Have you ever taken the time to think about how different the lives of our pet birds are compared to those in the wild? A wild bird devotes as much as 6 to 8 hours per day actively searching for food and engaging in foraging and feeding behaviour. Sadly, the majority of our pet birds are not given this opportunity and devote less than 1 hour of their day to foraging and feeding. As responsible pet owners, it is our job to provide our feathered friends with an environment that allows for such activities in order to keep them motivated, challenged and happy.
The first rule of thumb for a pet bird is, the BIGGER the cage the BETTER. Birds in the wild have expanse areas in which to forage, compete for space and feed. Many pet birds however are expected to live happily in a small cage with just enough space for 2 feed dishes, a perch or two and maybe a couple of toys if there’s still room. We wouldn’t be happy living in a house the size of our bedroom for the rest of our lives, so why do we expect our birds to be? As birds need room to stretch their wings, a long flight cage is much more suitable than a tall, narrow cage.
Traditionally, enrichment has been delivered to pet birds in the form of relatively inanimate objects, such as a mirror, swing, or ball with a bell inside. These items often lack opportunities for a bird to behave ‘functionally’ as they would in the wild and does not engage or stimulate their minds. Pet birds require enrichment that is far more engaging, challenging and motivating than a few blocks of wood or a piece of plastic on a chain.
The most successful form of enrichment that you can provide for your pet bird are opportunities to ‘forage’ or actively work to find its food. Offering your bird its entire daily meal in one or two conveniently placed bowls is just as unnatural for your loved one as being left alone all day, or not given the opportunity to fly. These three situations are the most common precursors leading to the onset of behavioural problems in pet birds.
With the extensive range of new foraging toys and enrichment ideas now available, there is no reason we can’t provide our feathered friends with a stimulating environment, to keep their active little minds (& beaks) busy.
Foraging and enrichment toys don’t have to be expensive. Native flowers, nuts and pods, pine cones and tree branches make perfect enrichment toys for your bird and most can be found in your back yard. Cardboard rolls filled with newspaper and your bird’s favourite treat can provide hours of entertainment. If you don’t mind a mess every now and then, pull a few pages of an old phone book through the roof of your bird’s cage and let them tear it up. To create foraging opportunities for your bird, place multiple food bowls in the cage and alternate which bowl has food in it every few days. You can also place a treat in one of the bowls and cover the bowl with paper. This will teach your bird that they have to work for their food and will help keep their minds active.
Whilst boarding at Noah’s Ark Pet Resort, your bird will be provided with ample foraging and enrichment opportunities and allowed free flight time out of their cage daily.
We encourage you to contact us at Noah’s Ark Pet Resort if you require any more information about environmental enrichment for your bird.