Parrots are incredibly intelligent animals. Many say that parrots are as smart as toddlers and, as someone who lives with three parrots, I definitely agree! Parrots require a great deal of physical, mental, and social enrichment in their lives. In fact, many parrots end up in shelters because their owners did not realize exactly how much attention their birds required. Bored parrots resort to plucking feathers, screaming, and even aggression. Here are some easy enrichment activities to help keep your parrot happy.
Birds love to forage, or search, for food, so make finding food a game. There are lots of toys that mix foraging with feeding. If you don't want to buy toys - and, let's face it, many of them are expensive - try making your own foraging toy for your feathered friend. Simply take an empty cardboard box, fill it with shredded paper, treats, and bird food, then seal it up (tying it with a sisal or cotton rope adds extra entertainment) and let your bird have a blast tearing into it and foraging for food.
Aside from smart, there's one other word that comes to mind when I think of parrots: destructive. If you don't give your parrot something to chew and destroy, your parrot will seek out something on his own - and that something will be your furniture! Our parrots enjoy cardboard, egg cartons, and paper. Other ideas are vine balls, toilet paper rolls, and even books. Destructible toys can be mixed with foraging toys for even more fun.
Location, Location, Location
You don't spend your whole life sitting in the same chair in the same room, and your bird doesn't want to either! Offering your bird different perches in different rooms keeps him from getting bored with the same toys and scenery every day. Different size perches also give your parrot a chance to stretch his feet, which will not only help improve his strength but will help prevent arthritis or even atrophy.
Birds love to use their beaks to explore and manipulate toys. Manipulative toys are anything that require the bird to be "hands on", whether it's a puzzle to solve or even a nut to crack. Just like puzzles for dogs, manipulative toys require your bird to think and explore. The more your bird has to move to explore, the more challenging the toy is and the happier your bird will be. Purposely put toys out of reach so your parrot has to move more to explore and play.
Would you want to spend your day staring at the wall? If your birds spend a lot of time alone, consider finding them some entertainment to help them feel like they have some company. Windows can provide your bird with some entertainment, as do movies and CDs featuring birds and nature noises. In our home, our parrots watch the Disney Channel when they're alone as they enjoy the same bright colors and music as young children.
Last but not least, remember to mix things up. Can you imagine playing with the same few toys your entire life? Keep a variety of toys on hand and change them out regularly to keep your bird from getting bored.
On average, parrots live between 50 and 70 years. Enrichment activities are critical for your parrot to have a happy life. Unlike dogs and cats, which are happy to spend countless hours sleeping, parrots are very active and curious and require lots of attention and playthings. Remember, a bored parrot often becomes destructive to both their environment and themselves. Prevent parrot boredom by offering as many enrichment activities as possible.
Alaina Goodnough is the Promotions Coordinator at Cocheco Valley Humane Society in Dover, NH. She lives in Sanford, ME with two parrots, a cockatoo, a cat, a bearded dragon, and two dachshunds. She can be reached at CVHS at email@example.com. To learn more about Cocheco Valley Humane Society, go to www.cvhsonline.org or call 603-749-5322.