When beginning to make toys, consider the size of bird you are making them for. This is the first important step in making your own bird toys. Secondly you should consider the items you are using: if you're not sure something is safe, don't use it or just purchase all your parts from somewhere like Windy City Parrot online.
Suggestings for stringing your toys...
1. Hemp - Should be plain, 100% natural, available at craft stores and Wal-Mart.
2. Wire - Should be ZINC-FREE and NOT galvanized. Choose nickel-plated or stainless steel if you can get it.
3. Chain - Like wire, this should also be zinc-free. I recommend getting chain from a professional bird supply store like Windy City.
4. Cotton rope - Natural 100% cotton rope is good, but should be monitored for wear to keep claws from getting stuck in it.
5. Poly rope - Plastic roping available for stringing toys. It's safe to use and lasts longer than some other options but is hard to tie securely.
6. Raffia - Undyed raffia is an option, but birds will chew through this quickly.
7. Leather - Vegetable tanned leather is the only way to go. Other methods use harsh chemicals that could hurt your bird. Do NOT get leather from a craft store, get it online from a professional retail seller.
8. Twisted Paper - This is also another option, and if it's undyed or dyed only with vegetable/food-grade dyes, then it can be a fun, chewable option.
When stringing your toys, make sure there are no loose, frayed ends and that all knots are secure. Trust me, your birds will be doing all the fraying here, but you don't want their little claws to get caught in a loose knot that might tighten up from their weight, right?
What to put on your toys, suggestions...
1. Bells - Every bird loves bells, right?! Just make sure you get vacuum-tinted bells or stainless steel. This is another of those items I recommend getting online. Also DO NOT use jinglebells for any reason. They catch toes!
2. Wood - Wood comes in many shapes and forms, and anything you can drill a hole through you can probably use. Do not get painted or finished wood of any type. Many craft stores offer small flat pieces of ash in a variety shapes like hearts, stars, etc. They also have things like thread spools, blocks, beads (most are pre-drilled!), and little flower pots.
3. Paper - Twisted paper can be a great addition, but I recommend undyed stuff unless you know it's food safe.
4. Raffia - This is also a good addition, but again, make sure it's food safe!
5. Plastic - Plastic comes in a multitude of shapes and forms, much like wood. When considering plastic, make sure the bead is not small enough to be swallowed by your bird and ALSO make sure they cannot stick a claw in the opening! Beads should be snug on whatever you string it with. Marbella beads, available from professional bird toy supply retailers, are best for larger birds and will take more abuse.
6. Keys - Not your everyday keys, but plastic keys or metal keys from a bird toy retailer.
7. Straw hats - Most craft stores sell little straw hats meant for dolls and bears. Birds LOVE shredding these!
8. Rolled Paper - Lolly stix! The same thing that's put in a lollipop can be used to tempt your birds.
9. Leather - Again, veggie-tanned leather is great in odd shapes that are chewable. Especially for the big birds!
10. Shells - Clean your shells with vinegar or watered-down bleach (and rinse rinse rinse!) before using them, but they make nice clicky noises.
11. Dried fruit and nuts - Want something your bird will really love to chew? String up some dried fruit and nuts.
Just about anything you can drill a hole through can become a part of a bird toy, so get creative. Just keep in mind that not all items are safe for your birds, so if ever in doubt, ask or do not use it! Remember that with beads, like pony beads and the like, the bead should fit snugly on the stringing for safety reasons.
How to hang your toys (Hardware)...
1. Pear links - Use nickel-plated or stainless steel, available online at professional retailers.
2. Spring Clips - Same as above, but use these for smaller birds only. ('tiels, etc.)
3. Tumblers - Same as above, and good for all sizes of bird. The tumbler snugly fits over the threads, closing the gap.
4. Zip ties - In a pinch, a plastic zip tie, meant to gather wires together, can be put to use. It's okay if the bird chews on it.
There're many more varieties of clips and hardware, but I can't possibly list them all. These are the basics and should get you started. Just remember, use solid metal for bigger birds and preferably something that doesn't require pressure to open it. Plastic clips are okay for small birds, but do not use them for big ones that chew a lot.
This is just supposed to be a sort of beginner's guide... and I'm writing it... well, just because. I hope someone finds it useful, but remember, these are only my opinions.