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Unless you pay about $35 or more for a toy in a pet shop, you're wasting your money when it comes to large cockatoos.  Moluccans and Umbrellas can destroy the average toy in a day or two.  A huge store bought toy (around $50 or more) can last a good while.  But why pay that when you can make the same thing for $5 ?  It may not be as fancy as a store bought... but your cockatoo is only interested in two things:

How easy it is to destroy and see results, and to a lesser extent,  colors and shapes and sizes.

The average large 'Too is happy just to have plenty of wood or (safe) cardboard to chew on and destroy.  It doesn't have to be fancy.  However,  they will get bored with the same old thing day after day, so lets help them out ok?  Keep in mind that toys can take up a lot of room in the cage.  So make sure your cage is large enough to host the toys you're placing there!          

This is an easy to make toy as you can see.  Its  nothing more than a metal ring with blocks of  2x2 and 2x4 very dried and untreated pine. I took  some cotton swabs and natural food coloring and  "dotted" the wood.  Note: After using pure food coloring,  I always wash the wood well in a large bucket with running water to eliminate excess coloring.  You don't want a rainbow colored  cockatoo or excess coloring to get into his system.  I then blot off excess coloring with  a towel or paper towels. I then allow the wood to dry for a couple of days or more. This toy will last for quite a while, as its big! You may add any "safe" things to the ring but never any cotton or nylon ropes of any kind.

I have a mig welder, so I make all my own rings and things...then I weld the ends together.  You may not be able to do this,  but with some ingenuity you can accomplish the same thing.  For instance, they make thin steel rods with threads on the ends in different lengths. Bend them to your needs and then attach nuts and washers or whatever you need to close the ends (for a circle) or simply make a straight line toy.  Look around places like "Goodwill" for wooden goodies also... but NEVER use anything but natural woods that have not been painted or varnished in any way!  If in doubt, leave it out.  Again... don't get carried away in making toys.  Its not that hard! If they can destroy it eventually...they'll love it!    

There are many things you can make if you have a drill and a hole saw to go on the drill.  This is a popular toy for all parrots because each hole holds a nut.

Get a piece of dried untreated 4x4 and drill holes for the size of nuts you will be using.  Then chisel out the holes you have made, and fill each hole with a nut.  Do this by pounding the nut into each hole with a hammer.  Of course, you want the hole just slightly smaller than the nut.  This is a puzzle toy. So even if your 'Too doesn't like the nut, he'll still spend hours trying to get them out!  Dab some food coloring on and there your are!  Add a large screw-in  eyelet and you're done.  For smaller birds use 2x2. 

Although this is not a home made toy, its invaluable  for making them!  You can find these at better bird stores.  They are sold to hold treats like apples and other fruits. The bottom screws off and so you can place anything you want on it: Like cardboard tubes,  wooden sewing spools, or some types of plastic toys for spacers and color.  Also wood blocks or anything that  has a hole in it or can be drilled to make a hole. They usually cost $10 to $15 but worth it.
I hesitate to tell you about plastic toy parts that you can find at "Goodwill" and places like that.  I shop these places often for toy parts for my birds. The problem is the type of plastic toy  you need.  There are (in a nutshell) 3 types of plastic:  Very  hard plastic that can splinter and be dangerous if chewed. Very soft plastic that tears up in minutes and I consider dangerous also. And then there's medium hard plastic that is the type that most baby toys are made from.  This is what I search for when looking for spacers and things for my bird toys.  If you don't know what you're doing, ask someone who does. *One of the best human toys of all time (for birds) is a Fisher-Price toy.  This is the toy that looks like a roller coaster of red plastic wire with little plastic "balls" that a  child can move across the wire, up and down etc. Remove this wire from its base, (there's usually 2 pieces) and hang sideways thru the bars of the cage. Your 'Toos will spend hours playing with this great toy, and it doesn't take up a lot of room * I don't have a photo of this toy but here's a simple drawing  (with the base removed). Most moms will  know what I mean. These can often be found at yard sales or Goodwill for almost nothing!  I've used them  for years, and are very safe.


If you own a large cockatoo, by all MEANS make a swing! Cockatoos loves swings more than anything else.  Now I'm talking about  large "out of the cage" swings.  NO in-cage swings!  I make 2 types: One is a common square shaped "trapeze" swing.  The other is a "ring" swing.  My 'Toos will hang upside down and swing themselves by flapping their wings!  This is both great fun AND exercise!  I have 2 swings mounted in my basement to the ceiling especially for wintertime use, and an outdoor swing hanging from my patio ceiling. Your 'Too may be afraid of his first time on a swing. So place something under it so that he can climb up on the swing all by himself if necessary.  After a few times he will get the hang of it and will let out cockatoo screams of joy! I'm not going into detail on the designs of my swings. Most people can figure this out.  The main thing to remember is that they need to be big and sturdy. I use 1/2" to 3/4" sisal rope to wrap my swings.  I use hot glue to hold the rope in place. This gives my birds a firm footing, and yes it takes an hour or so to do this. But the swing will last many years if built properly.    


