Here is a tip for a quick toy that your parrot may enjoy. Cut some plastic straws in half. Poke a hole in the center of each straw half. Take a short length of rope (I use hemp rope) about 8 inches long. Tie a loop at one end and double knot it so the straws don't slide off. Thread on several straw halves. Tie them tightly together with another double knot at the end and fan them out to make a multi-dimensional star shape. You can hand it to your parrot as a foot toy or you can incorporate the straw stars into other toys that you make. For smaller parrots you would want to use shorter straw pieces, perhaps cutting the straws into thirds which will make stars smaller in diameter.
During the summer months I like to take advantage of the greater variety of fresh vegetables and fruits available at local markets. An artichoke strung on a stainless steel food skewer makes a great foraging toy and a wonderful item to put out in the aviary. You can stuff the leaves with a variety of fruits and vegetables:
- Slices of fresh corn
- Sugar snap peas
- Strawberries or Blueberries
- Cantaloupe or Watermelon
- Broccoli and Carrots
- Anything you find fresh and plentiful at the market.
Artichokes have sharp thorns at the end of the leaves. More often than not these are trimmed by the grocer before putting them out to sell. If you do get one with sharp thorns still attached, they are easy to trim. Cut the thorny tips of the leaves off with a pair of kitchen shears.
We recently moved from Alaska to Minnesota. I'm finding the parrots are chewing on woodwork in the new home and they are particularly interested in the banister outside the loft area above the living room. I didn't have this problem in the Alaska house. But the woodwork in that home had less detail, just a simple round wood banister and flat trim.
It appears the detail in the wooden railings in the new home's banister and the trim around the doors here are much more appealing. There is a decorative router edge profile to the wood railing and the trim around the doors. My husband, Jerry, and I will have to come up with ideas to make wooden perches and toys with router edge profiles that mimic the railings and wood trim we now have in this house.
In the meantime we decided to give in to the birds and let them have the upstairs banister as a play area. In an effort to preserve the wooden rail, I wrapped the banister in sisal rope. I attached leather strips and pieces of hemp rope to the sisal rope to tie on toys and other items of interest. It is working. The parrots fly up to the banister and play with the toys and chew on the grass mats, vine balls and bits of wood tied on to the railing. The sisal rope protects the banister and keeps them from chewing the edges of the banister rail.
Baskets make great alternate play areas for parrots. You can carry the basket with you from room to room. A good basket for this purpose is made of untreated wicker or willow. Look for baskets with wide bases and sturdy handles. You don't want the handle too high off the basket. A shorter handle will provide more balance when your bird plays on it. Tie on toys to the sides of the basket and handle for added interest and activity. You can create a foraging opportunity by filling the basket with toys, whole vegetables, fruit or nuts and anything else that your bird is particularly interested in.
Try baking your favorite birdie bread recipes in mini-muffin pans. Use the end of a wooden spoon to put a hole in each muffin before putting them in the oven. This enables you to string the birdie bread on toys which creates a foraging experience for your parrot. Here is my parrot's favorite bird bread recipe:
Curry Corn Bread
3 cups stone ground cornmeal
3 cups stone ground whole grain flours (try for a mixture). Examples include amaranth, barley, garbanzo, oat, triticale, spelt. You can also just use whole wheat flour.
1 1/2 cups mixed rolled grains (usually found in the bulk food section of the grocery store or health food store). You can also just use rolled oats.
1 1/2 cups 7-grain cereal (this is a coarse ground cereal containing a mixture of grains like wheat, rye, triticale, barley, brown rice, oat bran, flaxseed, etc.)
1/3 to1/2 cup raw pumpkin seed
1/3 to1/2 cup raw sunflower seed
3/4 cup millet
1 tablespoon curry powder
Mix all of the dry ingredients above together in a very large mixing bowl.
About 3 cups of finely chopped or grated vegetables (Examples: broccoli, beets, chayote squash, zucchini, greens [Swiss Chard, collard, kale, mustard], carrots, peas, corn, etc.)
Mix the vegetables in with the dry ingredients thoroughly so that they become well-coated with the flours and are no longer present in clumps.
In a blender or food processor, puree the following together:
1 large can pumpkin (29 oz)
1 cup water or other liquid (carrot juice, almond milk, etc.)
