Foraging – Keeping your Bird Entertained
A day in the life of a wild bird consists of finding food, preening feathers, building nests and sleeping undisturbed at night. These activities ensure that birds remain active during the day and that they get the necessary exercise they need to prevent obesity and health problems that result from being overweight. Birds that are kept as pets spend most of the day in their cages, while their owners are at work, and many birds develop bad habits due to boredom. Foraging is therefore a recommended activity for caged birds.
Birds are inquisitive by nature, and enjoy new challenges and exploring new toys. For mental stimulation, birds should be encouraged to play and do a little problem solving during the day. Reducing a natural instinct, such as foraging, from hours a day to a mere few minutes can lead to behavior problems such as pulling feathers, destructive behavior and being unsocial. So instead of waiting for their food bowl to be put in their cages, foraging toys and challenges force pet birds to find their food and keep them busy during the day.
When introducing foraging to pet birds, owners are reminded to start their birds off slowly and to be patient with their progress. For instance, owners can start by letting their bird’s watch where they put the food and toys. This will automatically increase their curiosity and they will go and investigate all the places they have seen their owners put things in. Eventually, once the birds have grasped the basics of what is being done, owners can start to hide food or introduce more difficult scenarios for their birds to explore. There are many foraging toys on the market, like blocks stuffed with peanuts, in various shapes and sizes. But owners do not have spend a lot of money creating foraging opportunities for pet birds as there are many easy to make items that can be used.
When hiding food in the bird’s food bowl, it is important to make sure that the items used for hiding food are big enough so the bird cannot swallow or eat them. Items such as large stones or safe wood are well suited to this. Weaving fruit and vegetables (such as carrot strips) in the bars of the cage forces the bird to climb to the food and unweave it before eating it. Rod feeders with fruits threaded onto it will get the bird to hold the rod while eating and a cooked chicken bone, given to bigger parrots, will keep them busy for hours, trying to strip the meat from the bone and getting to the bone marrow. Taking a pine cone and stuffing the openings with fruit and vegetable pieces is both entertaining and a good foraging method.
The mental health of a pet bird is just as important as nutrition. Encouraging birds to develop their natural abilities and skills will lead to happier birds and a better relationship between bird and owner. Feeding time will become a fun activity for both and ensure a healthy lifestyle for caged birds.