Play Gyms: Are They Necessary?

Expand Their World With a Play Gym

play gym
Bottlebrush Play Stand. Richard Horvitz/ Golden Cockatoo

I happen to like the idea of play gyms. They seem to fit naturally into a parrot’s lifestyle and here is why: Parrots roost in holes in trees. This is where they go at night as well as raising their young. It protects them from the weather and from predators. They sleep, or simply rest, hide and feed and protect their babies. This is their “bedroom” so to speak. 
All of their other activities are performed outside their roosting place: foraging for food, playing, flying, looking for water or nesting material. Those activities are all done in the wide open spaces. 
When a Parrot is roosting, they aren’t eating or drinking. This is their “safe place” and they tend to protect it. That’s probably why some birds get a little touchy when you’re messing with their cage or “house” as I call it. 
So it just makes sense to me that a play gym would be the indoor substitute to a tree or a perch somewhere outside of their home. 
I don’t feed my birds fresh food in their houses other than the occasional treat or a nut. I have three play gyms and that is where my three African Greys eat and drink during mealtime. 
I keep a formulated pelleted diet as well as fresh water in their houses, but their fresh food is served to them on their play gyms. They have food, another water cup and toys they may play with on those gyms so it is a self-contained activity area for them. They seem to enjoy hanging out on their gyms and they crawl around, mess with the toys or just sit and nap there in the afternoon. 
There are a couple of advantages to this. First of all, their houses aren’t getting all mucked up with bird of food, crumbs, chopped vegetables and sticky fruit. It’s a lot easier to clean the flat surface of the bottom floor of the gym or the tile floor of the living room than it is the bars of a house. I keep their houses well-dusted, spot cleaned and the substrate is covered with paper. However I rarely douse them with water. This protects the bars of the house and keeps the damage to the cage to a minimum. When I clean the houses, I dust, spot clean with bird-safe cleaner and a moist but not sopping-wet cloth and change the substrate papers. This has kept Parker’s house almost pristine for 13 years now. And a well cared for house is easier to clean than a damaged or pitted one. And if you get any rust, it’s time for a new house.
My birds seem to thrive with this type of arrangement. They get to be out among the flock, but they all have their own place and they know it belongs to them. They have free choice as to where to go on the play gym and a choice of toys to play with. It acts as the wild free-roaming area they would have in the wild, albeit a miniaturized version of it. 
There are certain factors you must consider when purchasing a play gym. One fact is that it’s going to be chewed on. That’s what parrots do. So a sturdy gym with stainless steel screws and a washable surface is imperative. I also like the fact that my gyms are made of bottle brush wood. Bottle brush wood is soft on the outside and gets harder as the parrot chews into it, so it lasts a long time. 
And I like the fact that my play gym branches and perch levels can be replaced. If one gets really ratty, you simply order another one, remove the ratty one and replace it with a fresh one. 
No need to replace the entire gym. 
So if you are considering buying one for your bird, please choose wisely. It’s a big investment and you’ll want it to last a long time.