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can parrots have cardboard?

Is Cardboard Safe for Parrots To Play With?

Last Updated on: 13th May 2023, 10:07 am

If you’ve looked for homemade parrot toys, you’ve likely encountered various cardboard-based ideas. From shredded cardboard to cardboard tubes, it’s a staple of the DIY pet toy world.

However, you may be concerned that this easily shredded material could harm a parrot.

The good news is that parrots can play with cardboard because it’s non-toxic, regardless of whether it’s single-ply or layered. You can use shipping boxes, food containers, and toilet paper rolls.

However, a parrot may become constipated or impacted if too much cardboard is consumed. Most glues and inks are bird-safe, but always check the instructions or consult the manufacturer directly.

If you’re concerned about glue, avoid giving the parrot the edges, folds, and corners.

If you notice large chunks of missing fiberboard, switch to a thinner alternative, like cardboard rolls or single-ply cardboard (paperboard).

Can Parrots Have Cardboard As A Toy?

Cardboard is a safe toy for parrots and has several benefits:

Easy To Use

As a semi-pliable material, you won’t need special tools to make toys from cardboard. You can turn cardboard into rolls, tubes, triangles, and circles and create intricate shapes and puzzles.

Parrots Like Cardboard

According to The British Veterinary Association, parrots need environmental simulation, including items that can engage their feet and beaks.

For large parrots with powerful beaks or small parrots (budgies, cockatiels, parrotlets, lovebirds, etc.) that need less resilient toys, cardboard encourages parrots to become more dexterous.

can parrots chew cardboard?

Inexpensive Material

Depending on where you source cardboard, this material can be free. You can use clean:

  • Leftover shipping boxes.
  • Moving boxes.
  • Food containers.

If you want a specific type of cardboard, you can buy them at most craft or mailing stores for $1-$5, saving you money on buying more specialized parrot toys.

What Is Cardboard Made Of?

Cardboard is manufactured, so you may be concerned that toxic ingredients were used. However, nothing in cardboard is inherently dangerous for parrots.

Cardboard is made from wood pulp, which is created from lumber. Wild parrots gnaw on and interact with trees constantly, so cardboard is more natural than plastic toys.

Certain types of cardboard use wood pulp made from recycled products, like old newspapers and cardboard. The recycling process doesn’t introduce any additional elements. 

Cardboard changes its form based on how its fibers are created, resulting in these types:

  • Paperboard. This is used for take-out containers and food packaging.
  • Corrugated fiberboard. This is a wavy layer of board sandwiched between layers. Corrugated fiberboard is stronger, so it’s used for large packing boxes.

Is Single-Ply Cardboard Safe for Parrots?

Single-ply cardboard or paperboard is used for holding and transporting food. Once it’s finished and shipped, it contains extra materials aside from its base fibers, including:

  • Wax.
  • Glue.
  • Ink.

Paperboard Wax

This is the coating you find on the surface of take-out containers because it has these benefits:

  • Makes the surface smoother and more aesthetically pleasing.
  • Improves durability.
  • Adds waterproofing.


Glue is used in small amounts to hold the box together.


Ink is needed to add branding and other information.

These ingredients are food-safe. No restaurant, supermarket, or café can 100% guarantee their foodstuffs won’t come into contact with glue, wax, or ink, so it adheres to FDA standards.

Is Fiberboard Safe for Parrots?

Fiberboard is used for standard mailing boxes and packages. It’s a more common choice when it comes to making toys for parrots because it’s:

  • Sturdier: It’s designed to survive handling when shipped.
  • Lasts longer: Shipping boxes are intended for reuse.
  • Readily available: No preparation is required.

Multiple layers of cardboard are used to make fiberboard stronger. These layers have one wavy board sandwiched between layers, called a flute.

This process stabilizes large boxes and makes smaller boxes more robust.

Because fiberboard is thick, a parrot may become constipated or impacted if it swallows too much. While paperboard would pass through, fiberboard could create a blockage.

Only give fiberboard toys to parrots without eating disorders, like pica.

Can Parrots Cardboard Rolls?

Cardboard tubes serve as the core for:

  • Toilet paper.
  • Cling film.
  • Tinfoil.

As a popular DIY crafting item, you can make safe toys for parrots. You can reuse the leftovers to make:

  • Perches a parrot can chew on and peck at.
  • More complex toys when you add bells or trinkets.
  • No-effort toys where you hand over the plain roll to a parrot.

Is Cardboard Glue Safe for Parrots?

Zinc and copper are present in many types of cardboard glue. While an overdose can harm the parrot, you won’t find enough in cardboard glue.

The glue is chemically processed, but it doesn’t contain any harmful substances.

  • Cardboard rolls use starch-based glue. It’s non-toxic and easy to produce.
  • Cardboard glue is recyclable and eco-friendly. Cardboard is usually recycled.

If you remain concerned, avoid the heavier glues used in fiberboard to seal the fluted layer with the outer layers of cardboard. In contrast, paperboard uses a much lighter type of glue.

Is Paper Safe for Parrots?

A parrot can safely play with the following:

  • Letter paper.
  • Card paper.
  • Craft paper.
  • Notebook paper.

Paper has a higher water content and is thinner than cardboard. If a parrot swallows a piece, it’ll pass through the parrot’s digestive system without harm.

Is Paper Ink Dangerous To Parrots?

Most of the inks produced for regular household and office printing are non-toxic.

Some commercial inks contain more copper and zinc. However, these are in such minuscule quantities that they won’t pose a threat.

Can Parrots Chew Cardboard?

A parrot can safely chew on cardboard because:

  • The cardboard is non-toxic. Nothing in it harms parrots.
  • Powerful jaws. Parrots can easily tear the fibers apart without the risk of choking.
  • Unlikely to swallow toys. As long as parrots are well-fed, they prefer to tear up cardboard.

A parrot will use its beak to tear and throw the cardboard but won’t immediately swallow it. In small quantities, cardboard or paper will pass through the digestive system.

That changes if the parrot consumes a lot of cardboard. Parrots can’t digest cardboard or any material made of wood due to the cellulose in wood products.

is cardboard good for parrots?

What Are The Risks of Cardboard To Parrots?

The main risk of cardboard ingestion is impaction, causing the following problems:

  • Can’t pass other waste.
  • Difficulty absorbing nutrients.
  • Pain and discomfort.
  • Appetite and weight loss.
  • Lethargy.
  • Depression.

You must take the parrot to the vet to remove any impacted material.

The risk of impaction is much higher in juvenile parrots because they’re still learning. Birds learn not to swallow inedible materials, and juveniles can eventually learn it by instinct.

According to The Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery, an 8-month-old cockatoo had pieces of a chewed and splintered wooden perch in its stomach.

How To Reduce The Risk of Impaction in Parrots

Take these precautions so the parrot can play with cardboard safely:

Mature Parrots Only

Hatchlings and baby parrots are still learning what they can safely swallow. So, only give parrots cardboard toys to play with once they’re slightly older and wiser.

Shred Cardboard

Smaller pieces of cardboard are less likely to cause impaction. If you’re concerned, shred the cardboard in advance. If the parrot swallows any, it’ll pass through the digestive system easier.

Monitor The Parrot

Monitor the parrot while it plays with its cardboard toy. Even if it’s an adult, some parrots still get carried away. Take away the toy if it starts removing and swallowing large chunks of cardboard.

Cardboard has no nutritional value, so it’s not good for parrots. However, if you take precautions, cardboard can be a safe, fun, and entertaining toy for pet parrots.

Also, parrots can play with old baby toys and some types of straws.