For most birds — clipped, flighted, or even ones who freefly outdoors — a good deal of their day is spent on their own, whether in their cage, in an aviary, or alongside us as we’re busy doing other things. Enrichment is necessary for all companion birds. In the wild a great deal of their time is spent foraging through trees, bushes and for some species on the ground. As part of making connections to excellent parrot resources, this new feature will showcase some favorite sources for enrichment ideas, examples of interesting foraging setups, and visits to cool aviaries.
The first is Kris Porter’s site, ParrotEnrichment.com. Kris is the author of the enrichment bible, The Parrot Enrichment Activity Book (1st and 2nd editions) which is available there as a free download. Her web site gives many other ideas, both simple and involved, as well as short videos and tips on starting foraging activities with birds.
Enrichment doesn’t have to be complicated or costly, but providing places to climb around and search for food or other things to chew on or explore can occupy parrots happily for hours. I could not believe the difference that including food foraging in my birds’ cages and gyms made in their behavior. Not only are they busier with activities that are not destructive to my own things, but they are also much calmer overall. And it has made keeping them with me in the office at work a more relaxing experience for all involved (including my neighbors along the hall!)
Some previous foraging posts show examples of some of my birds’ favorite items. The more you think like a forager, the more you will find yourself stopping mid-toss to the trash can. Throw-away no-no’s at my house: bottle caps, small plastic bottles, small cardboard boxes, small paper bags, little hardware bags, broken toy bits, paper from the shredder. Some essential items from our local 99-Cent Store or Michael’s: tiny plastic zip-ties, sisal twine, and wooden clothespins for attaching things to toys; coffee filters for hiding things; miniature wooden boxes ($1.00!), mini ziplock bags (used for beads), unpainted wooden ornaments, and many more.
In addition, when you find yourself saying “don’t chew that!” to your little devil, is that another enrichment possibility? Your bird likes your toothbrush but you prefer to keep it to yourself? How about getting a pack of bright colored kids’ toothbrushes (make sure no metal under bristles). Always rushing to save that pen or pencil from certain death? How about saving old pens and removing the innards. Do your birds have a taste for fine literature? Phone books are quite tasteful too.
One of the main principles of applied behavior analysis is to show birds what TO do, instead of telling them what not to do. Providing an enriching environment is one of the most basic pro-active ways to prevent undesirable behaviors and keep both you and your birds more sane.