Posts Tagged ‘captive foraging’

Off to the Vet Again…

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Here are the two little birdie troopers who went to see their avian vet today – just for beak and nail trims. They are waiting on the reception desk counter in their Wingabagos for me to pay the bill, watching with interest the Dalmation dog and the 3-month old kitten that just arrived. The dog had just pooped out of nervousness inside the office door, and the cat was clawing its way out of its temporary holding bag. Normal vet chaos, but for once my charges were quiet and calm.

However, Sam was not so quiet a few minutes earlier! He needs a beak trim about every 2 months, as his beak grows fast. It is his least favorite activity, so while trussed in a towel, he screamed bloody murder and nearly bit the vet in a few seconds of relative and deceptive quiet, when the doc thought Sam had relaxed. (Pippin, on the other hand, was a model of demure and dignified behavior…)

Sam does not choose to chew holes in wood, as many parrots do. He love to chew wood, but held in his foot and not for foraging. Therefore, he does not wear down his beak well. So I have to bring him in for trimming. I’ve tried many things to get him to chew harder wood to get at treats, but nothing going for him so far. The doc suggested I try sticking treats into softer wood, like balsa, after removing his food so that he’s a bit hungry. I’ll give that a try.

And so the first day of spring was not celebrated as Sam would have chosen!

Foraging for Cockatiels

Monday, February 2nd, 2009

I mentioned earlier the need for our companion parrots to do more foraging for their own food, rather than have it always put before them in a food cup.

It’s a lot more challenging to get the smaller parrots to forage. Their food is much smaller and impossible to wrap singly in paper, as I do with Sam’s food, using the large Harrison’s pellets. Also, cockatiels and lovebirds don’t hold their food like larger parrots do, so it’s harder to hide items for them to extract easily.

However, I finally hit upon one thing that works really well for my cockatiels. I decided to make use of the cockatiel’s innate need to pick at things. If you’ve ever held your tame cockatiel to your skin where there is a mole or scab, you know he/she will make a beeline for same and try to remove the offending blot.

Cockatiels like things to be smooth and mar-free!

So….using large grapevine branches that have cracks, I now place the Harrison’s fine pellets into the cracks (this ONLY works with dry food). Or I may place a piece of a large pellet in the crack for them to work on. The cockatiels are drawn to the items in the cracks like a magnet, and they don’t just pick and drop them. They eat the pellets, perhaps simulating more what they would find in the wild on branches and in the treetops. (This is Charlie casing his cracks, pellet in beak.)

I think it’s these tiny things we can do for our birds that helps them to be more stimulated and engaged in their living with us humans. For sure, it makes me feel so good seeing the bright eagerness in their eyes!

Foraging, Anyone?

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

My avian vet encouraged me for a long time to get Sam interested in foraging. Foraging allows companion parrots to more closely approximate how they would find food for themselves if they were in the wild. The thinking here is that if we can provide a more natural way for them to exist in our homes, the less likely our parrots will develop unhealthy or unacceptable behavior through boredom; or self-destructive behaviors, such as feather-picking or obsessive-compulsive actions.

‘Sam, being the staid “don’t-upset-the-established-order” fellow he is, resisted for a long time. I had to find the right type of foraging he’d prefer. That ended up being his Harrison’s pellets wrapped in paper like candy, and tucked away all over his cage for him to find.
I use adding machine paper for wrapping the pellets. It took me a long time to find a paper that wasn’t bleached – not only would it be potentially bad for Sam but the normal bleached paper you find in most stores causes my skin to itch and burn. I finally found a source that makes recycled adding machine rolls.

Here you may see how I’ve tucked the tan-colored wrapped pellets into this toy from Parrot Asylum. I set up his pellets every morning, and Sam eagerly starts his rounds finding his pellets. He loves this so much now that a bowl of pellets is totally uninteresting to him.

And here’s some more tucking places:

The last one I’m showing is Sam’s play bowl inside his cage. He has a number of play bowls throughout the house, but this one is his favorite one.

‘I have good reason to suspect that Sam is part dragon. He is very protective of this bowl of foot toys (and wrapped pellets). He actually sleeps on the rim of the bowl, rather than on a larger perch, which I think would be more comfortable. But no, Sam sleeps on top of his “hoard.”

So for all you parrots and bird-dragons, happy foraging!

Foot Toys

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Sam loves foot toys – toys that can be held/grasped in the dextrous foot of the larger parrot.

Some parrots prefer stationary objects to chew or gnaw on, some prefer to dig out food from holes as in foraging, some prefer preening toys, some like to chew paper. Sam is a foot guy, through and through.

Although Sam loves to forage for his pellets when I wrap them in paper and tuck them here and there in his cage, he totally ignores pellets that have been carefully placed in holes drilled in wood that would normally create a more satisfying, more “natural” foraging experience. No go for Sam. Those drilled holes remain just holes for him.

No, it’s stuff he can hold in his little mitts that wins the day. He consistently prefers pine squares that I get from the Birdsafe Store. I stick them on unfinished short wooden dowels, and he’ll spend time whittling the wood down, which is excellent for his beak.

Here Sam is in action. As you can imagine, Sam has trained me very well to be a foot toy retriever.

They’ve Taken Over!

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008

Yes, it’s happened. Living with these four birds has done something to me. To provide more freedom and opportunities to explore, I tend to adapt my surroundings to what I think a birdie point of view might enjoy.

For instance, my chair-side table. Normally you put a lamp on it and place a book you’re reading next to it, right?

Well, I’ve taken it a step further and incorporated a birdie playpen. There is a box of foot toys and colorful bird baubles. The jar on the right is filled with wrapped Harrison’s pellets waiting for placement in Sam’s cage for his foraging activities. (I keep a container of pellets nearby and wrap them in unbleached paper as I watch a DVD or listen to music.) The cockatiels especially love this playpen.

The little “tree” is a foraging branch from Birdsafe Store. It’s been drilled with several holes into which one can place dry food or pellets for the birds to find – approximating (as much as we can make it) a bird’s foraging activity in the wild.

So, you see, these little guys have performed their magic on me and created a very convenient companion who might as well sprout feathers herself! Ah well….

Foraging is Hard Work!

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

This is Sam peeking through one of the openings of my artist easel. The play tree is right behind it in the sunlight coming through one of the living room windows.

When I paint, Sam – and the rest of my avian tribe – seem to sigh with satisfaction. Why? Because I’m home, I’m stationary, and all is certain. There is no coming and going, I work steadily and quietly, and they can play and snooze with the assurance that all is as it should be.

Of course, waiting till I’m done can be hours and a guy can work up an appetite. So Sam “forages” for his pellets, which are wrapped in paper like hard candy. I stuff these wrapped pellets all over the tree and inside toys in his his cage so that he has a chance to do “captive foraging” – the closest we humans can get to providing a more normal environment for parrots to search and find their food. (It also decreases boredom, which can cause feather-plucking and other extreme behaviors. Follow this link to “Captive Foraging DVD” for more information.)

Since I’ve been doing this – and also getting him to fly for the first time in his life – he has become much more lively, confident, inquisitive, and happy. Foraging also encourages a parrot to eat when he/she is hungry, rather than eating all the time because it’s there. As my vet tells me constantly, “There is no free lunch!”

But while non-free lunches can be fun, they can also become tiring after awhile. And so…a snooze is in order.