 4: Foot Base
Now we'll be using the thin cardboard from your soon-to-be-discarded box.
Using scissors, freehand cut a "duck foot" shape from the cardboard.Exact measurements are not important, but generally I'd say a length of 1.5 inches is helpful for balance.
Choose which end of your cardboard ball is the underside.
Dot glue in the center of the underside.
Place the ball atop the center of the cardboard foot shape. Let go to check whether the toy is freestanding. If the Bird Buddy does not stand up on his own, try nudging the ball back toward the rear of the foot shape.
Clamp in place to dry
Step 5: Wings
No doubt you have some gift wrap tissue paper wadded up in a closet somewhere. I hate throwing this stuff out even when it is way too beat up to package a gift. I usually keep some on hand as packing material and look for other creative ways to put these scraps to use.
Fold your scrap of tissue paper in half. I'm using green because I've noticed my parrot is particularly attracted to green and blue things. I've you've noticed that your bird is particularly attracted to certain colors, try to incorporate those either in the tissue paper or cardboard choices.
For symmetrical wings, start cutting on the fold. Use scissors to cut out a simple leaf shape.
With the leaf shape still folded, snip fringe into one side.
Unfold to see your wings.
Apply your white glue down the center line connecting the two wings.
Press onto the BACK of the toy. The "back" will be opposite the beak slot you made with your X-acto.
After allowing the wings a minute to dry, fold them back so they stand up off the body.
Step 6: Beak
* SAFETY NOTE: Do not touch your face while dealing with dried chilies! The residue can sting your eyes/nose/mouth.
Break the tip off a dried chili pepper. Toss the seeds that spill out into your bird's bowl (they really do like them!), or save them for your own seasonings.
Insert the blunt end of the pepper tip into the beak slot you made earlier. If the slot is not large enough, carefully insert your X-acto blade and lengthen it by pushing downward.
Leave the tip poking out to form a beak.
WASH HANDS NOW! Chili residue will stay on your hands way longer than you think, so just wash your hands now to avoid agony when you go to take contact lenses out hours later.
*At this point the toy can be considered "done", though there are ways you can make it even more appealing and interactive for your bird. Proceed to next step!
Step 7: Make it Interactive: Treats!
You can stuff the Bird Buddy with treats to create a foraging scenario for your bird. He'll have to problem solve to access the food and may get some exercise destroying the toy too. The foot base allows this to be cage floor toy, as that is where many parrots like to spend some playtime.
Click here to see a video of PeePee and his new toy! I couldn't get the video to embed within the Ible.
Opt for treats slightly larger than the openings between your cardboard rings so that the food won't just fall out. Popcorn is excellent. PeePee really enjoys Lafeber's Nutri-Berries Popcorn. You might also try little balls of cooked quinoa with shredded coconut. The moisture will shorten the life of the toy, but the appeal of this Ible is that it is so cheap and easy you can make dozens.
Step 8: Make it Interactive: Nesting Material
Another interactive idea is to stuff the Bird Buddy with bits of yarn in addition to a dry treat. Birds who are nesting will take the materials and build with it. Even birds who are not in a domestic way seem to enjoy preening toys with yarn/fibers, or yanking it out like some kind of game.
If you don't own a bird, you can still use this toy to enrich the lives of your friends outside. Hang a Bird buddy stuffed with yarn or dryer lint outside in a tree. The neighborhood birds will make use of the offerings!
To hang, thread a string through the gaps of the ball and knot above the body. Tie to a branch of your favorite tree, facing your window so you can see all the action. Try to use string or twine made from natural fibers to keep with our eco-friendly theme!
Step 9: Birds of a Feather
After a few minutes with Bird Buddy, PeePee decided it was his new best friend and I wasn't allowed to touch it anymore. He's been taking popcorn from inside, preening the yarn, and nibbling the cardboard. If PeePee had thumbs, I think he'd give the project a thumbs up.
Larger birds like macaws and African greys will probably make short work of a toy like this, but take comfort in knowing that every component is totally safe to chomp on and also totally free! Make several at a time using new colors and treats to keep the entertainment fresh.
Remember to please send PeePee and his new Buddy a vote in the Pets Challenge if you've enjoyed this info!