We all want the best for our feathered kids (or “fids”), but finding new ways to enrich their lives other than purchasing yet another new bird toy or sacrificing an entire room of your house to a parrot jungle gym can be challenging. Read on for some fresh ideas. Your parrot will thank you!
1. Share an Unusual Treat
Part of the joy of eating out or visiting a farmer’s market is discovering something new. Your parrot will enjoy a novel treat as well. Next time you are garnishing with a fresh herb, share a little with your bird. Tired of the daily walnut or almond? Share a hazelnut. Most fruits and vegetables are bird safe. As a general rule, if you cook it for you to eat you should cook it for your parrot. Consider sharing one fresh ingredient a day. It is a little gesture that will go a long way!
2. Recycle a Catalog or Book
We have a few monstrous catalogs that find their way to our mailbox each month…the Grizzly tools catalog is a real beast! These catalogs make wonderful shredding toys when you are ready to recycle them. We pass them through the bandsaw so they fit through the bars on the top of the cage. This is perfect for a bird that loves to shred. A certain rose-breasted cockatoo in our resident flock is always delighted when the Grizzly book arrives!
3. Hang Out in a New Room
Rather than setting your bird on his usual perch for out of cage time, consider traveling down the hall for some new ambiance. Some birds will enjoy watching a cartoon in the family room with the kids. Others love to hang out next to the piano during practice time. Welcome a quieter bird into your home office while you work. Just like real estate, out of cage time boils down to location, location, location!
4. Rotate your Bird Toys
For parrots that are less destructive, it is a good idea to rotate the bird toys. In our flock, I find that I give our rose breasted cockatoo new toys almost every week because he is so destructive. Our caique and Hahn’s macaw are far less destructive and toys may survive for months in their cages. Although the toys are fine, they are less effective at entertaining your bird as time passes. To prevent this, rotate all of the toys and perches each week when you clean the cage. A new cage environment will keep things interesting and stimulating for your bird.
5. Teach a New Trick
Your parrot is smart and keen to learn. Using a clicker can help you teach a fun new trick and you can purchase one on Amazon for only a few dollars. There are lots of internet articles available to learn about clicker training, just be careful because they aren’t all written by a board certified expert. However, the basic principle is to pair the desired behavior with a click and a treat. Email our resident behavior analyst, Dave, if you have any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
6. Spend Some Time Outside
Fresh air is good for the parrot soul. Weather permitting, take your bird outside for a few hours. There are several ways to do this. I will start with the most time consuming. Simply harness train your bird and take him for a walk. I kid! But seriously, this is easier to do with a young bird. Check out the picture of Pavlov! If you don’t have the hours to devote to harness training, no problem. Roll the cage outside for a few hours and enjoy the sun together. If the bird cage is too big, even a travel cage or carrier will work. Another perk is that your bird will no longer associate the travel cage with only a terrifying trip to the vet. No thousand dollar outdoor aviary required! If all else fails, open a screened window and enjoy the breeze together. See, something for everyone.
7. Prepare Food in a New Way
You are probably familiar with bird bread, a yummy treat you can bake for your bird. Bird bread is amazing and I don’t want to discourage you from making it, but sometimes baking only for the bird seems a little…indulgent. There are other choices that you, your family and your bird can enjoy together. Consider vegetable soup. Hold the onions and your bird can enjoy a small bowl with the rest of the family. Another favorite of mine is a blueberry almond smoothie. It is one part frozen blueberries, one part almond milk and a small scoop of almond butter, banana optional. Yummy for everyone. Finally, if you usually chop your fruits and vegetables into small pieces, consider serving some larger strips on a skewer placed along the side of the cage.
8. Keep it Clean
A weekly shower is a great way to keep your bird in perfect feather. Again, I will start with the most extreme. A shower perch can be a happy place for many parrots. I am not suggesting you shower with your bird, although some people do and really, no judgment! Try a special shower perch with a suction cup that you can add to your shower, turn on the water and give your bird a good soaking. Be warned that your results may vary. Our rose-breasted is all over this while our Hahn’s finds it quite demeaning. Another option is a nice mist bottle or a shower under the bathroom sink faucet. For some birds you can’t beat the humble water bowl. Find what works for your parrot and make it a weekend ritual.
9. Bring the Outdoors In
Nature can provide some of the best enrichment. Cut a long, bird safe tree branch or flower and add to your bird’s cage as a new toy or perch. Differently sized perches are great therapy for your parrot’s feet and some edible offerings can be a nice treat or shredding opportunity. Just beware of sap and anything toxic.
10. Listen to Music
What kind of music does your bird prefer? Some love opera or classical, while others rock out to classics like Michael Jackson or Row, Row, Row Your Boat. Most birds will enjoy a good dance party and may even sing along. Even a little NPR will break up the day and keep your bird up to date on the news.
I hope you found a few ideas to add a little something to your parrot’s day. Please share your other ideas and leave a comment!