Tonawanda News

November 10, 2013

CRITTER COMPANIONS: Treat your pets with eco-friendly toys

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I am going to live off the land. 

Yesterday I finished building a chicken coop with scrap wood I found at the new house. I also used window shutters, chicken wire, washers and screws. Yes, there will be an article about backyard chickens in the near future. 

Upcycling, according to Wikipedia, is the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or for better environmental value and I love it. In addition to upcycling a chicken coop I have also made a compost bin and two raised garden beds from what would have been trash.

As pet and animal lovers we should be cognizant of our ecological footprint. Recently at work I came across a bird enrichment company that has the same philosophy. They make earth-friendly toys by using materials that are stimulating for birds and small animals but are sustainable for the environment and as a bonus provide a livelihood for the producers of the toys.

Planet Pleasures is based in Los Angeles and sells their products worldwide. The toys themselves are made in Asia through a certified Fair Trade cooperative. Planet Pleasure says they support more than 400 families who weave the products by hand. 

Since it is through a Fair Trade cooperative everyone involved in the project is paid a fair wage. Videos on their website show locals sitting outside, weaving, very quickly, various types of palm leaf and coconut fibers into colorful natural bird toys. The workers, ranging in ages, laugh as they intertwine the materials on a hot tropical day with chickens clucking in the near distance.

The company also boasts having implemented “master craftsman” awards to recognize those who stand out in their talent and dedication, and hold annual toy contests with awards to stimulate their creativity. They have also set up college scholarship funds to enable those with outstanding ability to go to a university. 

I have seen and given out their enrichment many times but was not familiar with their company. I am almost positive that you have seen their toys before at any local feed store or pet store in Western New York. They have a very popular line of shredder and parrot pinata toys that have been around for awhile.

The company was founded Nov. 15, 1997. Owner David Faivus grew tired of selling Asian antiques and wanted to do something eco-friendly. 

“I also wanted to create something eco-friendly, utilizing the many natural materials I encountered in my travels. Then one day, my umbrella cockatoo Sydney began chewing up the woven palm leaf ribbon I was using to wrap a gift, and just like that, Planet Pleasures was born,” he said.

The shredders consist of woven palm leaves that almost resemble Chinese finger traps, which range in color, width and length. You can wrap perches with this enrichment, adjoin it to toys to add interest or cut them into foot toys. My favorite is to tie them onto the enclosures bars for the birds to slowly remove. The pinatas, advertised specifically for featherpluckers are also made of woven palm leaves with natural fibers inside to give them a soft, squeezable quality.

Other fun toys are colorful bird bells, which contain no bells at all, but rather dyed coconut fiber, and diamond bouncers which resemble hanging jellyfish made out of diamond-shaped leaves. Other earth-friendly materials the company uses include bamboo, cuttle bone and oyster shells. 

Bamboozlers, which are as fun to play with as they are to say, also come in a variety of shapes and colors. These bamboo-based creations are thick and clunky, and keep my Moluccan cockatoo and many of the macaws that I work with busy for awhile. The tag line of durability and destructibility has never been truer. Toys that do not have the ability to give a bird the satisfaction of destroying it will quickly leave the bird bored and looking for something else.

Kenny Coogan has a B.S. in animal behavior. Please email your questions to kenny.coogan@yahoo.com, or search for “Critter Companions by Kenny Coogan” on Facebook.