by Heike Ewing Ott
Many bird owners who work are concerned about leaving their parrot home alone for many hours at a time. However, the good news is that parrots can be taught to happily entertain themselves. Following are some suggestions to keep your bird entertained and to help prevent boredom while you are at work.
You have gotten some good suggestions about leaving the radio or the TV on, calling and talking to the bird via answering machine, and especially food kabobs. Here are some additional ideas:
– Acquire 1 or 2 Birdie videos (have you seen the “I want my BTV” ads?) and set the VCR to come on and play one for your bird sometime during the day.
– Leave an audio tape playing that intersperses bird noises, your bird talking, and you talking, or leave on one of those “rainforest” CDs that features bird noises.
– Locate your bird’s cage near a window and attach one of those window bird feeders to the outside of the window, where your bird will be able to watch the wild birds come and eat during the day. You could also place a bird bath close to the window…
– Several varieties of “food-hiding” toys, such as the “Snack Attack” and “Carousel” are now available. A bird spends up to 80% of its time finding food in the wild, and they adapt quite well to having to work for their favorite treats.
Place very small dishes of food in various places in the cage, so that the bird HAS to move around in the cage in order to eat. You might try covering a food dish with a piece of cotton fabric so he has to move it to get to the food, or putting wooden blocks or beads in the food that need to be tossed out and might accidentally get chewed on in the process. 🙂
– Acquire a significant amount of small willow, fruit tree, or birch branches, preferably green ones. These should be so small in diameter that they are just twigs, but long enough to stick out both sides of the cage. Literally FILL the cage with these twigs stuck through at various angles, so that the bird has to chew its way through them to move around, or at least figure out how to move them. (Note: this technique can sometimes also be helpful for boredom pluckers.) Once he starts chewing on them, he will probably continue to do so if they are made available, even though you are no longer filling up the cage space with them.
– Get a playpen and keep the bird near you, but not on you, while you are watching TV or reading. Every time he leaves it, reprimand him and place him back on it (this will take time and patience)! Make sure there are interesting toys all over the playpen. Anytime you catch the bird playing with one of the toys, reward him profusely. Soon he will start playing with the toys on the playpen to get your attention, and over time should learn to enjoy it for its own sake and transfer the behavior to the toys in the cage.
– Take some of the bird’s toys and play with them while the bird is on you or with you. Ignore the bird in favor of the toys. At some point he should start to either attack the toy in frustration or try to play with it with you. Either way, reward and encourage immediately. After the bird is habitually playing with the toys WITH you, put those same toys in the cage when you are not at home. When the bird is bored and lonely, he will associate those toys with you, and playing with you, and should start playing with them on his own.