Nervous bird training cork

Humphrey was our first avian housemate, and when we first sprung her from her miserable life in a tiny cage in a local pet shop, she was understandably a very nervous bird. It took a very long while for her to relax and come to trust us. Our first breakthrough was with this simple little toy that she loved. It was just hard enough to keep her occupied and just easy enough to stop her losing interest. This toy is suitable only for small birds like parakeets, budgies and cockatiels.

You will need:

  • A cork
  • A shoelace or better yet, Paulie Rope. If you use a shoelace, be sure to use a cotton one – nylon can fray.
  • A pointed stick (I used a screwdriver)
  • Some sunflower seeds

Step 1:

Using the pointed stick, make a hole all the way through the center of the cork:

Step 2:

Push the shoelace through the hole you just made using the pointed stick:

Step 3:

Tie a knot in the shoelace big enough to stop the lace being pulled out:

Step 4:

Poke a bunch of holes into the cork. They must be wide enough to fit a sunflower seed, and deep enough to leave it sticking out.

Step 5:

Push sunflower seeds into the holes so that they are firmly lodged. You need to experiment with how deep the seeds are embedded so that your bird is able to extract them, but still see it as a challenge.

Step 6:

Hang the cork so that it is just within the birds reach. It may take a while before your bird realises what this strange new object is, but after a while it will be a source of stimulation and fun.

Leo, our Princess Parrot, checks out his Cork Toy for the first time

We’ve found that even if there is food in their bowl, the food they have to work for is considerably more appealing to them.

This page is in memory of Humphrey (2002 – 2007) our first  beloved parrot, who inspired this toy.  Humphrey, like our Leo, was a Princess Parrot or Princess of Wales Parakeet.  Here she is:


Humphrey rests on one of our knees

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