If you live with a pet bird you know how important it is to keep your bird active and working throughout the day.
Our pet birds are very intelligent and physical for their size. They have a very high metabolism so they play hard and sleep hard both in the wild and in captivity. It's just not natural for our birds to be inactive for long periods of time.
If you don't provide your bird with opportunities to exercise its mind and body throughout the day it will find destructive behaviors to fill it’s time. A board or a poorly socialized bird and develop a screaming habit, pacing or stereotypical behaviors, feather plucking, and anxiety.
In this blog post I'll discuss how to keep your bird entertained when you're not at home. BirdSupplies.com is all about parrot wellness. And, enrichment is an important part of parrot wellness.
Luckily, there are a lot of ways to keep your bird entertained when you're not at home. Just think about what birds do naturally in the wild.
According to Avian Welfare, “Wild parrots live in flocks and can fly many miles each day. They spend hoursforaging for a variety of natural foods, socializing, communicating, bathing, preening, establishing nesting territories, mating, excavating nests, and raising their young.”
Our pet birds are naturally busy, inquisitive, curious, and playful. These are the qualities that make them such endearing pets but also the same qualities that make them challenging to care for.
So, rather than fight nature, nurture your exotic bird’s natural needs to keep it from getting bored both when you're at home and when you're not at home.
If you have the room available you might want to explore making a bird room. I keep my 3 medium to large parrots in their own room. I devised it to be super easy to clean. 🧹 We all know how messy birds can be! So I made it easy on myself by installing tile floors and washable paint.
My birds have their own cage and a few Java tree bird stands. I've got the lights on a timer so that my birds get 10-12 hours of restful sleep each night. And, I've developed a bird care routine that allows me to provide 5 essential ways to keep them entertained while I work all day to pay the bills.
Let’s count down!
Think about the diverse range of foods that are available to parrots in the wild. Rain forests and jungles provide a plethora of vegetation, fruits, nuts, grains, herbs, seeds, and so on.
Your pet bird needs a diverse range of food in order to thrive! The old wives tale of feeding your bird seeds is a thing of the past. Ask any avian vet. Your bird needs a foundation of a quality pellet plus a rich range of healthy, uncooked plant-based foods for both its mental and its physical health.
By the way, if your bird hasn't learned how to eat vegetables check out my video in which I outline 9 ways to get your bird to eat a healthier, more diverse diet. After all, wild birds learn what is safe to eat from their mom and dad. If they haven't been shown that a food is not safe to eat they'll avoid it like the plague!
Bird food prep doesn't need to be a full-time job. Develop a routine where you mix up batches of healthy foods and freeze them in daily portions. Not sure what foods are safe and bird friendly, grab a copy of these informative books by Karmen Budai.
Feeding your bird a diverse range of foods is a great way to occupy it throughout the day. 🫐 🫑 🍒 This is especially true if your bird has to crack open nuts or figure out ways to access the food from foraging toys, and traverse over to forging stations that you dispersed throughout the cage.
If you want to learn more about what to feed your bird check out this blog post.
Most well socialized birds love to play with a range of bird toys. A lot of us know all too well how important it is to provide your bird with safe wood bird toys to chew on. Just look at our furniture or door jams! 🪑
When choosing toys for your bird keep in mind that a lot of birds love variety. They’re intelligent and they can get bored easily.
If you watch a child play you'll notice how they go from one toy to another. They get bored with the same type of toy so they move about from puzzles, to toys that promote activity, to toys that promote intellectual stimulation, and so on.
Your bird likes variety as well. I like to provide my birds with wood toys to chew on, foraging toys that pique their curiosity, natural products that they can shred up, and toys that have a variety of materials you're in them.
Think in terms of bird safe wood in the appropriate density for the size of your pet. Plant-based bird toys. Puzzle style bird toys. And, foraging toys that your bird has to figure out. Stay away from most stringy style bird toys because the string gets caught in your bird's crop.
One thing that I’ve learned when choosing bird toys is to stick with quality bird toys that I know are made with bird safe parts. You can save yourself the grief of an injury by sticking with trustworthy bird toy brands. Some of my favorite brands are Super Bird Creations, Bonka Bird Toys, Planet Pleasures, and Featherland.
The next thing to know about bird toys is that you should rotate the toys out each week. Just like my example with how kids get bored with toys, your bird will get bored with the same old toys week after week. Each week when I clean my bird cages, I swap out toys and recycle bird toy parts.
Head over to this article if you want to learn more about how to choose bird toys.
I can't tell you how many people tell me that their bird won't tolerate a bath. The problem is usually that the bird has never learned to enjoy a bath.
Wild birds bathe everyday. Our birds are from Jungle and rainforest where they get rained on a lot. You can encourage bathing by teaching your bird using positive reinforcement strategies. If you're unsure of how to go about doing that grab a copy of theClicker Training for Birds book.
Bathing your bird not only removes dirt and debris from the feathers and skin, but it also promotes healthy preening. A bird is naturally drawn to realigning all of its feather barb's and place after they get wet.
