Guest Author - Melissa McIntyre
There are many kinds of enrichments you can give your birds, and most of them fit into two groups: physical and mental. Within the physical enrichment group, there are five categories: sight, sound, scent, taste and touch. By offering a variety of activities and objects, we can give our birds more interesting lives by engaging all their senses.
Please be sensitive to your birds when offering new enrichments. Know your bird, and take introductions slowly if your bird appears nervous. By gently encouraging them to explore possibly “scary” things, we can foster self-confidence and decision-making abilities.
Sight covers everything your birds see; from the vantages from the perches in his or her cage, to looking out the window across the room, to watching their human family during the day. However, there are other ways we can offer our birds additional interesting things to look at. Why not:
- Allow your birds to have a view of the outside. Shyer birds may need limited exposure to windows, and all birds should be allowed to be able to “hide” or escape if something scary startles them. Try letting them look out a different window from time to time, or from a different perch. You can even put up a bird feeder for them to watch!
- Change the room around where their main cage is. Start with minor changes, like moving pictures around, and then move to larger changes if your bird seems comfortable.
- Some birds love to watch TV, particularly action flicks and cartoons. Why not give it a try?
Sound is another easy way to enrich your bird’s life. Many people leave the radio on for their birds. This is a fabulous idea! However, there are other ways you can spice up your birds ears as well.
- There are many toys that offer sounds, like chimes, maracas, or toys with buttons that play music when pressed.
- Play the contact-call game. Your bird chirps or squawks, and you copy them for a change! Plenty of large parrots adore this game, so be sure to choose a noise you can live with.
- Some birds may not seem to like music much on their own, but they sure do love watching their humans get down and dancing. Get in touch with your wild side, and put on a show to your favourite song- who knows, maybe your feathered friend will join in.
Scent is an often over-looked factor of enrichment, especially for birds. People often operate under the misinformation that birds do not have a sense of smell. This is must be extremely careful when playing with smells, as avian respiratory systems are extremely sensitive. Only use scents you are 100% sure are safe for your birds! Never use aerosols, candles, of scented oils around your birds. Instead, try these ideas:
- Cinnamon has a strong, distinctive smell and is completely safe. You can offer your birds a stick or two in the cage- if they eat it, it’s actually good for them!
- Ginger is another strong-smelling spice that can be safely used around birds. Make sue you are using real ginger root, preferably whole, and not powder or artificial stuff that might get in their lungs.
- Mint, parsley, oregano, and many flowers are safe to have around birds (always double check that the plants you have around your birds are safe for them to eat, just in case!). Experiment; you may find that your bird has a favourite.
Taste is another poorly developed sense in birds. However, by offering your bird a variety of food- particularly fresh foods- you can enrich their taste buds to no end! Like scent, taste can be enriched with the addition of safe herbs and spices, as well. Do you like to cook? Fabulous! You bird would probably adore some home-make bird cookies!
Touch is one of the best explored senses in birds. Almost every bird will have at least one tactile or manipulative toy in their cage. Thee are all the toys your birds bite, chew, grab, fling, or in any other way touch or interact directly with. By offering your bird a variety of materials- like various kinds of safe wood, vegetable tanned leather, safe beads, rope, fleece, etc- you allow them tactile enrichment like no other. Additionally, you can try:
- Ice cubes! This is a great hot summer treat. Many birds also love “birdsicles”- which are ice cubes made with fruit juice with a Popsicle stick stuck in them. You can even pop plain old ice cubes in their water. Many birds love to play with them and chew up the nice cold treats.
- Try offering their food slightly warmed. This different temperature may also result in a different texture; and many birds adore the change. Careful with mushy and warm food for hormonal birds; this may set of their breeding instincts!
The ideas for physical enrichment are almost endless. They are only limited by the birds comfort level and the owner’s ingenuity! It can be a lot of fun thinking up new ways to stimulate all of your bird’s senses; both for you and your bird. Ideas can be simple or complex, take a little or a lot, but every one makes your bird’s life more exciting.