Show me a happy bird, and I’ll show you a bird that is having fun in three main ways: 1. Playing with you 2. Playing with other birds or animals (dogs, cats – NOT Ferrets) 3. Playing with toys. A bird that is well socialized by these three ways of playing will be more responsive, affectionate, quiet and well behaved than a bird that is bored.
So, how do you socialize your bird? First of all, establish a routine with your bird. Birds are creatures of habbit-they like certainty; it reduces their stress. So, for instance, when you are getting ready in the morning (or night) for work, why not bring the little guy (or girl) in the bathroom while you get ready – this is quality time, around fifteen minutes to a half hour, that you can spend talking and interacting with your bird that does not take away from your normal schedule. A shower perch helps, but you can also use a tabletop perch, or make your own spot. This is a good time for you to analyze your bird a bit – make note of the behavior your bird normally has, and consider taking it to the vet if the behavior is significantly different from that normal behavior. Remember – you are the best person to determine if your bird is sick.
Likewise, when you are watching TV, take your bird out and put it on a stand where you do not neccesarily have to be holding or touching your bird. Sure, you can alternate. But the point is, get your bird used to the idea of being in the same room with you, outside the cage but off you. It takes some training, but once accomplished it leads to a better socialized bird.
As well, I always take my bird outside for five or ten minutes of fresh morning air and sunshine – if you have a macaw, you will notice the fresh, pleasant odor your bird exudes after being outside – the stimulation of fresh air, sunshine, wild birds, and different noises is great for them.
But, if you must go to work for the better part of most days, it is crucial to make sure your feathered friend has stuff to keep them occupied. We have found that another bird, or even another type of animal ( dogs in particular, but cats too) is a great way for your bird to stay occupied and fulfilled when you are out of the house. Birds rule – they are smarter than dogs or cats, and this fact leads to some very amusing interaction that all the animals (and humans) enjoy.
Even if you have other animals, and take your bird out of its cage whenever possible, they will still need toys. Most important – it is OK if a bird destroys the toy. In fact, the quicker it is destroyed, the more fun they have. You can go for something as simple and free as a roll that was inside unscented toilet paper or paper towels, or as complex and expensive as a stainless steel or acrylic toy. Many of the stainless and acrylic toys are designed to keep the birds entertained without being destroyed. Normally, these “intellectual” toys are better suited for birds three years and up – yes, they get smarter as they get older, and the type of toys change.
All birds should have no less than three different toys. When the birds are weaning, a foot toy, a softwood toy, and a swing would be three good choices. When your bird is weaned and ready to go home, try to take the toys that were in their cage, and get three different new ones – a leather toy, a softwood toy, and a sisel or soft plastic toy. Observe which type of material your bird seems to like best, best do not indulge them only with that favored type. Be sure to always introduce new toys, rotate the toys, and get larger and harder wood toys as the bird ages.
Rope toys are fun, but they are toys that require supervision and maintenance. When the strands get to be longer than two inches, you need to either trim the rope, and tie it in knots. Two many birds have lost toes, feet, or their lives from unruly and dangerous long rope strands. Sisel is a great alternative that is still fun for birds to chew, easier to clean, and safer.
Look at how the toy is constructed – does it have endless loop metal – like key chain (bad) or a closed loop ring (good); is it held together by rope (easier to break apart) or chain (more durable); does it have loops in it that your bird might hang itself in? If there is leather, make sure it is vegetable tanned (normally lighter in color). If your bird really knaws on the metal pieces, then it is important for you to either get toys with no metal at all ( there are several toy lines out there that fulfill this requirement), or make sure you only get stainless steel toys AND C-CLAMPS! Remember, stainless teel is more expensive than galvanized or dipped steel, so most toys do not have stainless C-clamps. Most reputable bird stores offer stainless steel C-clamps as an accessory. Again, it is important for you to observe your bird’s behavior.
There are two main types of wood for toys – softwood (pine) and hardwood (oak, maple, manzanita, grapevine). As alluded to earlier, pine is easier to destroy and therefore more fun for young birds. However, if you have a medium or large parrot, it is a great idea to start introducing your bird to harder wood toys as they age for two reasons-one, you buy fewer toys, and two, your bird learns patience. If your does not touch the toy, take it out for a week, then put it back in a different position, or, put it on its perch. Do not give up on a toy withou trying all these possibilities – the more varied toys your bird has, the more content it will be when you get home from a long day. And remember – your feathered friend needs at least ten hours of nightime sleep, so get that quality in early morning and early evening if at all possible.
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