Preening is a natural bird behavior in which a bird is taking care of its most precious asset, its feathers. it is a big part a wild birds daily activities
They are so focused on getting the barbs realigned that they don't engage in over-preening nor do they suffer the effects of under-preening. Frequent bathing promotes just the right amount of training to keep the feathers in tip-top condition.
Your bird has thousands of feathers that need to be realigned after a bath. Promoting healthy preening with a bath will keep your bird occupied for a few hours. you should.
If you've gotten this far the word foraging is no surprise. Foraging is the activity of working to get food. It is one of the most enriching things that you can do to squash birdie boredom.
Animal Welfare professionals, parrot wellness professionals, zookeepers, and veterinarians all strongly endorse foraging activities for all pets, but especially for exotic animals that retain so many of their natural Instincts.
Providing enriching foraging opportunities is so important that the Richard M. Shubolt Parrot Wellness program at UC Davis counts it among their 6 suggestions to keep your pet bird well.
Foraging is the perfect way to keep your bird from getting bored while you're at work. Teaching your bird to forage is so important that I wrote a book about it! Even though it's so important, as bird parents we need to reinforce it so that our birds are drawn to the benefits of foraging.
If you're unsure of how to provide foraging opportunities or you're worried about the expense, Baahaa! Just go to Pinterest and discover how to make a range of foraging toys for your bird to occupy it all day long!
Of course you canbuy some staple foraging toys like these:
As a mental health provider I can't assure you that when we're dealing with a depressed or anxious client, one of the first things we inquire about is wellness. We want to know about the person's diet, sleep, and exercise.
A bird is no different. A bird that's not eating well, not getting adequate sleep, and not exercising is going to develop unwanted behavior.
If you want to keep your bird busy while you're at work, provide it with exercise outlets. Here are five simple ways to make sure that your bird gets plenty of exercise, even when you're at work.
Perches and foraging stations. One of the easiest ways that you can ensure that your bird gets plenty of exercise is to place perches throughout the cage and near foraging stations that pique your bird's curiosity.
This strategy pulls double duty for keeping your bird entertained.Your bird has to move about to get to the different foraging stations, thereby getting exercise. And, the foraging stations are enriching in their own right. Here's a great resource on how to create foraging stations for your bird.
Invest in a bird stand.Who wants to be cooped up in a bird cage all day long? It doesn't sound very fun. Investing in an elaborate bird stand encourages your bird to climb, play, and forage.
Some people make their own bird stands out of bird safe branches or even PVC piping. I like bird stands with several levels that my birds can climb to. These Java tree bird stands are a favorite for both me and my birds.
I'd gone through a number of cheaper styles that didn't last but I've had these Java Trees for 20 years. You can adapt them by adding toy hooks and screwing in perches. figure out ways to hang foraging stations on different parts of the tree, and Wallah, your bird is entertained all day while you're at work.
Dance. Birds love music and they’ve actually got a groove! Just log onto YouTube and watch birds dance. If you've got the time, dance with your bird before you go to work. The exercise will do it good and leave it less restless for the rest of the day.
When you dance with your bird you are modeling freeform exercise that your bird can do on its own while you're at work. Now, just leave your favorite Spotify channel on when you're gone so that your bird feels free to dance whenever it wants to! Not only does it provide your bird entertainment and exercise but it also provides your bird with sensory enrichment.
A safe way to get your bird out is to harness train it. Stick with the Aviator bird harness brand that is designed to restrain your bird at safe touch points and not harm any of your bird's numerous air sacs.
Once your bird catches on to the concept, “the sky is the limit” when it comes to exercise.
In conclusion, I have covered a lot of ground here! Honestly, with the exception of the Java Tree, all of these suggestions are pretty affordable. And, even with the Java Tree, I look at that as a bird necessity for our medium to large parrots.
P.S. Hey! Before you go… I got one last bonus tip. I think I'm speaking for my birds here. When I redid my bird room about 4 years ago I put a television in there. I play the TV and music for my birds just about every day. But I can assure you that their favorite program of all is a YouTube channel that plays on a loop, called Bird TV for Parrots. My birds have gotten into the habit of waking me up in the mornings so that I will turn that channel on for them.
Clicker Training For Birds
Diane Burroughs, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist trained in ABA therapy techniques. She specializes in avian anxiety disorders and is certified in Nutrition For Mental Health.
Diane's products have been featured in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery and at Exoticscon, a conference for exotic pet veterinarians.
With over 30 years experience, in a range of settings, she’s created thousands of successful behavior plans to help turn around challenging behavior.
Diane got parrot fever in the ‘90’s and founded BirdSupplies.com in 1998. Nowadays, BirdSupplies.com focuses solely on Science-backed Parrot Wellness with bird collars for feather plucking birds, nutritional supplements to support avian wellness, and a range of educational materials to support challenging bird behavior. Diane’s authored a number of books on supporting challenging behavior in birds.
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