Visual and physical stimulation are important in a bird’s life. One of the easiest things to provide for a bird is a clean environment. Take time each day to provide clean food and water in clean dishes, change or clean the floor lining, and change or clean soiled cage items.
TOYS provide activity involving the beak and feet and give the bird distraction from boredom. Many toys are available from stores and many can be made or improvised at home. If toys are purchased, check to be sure that they cannot be broken by the bird. Some toys, such as wood objects, are designed to be chewed apart by the bird, but birds should not be able to break plastic or glass into shards. Some toys for smaller birds, such as lorikeets or conures, include tennis balls, wood blocks or beads, sections of heavy nautical rope (natural fibre) tied in knots, and short lengths of PVC pipe that the bird can either climb into (larger) or carry around (smaller). Large birds, such as macaws and cockatoos, need heavy-duty toys that either cannot be shredded or can be shredded safely. Some birds, such as lorikeets, will play in a paper bag, and most birds will get hours of enjoyment from bottle caps and kitchen utensils. Keep enough toys so they can be alternated and washed often.
TOYS TO AVOID include breakable plastic toys, toys that contain lead weights, leaded glass, lead wine seals, toxic plants, fibrous synthetic materials such as pieces of looped nylon carpet or nylon yarn, and toys with openings where the bird can become trapped or get a foot or neck caught.
FOOD AND NATURAL TOYS are ideal. Fresh nutshells, (walnut, coconut, Brazil nut) are excellent. The list of foods that provide interest, taste and nutrition is varied and the foods easy to obtain. Cereals, fresh corn-on-the-cob with part of the husk left on (birds like to tear up the husk), bones from your dinner, peas in the pod, fresh broccoli, and popcorn (no salt, no butter) are just a few. Anything that your bird can open and eat, or not tear up and still play with without danger, is entertainment. Junk foods and salted foods, chocolate, alcohol, or sugar should not be offered at any time.
SOCIALISATION is important in preventing boredom. Pet birds should be included in the family unit. If the bird is tame and not afraid of noises such as vacuum cleaners, taking the bird from room to room on a freestanding perch while you perform household chores can be a social event. Some families take their birds to work with them.
PLAY AND TIME SPENT OUTSIDE THE CAGE can be important daily activities. Give pet birds time each day for individual attention. If the bird can safely come out of the cage, time on a playpen is beneficial. Most playpens have areas for climbing and swinging. Wood or rope ladders, swings, and dangling articles such as keys all make interesting toys. Be sure that the bird is supervised when it is outside of its cage and not permitted to climb onto cages of other birds or have access to household dangers such as toxic plants, lead or toxic items (e.g., leaded glass, window putty). Trimmed wings are essential for birds permitted access out of their cages. Never leave a bird unattended outside of its cage.
Use a cage that can be seat-belted into the car so the bird can see out of the window and take the bird with you on short trips. Don’t permit the bird freedom in a moving car. Do not leave a bird alone in a car during the day.
OTHER SOCIALISATION: Taking your pet bird into the shower every morning or once a week provides socialisation, entertainment, and encourages bathing behaviour. Shower perches are available commercially. Bathing is a popular social event for birds, and they need the baths. Many birds that develop self-mutilation habits have been helped by daily bathing.
VISUAL STIMULATION is important if the bird is left alone for long periods. Place the cage by a window. Be sure there is no direct sunlight on the cage during the day, or that there are places in the cage that are always shaded. If there is no perception of threat on the bird’s part, you can also place other birds’ cages nearby so they can see each other. Pet birds can usually be placed side by side as long as they can’t reach into each other’s cages. Many birds enjoy the company of birds of the same species or other similar species but check for compatibility. Bonded pairs may not benefit from being placed near other birds.
AUDITORY STIMULATION is also important. CDs, radio or TV can provide sound for the bird(s). Limit the number of hours a day that music is provided so that the bird has some silence for sleeping overnight.
The things that make a bird’s life more interesting and rewarding are easy for most people to provide. We are responsible for their lives and we need to meet that responsibility.
THINGS TO AVOID
- Sandpaper perches
- Air pollutants such as cigarette smoke, insecticides, and toxic fumes from over-heated non-stick cooking utensils
- Pest Strips
- Easily dismantled toys such as balsa wood, small link chain items, toys with metal clips or skewers, toys with lead weights
- Access to toxic houseplants, ceiling fans, leaded glass (or any other lead items), cats, dogs and young children
- Access to cage liners