Sunday, January 18, 2009

Entertainment and Enrichment is in the Eye of the Bird not the Bird Holder

Today was one of those days where I woke up coughing (remains of a chest infection and vindictive asthma) and decided to do as little as possible. After a quick trip to the store I set about doing some work on enrichment.

It had occurred to me the night before that it had been a while since I had moved the toys on the playscape around, so I set about taking them all down, cleaning and refilling foraging toys and coming up with new places to hang them. I make up a mix for my out of cage foraging toys which covers a number of different enrichment areas including tactile, olfactory, visual and taste. Because my GCC Darwin has access to these I have to be careful of ingredients (he's on an allergy diet at the moment) so my mix is made up for the following:
2 pounds Avian Naturals House Select Cage Mix
1-2 oz organic dried German Chamomile flowers
1-2 oz organic dried hibiscus flowers
1-2 oz organic dried red leaf raspberry
1-2 oz organic star anise
1-2 oz dried spearmint
I find most of my birds will search out the star anise, with the other herbs being picked at.
In my foraging toys I also like to include organic dried chili peppers which are especially popular with Lucha (just make sure to double wash your hands!) and organic almonds in the shell.
To enrich the birds aurally while I worked, I put on the Pollyvision II: Parrots of the Americas DVD which Lucha really enjoys. He will usually stop whatever he is doing and chatter at the wild amazons in the first section of the DVD.

As soon as I finished putting up the newly filled foraging toys I sat down for a quick cup of coffee and observed my birds.
Lucha, normally a simple forager, headed straight for the furthest away foraging toy which was hung at the top of a boing, which was hung from the ceiling. For some reason it was more enriching for him to climb up the play stand and then precariously inch his way up the boing (remember, he has poor balance) to reach the foraging toy at the top, than to climb down one level to a much closer and easier to access foraging toy.
Marnie also decided to do things a little differently. I had one toy I had hung near a mid level perch to encourage Lucha, which Marnie headed for. But instead of going to the mid level perch, she went to the ring and ladder part of the play gym and hung upside down from one foot to reach the same toy.
Now both of these birds could have taken the easy route with their search for food, but instead they went the most difficult way. Contra freeloading at it's best!

A few days ago a new bunch of toys arrived, with a foot toy I had gotten especially for Marnie. It was a SS ring with acrylic stars on it (she loves acrylic). After training time I brought her to the couch and presented her with her new toy... which she promptly dropped on the floor and then legged it along the couch and grabbed what then became her new favorite toy... a clicker. A few years ago I had bought a clicker to use as a bridge for training, but after a couple of tries I found that it was one too many things in my hands and that for me a verbal bridge was more effective. So Marnie has had one lesson with the clicker as a bridge, a couple of years ago, but today she seemed to remember exactly what it was for.
After playing with it for a few minutes she worked out how to make it click. A couple of clicks later I heard her say "Marnie goo pretty bird?" she then clicked the clicker and said "Goo pretty!".

So what did I learn this week from my birds?
That the easiest food is not always the "best" even when the bird is foraging for all it's food already. This is true for me too, waiting a few minutes to get take away salad with fresh organic veggies from a good restaurant is better for me than going through the drive through window, even if it does take longer.
I also learned that just because I don't think it's a parrot toy, does not mean that it can't be in the beak of an interested parrot.

The playscape today after it's move around

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