Archive for the ‘Parrot Enrichment’ Category

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Discount on DIY Bird Toy Parts

November 19, 2013

Earlier this month, Deb White the founder of Super Bird Creations (a line of high-quality bird toys available for wholesale to retailers) as well as a number of other sites dedicated to enriching the lives of parrots, came to Phoenix Landing for a special lecture on the important role that “play” serves in the lives of companion birds. (If you follow this blog, you already know how important we think avian enrichment is!)

In addition to her generosity of time and knowledge, sharing an amazing amount of info to a packed house of PL fans, Deb went even further and offered a 10% discount off any order of toy parts on her site MakeYourOwnBirdToys.com, plus a matching 10% in-kind donation to Phoenix Landing, if you use the discount code: PHXCLASS before the end of the year. 

MakeYourOwnBirdToys.com Discount

Her company is U.S.-based and focuses on providing bird-safe toys, especially designed with safety and fun in mind. Buying toy parts in bulk is a great way to save money (and when you buy from MakeYourOwnBirdToys.com, you can rest assured these are high-quality parts); plus this offer helps the birds of Phoenix Landing as well.

I already ordered a ton of colored wooden slats, vegetable-tanned leather string, wooden beads and vine balls for Stewie and Mika, and my order arrived very fast. Please go check out the wonderful selection.

Remember to use the coupon code for a discount and to ensure Phoenix Landing gets credit.

A big thanks to Deb for her generosity!

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Review: “Fantastic Foraging Blocks”

November 19, 2011

In our last post, we just had some fun posting pictures of us opening a box of Kris Porter’s “Fantastic Foraging Blocks.” But what do the birds actually think of their new wooden toys?

It turns out that they love ’em!

Mika likes the little wicker accents. She’s big into textures and accents. I appreciate that the blocks offer nice flexibility to customize and add details your bird might like, and I’ll experiment with stuffing the peek-a-boo holes with paper and cardboard for her to shred. As a pionus, she has a softer, more delicate beak, so she tends not to be much of a wood chewer, although she’s taken some bites out of the foraging block to try to get at an almond.

Stewie, on the other hand, really loves pine and other soft woods. There’s something about the design of the cuts that really appeals to him. Pine slats have always been a favorite of his, so the cuts offer the same sort of appealing shapes and textures that entice him to start trying to break them off.

Review of Kris Porter's Fantastic Foraging Blocks
Review of Kris Porter's Fantastic Foraging Blocks
Review of Kris Porter's Fantastic Foraging Blocks
And this is the one I left in Stewie’s cage after 24 hours: Foraging Block

Two big talons up for these wooden blocks. There’s a lot of visual and texture-based interest in the design that I think will keep both my birds’ attention for a long time (or until they are destroyed, whichever comes first).

Updated: Here is a before and after shot (one week later):

Fantastic Foraging Blocks - Before/After

Kris plans on making these available for purchase on her website sometime before the end of the year, These wonderful toys are now available for purchase on the ParrotEnrichment.com website and they’re available to purchase at Phoenix Landing events as well.

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Kris Porter’s Fantastic Foraging Blocks Are Here!

November 19, 2011

Last week, Kris Porter of ParrotEnrichment.com asked if we’d give some feedback on a new foraging toy she has developed. Of course we jumped at the chance! (Are you kidding? A foraging toy developed by the guru of parrot enrichment? Yes, please!)

The box arrived Thursday night and we couldn’t wait to open it. Check out the “unboxing”.

Look, ma! A new box. Let me help you open it!
Unboxing Kris Porter's Fantastic Foraging Blocks

Yay! It’s full of paper! Paper is my favorite!

Unboxing Kris Porter's Fantastic Foraging Blocks

Ooh! A wooden toy?

Unboxing Kris Porter's Fantastic Foraging Blocks

It’s a 2″x 2″ column of untreated pine with peek-a-boo holes drilled through, as well as cuts in different directions creating little ledges to interest busy beaks and wedge treats into. 

Another one!

Unboxing Kris Porter's Fantastic Foraging Blocks

And more!

Unboxing Kris Porter's Fantastic Foraging Blocks

Some of the blocks came “plain” and some were decorated with vine stars and colored buttons (that hid pre-inserted treats behind them).

Let me dig through that box. I think there may be more!

Unboxing Kris Porter's Fantastic Foraging Blocks

Wow! Look at these toys. It’s like an early Christmas!

Unboxing Kris Porter's Fantastic Foraging Blocks

The toys came in two sizes. The small blocks were 2″x 2″. The medium blocks were 2″x 4″.

Let’s check it out!

Unboxing Kris Porter's Fantastic Foraging Blocks

Ahem, ma, I’m out of focus!

I think I spot something!

Unboxing Kris Porter's Fantastic Foraging Blocks

Bingo! It’s an almond! My favorite!

Unboxing Kris Porter's Fantastic Foraging Blocks

Nom nom nom…

Trying out Unboxing Kris Porter's Fantastic Foraging Blocks

So that was our unboxing event. For more about these “Fantastic Foraging Blocks”, and what Stewie thought of them, check out our review.

