Volunteer project to make parrot foraging toys

Family's volunteer trip inspires them to get church youth group together to make more parrot foraging toys to provide enrichment for birds.
By David Dickson

When the Scoonover-Nelson family came to Best Friends and were asked what they wanted to do while in town, their answer was simple: "Let’s do everything!"

 Parrot with an enrichment toy hanging from their cage

Volunteer trip with kids

They were visiting from Minnesota for eight whole days and wanted to get in as much of the Sanctuary experience as possible. Back home, they had read about Best Friends in a magazine and noticed that kids can volunteer at the Sanctuary. This really hit the ticket with them as 12-year-old MaryElizabeth and 9-year-old RebeccaJo both love to work with animals. From the moment they arrived, it was full speed ahead for the whole family, early mornings and late nights.

Making parrot foraging toys

"We had a great time," says Belle (the mom). One of their favorite stops, as it turns out, was over at the Parrot Garden — the parrot part of the Sanctuary. As they worked with the parrot caregivers, they learned all about making foraging toys for parrots. Foraging toys are any toy that requires a bird to look for food, as opposed to finding it in an open bowl.

Given a choice, most people would prefer opening their lunch sack without first solving a crossword puzzle, but birds see things in a different light. Foraging lets them exercise their brains and keeps them busy at accomplishing a task. The parrots at Best Friends truly prefer foraging. The thing is, those toys can take some time to assemble.

 Parrot engaging with a handmade foraging toy

The Scoonover-Nelson family had so much fun making these toys, though, that they had a thought. "While we would love to visit Best Friends every day," explains Belle, "we can’t do that. The foraging toys, though, we can do at home."

Helping animals from afar

After their eight-day visit — and yup, they did everything in those eight days — the family went home and set about trying to create some foraging toys on their end. RebeccaJo made up fliers and invited her church youth group to participate. Lucky for the birds at Best Friends, Belle has a relative with access to almonds galore. Armed with almonds, craft supplies, and a room full of determined kids, RebeccaJo’s youth group built a whopping 100+ toys for the parrots at Best Friends! Now that’s taking your vacation home with you.

Photos by Gary Kalpakoff

If you would like to send gifts, but don't have time to make them yourself, visit the Wish List to see what the parrots need.