Category — Parrot Enrichment
More and more parrot owners are hearing that their parrots should be foraging for their food.
Even many vets are recommending foraging as part of a treatment plan for such issues as obesity, screaming, feather destruction and other undesirable issues. Unfortunately, more often than not, little if any information is given on exactly how to provide foraging opportunities, how to teach a parrot to forage, or what kind of foods can be used in foraging.
On February 9, 2013, in Towson Maryland, Phoenix Landing presented a class called Fun With Foraging, where these issues were discussed. Simple steps were shown teaching parrot owners how to introduce their birds to foraging and how to slowly build complexity and challenge into foraging opportunities without frustrating the parrot or the owner. Ideas were given on how owner could make many foraging items themselves, and adapt toys they may already have for their parrots into foraging toys. Various options were explored as to how to provide foraging not only for pellets and nuts, but fresh, cooked and dehydrated foods.
For those who were not able to attend the class, I have made the slide show presentation available here. And though it’s never as good as attending a class in person, I hope you get some good ideas for adding foraging into your parrot’s life.
Please share some of your foraging experiences!
Author’s Note: Special thanks to Kris Porter, David Hull, Nyla Copp, Carina Law, Cheryl Celso, Karin Olausson, Kathy James, Sheron White Hagelston, Angela Harrison, Anna McGregor, Jennifer Slaughter, Lisa Bakalars, Leanne Burton and Debbie Russell for use of the great photos.
There are a couple photos in the presentation that I could not tract down who the photographer was but they were too awesome not to use. If you see a photo that is yours, please accept my apologies and let me know which one it is so that I can give you the credit due.
February 13, 2013 1 Comment
Earlier this spring I had the great pleasure to attend a Phoenix Landing lecture, with guest speaker Nyla Copp, “Get The Flock Out!” in which she discussed the importance for the health of our parrots to provide them with time outdoors in the sunshine & fresh air. Exposure to UV light is vital to parrots in order for them to produce vitamin D, which is essential for the utilization of calcium, a necessity for parrot health. There is no better source for UV light than pure, unfiltered sunshine. Parrots have a highly refined respiratory system which makes them more susceptible to chemicals and contaminants in the air. With indoor air quality decreasing over the years, avian vets have been seeing an increase in the number of companion parrots with respiratory illnesses. This was true of the little lovebird, Orlando, who came to live with Nyla several years ago. Nyla combined her construction skills, creativity, and passion for providing the best care possible for her new companion and built Orlando an outdoor aviary. Through her business, My Birdie Buddy, Nyla now designs and builds custom aviaries, as well as unique perches and playstands. In her presentation she shared invaluable tips and advice on design, materials and construction techniques for building aviaries, from simple to elaborate, from enclosing a porch or deck to building large free-standing structures or small portable ones, and left the entire audience longing for their own aviaries for their birds.
I have yet to build an aviary, for my requirements for one are high, as it must be able to contain my very powerful GreenWing Macaw, Annie, and be big enough to allow each bird to have enough personal space to prevent fighting and allow flight. In truth, I think I will need at least two separate enclosures; but this does not mean that my birds are sitting indoors waiting for me while I plan and dream and research aviaries? NO! We go outside as often as we can, nearly every day.
From my very first days with parrots, I have always taken them outside. At first, my little parrotlets were in a cage that I could pick up and carry so I would bring them out and set them on a table or bench or chair whenever I was out working in the yard. Then when Ariel joined the family, her cage was too large for me to carry around, and a friend gave me an older, travel sized cage which we used. But even that was very awkward, as it became more challenging to find places to safely set her outdoor cage.
Then one day I was attending a Phoenix Landing event, and I saw John Kerns, rolling a travel cage mounted to a babystroller frame. Wow, what a great idea! John told me that his wife Bobbie put them together and calls them “cageollers” and most generously offered this one to me! I will be forever grateful! Thank you, thank you John & Bobbie!
Once home I mounted Ariel’s outside cage onto the stroller frame and secured it firmly with zip ties (the cage that John gave me had bar spacing to large for Ariel’s little head). Now she traveled with me all around the yard wherever I went, she could reach through the bars and nibble on parrot safe plants, could easily be moved in or out of the sun or shade, with ease and safety.
From the day I knew that we would be getting Trixie, I began looking for a second stroller base to build a cageoller for her. I had no luck finding another like Ariel’s, and upon meeting Trixie, a BIG Blue & Gold Macaw, realized I needed something bigger anyway. We had a large wire dog crate in our attic that would work as a cage section, and I just needed to find a base. While glancing through one of my husband’s tool catalogs, Harbor Freight Tools, I noticed an ad for a flat (no sides) powder coated steel garden wagon. I checked the measurement of the wire crate, 36” long x 23”wide x 24”high, and realized it would fit nearly perfectly on the 24”x48” wagon, all the better that it was on sale! I removed the bottom plastic tray from the wire crate, and again used zip ties to attach the two together, trimming off the excess of the tie. I initially replaced the plastic tray, but realized that without the tray, poop, and water from misting, and pieces of food could fall straight through into the grass, resulting in less required clean-up.