Update: The Fantastic Foraging blocks, in three sizes, are now available for purchase on Kris Porter’s site.

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Interview: Kris Porter, Author, Parrot Enrichment Activity Books

October 9, 2011

Kris Porter, AuthorIt’s time for another in our interview series and this time we’re talking to Kris Porter, author of the Parrot Enrichment Activity Books, which are available for free as PDFs from her website. She came to Phoenix Landing last year to give a parrot enrichment seminar, which gave us all tons of ideas for integrating foraging and stimulus into our birds’ lives.

Kris is a graduate of the online class in behavior analysis called Living and Learning with Parrots. She is an enrichment specialist on the World Parrot Trusts expert panel of parrot specialists,  has written enrichment articles for Good Bird Magazine, and her ideas with photos of parrot enrichment activities have been featured in articles in Parrots Magazine and Australian BirdKeeper Magazine.  Kris is well-known in the avian community for her  talent for coming up with ideas and using photos and video clips to enlighten, motivate and inspire all of us who are looking for ways to enrich the captive parrot environment.

She was kind enough to spend some time to give us an interview. Read on to learn more.

Q: What is parrot enrichment and why is it important?

Kris Porter: Enrichment is an integral part of responsible parrot care. It has everything to do with how we keep our parrots happy, healthy and active as well as intellectually and instinctually challenged. For me that includes providing them with foraging opportunities; different play areas set up in more than one room in the house; toys and positive reinforcement training sessions.

We recently moved from Alaska to Minnesota. Before the move we renovated the Alaska home and then completely remodeled the new home in Minnesota. I believe the enrichment practices in place in our home helped our own parrots deal with the challenges and stress associated with the move and the ongoing construction work in a more normal less fearful way. In Alaska we had many different perching and play areas throughout the house as well as an outdoor aviary where the parrots experienced new sights and sounds like lawn mowers and children playing next door. During construction and remodeling of the new home we made use of the playtops on their cages, made a play area out of the upstairs banister and offered foraging opportunities inside and outside the cage. I’m convinced being exposed to a broader range of experiences helped them cope more successfully with the stress of the move and construction.
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Seminar on Parrot Enrichment with Kris Porter

May 2, 2010

I attended another great Phoenix Landing seminar this weekend. Saturday’s class featured Kris Porter, all the way in from Alaska, to talk about parrot enrichment, specifically focusing on captive foraging.

Kris Porter is the author of a great web site about parrot enrichment and two free e-books, the Parrot Enrichment Activity Books (which can be downloaded from her site).

From my lecture notes:

Kris Porter started off emphasizing that it’s critical to provide choices to our parrots. Enrichment allows our pet birds to make choices. (She even cited a study that showed providing enrichment opportunities and stimulating exercise can reduce stereotypic behavior like feather plucking! That not only makes sense and jives with the common wisdom, but it’s also good to see scientific evidence backing what we’ve been saying for a long time.)

Some birds don’t know how to forage, so you may need to work up to full-blown foraging. If you make it too hard to begin with, your bird won’t know how to start (and if you make them forage for all their food right away, they’ll go hungry!).

Easy ways to provide some variety and beginner-level foraging opportunity include simply presenting food in different locations. I.e., move the food bowls so they aren’t always in the same spot. Food doesn’t have to be hidden or locked up in order for foraging to occur.


(Photo courtesy of Phoenix Landing and Kris Porter)

If you have a parrot who doesn’t know how to forage, don’t give up. It’s about being creative. Porter says she’s not above including not-so-healthy, high-value snack foods to get started.

To encourage play activity, incorporate food items right into toys. Create DIY toys that include pretzel pieces, melba toast and other treats within easy reach just to get the bird to approach the toy. Once a bird realizes that toys include yummy food items, make them just a little bit harder to get to (by half-hiding them in a cupcake liner, for example). Also include vegetables and healthier foods once you’ve trained your parrot to become an enthusiastic forager.

Porter also advised observing how your birds interact with foraging toys and being aware of preferences. One of her birds will stay much more engaged with food strung up on a rope as opposed to the same food strung up on a metal skewer. Something about the way it moved was more appealing. Your bird may have similar preferences you can observe and cater to.

The presentation included photos of whole vegetables that were turned into foraging toys and how much fun that could be. For example, hollow out a cucumber and stuff it with the bird’s favorite mash. The cucumber is an edible container that is a lot of fun to play with. Half a small pumpkin can also provide loads of nutritious entertainment.

Another great tip shared during the presentation: prepare foraging toys with fresh foods in advance. Skewer or stuff kale, carrots and other veggies into toys and then put them in plastic baggies in the fridge. Take out the food toys when you’re ready to serve (and remove them before they have a chance to spoil). Bird bread can be left in the cages all day. (Porter recommends making a hole in the bird bread mix before baking, so you can easily string it up onto a toy when it’s ready to serve.)

Some of the take-aways from the seminar:

  • providing foraging opportunities doesn’t need to be hard
  • it’s about providing variety and mental stimulation
  • some birds need to learn how to forage so be patient and keep trying
  • opportunities for mental and physical activity can curb unwanted behavior issues
  • … and don’t forget to be creative and have fun!

