Birds are highly intelligent creatures that crave activity, challenges and socialization. While healthy food and a safe environment are essential to your bird’s health, environmental enrichments are very important, too. Without them, your bird may become noisy or destructive to himself or your home.
In the wild, birds have to search and explore to find their food. This behavior, known as “foraging”, can keep birds occupied for hours. Domestic birds benefit from foraging opportunities as well. When setting up a foraging situation, the goal is to challenge your bird’s intellect. To start, he or she should understand that the end result of the foraging experience is a food treat. You may need to make the experience less challenging to start with, until your bird understands the game. Try the following ideas at home:
- Wrapping Food: Wrap an appealing piece of food in newspaper, or place the food in a safe box (no staples, glue, plastic, string, etc). Your bird will be challenged to get past the wrapper to the food inside.
- Wrapping Food Bowls: Bowls can be wrapped in newspaper or other safe paper. The bird is challenged to break through or remove the paper in order to eat.
- On the Playpen: Hang food in different areas on the playpen. This will simulate your bird finding food in the wild, and encourages exercise on the playpen.
- Foraging Toys: There are many new toys on the market designed to mimic foraging. You can usually hide food inside these toys, and the bird must figure out how to get to the food treat inside.
For more information on foraging:
Many retailers are now carrying toys specifically to promote foraging in pet birds:
Birds like to be part of a “flock”. In nature they spend all day with their flockmates eating, flying, playing and grooming. We can simulate the flock experience by allowing our birds to spend time with their human family. Free-standing playpens or perches provide a safe, convenient place for your bird to stay while socializing. These stands can be moved easily from room to room as the family activity changes.
Note: Because birds have a habit of getting into trouble, always observe your bird during its time out of its cage. Also, it is not recommended that your allow your bird to spend time with you in the kitchen because of dangerous fumes that can be emitted when cooking or cleaning (see “Household Dangers” below).
A variety of safe and fun toys should be available for your bird at all times. These toys should be well constructed and appropriate for the size of your bird (be careful that toes and beaks cannot get caught in chain links, etc.). Because birds like to take apart their toys, make sure they are made of safe materials such as nontoxic woods and natural fibers. Breakable plastics and man-made fibers should be avoided.
Toys should be rotated every few days, to give your bird’s living space variety. Also, new toys should be added, and worn toys replaced often.
Feeding time provides another opportunity to enrich your bird’s life. Foods that require opening or peeling, or foods that have unusual shapes can be exciting. Examples include: unsalted nuts in the shell (peanuts, almonds, walnuts and Brazil nuts), fresh corn-on-the-cob, peas and soybeans in the pod, and broccoli (See “Foraging” for more food enrichment opportunities).
In the wild, birds spend most of their time outdoors in the fresh air and sunlight. UV radiation (from sunlight) is actually essential for complete mineral metabolism in pet birds! Giving your bird time out of doors on a warm day is very important. The sunshine is healthy, and the change of environment is exciting for your pet.
Be cautious that your bird always has shade and shelter when outside. Because of the possibility of outdoor predators, you should always observe your bird during its outdoor time.