I was looking at Barnaby’s cage the other day and it occurred to me, there are some ‘toys’ in there that he hasn’t touched. He definitely looked like a little, mischievous guy who needed more to do with his time. So I refilled the adding machine paper roll
holder, wrapped newspaper around the bars and filled an old sock with food.
Guess what I found when I returned? A huge pile of adding machine paper on the cage floor, shredded newspaper, and an old sock with huge holes in it.
Yep, I’m figuring it is about time for a reminder about the importance of making our parrots’ environments enriching.
Remember, these are animals that would spend hours every day in the wild searching for food, flying, raising young, or watching out for predators. We take them into our homes, put them in cages and want them to be quiet, non-destructive inhabitants.
They rely on us to not only provide them with safety and nourishment, but also to keep them busy and stimulated. And, if we let our birds down by not providing them these basic needs, then who can we ‘really’ blame if our pets develop behavior issues.
Robin Shewokis, owner of the Leather Elves who helps zoos and other facilities create enriching environments, once told me some considerations to keep in mind are: knowing your bird’s natural history (for example, cockatiels are ground foragers so putting foraging activities high in a cage isn’t the best idea); providing activities that stimulate as many senses as possible; and knowing your specific bird (because really behavior is individual) so that you can give him activities he will interact with. (Remember you can also teach a bird to interact with something – and training is a great enrichment activity for both you and your pet.)
For example – I know Barnaby loves to hang upside, loves to try and figure things out, he chews some especially paper, and he loves bells. When his cage door is open he spends a lot of time hanging upside down from his toy hanger attached to the cage.
So, inside his cage, I have a number of bells. There are beads strung (with knots in between) on hemp string and tied around his cage, paper rolls, food in different bowls, etc. On the bottom of his cage I have a human baby toy that is a cup with a mirror on the bottom which is hung from the bars and filled with some pellets. Many days I find just crumbs so I know he is busy exploring.
Keep in mind, enrichment does not have to be super expensive. I always tell the story of the time I bought $50 worth of toys online. When I opened the box, the first thing Barnaby grabbed was the receipt page…and he played with it for 10 minutes!
Be creative and have fun, but also please keep safety in mind.
Link to great enrichment activity book.