Avian Expert Articles

Give Your Bird Some “Gym Time”

quaker parakeet
Quaker Parakeet by Yolanda, Saskatoon, Canada

Life with companion parrots is a unique pet parent experience. While most people understand how to “go the extra mile” when caring for a dog or cat, we are often mystified on how to truly make our homes a sanctuary for our parrots. Certainly, a spacious cage with plenty of toys and nutritious food is a start; but, where do we go from there? Our parrots want to have fun, stretch their wings, and constantly be entertained – and you can provide it all with a parrot play gym.

A typical day for a wild parrot consists of flying for miles, vocalizing for hours, playing with their flock, and eating lots of tasty food. While we can’t supply all of the wonders of their natural habitat, having a complex indoor environment for your parrots keeps their clever brains busy so they can burn off their extra energy safely.

Providing a play gym for your parrot enables you to have a defined space where your parrot can explore, play with toys, or just stretch their wings and exercise without being confined to their cage. Using a play gym daily gives your bird a little independence and may have other health benefits, like reducing stress from boredom or burning extra calories to reduce the risk of obesity.

Gym Styles

Parrot play gyms come in many shapes and sizes to suit all types of parrots, and are commonly made from high-quality wood, like Java, a durable plastic, or bird-safe metal.  These materials are made into tabletop, free-standing, or hanging gyms; to choose the best stand for your parrot, you’ll also want to consider her activity level, size, and age. All gyms can be customized with the addition of your bird’s favorite types of toys.

A good place to start when researching play gym options is to consider the amount of space you’d like to dedicate to your parrot’s play area. For a smaller space, or maximum portability, a tabletop gym or branch stand is a great option that enables you bring your parrot to any room in the house or put the gym away when not in use. Tabletop gyms equipped with ladders, swings, and other types of exercise toys are common for small parrots like parakeets or cockatiels, while stands for larger birds typically have a thick wooden branch with a hook to add a toy of your choice, and a cup for treats or water.

For a more permanent and stationary option, hanging play gyms are whimsical, fun, and can be placed just about anywhere with the right equipment. For a particularly adventurous bird, you may consider both a free-standing java branch stand below a hanging gym for a floor-to-ceiling parrot exploration experience. Hanging gyms are particularly great for fully flighted parrots, and those that consider climbing to be an extreme sport. Make sure that any hanging gyms are appropriately anchored in the ceiling to reduce the risk of damage or collapse, especially for heavier parrots like a macaw or cockatoo! For an option that is still mobile, yet not quite raising the roof, free-standing parrot gyms come in many different styles that may consist of a single java branch, or an array of metal ladders, swings, and bridges. Any parrot play gym is sure to please when equipped with plenty of appropriate toys to shred, chunk, forage, and destroy!

Go Slow

Young and active birds are best kept busy with variety and daily excitement, while older and shyer birds tend to rely on predictability; take your bird’s personality into consideration when changing their environment to make sure they adjust appropriately and aren’t afraid of their new surroundings. Not all parrots will accept their new play gym on Day 1 – and that’s ok! Introduce slowly with plenty of praise and rewards at a pace that makes sense for your particular bird.

In addition to a smooth introductory period, you’ll also want to make sure your parrot stays safe while using their new play gym. When deciding where to place the new gym, you’ll want to make sure that your parrot cannot easily access items that you don’t want chewed; this may include electrical wires, outlets, painted wood, curtains, wooden molding, ceiling tiles, ceiling fans, or any number of possibilities. Speaking of ceiling fans, make sure all are turned off and stay off while your bird is out of their cage.

If you have a particularly busy household, it may be a good idea to lock the front door if the play gym is within reach – it’s better safe than sorry! It’s also important to always be present while your parrot is free to explore their gym. Some parrots, despite having two wings, enjoy climbing down off their gyms to take a walk. You can train your bird to stay put by repeatedly placing them back on the stand and rewarding them with a treat after a few seconds of them staying put! You’ll also want to monitor the condition of toys and gym daily – what was once a smooth piece of wood can quickly become a jagged hazard at the mercy of an overactive parrot beak.

Also, consider the other pets that may share your home and how they will react to the new furniture. Cats, in particular, enjoy jumping up onto high-rising places. It is ok to allow other pets to become familiar with the play gym, however it is not recommended to do this while your bird is using the gym. Rather, keep your parrot safely in their cage while other pets take a good sniff. Living with parrots, we know they truly enjoy being mischievous and getting themselves into sticky situations. Make sure your parrot is safe by moving unsafe items out of reach or choosing a different location for the play gym.

Living with parrots is a wild ride, and one that we enjoy every day! Making sure to keep our parrots busy is so important, and made much easier by having one or more parrot play gyms at your disposal. With their endless energy, your parrots are bound to appreciate every day as they stretch their wings, shred a toy, or just hang out just a closer to you thanks to their play gym.



3 thoughts on “Give Your Bird Some “Gym Time”

  1. We have two thick cotton ropes looped across the ceiling of our bird room with a hanging perch in the middle. We also have a rope “Globe” and a rope covered hoop swing. Our two young African Greys love it. Our other Grey, who is older and comes from a troubled background doesn’t fly, but if the others are playing she doesn’t mind. Our two Pionus are not very adventurous, one is disabled, and our Conures always have their own way of doing things! I got advice about how to be sure the fixings in the ceiling were secure.

  2. My young cockatiel is active in her cage but is afraid to try out her top of the cage play station. Any suggestions on how to get her up and playing in the area set up for her? Not too many toys or things up there, she just seems afraid of the open space.

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