This is a section of bird health that is very important.
Every one has their own opinion on the best way to enrich your birds wellbeing, and we have our own too.
Our philosophy is to try to keep things as natural as you can, both in how birds interact and what you provide as enrichment tools. The first thing to remember is that birds are social beings, and each have their own unique social ‘voice’. So when choosing the right bird, understand that certain birds will require more enrichment, and most of this needs to be somewhat social. This will also mean that when your bird is bored, it will often let you know.
For example, a Budgerigar trying to get their owner’s attention will be nowhere near as loud or persistent as a Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo. Charlie, who is our resident Cockatoo, adores social interaction with us. If he thinks he’s being ignored he WILL let us know!
So one of the best parts of enrichment, more so for hand raised companion birds, is interaction with YOU. Just getting them out, having a conversation with them, and letting them interact with your family life is vital to their enrichment. Obviously their safety is paramount, and the easiest way to remember is that birds a) fly and b) chew. So be aware of the environment you keep them in to ensure their safety whilst socially enriching them.
For breeding birds it is important that they interact socially with a mate or other birds. With many species it needs to be the same species, as birds can be aggressive. For example with our Indian Ringnecks we keep them all together in a communal aviary off season, and we’ve had some excellent results from that.
Enrichment tools are realistically things for the bird to do. Most people opt for purchasing the many toys which are out there, and whilst some can be good there are a lot which aren’t suitable. Bird mandibles are extremely powerful, and they will chew things. If they break a plastic toy, they could swallow the pieces. I’ve heard of many cases with rope toys that birds have chewed them and require emergency removal from a blocked crop. This is why we like to, where possible, keep enrichment tools natural.
For most of our birds they love chewing native branches and leaves. Our Lories and Lorikeets prefer flowering plants such as Banksia or Bottlebrush. Eucalyptus branches, flowers, and nuts are firm favourites of most of our other birds. By giving them a large branch system, they’ll often climb through it with the rest of their flock or mate and it’ll provide hours of stimulation. Plus it’s very healthy for them to eat!
Pinecones are another favourite. Unopened, there is plenty of nutritional benefit from those which have freshly fallen. Don’t feed chewed ones, as these have often been eaten by wild cockatoos. This could risk disease control for your flock.
We have also begun introducing insects and insect larvae into some of our aviaries, the most enriching being that of white ants. If you provide a small section of a white ant mound to certain birds, they will spend time breaking the earth open to remove the white ants.