If you’ve ever looked for homemade parrot toys, you’ve likely encountered ideas for cardboard toys. From shredded cardboard to cardboard tubes, it’s a staple in the DIY pet toy world.
However, you may be concerned if this easily shredded material could harm your parrot in some way.
Parrots can play with cardboard as it’s non-toxic in all its forms, be it single-ply or layered. Most glues and inks used to manufacture cardboard aren’t harmful.
You can use shipping boxes, food containers, and toilet paper rolls. If a large quantity of cardboard is consumed, your parrot may become impacted.
As long as your parrot doesn’t eat too much cardboard, it’ll be OK. If you notice large chunks of missing fiberboard, switch to a thinner alternative, such as 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 Craft With
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. You can even create intricate shapes and puzzles to entertain your parrot.
Parrots Are Fans of Cardboard
For large parrots with powerful beaks or small parrots that need softer toys, cardboard is ideal. The material can be:
- Tossed around
- Pecked at
According to The British Veterinary Association, parrots need environmental simulation. This specifically includes items that can engage their feet and beaks.
If you leave it in the shape of a box or form it into a circle, this encourages the parrot to become dexterous. While some parrots are selective about their toys, most parrots take well to playing with cardboard.
Cardboard Is Cheap
Depending on where you source the 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. That can save 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 dangerous for your parrot. Even the manufacturing process doesn’t introduce any toxic chemicals.
Cardboard is made from wood pulp, which is made from lumber. In the 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, such as old newspapers and cardboard. The recycling process doesn’t introduce any new hazards to the material.
Cardboard changes its form based on how its fibers are created. This is done throughout the manufacturing process. The resulting fibers are broken into two main types:
- Paperboard. This is used for take-out containers and food packaging.
- Corrugated fiberboard. This is a wavy layer of board sandwiched between layers 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 to the public, it contains extra materials, aside from its base fibers:
This is the coating you find on the surface of take-out containers. That’s because it:
- Makes the surface smoother and more aesthetically pleasing
- Improves the 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 the glue, wax, or ink. That means it’s held to FDA standards as non-toxic.
Is Fiberboard Safe For Parrots?
Fiberboard is used for standard mailing boxes and packages. It’s the 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 to be reused
- Readily available: No preparation is required
To make fiberboard stronger, multiple layers of cardboard are used. These layers have one wavy piece of board sandwiched between layers, called a flute. It stabilizes large boxes and makes smaller boxes more robust.
Fiberboard is safe for parrots with some caveats. Because it’s a thick material, if your parrot swallows a piece, it may struggle to digest it.
While paperboard would pass through, fiberboard could create a blockage. Only offer this to parrots that know better than swallow inedible objects and don’t have an eating disorder, such as pica.
Can Parrots Cardboard Rolls?
Cardboard tubes serve as the core for:
- Toilet paper
- Cling film
As a popular DIY crafting item, you can make safe toys for parrots. You can reuse the leftovers to make:
- Perches your parrot can chew on and peck at
- More complex toys when you add bells or trinkets
- No-effort toys – hand over the plain roll to your parrot
Is Cardboard Glue Safe For Parrots?
Many people believe that cardboard is safe for parrots but not the glue. Supposedly, that’s because:
- The adhesives used in cardboard are made with toxic chemicals
- Unhealthy levels of zinc and copper are present in adhesives used to make cardboard rolls
Zinc and copper are present in many types of cardboard glue. While an overdose can harm your 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, cheap, and easy to produce
- Cardboard glue is recyclable and eco-friendly. Cardboard is usually recycled
If you’re still concerned, avoid the heavier glue 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?
If paperboard is the safest kind of cardboard, you may be curious about normal paper. Wouldn’t that be the safest type? Your parrot can safely play with:
- Letter paper
- Card paper
- Craft paper
- Notebook paper
Regular paper has a higher water content and is thinner than cardboard. If your parrot swallows a piece, it will pass through the parrot’s digestive system without harm.
Is Paper Ink Dangerous To Parrots?
If your parrot has eaten your notes or wants to play with old mail, don’t worry. Most of the inks produced for regular household and office printing are manufactured to be non-toxic.
Some commercial inks contain higher levels of copper and zinc. However, these are in such minuscule quantities that they won’t pose a threat. As long as your parrot doesn’t swallow several pages, it’ll be fine.
Can Parrots Chew Cardboard?
Your parrot shouldn’t be encouraged to eat cardboard. However, it can safely chew on cardboard because:
- Cardboard is non-toxic. Nothing in its make up harms parrots
- Parrots have powerful jaws. They can easily tear the fibers apart without the risk of choking
- Parrots are unlikely to swallow their toys. As long as they’re well-fed, they prefer to tear up cardboard
Your 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 other end.
However, that changes if the parrot consumes a lot of cardboard. Parrots cannot digest cardboard or any material made of wood due to the cellulose present in all wood products.
What Are The Risks Of Cardboard To Parrots?
If your parrot has swallowed too much cardboard, the main risk is impaction. When materials cannot be digested, they’re pushed along the digestive tract. As they travel, they will bunch up.
As long as this ball doesn’t grow too large, your parrot will pass it without issue. If the ball does get too large, it can create a blockage. For parrots, an impaction will cause:
- An inability to pass other waste
- Difficulty absorbing nutrients
- Pain and discomfort
- Appetite loss
You’ll need to take your parrot to the vet to solve an impaction as they require surgical intervention. Here, an expert will physically remove the item obstructing the gut.
Young Parrots Are At More Risk From Cardboard
Birds learn not to swallow inedible materials, and juveniles can eventually learn it by instinct.
The risk of impaction is only present in juvenile birds. Because they still have to learn, impactions may be a dangerous learning curve for baby parrots.
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. Aside from instances like this, there are few cases where foreign materials have caused impaction in birds.
How To Lessen The Risk of Impaction in Parrots
Take these precautions so that your parrot can play safely:
Never Give Cardboard To Baby Parrots
As mentioned, baby parrots are still learning what they can and can’t swallow.
Cardboard that’s in smaller pieces is less likely to cause impaction. If you’re concerned, shred some up in advance. Should your parrot swallow any, it’ll pass through the gut easier.
Monitor Your Parrot
Watch your 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 large chunks of cardboard.
There’s no nutritional value in cardboard. From a health perspective, it’s not good for parrots. However, as long as you take precautions, cardboard can be a safe, fun, and entertaining toy for pet parrots.