Foraging, by definition, is searching and working for a food supply. It provides both mental stimulation and physical exercise. And, birds being flock animals get a great deal of socialization out of their foraging activities. Research has shown that birds would rather forage for food rather than eat what is readily available.
Your pet bird's cage is its rainforest world, so it needs toys that provide the mental and physical stimulation. Sadly, these toys are usually absent in a captive cage life. Providing a set of foraging bird toys are one component to offering your bird the mental and physical stimulation it needs to be happy pet that is fun to be around.
What Constitutes a “Set of Foraging Toys?”
Ideally, you’d want to set your birds cage up so that it has several types of foraging toys that, when used together, require him to “hunt” or rummage for food. Birds that have food effortlessly available in cups and dishes never experience the instinctual need to hunt for food - so they tend to become lethargic and slothful. These bored behaviors often evolve into behavior problems such as screaming, aggression or feather plucking.
What are the Benefits of Foraging Toys?
Feeding your bird mostly or strictly from foraging toys has a ton of benefits for your bird, although it may be a little time consuming for you.
Captive birds that forage for their food experience considerably less boredom.
Did you know that a parrot that feeds from a traditional dish only spends 15 – 30 minutes a day with feeding activity? That is astounding when you consider that wild birds spend about 4 -6 HOURS foraging for food daily. Wild birds don’t have time to get bored.
Rummaging style foraging toys promote exercise.
As your bird chews through soft materials and rummages through bird safe substrate, it has to move many muscles. Not only does chewing and rummaging take up time, but it exercises the body. The bird has to manipulate items by moving them with its feet or beak. It may have to hold a bird safe box with one foot while chewing through it and rummaging to find treats with its beak. Your bird will naturally develop these skills as time goes on.
Puzzle style foraging toys promote mental and physical exercise.
Occupy your pet bird's mind by offering food in refillable, bird safe puzzles. Your bird will have to figure out how to use a variety of puzzles to obtain its daily intake. Try having 2-3 foraging puzzles in the cage at a time located in areas where your healthy bird has to be a trapeze artist to manipulate the moving parts -just like wild birds do. Promotesearching for and finding food, doing whatever work is necessary to obtain food and using their natural skills to manipulate small items. In time, your bird will become a self-sufficient forager.
Your pet must also learn to budget enough time to satisfy its appetite, which may increase as it burns more calories to obtain food. If it spends its time feather plucking or screaming for no reason, it will be a little hungry.
Feeding via Foraging Stations
Of course, you want to condition your parrot to obtain its diet via foraging toys over a period of time, while monitoring its weight to insure that it is getting an adequate diet. Make sure that your bird has adequately transitioned to obtaining food from foraging toys before removing food dishes. Keep in mind that as you make the transition to foraging feeding, your bird has to become a little scholar in the ways of birds. Changing the habit of easy dish feeding to that of sharpening intellectual skills and conditioning its body to get at the food will take some time.
Research attests that parrots are incredibly intelligent and curious with strong needs to chew, explore and mouth things. And, with two zygodactyl feet (two toes pointing forward and two backwards) and a beak that is used like a third arm, our birds are truly trapeze artists that are completely capable of manipulating toys to obtain their daily caloric intake.
Two Styles of Foraging Toys
Caitec has developed two styles of foraging toys to satisfy a birds need to rummage and hunt for food.
1.)Destructible compartments that promote rummaging, chewing and shredding
There are several manufacturers that make fun, shreddable boxes or toys that you can hide treats in. You just have to use your imagination on some of them. Purchase bird toys from reputable companies so that you can trust that the glues and paper are bird safe. Fill up the toys with dry food like pellets, Goldenfeast foods, and nuts. You never want to use moist or cooked bird food as mixing moist food with paper products will grow bacteria and fungus. Observe your toys regularly to determine if it is becoming moldy.
Once again, you'll want to use dry foods in refilable puzzles. The last thing you want to do is make your bird sick from foraging. Puzzle style foraging toys rare in the intermediate to advanced level of difficulty range. Your bird has to think about how to get the food or treat. More advanced styles of toys require a bird to perform a two step process to obtain the desired food.
Beginning Foraging Devices / Birds Learning to Forage:
Very simple behaviors such as retrieving food hidden in crumpled paper, holes drilled in wood with toys or nuts inserted inside,
Toys: Buffet Balls, Stainless Steel Bucket full of toys, substrate, Hanging Mega Munch Ball
Intermediate Foraging Devices:
Intermediate foraging involves a one step process where a bird has to retrieve visible items inside of a container, for instance a see through container where you bird has to figure out how to open the container to retrieve the desired object.
Toys: Foraging Wheel, Buffet Ball with Skewer
Advanced Foraging Devices:
Advanced foraging toys include two step or more puzzles filled with food or toys your bird having to figure out how to retrieve, i.e. whereas a task such as untying knots allows a door to open thereby making food or toys retrievable.