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December 1, 2015

Life inside a cage can get monotonous. It’s only logical that boredom and stress result when birds are denied regular physical and mental enrichment in their environments.

Thankfully, outdoor recess opportunities for pet birds are ample, courtesy of a wide variety of play gyms, play stands and related products offered by manufacturers today.

“In the wild, our fine feathered friends spend a good chunk of their time foraging and exploring. From swinging, climbing, reaching and goofing off, these activities are important,” said Mary Ann Loveland, associate brand manager of Kaytee Hard Goods in Chilton, Wisconsin, who added that recreating this natural behavior in a home environment is important and can be accomplished with an appropriate playpen, stand or gym.

Fun Is In Fashion

Noawadays, popular and diverse features are built into play stands and gyms. Among them are:

• Increased portability, thanks to more lightweight materials, innovative designs and wheels. MidWest’s Parrot Playstand, for example, features heavy duty casters for easy movement. Caitec recently introduced a Bird Window Recreation Center (winner of a best new product award at SuperZoo 2015), which boasts a see-through base that attaches to glass via suction cups.

• More natural materials, including various hardwoods and specialty woods, such as java and coffee wood. A case in point is A&E Cage Company’s Table Top Java Tree stand and perch, carved from naturally durable java wood from a single coffee tree and mounted on a base made from kapur wood.

• Sports-inspired challenges that encourage birds to work a little harder for a playtime reward. Caitec’s Instinct Birdie Basketball Playground, equipped with a mini hoop and basketball, dispenses an automatic treat if the bird drops the ball in the hoop.

• Quicker and easier assembly with no glues used and no tools required. MidWest Homes for Pets’ Recreation Center is equipped with user-friendly interlocking panels.

• Plentiful chains, cotton ropes, hanging toys and ladders that offer stimulating climbing opportunities. The Prevue Hendryx Pet Parrot Big Steps Tabletop Playpen features horizontal dowels arranged to create a spiral staircase leading to the top beam, where a treat or water bowl awaits.

• Dishwasher safe and easy to remove and clean components that reduce the mess. Zoo Max’s Umbrella hanging play stand includes PVC pipe perches that can be easily cleaned. Katyee’s EZ Care Activity Center Playground features an oversized scatter guard for reduced waste and splatter, plus a removable plastic tray for simpler cleaning.

• Upscale wrought iron products. These include King’s Cages’ Metal Tabletop Playstand, sporting copper-toned and antique silver finishes for a classic and durable look.

Other relatively recent trends identified in this product segment include play gyms and stands that feature even more compact designs, appropriately sized and textured perches, archways, eye hooks for hanging additional toys and wedge-assembled parts and screws that are deeply countersunk for additional pet safety.

Must-Have Merchandise

Terry Gao, president of Caitec Corporation in Baltimore, said although consumers generally like to buy all-in-one products, they prefer purchasing play stands and play gyms separately from cages.

“Our company stopped selling cages with play tops built in several years ago,” Gao said. “Retailers should encourage consumers to use a separate play stand or gym that can be an accessory to their bird’s cage. These play products should be viewed as necessity purchases for bird owners.” Loveland agreed.

“We suggest educating your customers by informing them about relevant products and encouraging them to allow their companion bird to enjoy time outside their enclosure to reduce birdie boredom,” Loveland said.

Turning Store Space Into Play Space

Melanie Allen, avian product specialist with Mansfield, Massachusetts-based Rolf C. Hagen Corp., said a play gym and stand should be recommended to store patrons as an essential product to be purchased within the first year of bringing home a new bird.

“The play gym will help break up the monotony for a single cage-dwelling parrot and also deter cage territorialism,” Allen said. “Additionally, customers should be encouraged to use incentives to get birds, especially older birds, to use their gyms effectively—such as a seed treat hidden in a foraging toy hanging just out of reach for a parent, which promotes worthwhile exercise.”

In addition, Tara Whitehead, marketing manager for Muncie, Indiana-based MidWest Homes for Pets, suggests assembling play gyms and stands in your store whenever possible.

“This allows consumers to see the construction, materials, finish and overall quality,” Whitehead said. “It’s also easy to cross merchandise these products with bird toys, treats and feed. And these gyms and stands can also be used to display live birds for sale within your store.”

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