Home > Enrichment > What is appropriate enrichment?

What is appropriate enrichment?

Offering variety in enrichment helps us as caretakers better identify our birds' preferences.

That’s easy. The animal will tell us. If my birds aren’t interacting with their toys, they are then call ‘obstacles’.

I spoke about this topic in detail at my last workshop, last weekend in Colorado. I mentioned that I don’t know what a ‘cockatoo toy’ looks like. I asked the audience “What does a macaw toy or a senegal toy look like?” I have no idea and I think this is a road block often thrown out to those that care for birds. There are a lot of people new to, or wanting to get more involved in the avian community and they hear these terms being used loosely. The problem I see regularly is these are people who are really looking to learn and want to provide mentally and physically stimulating enrichment for their birds or the birds under their care to interact. So they buy or make this ‘senegal toy’ and the bird doesn’t interact with it. The owner or caretaker hopefully will keep on searching for enrichment the bird will interact with, but the scary part could be the ones that think the bird not interacting with it is normal because this was the advice they were given. Then birds are sitting in cages or environments not interacting with the majority of it.

Birds and other animals learn from interacting with their environment. They learn from picking up a toy, manipulating a toy, and/or changing the shape of that toy. If they interact with that toy or manipulate that toy, it helps in bringing a sense of control into their environment. The toys also help include choice making decisions into their environment. If the toy is engaging and give some solvable challenges to it, then it also adds complexity to the toy. These are all areas I focus on when providing individual ‘appropriate’ enrichment to a bird’s environment.

Providing enrichment to my bird’s enclosures or environments is a major area of responsibility I owe to the bird. This was a decision I made when I took on the responsibility of caring for a bird in my house. If the birds aren’t interacting with their environment, I have work to do.

  1. Katie Stamm
    October 1, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Excellent post, Lara! When at first I bought toys for Scooter as a youngster, I would not understand why what I thought looked fun & wonderful, he would barely give a glance to. So we started with laundry. He loved to sort the laundry with us. He loves to play with cloth or paper towels. And paper towel or TP cores (provided no glue involved). Back in the mid 90’s this stuff was in it’s infancy, as he was.
    So I went to bird shows, bought parts and found the most fun thing…..sitting down with him & all the parts & we would build him a toy together. Talk about learning what he liked!
    Every once in a while, he’ll still floor me with a huge snub on something I was so excited about. (birds!) But overall, what a great journey to see him get a sparkle in his eye at something new.

    • October 1, 2011 at 12:20 pm

      What a great idea to sit and build the toy with your bird. Guaranteed to be a winner toy for sure. If we just sit back and watch our birds, they can be some of our best teachers.

      I know when I first brought Rico home I was a little confused at the term ‘bird toys’ yet Rico was not interacting with them.

      The best toys from are the ones that are destroyed. Two talons up!

  2. Katie Stamm
    October 1, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    LOL @ 2 talons up! Today I’m watching him play “war” with one of those awesome sneaker’s from My Safe Bird Store. He loves those. The tissue paper she packs her stuff in also is a big hit. Just like the 2 year old who would rather play with the box the toy came in. haha

  3. Cathy R
    October 1, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    ANOTHER thought-provoking post Lara! You keep me tuned into my birds’ heads. You make me think more from THEIR perspective than my own. It helps ME to help them. I need to learn more about how to keep my birds curious, interested & stimulated.

    I’ve had large birds for 12 yrs now…..and yet I still have so much more to learn. Especially about how to provide the best possible environment for them because they are housed indoors also.

    Thank you for expanding my brain to think about these important issues.

    Cathy (aka Paloma Perch)

    • October 1, 2011 at 2:41 pm

      I’m glad you liked it, Cathy. I just finished writing another article on why continuing to search for enrichment is so important to the animals under our care. Their health is so dependent on us and enrichment greatly affects health.

  4. Andrea
    October 3, 2011 at 9:22 am

    I have been making bird toys for 10 years and I continually receive ‘education’ from my flock regarding their ‘likes and dislikes’. Even though I know what their general interests are in terms of types of parts and sizes, I can almost guarantee a new addition will be well received if they’ve observed me making it. Of course, something new added to someone else’s cage is a motivator, but what I think is most important is that we as caregivers, regularly encourage their curiosity by offering new stimulation. Thank you for reminding us to ‘think outside the box’!

    • October 3, 2011 at 1:07 pm

      So true, Andrea. “Curiosity by offering new stimulation”, I love it.

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