Like most people I know, I have been a little more stressed and busy lately than I would prefer to be. Things are finally getting back to normal for me, but I’ve realized that the relatively high level of enrichment my parrots usually enjoy has probably decreased a bit as a consequence. I had the great pleasure of attending parrot enrichment guru Kris Porter’s class for Phoenix Landing in Northern Virginia last weekend, and let me tell you…I was INSPIRED! If you’re not already a fan and user of her website and enrichment booklets, I certainly encourage you to check it out online at http://www.parrotenrichment.com . Kris has the gift of seemingly endless creativity, and anyone (I mean anyone) who keeps parrots can get some ideas from her.
Personally, my biggest take-away from the class was that I want to begin making some toys that include food items. I had seen various forms of this idea on Kris’s website and books before, but it never fully dawned on me how useful it could be until I heard Kris describe it and saw her related slides. I don’t think I’ll be using pretzels, etc, because my silly carb-loving African greys, I’m sure, would never want to eat another vegetable! (I have to be particularly careful with what food items I allow them to have because-smarties that they are-they’ll constantly hold out for something ‘better’.) But, I love the idea of baking birdie bread in mini muffin cups with a hole pushed in with a wooden spoon prior to baking. (Refer to Phoenix Landing’s Nourish to Flourish cookbook for a detailed description of the process.) The mini muffins can then be strung along with shreddable non-food items to make an interesting and irresistible toy. The idea being that once the delectable food is gone, the parrot will remain interested in the toy and proceed to work on all the non-food items. I’m excited to try this concept with my Franco in particular because sometimes I have difficulty convincing him to chew up his toys.
Well, I haven’t had time to bake a new batch of stringable pumpkin bread just yet, but I did come up with a simple idea that my guys are crazy about. Maybe your parrots will enjoy a goodie bag race as much as Pepper and Franco do! I start with a small paper bag for each bird. (I use the brown paper ‘lunch’ bags available in almost any grocery store.) Then I place chunks of birdie bread or other treats in small paper cups and fold the tops of the cups over. (I use 2 – 3 cups per goodie bag.) Waxless bathroom cups like Dixie cups are perfect. I put the loaded cups into the bags and fold the top of the bag over once for added strength. I poke a hole in each bag and attach the bags to the birds’ foraging tree with plastic links used to attach babies’ toys to their carseats, etc. Or, a big quick link would work just as well. Add parrots, and the race is on! Many of my Pepper’s friends know her to be a very accomplished forager. However, sweet Franco’s technique for this particular job is impeccable. He can beat Pepper every time. If you watch the video, note the frustration Pepper (on the right) shows when she realizes Franco is into his bag already. Of course this activity would be almost as much fun if it weren’t a race, but my greys seem to relish some good old-fashioned sibling rivalry now and then. (Hmm…I wonder if that’s why the Model/Rival teaching technique works so wonderfully for African greys?) If you give this a try, please let me know what your parrots think.