In sanctuary life reimagined, an important aspect for our feathered pals is amusement and mental stimulation.
At FEBS we provide as close to a natural environment as possible, but even so, any parrot in captivity simply does not have the opportunity to engage in the same activities that they would in the wild. A parrot’s behavior is very active and playful, and they have a natural craving to chew and a need to forage for food.
Our Bird Mother, Patricia Norton, whom has cared for hundreds of parrots for decades, has observed that playtime ranks second only to a tasty meal in priority. As she recently stated, “Parrots with inadequate exercise, amusement and mental stimulation quickly become bored—and even depressed—which results in an unhappy flock and potential health risks for the birds. Providing adequate playtime helps us foster better mental health and a sense of independence in each of our parrots.”
In addition to mental stimulation and amusement, toys provide an outlet for aggression and an opportunity to expend seemingly boundless energy through exercise. Further, a healthy variety of toys can reduce negative traits such as feather plucking, self-mutilation and screaming.
At first blush, providing toys for our parrots may sound simple, but there is a science behind playtime in sanctuary life reimagined!
We provide our parrots with a variety of toys—some promote amusement, such as hanging blocks and cardboard towers—while others provide natural enrichment, such as foraging toys. We also rotate the toys within an enclosure on a frequent basis, removing, cleaning, storing and swapping them to continue stimulating curiosity and preventing boredom.
Parrots like to have a “job” to do—after all wild parrots often spend up to 70% of their day foraging, searching for and eating food—so we provide several categories of toys that allow them to replicate some of the natural behaviors of a parrot in the wild, including:
- Foraging toys, that provide an opportunity for the parrots to work for their food as they would do in the wild and are an essential component of parrot enrichment.
- Chewing toys, as chewing is a major activity in the wild and a natural activity for any parrot. To simulate this activity, we provide destructible toys that are made from wood, vine balls and wood and cardboard shredding stacks.
- Foot toys, that engage our parrots in off-perch time and flexing which helps with dexterity and foot health.
- Exercise toys, such as ample swings and bungees, that encourage exercise—a vital ingredient for parrot health—through movement.
There are two categories of toys we are often asked about that we do not provide to our parrots. The first is “comfort toys” that are promoted as cuddling or snuggling objects that offer a replacement for the physical contact that parrots have with each other in the wild. The second one is preening toys which are promoted as outlets to satisfy a parrots’ need to preen. From Bird Mother’s perspective, parrots don't have comfort toys in the wild and if a parrot needs this type of toy then they are stressed, and the appropriate steps should be taken to change their environment to reduce their stress. As for preening, yes, parrots do need to preen their feathers, but if they aren't doing that naturally, then bathing should be increased, diet should be examined, and steps should be taken to provide a more enriching environment.
So this was a glimpse into the science behind the fun at sanctuary life reimagined!
If you would like to make an avian amusement donation, you can do so here.