Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Enrichment! More than Just Parrot Toys

I love the word “enriching.” Everything about it just sounds glorious. It seems to suggest being immersed in bountiful fun. Who can say “no” to that? Certainly not the animals in my household! They love enrichment and I love providing it. I can easily spend the entire morning offering fun activities for my pets and watching them revel in it.

One of the great things about enrichment is that it does not have to be all that difficult to include in your parrot’s (and other pet’s) life. Enrichment can be as simple as providing a head of lettuce as seen in this clip with some sun conures at a zoo.
It can also be playing some fun audio sounds for your parrot. I like to use one of those digital pictures frames to play bird sounds for my Amazon parrot Delbert. He sings along while I clean house or hop in the shower. I play this for him almost every day and simply mix up the recordings to add variety.

I also love to take items destined for the trash or recycling and turn them into parrot toys. Clean empty plastic vitamin bottles, plastic caps, and empty cardboard cereal boxes can be big fun! I stuff shredded paper and treats in the boxes and string them up with untreated leather strips. Who cares if they get destroyed? They were destined for recycling anyway. Kris Porter has a site called http://www.parrotenrichment.com/ in which she shares many inexpensive ideas for parrot toys you can make at home.

I also use enrichment as a way to help reinforce behaviors I want to keep strong. For example every time my yellow naped Amazon parrot Delbert is out of his cage I rotate out old toys and put in different ones. This can happen several times a day. This means every time my bird enters his cage something fun and interesting is waiting for him. This helps reinforce going back into the cage when asked. I keep a nice supply of toys on hand to make sure there is lots of variety.

Having worked in zoos for many years I also take advantage of an old zoo enrichment favorite…non toxic browse. I grow my own lemongrass and snip bamboo from a friend’s yard to also offer as enrichment. These are usually only good for a day, but they add yet another fun enrichment item to the list. (Always be sure any plant items you offer are non toxic, free of chemical, pesticides and road grime)

Here is a short list of some of the enrichment items I have on hand for my parrots:

Plastic straws
Lots of foot toys to stuff into other toys
Untreated wood pieces
Old phone books
Plastic bottles (vitamin- remove any foil)
Cardboard boxes (cereal, crackers, etc)

My dog gets in on the action too. Not only does he forage for his food, but he also chases soap bubbles, plays in the sprinkler, tears apart boxes and even loves to pop bubble wrap. I am not sure who has more fun, my animals or me! Ah yes, enrichment truly is enriching.

Barbra Heidenreich
Copyright Good Bird Inc 2010