As I continued to foster various birds for Phoenix Landing, I kept searching for baby carriage bases, still with no luck, so I consulted the cageoller creator, Bobbie, again. She was now buying used Snap-N-Go stroller bases, made by Baby Trend. This is a stroller base designed for a baby car seat to be snapped into place, and comes in a single and double model. Used ones can be found for sale on Craig’s List. Bobbie uses the double stroller frame with a wire dog crate, like that first one that her husband John gave me, for her macaws and larger Amazons. These would be suitable for larger cockatoos as well. For smaller birds, I have used standard “pet store” bird cages, as there are so many around that are really too small for a parrot to live in, but this puts them to good use. (Important side note here, make sure all doors, even food bowl doors are very securely latched when using these cages outdoors, use quicklinks, clamps or zip ties for extra safety.)
One of the major downfalls of using this type of cage for cageollers though, is that since my birds really love being misted (and I mean soaked down to the skin wet!) nearly every time we go outside, the cages were rusting and powder coating peeling off very quickly.
That’s when I came across the King’s aluminum travel carriers (contact Phoenix Landing for purchasing questions). They all have 5/8” bar spacing, this would work for all but the smallest birds. The larger one is 20x29x20, the smaller one is 18 1/2×16 1/2x 18. Aluminum is very light weight, will not chip, flake or rust like powder coating. I will admit they are pricey, but I look at it as a long-term investment.
The Kings are too small for Trixie and Annie macaws who still use the wire dog crates, but they work great for my other birds, so everyone has a cageoller to fit their needs.
Cageollers are great for traveling with your birds too. Once removed from the cage/carrier, the stroller folds flat, and when you reach your destination, reattach the cage to the stroller using several bungee cords, or you could use zipties, just remember to bring scissors to cut them off when you are ready to take the cageoller apart for the trip back home.
So go find a cage or carrier appropriate for your bird, pick up a stroller or wagon, build your own cageoller, and get outside this summer!
June 13, 2012 13 Comments
Spring is here, and the garden is growing! Thanks to a very special donor, Richard Rossi, The Landing has new greenhouse. We will be growing a wide variety of veggies over the next few months. As each comes into harvest, we’ll chop and freeze it for our future batches of mash. Not only does this save us with our fresh food expenses, but the birds that pass through The Landing adoption center will have a great boost in the freshest of nutrition. We’ll post updated photos throughout the year to show how the garden grows and how it brings joy and great value to the adoptable parrots of Phoenix Landing!!
We just had the first major harvest of several varieties of kale, chard and spinach. We chopped them into small pieces and put in the freezer for future use. Greens are one of the best sources of calcium and vitamin A – two essential nutritional needs of our parrots. We are already longing for an industrial food processor, because we are looking forward to an amazing harvest of fruits and veggies this year.
Thanks to Penny Coghe and Kathy Kocsan, we now have an orchard as well! It includes pear, peach, and apple trees, as well several blueberry bushes. Laura Ford topped it off with some gooseberry bushes for fruit and some butterfly bushes for extra parrot fun and foraging.
Stay tuned to learn more about the gardeners that made this wonderful resource possible!
April 30, 2012 4 Comments
Parrots love birdie bread, but frankly, many of the recipes include less than healthy ingredients — like those boxed mixes. I encourage you to make every ingredient a healthy one.
Here is a recipe for pumpkin bread. Pumpkin is high in vitamin A, an essential vitamin for birds. Pumpkin bread is often one of the first foods that the birds at The Landing adoption center learn to eat, and then they expand their interests to the mash and other fresh foods that we offer. A couple of appropriately sized pumpkin bread chunks are just one portion of the wide and varied diet that we try to offer the birds in our care.
• 15 oz can of organic pumpkin (including the pie spice, or you can add cinnamon and ginger, most birds really like the spices).
• 1/2 cup applesauce or one of the snack applesauce
(a great substitute for oil)
• 1 egg
• 2 TBL quinoa (if you’d like to add some protein)
• Unsulphured dried fruits or nuts – whatever your birds most enjoy. Walnuts are high in Omega 3’s
• 2 cups flour (interesting flours include garbanzo, millet, ground oatmeal, coconut, organic cornbread mix, etc.). My favorite flour is Bob’s Redmill garbanzo bean flour. I like the texture and the nutritional content.
