It is extremely important that you clean and disinfect any toys you bring home from a pet store before you let your bird play with them. A pet store that carries bird toys often sells birds or provides grooming services for birds. Unfortunately, these other birds can spread germs through their dander, breath, and feces. Sometimes you can see visible dust or dander on toys but many germs can spread through the air and leave behind no sign of contamination. Wash any plastic, metal, glass, or ceramic toy in warm soapy water, rinse in hot water, and then dunk in a bucket of dilute chlorine bleach for 10 to 15 minutes. (About 1 cup of bleach to gallon of water is plenty!) Rinse the toy thoroughly in water and then let air dry overnight before putting it in with your bird.
Wood, cloth, and leather toys are more difficult to disinfect. It is still helpful to give them a warm soapy bath and rinsing but some wood toys and leather toys may crack or split. Cloth toys may be difficult to rinse all the soap away. Bleach can be used on these toys to but will often fade or discolor the toys.
Some veterinary offices offer disinfection of small toys using a gas sterilizer but this is not always practical.
Buyer beware! If you are not comfortable with the looks of a store, tell the manager your concerns so they have a chance to make things better. If you are not sure you can disinfect a toy properly, you should skip that toy and find another one.
Kevin Wright and Jay Johnson
Arizona Exotic Animal Hospital, LLC
744 N Center Street
Mesa, AZ 85203