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Toy Making for Cockatiels

Expert Question

Can you suggest some good—safe—toys one can make for cockatiels? I have purchased many toys from the local pet shop, which are not only expensive but my ‘tiels don’t seem to like them very much. I suspect this is because they are intended for larger parrots, so would like some ideas for ways to keep my ‘tiels happy. Thanks for any suggestions!

Expert Answer

Hello and thank you for sending your question to WPT. I’m delighted for the chance to respond to this question as I had experienced similar challenges when our cockatiels and budgerigar came into our home. Personally, I have not found much success with parrot toys purchased from local pet stores. My cockatiels like chewing on natural branches, grass mats and small pieces of vegetable tanned leather. Recently I discovered I can peak their interest if I string some whole grain pasta pieces on a toy along with leather and plastic beads. They like crunching the dried pasta.

A mirror is a popular item for the budgerigars and cockatiels. I take a mirror purchased at the local pet store and attach a string of beads, small leather pieces and one or two small stainless steel bells to the mirror. This creates something for them to do when they are looking in the mirror, as they can spend time beaking the beads, chewing on the leather and they seem to like moving the bells to make noise.

For rope to use as a base to make toys or add beads and other items of interest to a toy, I prefer to use small natural hemp rope (found at most craft stores), or the 1/8 inch vegetable tanned leather strips. I have also used paulie rope that is sold at online parrot toy sites, however you do need to check that frequently as that product can fray and catch toes. The same is true for some cotton ropes. No parrot toy or parrot toy part is 100 percent safe, but I have not had the fraying problem with the hemp rope or leather that I have had with paulie rope and cotton ropes.

For added enrichment you may find success with placing a shallow plastic container in the bottom of the cage to create a foraging experience. I explain how I taught my cockatiel to forage and show a video of how to create this foraging experience at

Leaf bathing is another activity that my small parrots enjoy. Hang wet greens (mustard, collard or turnip) from the top of the cage. There is a video demonstrating this activity at You can also weave greens in between the cage bars for them to chew on.

Many people have had great success with clicker training the smaller parrots. Most parrots enjoy clicker training and it is a wonderful means of providing enrichment to your bird. I think training is often overlooked when we consider forms of enrichment, perhaps because some of us think of training as a discipline and overlook the fun side of training. At I have devoted a few web pages to training. There are lists of resources as well as videos to help you get started with clicker training.

Both Version 1 and 2 of The Parrot Enrichment Activity Books are available for you to download free of charge at  In The Parrot Enrichment Activity Book, Version 2, you will find several ideas for toys and how to create foraging opportunities for smaller parrots such as cockatiels, budgerigars and lovebirds along with photos of the parrots foraging and playing with the toys.  Both books lists sources for you to find products and parts to make many of the toys you will see there and on the website.

Thank you again for your question and for providing me the opportunity to offer suggestions.

Kris Porter

Kris Porter
About Kris Porter

Kris Porter is the author of The Parrot Enrichment Activity Books; available as free PDF downloads at Her books are full of photographs, suggestions and ideas to enrich the lives of parrots and promote activity rather than stillness.

Kris is a graduate of the online class in behavior analysis called, Living and Learning with Parrots. Kris has written enrichment articles for Good Bird Magazine and her ideas with photos of parrot enrichment activities have been featured in articles in Parrots Magazine and Australian BirdKeeper Magazine.

Providing our parrots with enrichment, foraging opportunities and toys that sustain activity is an ongoing challenge. Kris has a talent for coming up with ideas and using photos and video clips to enlighten, motivate and inspire all of us who are looking for ways to enrich the captive parrot environment.

Kris and her husband, Jerry, lived and worked in Alaska for over 30 years. Jerry retired in 2011 and they moved to Zimmerman, Minnesota where they share their home with 2 dogs and 6 parrots.