Bird Enrichment

Birds come in all different shapes, sizes and temperaments and although they are looked at as an easy pet, this is normally not the case. Popping them in a cage and providing food and water is not sufficient and in order to get the absolute best out of your feathered friend, you need to provide constant mental stimulation for them to thrive.

Birds, much like our four-pawed pets, require constant enrichment and engagement to ensure they don’t become bored, destructive and in some cases even aggressive. Enrichment is giving your bird ample opportunity to do what they would normally do in the wild. This includes, but is not limited to, flying, vocalising, chewing, digging, foraging and bathing.

Birds are much like small toddlers and love to play and wrestle with toys. There are a huge variety of toys available at pet stores, there are balls to throw, rope toys to swing on, bells to jingle and soft toys to wrestle with! Just like any pet, it’s all about working out what your bird likes. But to put it most simply, the best bird toy is a safe bird toy! So it is important that the toys don’t have small removable parts, that they are made from non-toxic materials and to remove any damaged toys to avoid ingestion.

In the wild, birds don’t find their dinner presented in a fancy bowl. Instead they have to forage for it. Whether it be seed, insects, fruit, vegetables or flowers they often have to work hard for their food. In order to simulate this in a home environment, you can create foraging boxes by simply filling a shallow dish with a mixture of feed and shredded paper or wood. This will encourage them to search for their food. For some of the large, smarter parrots there are even puzzle toys available with drawers and pockets.

Wild birds will constantly bathe themselves year-round in ponds, lakes, human-provided birdbaths and in colder months – the rain! Bathing is very important to maintain the health of their skin and feathers which are, of course, needed for flying. When in captivity it’s important to provide bathing opportunities for your bird. All birds are different and while some will dive headfirst into a shallow bowl of lukewarm water, some prefer misting spray bottles that simulate the rain. Your bird might do a little rain dance under the mist, splaying its tail and wing feathers. They will then preen their feathers with their beaks which is why cleaning agents such as soaps and shampoos should never be used as they will ingest them.

Birds, when cared for properly, are emotionally and mentally intelligent pets who will give back all the love and affection you give them. If you have a feathered friend or are thinking of adding one to your family – be sure to give them all the opportunities to thrive in their home environments by providing plenty of enrichment!

Written by Kate Daniels, Veterinary Nurse.

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