Favorite Foraging Toys for Parrots

February 13, 2010

Foraging ToysForaging toys are a wonderful way to enrich your bird’s life. There are a lot of great DIY foraging toy ideas out there, but in this post I’m going to concentrate on a couple of our favorite commercially available foraging toys.

In particular, I like to use acrylic puzzle toys to encourage Stewie to work for his treats, although foraging toys do come in all sorts of natural and synthetic materials and not all foraging/enrichment has to be in the pursuit of food.

Best Foraging Toys for Conures

Stewie is not a huge fan of toys, but he’s a huge fan of food treats. That’s why toys that have treats inside are the most popular bird toys in his cage. He doesn’t really care to interact with the toys except to get the treat out of them, so I don’t think it’s accurate to say that he has a “favorite” foraging toy. But there are some that I think work well for my purposes.

I usually put a treat in my parrots’ cages for two main reasons: 1) To get my birds to get back into their cages, and 2) to occupy their time and distract them.

The issue with a lot of puzzle-style foraging toys is that they are too easy (and therefore Stewie isn’t occupied long enough since it only takes him 2 seconds to retrieve the treat) or they are too hard to figure out (which causes Stewie to just give up). The best foraging toys are ones that Stewie can figure out fairly easily but still require a certain amount of work to open.

To that end, for Stewie, I like the Snack Rack Bird Toy, a Puzzle Wheel, cardboard shredder boxes, and an acrylic “treasure chest” with two keys that need to be turned and pulled to reveal the treat. Stewie understands how each of these works, but they still require more than 2 seconds worth of effort from him.


In the photo above, Stewie is manipulating the rotating rings of the Snack Rack. Each ring has a small notch that corresponds with a tab in the middle part. If he moves the ring so the notch lines up with the tab, the ring drops down, making the treat inside accessible to him. I consider the Snack Rack a foraging toy of intermediate difficulty – but it’s the perfect size for a conure.

Alternatively, I can hang the “easy” foraging toys from the roof of his cage far away from any perches, so that he has to climb upside down and open it while also hanging from it.

Best Foraging Toys for Pionus

Foraging ToysA few of the acrylic foraging toys I got for Stewie, unfortunately, don’t work for Mika. When getting non-chewable foraging toys, you need to keep in mind the size of the bird; in particular, you need to consider the size of the bird’s beak and head.

Foraging toys that require chewing to get at the treat are probably not very size specific (except that a giant macaw beak probably will only require a minute or two to break a wooden foraging toy); on the other hand, acrylic, puzzle type toys that require a bird to get a treat out of an opening are somewhat size specific. If a bird can’t fit his beak into the hole to pull the treat out, it’s not going to be a very fun toy.

The foraging wheel to the left has holes that are just bordering on too small for Mika. She has a lot of trouble pulling treats out of the holes… although so far she does seem to find the toy entertaining.

Some size-appropriate foraging toys that work for Mika include the Barrel of Fun, medium to large chest of drawer-type toys, foraging buckets that can be refilled with foot toys and treats, and hollow coconuts. All of these are beginner foraging toys, although the Barrel of Fun does not allow the bird to see the treats inside so you’ll probably need to show a beginning forager that you’re putting the treat in and help them the first few times.

One enrichment toy in particular managed to hold Mika’s attention for many days: a large ring on which were strung various wooden shapes and a dozen almonds in their shell. Although I bought the toy ready made, it’s easy enough to open up the ring and replace all the pieces so it becomes completely reuseable. All you need is some wooden slats, alphabet blocks, beads and some almonds in bulk. If you buy the toy parts from Drs. Foster and Smith they will already have holes in them (you may be able to find them cheaper on other sites that specialize just in bird toy parts). Then use an electric drill to put holes through the almonds. String them up on the toy and your bird will spend many fun hours trying to remove the almonds and destroying the wooden pieces.

Since Mika does enjoy playing with toys and will play with toys even if there are no hidden treats involved, her foraging toys sometimes are just filled with paper and various foot toys.
Mika and Her Foraging Bucket

Here’s Mika’s Bucket of Foot Toys, which can contain anything from foot toys, bits of paper (she loves paper!), pumpkin seeds and occasionally an almond wrapped in a plain, unwaxed Dixie cup. Sometimes she enjoys the Dixie cup so much she completely forgets about the almond.

Do your birds have favorite foraging toys? If so, what do you hide in these toys for your birds to find?



  1. Since we have cockatoos, we’re pretty much forced to create our own forage toys; Even our Goffin’s is too adept at cracking open most hard-acrylic toys, and our Molluccan/Triton hybrid is not slowed down by anything short of welded steel. He’s good at even taking off all the nuts/bolts from his cage, just for fun. To this end, most overpriced retail bird toys don’t offer many safe options for our family – we instead rely on our monthly craft-day to create an interesting variety of mental and physical exercise toys from safe materials. Here’s a good example; a nice thick telephone directory, with a bunch of holes drilled to random depths, can be bolted to a cage really easily and filled with a variety of hidden goodies. (phone books are all newsprint and vegetable-based inks) A few dabs of white glue can also help make it more challenging.
    Another favorite: a whole coconut, with lots of goodie-filled holes drilled into the husk, will usually last for a whole week. A little respect-the-beak trivia moment; coconuts are a natural food for wild Molluccan Cockatoos. Think about that for a moment, and the visual image of this should be a sufficient answer to why cheap acrylic toys aren’t for everyone. 🙂

    • Some great mental images! Good reminder that foraging toys really need to be bird specific also. I can’t imagine anything my birds have standing up to a ‘too (or macaw) beak. 🙂 Even Mika, who is not that strong, has broken plastic toys just by playing with them normally, so it’s important to keep an eye on the toys in your birds’ cages to make sure they are not posing a safety hazard.

      I love the idea of DIY foraging/enrichment toys too. The links on this page have some great ideas for cheap and easy toys you can make yourself http://www.discountparrotsupplies.com/963/parrot-supplies/free-foraging-toy-ideas/ . I don’t think our birds care if their toys are store-bought… the important thing is just to keep them entertained and mentally stimulated.

  2. Great post! Can you offer a suggestion as to where to purchase the toys you wrote about?
    I’d love to purchase some for my Sun Conure!
    Thanks, in advance, for your assistance!

    • Hi Alison – if you click on the blue links within the post, it’ll take you to the site where I bought those toys – I like to shop at Drs. Foster & Smith because they have very high-quality stuff. Most of the toy names mentioned are linked above.

  3. Oops, all the links broke. Will work on fixing them so you know where you can buy some of these foraging toys.

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