This is just a basic idea of where to start on a play gym.  

A.  Ladder made from 2x2s and round dowels B.  Climbing rope with knots C.  Flat shallow box about 18 x 18  (or any size) for snacks or toys D.  Metal support bent to form a "C".   Can hang toys from E.  Rope swing.  Can be as shown or can be made like the photo of the swings above

The top main bar is simply a 2x2 that has the corners rounded off.  To this may be attached more levels,  more shorter cross perches made out of dowel rod,  or anything you want to attach.  If you want a "droppings catcher,  simply add a 30x30 (or so) piece of plywood with 2x2 "edges" that forms a shallow box about halfway up the ladder.  However, to be really safe.. place newspapers under the entire thing.  I'm not going to design the whole thing for you.  Let your imagination go!  Whatever you bird likes... put it there!  This is just a simple "start" to help get you going.  The main thing is to make is SAFE, and make sure the base is large enough to support the entire thing when weight is placed on the very ends.  Use good well dried untreated pine with no knotholes, (which tend to hold sap)    

The biggest concern when making OR buying toys is not the toy itself,  but the hardware holding the toy. When you hang a toy in a cage, there's much to consider.....

Now... I cant tell you exactly what type of hardware to use for your bird.   Much depends on his size, activity level, and curiosity.  I CAN tell you this:  Never use a clasp of any type that is spring loaded.  Its too easy to get beak or feet caught in them.  Never EVER use "split rings".... (these are similar to key rings) for the same reason.

Never use any hardware that's coated with Zinc! These are dangerous over the years and can kill. How do you know if its coated with zinc?  Most hardware ( claps, clamps, C Rings etc.) are zinc, and you can tell this because they have a somewhat dull silver finish to them.  What you want is stainless steel, which most of these products are made from also. Stainless is shiny and mirror like in appearance, not dull.

Make sure that hardware is large enough that feet or toes cannot get trapped in it.  When buying toys, its the hardware that's more important than the toy, because large parrots can destroy most cheap toys hardware in a matter of hours.  And those little bells on some bird toys?  Most large 'Toos  can remove the clapper in minutes, so stay away from those.

Stay away from any toy that has cotton or nylon rope because many birds have been killed or lost feet to these by entanglement.  I allow my birds to play with these items supervised however. They are great fun as long as YOU are supervising!

Large cardboard tubes are great fun!  I use 3" heavy walled tubes that I cut at different lengths. Now here's the problem:  Know what came rolled on the tube (if you decide to use them) and see if there is any signs of glue whatsoever!  Never allow a parrot to play with "paper towel" tubes that have glue on them. In the past, few did... but now, most do have glue on them. No toilet paper tubes unless the paper was UNscented!

Cardboard is fun to destroy by all large parrots.  Use some common sense when choosing it however.  Make sure its not something that chemicals came packaged in or has glue on it.  Always remove destroyed cardboard soon after its been played with.  You don't want it getting soggy in the bottom of the cage and causing possible health problems.

There are many sites on the net that will guide you in safe toy purchasing.  Please visit them for up to date information.

One last thing I'd like to say about "store" bought toys:

Most of the toys you see in stores and by mail are brightly colored. They are vibrant, almost fluorescent. The reason is dye. More dye gets into your bird from the "average" toy than a years  supply of colored pellets. People don't think birds ingest this dye because they don't eat the toy. But one look at the birds tongue will tell you different. Depending on the dye color, it's sometimes hard to tell that the bird has a mouthful of dye.

Toy manufacturing is a multi million dollar business these days and few will say much against them. I mean, if you owned a pet store or catalog sales and sold thousands of dollars worth of these toys...  what would you say? Not much I'm sure.

My advice is to seek toys with the least amount of dyes...not toys that almost fluoresce. Making your own is another good idea because you then control the amount of dyes if any.  When I make toys, I thoroughly rinse the toys and then blot any excess dyes. You'd be amazed how much comes off on a paper towel even after rinsing.

I sometimes think we go a little overboard with all the scare tactics that "health" scientists throw at us every year... but I also see no reason to not be cautious and reasonable in everything we do, and so I'm not concerned with a little food dye. But a LOT is not something that even I, much less my birds are going to be ingesting.



Cockatoos are notorious for chewing up their toys and that's why this page is here.   I often wonder why some company doesn't make "refillable" toys that parts can be chewed up and then replaced.  But the toy I'm talking about should be refillable with wood that anyone could easily shape and replace on the toy.  As toy blocks etc. are so expensive "ready made"... this would have to be a given.  Does anyone have an idea for a toy they'd like to see made?    

I will add more toy tips as I find time