Make a thick batter. If it gets too thick, add some juice (mango, carrot etc). Garnish it if you like with cereals or nuts.
You can be creative with the ingredients, the important thing is to make a stiff batter. Bake 45 minutes or so @ 350 degrees or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cast iron skillets work well. Freeze in sections, keep 2-3 days worth in the fridge.
Laura Ford’s Trixie eating cranberry pumpkin bread
June 24, 2011 5 Comments
Many kinds of birds come and go from The Landing, our adoption and education center in the Asheville, NC area. Therefore, we feed foods that can be enjoyed by a diverse group, but still ensures that each bird is eating a healthy variety of whole foods to complement their pellets, fresh fruits, pumpkin bread, nuts and treats.
Some birds come to us that have not been on a healthy diet or learned to eat fresh foods. Getting them to try new things can be a challenge, at best. Feeding a MASH has many positive attributes:
* You can hide things a bird might not eat otherwise by chopping it very small.
* For convenience, you can make large batches, and freeze it in portions.
* Mashes allow you to be creative, adding more or less of certain things to meet your bird’s needs.
* Most importantly, you can cover all the important food groups in one recipe, knowing that your bird will probably be eating the variety needed for a complete meal.
We have had huge success converting birds to better diets using a mash recipe, so we wanted to share it with you here. We complement this mash with an assortment of fresh fruits, pumpkin bread, and a small amount of egg cooked with palm oil (for vitamin A) and greens. The birds at the adoption center eagerly await their breakfast every morning, often shuffling back and forth on their perches in adorable anticipation.
THE LANDING MASH (more or less….)
2.5 cups Kamut
A heaping teaspoon of turmeric
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cups quinoa
1 sweet potato cut into 1/2″ cubes (or other winter squashes)
16 oz package organic mixed veggies (peas, corn, carrots)
16 oz package organic mixed greens (kale, collard, mustard greens)
1 cup pepitas (raw pumpkin seeds)
1 can garbanzo beans, drained
6 oz Eden small vegetable shells, whole grain
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup dried cranberries
(Any dried fruit should be unsulphured, with no processed sugar)
If you don’t have much freezer space, or a small number birds to feed, proportionally reduce these quantities. If you decide to make the recipe using these quantities, then you’ll want to start with a big soup pot.
To start: bring the large pot of water to a boil. Add the Kamut, turmeric and cinnamon. Stir well. When the water starts to boil again, lower the heat to medium. Cook for 15 minutes.
Add the quinoa and sweet potato. Stir well. Cook another 15 minutes.
Turn off the heat. Drain or add some cold water. You don’t want the Kamut to cook much more, birds really enjoy it slightly crunchy.
When the grains are drained and a bit cooled, put these in a super-sized mixing bowl, or divide into several if need be. Add the remaining ingredients (frozen vegetables, pepitas, garbanzo beans, pasta shells, dried fruit). Stir together. Divide into storage containers. Freeze in 2-3 day portion sizes. As you finish one container, take one out of the freezer to defrost.
This recipe is versatile. Add and subtract other things that your bird may enjoy (e.g. broccoli, coconut, fresh carrots, other grains, walnuts…). If your bird is reluctant to eat a mash, find the ingredient that is their favorite, and put extra amounts to pique their interest. After they are eating it regularly, you can change the proportions to insure that they are eating the variety intended.
Thanks to Leigh Ann Hartsfield for her recipe “Franco’s Favorite Breakfast” in the Nourish to Flourish cookbook. We started with this recipe, and the adoption center birds really enjoyed the addition to their breakfast meal. Then Mary Ault discovered that undercooked Kamut was very appealing to the birds, because they use their hookbills as nature intended, and crack open the grains. The Landing Mash continues to evolve as we add new things or change the proportions. And with spring on it’s way, we will take full advantage of the fruits and veggies of the seasons.
If you try this recipe for your birds, let us know how it goes!
March 30, 2011 17 Comments
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.
May 4, 2010 2 Comments
Hot off our new press, two books to enhance the quality of life for parrots.
Nourish to Flourish, A Healthy Cookbook for Parrots
Our new parrot cookbook has 125 pages of recipes, information about plants, herbs and general information about how to add quality whole foods to your parrot’s diet. ($24.95)
Project Parrot: A Behavior Guidebook for You and Your Bird, by Jenny Drummey
Re-engineer the relationship with your bird using a do-it-yourself approach. This book examines the many factors that contribute to good (and not-so-good) behaviors in your home, highlights the changes you can make to build trust, and helps you to create simple training plans. Also learn to teach your bird some important husbandry behaviors, such as how to forage, bathe, and even step up with confidence. Available December 10th. ($22.95)
December 7, 2009 No Comments
by Kris Porter
This post is reprinted from the Phoenix Landing Fall Newsletter.
