Small parrots like parakeets, or budgies as they are called in some places, have a relatively large brain for their body size.
In the wild, these intelligent little birds spend the day flying from tree to tree, looking for tasty berries and nuts, while playing and vocalizing with their flock mates. In captivity, these birds need an outlet for their energy.
Is a play gym necessary for your parakeet?
A play gym is essential for parakeets to stretch their wings and exercise, reducing boredom-related stress and the risk of obesity. Parakeets need a complex indoor environment to keep their clever brains stimulated. Play gyms with ladders, swings, and toys encourage birds to stay active.
Why Parakeets Need a Play Gym
Pet owners have an easier time creating a sanctuary inside their homes for more traditional pets like dogs or cats, than for more unique companions like birds.
Parakeets need more than just a spacious cage, nutritious foods, and water to live long, happy lives alongside us.
A play gym with lots of different toys is important to keep your bird mentally and physically healthy.
Parakeets Love to Play
Part of what makes parakeets such amazing pets is that they are social, lively and love to play.
They have not been bred by humans to be playful — by nature, they are highly intelligent birds that love to interact with their environment.
They are inquisitive and thrive in an ever-changing environment where there are always new things to explore, gnaw on, and tinker and play with.
This is why it is important to provide pet parakeets with a wide variety of toys with different colors, textures, shapes, and functions.
Great toys to entertain parakeets with are swings, Olympic rings, ladders, bells, mirrors, and toys that are shaped like other birds.
To keep the bird interested, it is recommended to regularly rotate your parakeet’s toys and their location in the cage.
Parakeets Get Bored
Imagine being stuck in a cage, surrounded by the same objects and view for your whole life! You would not be happy.
Without enough mental and physical stimulation, birds too get bored.
Parakeets that are often bored or lonely suffer from chronic stress, which can manifest physically in awful ways.
Common signs that parakeets are bored, stressed, or unhappy are:
- Pacing back and forth inside their cage, tapping their toes, or repetitive head swinging.
- Screaming and screeching for no apparent reason.
- Picking and pulling out their own feathers.
- Self-mutilation, by picking at their own flesh.
Benefits of a Bird Play Gym
In Australia, where parakeets are indigenous, they chew holes in Eucalyptus trees to nest in. Therefore, parakeets in our homes will have a strong instinct to chew on things.
A bird play gym keeps them out of mischief as well as having the following benefits:
- Provides an outlet for their instinct to gnaw and forage.
- Keeping their beak trimmed.
- Gives them an outlet for their energy.
- Stimulates their brain.
- Reduces boredom and stress.
- Reduces the risk of obesity.
What Makes a Good Play Gym?
There are a wide variety of bird play gyms available. Most are constructed from hardwood, high-quality plastic, or bird-friendly metal, like stainless steel.
The gym must be constructed from durable materials because parakeets will chew on it and their little beaks are surprisingly strong!
An entertaining play gym should have the following elements:
- At least one sturdy branch to perch on.
- Ladders, rope ladders, or bridges to clamber up.
- A hanging swing to play on.
- A horizontal ledge for a bathtub to splash around in.
- Interesting things to gnaw on, like coconut shell or cuttle bones.
- A mirror toy, and other shiny, tinkling objects, like bells.
- Lots of points to hang colorful toys and edible treats from.
For the sake of good housekeeping, it is a good idea to place the gym on a tray or other platform that can easily be cleaned.
Parakeets love to be high up, so making the play gym portable is advised, so that you can put the gym high up next to the cage for them to play on independently or down on a table if you want to watch them play.
How To Make a DIY Bird Gym
There are plenty of ready-made play gyms available to buy, but it is a lot more fun to build your birds their own unique play gym.
You will need the following supplies:
- A long wooden branch that is untreated and non-toxic.
- Wooden dowels of various sizes.
- A flat base to build the gym onto – a tray or wooden board works well.
- Thin rope.
- Recycled objects, like coconut shells, toilet paper tubes, and cardboard boxes.
- A variety of exciting toys that will engage your parakeet.
- Glue gun and non-toxic glue sticks.
- Dremel tool (optional)
There is not one correct way to build a parakeet play gym. Use your creativity to design a structure that is complex enough to entertain and engage your feathered friend.
Follow these steps as a guide:
- Start by scrubbing the branches you collected with hot, soapy water (use the same soap you use to wash the cage). Rinse it thoroughly and allow it to dry fully in a sunny spot. This step is to get rid of any mold, bacteria, parasites, bugs, or eggs inside the natural wood.
- Attach the branch that will be the main perch to the base of the play gym. Use plenty of glue or secure it will a nail or screw. Ensure that the branch cannot move.
- Add additional branches, ladders, and platforms, using recycled objects, rope, and dowels.
- Create a horizontal platform that can support a small tub of water.
- Tie knotted lengths of rope to hang off the branches or to connect platforms. The knots act as footholds for your parakeet.
- Hang toys, bells, mirrors, buttons, or beads from the structure to create interesting curiosities for your parakeet to investigate.
- Create little nooks where you can hide treats, fruits, and vegetables for your parakeet to forage.
There are so many variations of parrot play gyms you can create. Instead of using a tray as a base, plant a branch in a pot with soil and rocks to secure it.
You can even build a play gym inside another cage, by simply slotting the branches between the bars of the cage.
To ensure that your parakeets stay safe while exploring their new play gym, keep the following in mind:
- Only use branches that have not been treated with pesticides, as these chemicals are toxic to birds.
- Choose wood that is non-toxic to birds, like almond, apple, ash, bamboo, birch, beech, citrus, dogwood, fir, hazelnut, palm, pear, pecan, poplar, hawthorne, maple, mulberry, redwood, or willow.
- Wood from Prunus species: apricot, peach, prune, or nectarine, should not be used for bird toys or play gyms. They release cyanide if birds ingest them.
- If using a glue gun, only use non-toxic glue. To be on the safe side, use a nail or screw to secure and attach branches of the play gym.
- Trim the ends of branches and sand them so that no sharp edges or splinters protrude which birds can injure themselves on.
- Switch off ceiling fans while birds are outside their cage, using the play gym.
- Always supervise your parakeets when they are playing outside their cage and ensure that all doors and windows are closed.
- Monitor the condition of your parakeet’s toys and the play gym. If objects become sharp and jagged from being chewed, replace them immediately.