Enrichment in all species of animals is important to their well-being. There was a recent article about using unwanted cologne as enrichment for zoo animals. People brought their least favorite scent in exchange for free admission. So, what can people here in Baltimore do for enrichment with their pet birds?
Shredding toys are always a favorite for pet birds. They love tearing and using toys specifically made to chomp and shred. Some are made from paper, grasses, bamboo, wood, wicker or other bird-safe materials.
Rotating toys regularly will help keep the bird from getting bored with one toy. Often times they will munch, crunch and completely mutilate the toy in a matter of a few days. If the bird likes a particular texture, it is more likely to play with toys made from that material.
Birds, especially larger animals like parrots, are very smart. Problem-solving toys where they have to complete a task in order to get a reward of a peanut or other treat, will keep them busy thinking. When they get the reward, they may become boisterous as if to shout, “Hey Mom! Look at me! I did it!”
Leaving a radio or television running during the day, especially if no one is home, is a good way to give the bird a little enrichment. They communicate verbally to other birds because sometimes it is hard from them to see each other, especially in dense forests. Hearing noises like cartoons, Sesame Street or music on t.v. or radio will give the bird new sound experiences to hear instead of just the refrigerator running or AC turning on and off.
Many birds will mimic the sounds they hear. Myna birds and African grey parrots are amazing with sound effects. Some can imitate a phone ringing, smoke detector, microwave beep, car horn, truck backing up and other things they hear during the day. When they are exposed to other sounds, the bird may actually pick up some new tricks when no one is even home.
Teaching a bird simple commands and rewarding it for learning, is another way to enrich its life. Try not to go overboard with treats. The idea is not to make the bird sick from overeating. Teaching a parrot to “step up” onto a stick and “step down” is a pretty easy task that they readily learn. The bird has an enriching activity and so does the owner. Be careful when handling large birds because they can bite, but enrich their lives in some meaningful way. The result will be a happier bird.