I try to incorporate food items into toys to make them more interesting and it seems to me that I get more sustained activity if there is a bit of food hidden amongst the items strung on a toy. I have found that a rice cake will have great shredding appeal when added to toys. My favorite application is to top an empty clear plastic applesauce cup that has nuts, small pieces of vegetable and fruit inside with a rice cake. My parrots will eagerly shred through the rice cake to get at what is inside the applesauce cup.
I find my birds are more interested in shredding away the rice cake to get at what is under it than they are in eating the rice cake. But it is good to know that there are whole grain rice cakes available that are made with brown rice and no added salts or sugars.
Recently, in a quest to give my parrots something new and exciting to do; I found that ice cream cones make great additions to toys. They have the same appeal as the rice cakes and they add variety. I will make a small hole in the end of the ice cream cone or cup and string it on the toy (upside down).
Inside the ice cream cone I will put nuts and other treats and then cover the cone with an empty applesauce cup. Above and below those items are other toys like a crunch ball, whiffle ball, corn husks, plastic toy parts, etc.
I hope you have found these ideas helpful and that this article gives you inspiration to tweak your imagination and think of other ways to incorporate the rice cakes and ice cream cones into toys you make for your own birds.
Kris Porter is the author of the Parrot Enrichment Activity books and Parrot Enrichment.com.
September 25, 2009 3 Comments
Are your parrots as thrilled as mine are? Pomegranates are back! My walls, floor, and ceiling are sure to suffer, but it’s well worth it to see those beaks gleefully buried in the fleshy red seeds.
We all know our feathered friends need a varied, nutritious diet, and there’s no easier way to accomplish this than by offering whole foods in season. Pomegranates are a perfect example. They’re extremely rich in antioxidants, and parrots seem to relish them whole or simply halved. I think the unusual texture and slightly pungent taste pique parrots’ curiosity.
We’re also lucky to have an abundance of pumpkins and squashes available this time of year. The seeds of both are rich in essential omega 3 fatty acids, and the flesh is an excellent source of beta carotene. Mini pumpkins make wonderful enrichment food items. Just place a whole one on the cage floor, and watch your parrots go wild! Or, take out a small slice to encourage parrots to chew and explore with their beaks. Skewer the whole thing, and garnish with some leafy greens. Grate raw pumpkin and combine it with fruit to make a special crispy autumn ambrosia. Roast the seeds separately for a delicious, nutritious treat.
Both pumpkin and squashes can be steamed or baked, but they’re often readily accepted in their most natural state: raw and whole. Like pomegranates, they’re only around for a limited time, so stock up now. Your parrots will surely thank you!
September 18, 2009 5 Comments
by Kris Porter
This post is reprinted from the Phoenix Landing Summer Newsletter.
I was having coffee at a friend’s house when I discovered an exciting new parrot toy. I went to the kitchen to put my coffee cup in the sink before leaving and saw a “Munchkin Deluxe Dishwasher Basket” on the counter beside the dishwasher. My friend had purchased the basket to use to wash baby bottles and pacifiers for her visiting grandson.
It was love at first sight for me when I laid eyes on this plastic dishwasher basket. I immediately recognized the foraging potential of this particular item. I stopped by the infant’s department at WalMart on the way home and purchased four of them. Then I went to work turning the dishwasher basket into a proper parrot foraging toy.
I threaded a couple zip ties through holes at the back of the basket. Initially the ties kept popping out, so I held them in place with small rubber bands. I put small foot toys, nuts, vegetables and fruit in the top and bottom baskets, making sure that some vegetables stuck out the holes at the front of the basket. I wove dried corn husks in a few of the holes for shredding. The basket has straw cleaning racks on each side to hold straws upright for sanitary cleaning. I used the racks to hold veggie sticks and toy straws.
When I was satisfied I had the basket sufficiently stuffed, I attached it to the cage bars. The zip ties were held in place by small rubber bands which I slid off right before I threaded each zip tie through the cage bars. It is important to remove the rubber bands before attaching the basket to the cage because you wouldn’t want your parrot swallow or get tangled up in the rubber band.
The “Munchkin Deluxe Dishwasher Basket” is a huge hit as a foraging toy in my house. You can also use it as it was originally designed and place parrot toy parts in the basket to be washed in the dishwasher.
To find Munchkin baskets, go to: http://www.munchkin.com/where_to_buy/result.php.
Here are 2 photos, courtesy of Leigh Ann Hartsfield. Her greys, Pepper and Franco, think these are really cool!
August 20, 2009 3 Comments