Add the wet ingredients to the dry mixture and mix thoroughly. (You might need to use your hands, since this creates quite a dense dough.)
Place into mini muffin pans and bake at 350 degrees for about 25 to 30 minutes. Use one level tablespoon per muffin. Before baking, use the end of a wooden spoon to create a hole in the center of each muffin, which then allows you to place these onto food skewers or incorporate into foraging toys. Makes about 120 muffins.
This recipe can be halved quite easily. It also freezes quite well after baking.
Fall is the season for fresh apples. Though many apple varieties are sold in supermarkets all year round, the freshest apples are available from September through November. I found some wonderful apples on sale at the grocers this past week and also discovered, quite by accident, a great new parrot enrichment activity.
I had a tub of apples soaking on the counter in vegetable wash when my Timneh, Buddy, climbed on the tub and leaned his beak in to get an apple. I removed the tub with vegetable wash and replaced it with a tub of clean water with some apples that had been washed and rinsed floating inside.
Buddy had a great time bobbing for apples in the tub. At first he went for the stems trying to pull the apple up out of the water. When the stems broke off and the apples fell back in the water, he would chase them around the tub trying his best to get a grip on one with his beak.
As I was getting ready to toss out a cardboard 6-pack bottled beer carrier, I remembered seeing one put to use in a Talkeetna, Alaska restaurant as a napkin and plastic flatware caddy. I thought I could use that idea to make a simple parrot toy.
I cut some paper towel rolls in half and stuffed them with rolled newspaper. On a few of the stuffed paper towel rolls I placed a small vine ring for added interest. Then I put the stuffed paper towel rolls inside of the compartments on the cardboard bottle carrier.
I put the box on top of Buddy's cage to see if he would be interested in shredding the box or towel holders. I selected the top of his cage to introduce the new toy to give Buddy opportunity to get away from it if he was frightened by it at first.
I didn't have to worry about that. Buddy flew right to his cage to investigate the novel object I had just placed there. He looked inside the compartments and then took out the paper towel rolls and started shredding them to pieces.
I was happy to see that the other parrots were also interested in this toy. It is made mostly out of junk you would otherwise toss into the garbage or recycle bin and it is so easy to make - it takes no time at all. You could also put foot toys or nuts inside the compartments along with the paper towel rolls.
I've asked the neighbors to save all their 6-pack bottle carriers for me.
I recently received a large box of toy making supplies. I didn't have time to put the toy parts away in the craft room and left the box in the dining room, next to one of the bird cages. I let the parrots out for the evening and it didn't take Zorba long to notice something new in his area. I looked over to see him standing on the box chewing away to get at whatever was inside. My first instinct was to put the box away, when I realized this was a new activity for him and there was no reason he couldn't chew on the box as it contained parrot toy parts meant for him anyway.
Zorba loves to chew on boxes, but I had never given him a large box before. This box served as a play stand and chew toy all in one. For the next three days, whenever he was out of the cage, Zorba would spend time intermittently chewing at the box, eventually chewing a hole in the top that was large enough to start pulling out baskets and vine balls.
I recently got a clay pot cooker and have been experimenting with adding wine to the pot to flavor roasts, poultry and stews. It occurred to me that instead of throwing away the wine cork, I could offer it to the parrots as a foot toy. I will usually leave one out on the counter for a parrot to "happen" by it and think he's found a prize. Or I put the corks into toy boxes, toy pails, or toy bowls along with other toy parts. Usually my birds will be busy throwing everything out of their toy box or bowl eagerly searching for the nutri-berry, nut or other treat hidden in amongst the toy parts. I have observed that instead of immediately throwing the cork aside, they stop and hold the cork and chew and shred it to pieces before throwing it to the floor or the bottom of the cage. While this idea is probably not a new one to many parrot owners; wine corks have only recently become a popular foot toy among my flock.
Many of you may know Kris Porter from The Parrot Enrichment Activity Books. These books are an incredible resource packed with tons of great enrichment ideas. These books are available as free PDF downloads here.
Kris has also created a wonderful website at www.ParrotEnrichment.com where she elaborates on the ideas presented in the Parrot Enrichment Activity Books. She also provides video instruction on how to encourage your parrot to learn to forage and engage in enrichment activities both inside and outside the cage.
Throughout her website you will find instruction for how to make enrichment items either in video format or in free downloadable PDF documents.