When it comes to enrichment, the physical environment, i.e how we have built and decorated the habitats our parrots will be living in, is one very important aspect. By thinking about how we put it together, we can increase the chances of parrots in a group getting along (Social enrichment), encourage them to move around and explore, and much more. In this blog post i’ll give you some quick tips on what to think about: this is one area where details can make a difference!
First off is the the obvious factor: size. The bigger the enclosure, the easier it is for us to do a good job making it into a good habitat for our birds. Parrots are (should be!) very active birds, and they need a lot of space to thrive: even when you are not home. I do realize the definition of “a lot of space” differs depending on where you are in the world. In Sweden, where i live, the minimum cage size for a large macaw is by law 6,3 square meters. And that’s minimum! Many people with large birds therefore choose to close off a room or part of a room instead of going for a traditional cage. This is often much, much cheaper, and let’s you design the cage in such a way that it is much easier to clean. I’ve always built my own cages as well, and highly recommend it. (But that’s another post!)
Second: forget about dowel perches. Just toss them out or burn them; they’re completely useless! I realize getting fresh branches might be difficult if you live in a city, like i do, but most of the times we can work stuff out. My neighbors have become so used to seeing me drag everything from half a forest to bales of hay up to my third floor apartment, so they don’t even react anymore. If you don’t have a car, maybe ask someone to help you and stock up while you can. The reason for this is that natural branches are uneven in size and texture, and provides lots of exercise for their feet. It is not uncommon for parrots to develop gout from sitting on dowel rods. Natural branches also provide a lot of enrichment as the birds de-bark and chew them, and help keep claws trimmed.
Third: While you’re out in the forest, look at the trees! Ever seen one with branches that just shoot out from the stem in a 90 degree angle? Me neither. A good guideline is to try and mimic a tree as much as you can when decorating. Position the branches in different angles, fasten them so that they move a little as the birds use them. Ropes, swings and boings. This adds dimension to the enclosure and lets the birds move around in a way they have evolved to, using their muscles and their whole body in different ways, as opposed to just walking back and forth on a steady, horizontal surface all day.
Fourth: Don’t clutter. If the area is large enough, the birds should be able to climb as well as spread their wings and flying without hitting things in it. There really is no reason to hang toys, swings etc only from the ceiling and in the middle of the cage. By using SS eye-screws, you can hang toys from anywhere in the cage. This is also good because…
Fifth: scatter resources! A parrot has no reason to use all of the available space if you don’t give him a reason to. Many people often assume that their bird doesn’t need a large cage since “they just sit there anyway”. Parrots are not mindless, winged zombies that just climb around aimlessly for lols: they want to explore and do stuff; important parrot stuff. By distributing toys, food and water, foraging devices and more, you are giving your parrot a reason to move around, explore, and make use of the space. This also provides healthy excersize and let’s them practice balance and coordination, if you have decorated properly! 🙂
So here were a few tips, hope you found them helpful! It is always important to look at your bird, watch them interact with their surroundings and provide them with as many reasons as possible to make use of it in healthy ways, no matter if your birds live in cages or roam freely.