Foraging is often looked at as a fun way to provide enrichment for your Parrot. I am all about Parrots having fun, but I am also very interested in teaching my Parrots to be well behaved. Believe it or not, foraging activities can also be used to help influence your Parrot’s behaviour for the better.
Here are four situations in which foraging activities can be used to help create desired behaviour and prevent undeasired behaviour.
Tip #1 Use foraging to make going back into a cage or enclosure reinforcing:
If you Parrot enjoys your company, going back into the cage can be a difficult behaviour.
Some Parrots view spending time with preferred people as highly desirable. To address this, the goal is to make sure fun things happen inside the cage as well as outside.
Giving copious amounts of attention inside the cage is usually not realistic. This means we have to offer something else as reinforcement. Foraging toys or activities that are delivered right when your Parrot goes back in the cage are a great way to increase the value of going home.
This time consuming activity also helps keep your bird focused on foraging instead of wondering where his favourite person went.
Tip #2 Use foraging to teach your Parrot to enjoy spending time on a play stand:
Many companion Parrot owners want their birds to spend time on play stands. Play stands are often positioned to ensure lots of socialization and enrichment. However play stands can quickly lose their appeal for Parrots when everything (view, toys, diet, etc.) stays the same.
Providing foraging activities can make a play stand interesting again. The novelty of having to search and extract food items from foraging toys can increase the likelihood your Parrot will choose to spend more time on the play stand rather than roaming around the house.
Mix up where food is placed and how your bird will access it regularly to keep play stands more engaging.
Tip #3 Use foraging to prevent your Parrot from vocalizing for attention:
Many Parrots learn to vocalize loudly when a preferred person leaves the room.
A great way to prevent this is to engage your bird in other acceptable activities prior to leaving the room. This is a great time to offer foraging toys and activities. When your bird is eagerly foraging, you can slip out of the room and let your bird enjoy searching for his favourite foods.
There is more advice on reducing screaming here.
Tip #4 Use foraging as an alternative to feather damaging behaviour:
Feather damaging behaviour is a challenge for many Parrot owners. If your bird has this problem be sure to visit a veterinarian with experience with this condition to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan.
There are more products to help prevent feather plucking here.
In the meantime you can work on redirecting your bird’s behaviour from feather picking to foraging. If you know there are certain times when your bird is prone to pick, plan on providing foraging activities just before that time.
For example some birds seem to pick early in the morning. For these birds, foraging toys can be placed in the cage just as your bird is going to roost for the night. When the sun rises your bird may choose to engage with the foraging activities rather than destroy feathers.
Foraging is more than fun for your Parrot. It is a great tool for managing behaviour. Get creative with ways you can use foraging to influence your bird’s behaviour. The end result is a well behaved companion Parrot.
Find lots of fun foraging toys here.
This article was originally published on Good Bird’s blog in March 2013
Barbara Heidenreich has been a professional animal trainer since 1990. Her company Barbara’s Force Free Animal Training (www.BarbarasFFAT.com) provides animal training DVDs, books, webinars and workshops. She has been a featured speaker in over twenty countries and has been published in nine languages. Barbara works with the companion animal community and also consults on animal training in zoos.
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