Enriching the Enviroment

In the wild, birds spend a great amount of time looking for food and consuming it. In captivity, we put their food in a dish, right in front of them and hang all their toys within easy reach of a perch. Could it be that by making life so easy for them, we have brought on boredom and psychological problems that may accompany this? Perhaps it's time that we look at enriching their enviroment.

There are many things we can do to make everday life more challenging and interesting for our pet birds.

A very easy thing to change is the toy placement. In the wild, a bird would hang from a flimsy branch to reach either a delectable treat or something that it just wanted to explore. It might have to hang upside down to get this, or stretch far beyond what we think possible. Moving toys to harder to reach places within the cage is a simple matter. Put them away from the perches. Put some where the bird will need to hang upside down to play with it.. How about adding some natural branches (please check for bird safe branches at http://www.exoticbird.com/gillian/perch.html) for them to hide and play in and to chew up.

Anything that will serve to make playing a more active behavior will enrich the life and possibly the health of your bird.

Then there is the food and the food dishes? Why do we think they just want to stand beside a dish and eat? This is not very natural. We have taken away the foraging they would do in the wild, that would consume a great part of the day. We can add some of this back into our birds lives. Use a few more food dishes, just putting a few different things in each one. This way they will have to move from dish to dish to get their favorite foods. Hang fruits and vegetables from a skewer. Weave greens through the bars. Make or buy some foraging containers/toys. (see links at bottom) You could put a nut or a treat into a small cardboard box and let your bird find and get it out. Or use a small dixie cup. Some people use small tupperware or rubbermaid containers where the bird will have to remove the lid to get the treat. Any way you can hide a food treat or just food will encourage foraging. Remember, at first you may need to show your bird where things are hidden, you may have to teach him/her to forage.

To get you started, an example taken from ItsAGreysWorld

Pouch Surprise:
Take a washed, large leafy green (ie Kale, Mustard Greens, Beet Greens) and take some leftover Brown Rice (white rice will do as well) and pour it into the center of the leaf. You can add some Cranberries, Sprouts, Raisins, or Blueberries. Try not to over fill the leaf. Now grab the ends of the leaf and tie them together to form a pouch. If you would prefer to make a veggie or fruit mash: Take some of their favorites and throw them in the food processor and use that in your Pouch Surprise! Use something that you know they love and can smell. Some birds like a whiff of cinnamon or the smell of parsley. Take about a foot of 100% Natural Cotton Rope and tie a knot and make a loop at the end to affix it in the inside of your bird's cage. Note: Keep the rope trim and knotted tightly. They will be very curious of this new fun and healthy toy you placed in there and will rip apart the leaf and find the little surprises you have tucked within.

An interesting article was put forth in Science Direct displaying a link between foraging and a reduction of feather picking in parrots. If interested, this article can be read by following this link.

You can find some foraging toys and units at the following url's.
Some are pricey but give ideas of things we could do.

Fauna Tek
Drs. Foster & Smith
Busy Pet Toys
Birdalog
Birds Just Wanna Have Fun 1
Birds Just Wanna Have Fun 2

Have fun, use your imagination, and I'm sure it will add another dimension to your birds life and increase his agility and normal inquistive nature.

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