Those are just a few of the great tips Kris Porter shared about creating easy and cheap foraging activities for pet parrots. Please visit ParrotEnrichment.com to download her activity books and check out her videos about teaching birds to forage. These are all absolutely free resources that can help improve your companion birds lives, so I highly encourage you to check them out.

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p.s. As always, a few adoptable birds were on-hand to add color (and noise) to the proceedings. This happy, gorgeous Mollucan Cockatoo talked and chortled throughout the presentation making everyone laugh. If you’re thinking of adopting a bird and live in the Phoenix Landing area, please come to any of the classes to meet a few adoptable parrots and talk to an adoption coordinator.

Cockatoo - Adoptable Birds

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Dixie Cup Foraging Toy

April 6, 2010

In my last post, I talked about making wooden DIY parrot toys. But I only made one for Mika and got tired of drilling holes into the wood scraps. I rationalized that Stewie doesn’t really like wooden toys nearly as much (he has some untouched ones in his cage as we speak). But then I felt guilty 🙂 So I made the foraging toy below… it took me all of 20 seconds. (Step 1: get a stack of unwaxed Dixie cups. Step 2: poke hole in Dixie cups. Step 3: thread piece of leather through the hole (tie a knot on the bottom). Step 4: Put treats inside each of the cups. Step 5: Hang the toy and get out of the way)

DIY Foraging Toys

He’s already turned it into confetti, but that’s okay… I have a huge box of those Dixie cups for just this contingency.

Updated: More foraging tips from a fellow Phoenix Landing member

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Favorite Foraging Toys for Parrots

February 13, 2010

Foraging ToysForaging toys are a wonderful way to enrich your bird’s life. There are a lot of great DIY foraging toy ideas out there, but in this post I’m going to concentrate on a couple of our favorite commercially available foraging toys.

In particular, I like to use acrylic puzzle toys to encourage Stewie to work for his treats, although foraging toys do come in all sorts of natural and synthetic materials and not all foraging/enrichment has to be in the pursuit of food.

Best Foraging Toys for Conures

Stewie is not a huge fan of toys, but he’s a huge fan of food treats. That’s why toys that have treats inside are the most popular bird toys in his cage. He doesn’t really care to interact with the toys except to get the treat out of them, so I don’t think it’s accurate to say that he has a “favorite” foraging toy. But there are some that I think work well for my purposes.

I usually put a treat in my parrots’ cages for two main reasons: 1) To get my birds to get back into their cages, and 2) to occupy their time and distract them.

The issue with a lot of puzzle-style foraging toys is that they are too easy (and therefore Stewie isn’t occupied long enough since it only takes him 2 seconds to retrieve the treat) or they are too hard to figure out (which causes Stewie to just give up). The best foraging toys are ones that Stewie can figure out fairly easily but still require a certain amount of work to open.

To that end, for Stewie, I like the Snack Rack Bird Toy, a Puzzle Wheel, cardboard shredder boxes, and an acrylic “treasure chest” with two keys that need to be turned and pulled to reveal the treat. Stewie understands how each of these works, but they still require more than 2 seconds worth of effort from him.

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In the photo above, Stewie is manipulating the rotating rings of the Snack Rack. Each ring has a small notch that corresponds with a tab in the middle part. If he moves the ring so the notch lines up with the tab, the ring drops down, making the treat inside accessible to him. I consider the Snack Rack a foraging toy of intermediate difficulty – but it’s the perfect size for a conure.

Alternatively, I can hang the “easy” foraging toys from the roof of his cage far away from any perches, so that he has to climb upside down and open it while also hanging from it.

Best Foraging Toys for Pionus

Foraging ToysA few of the acrylic foraging toys I got for Stewie, unfortunately, don’t work for Mika. When getting non-chewable foraging toys, you need to keep in mind the size of the bird; in particular, you need to consider the size of the bird’s beak and head.

Foraging toys that require chewing to get at the treat are probably not very size specific (except that a giant macaw beak probably will only require a minute or two to break a wooden foraging toy); on the other hand, acrylic, puzzle type toys that require a bird to get a treat out of an opening are somewhat size specific. If a bird can’t fit his beak into the hole to pull the treat out, it’s not going to be a very fun toy.

The foraging wheel to the left has holes that are just bordering on too small for Mika. She has a lot of trouble pulling treats out of the holes… although so far she does seem to find the toy entertaining.

Some size-appropriate foraging toys that work for Mika include the Barrel of Fun, medium to large chest of drawer-type toys, foraging buckets that can be refilled with foot toys and treats, and hollow coconuts. All of these are beginner foraging toys, although the Barrel of Fun does not allow the bird to see the treats inside so you’ll probably need to show a beginning forager that you’re putting the treat in and help them the first few times.

One enrichment toy in particular managed to hold Mika’s attention for many days: a large ring on which were strung various wooden shapes and a dozen almonds in their shell. Although I bought the toy ready made, it’s easy enough to open up the ring and replace all the pieces so it becomes completely reuseable. All you need is some wooden slats, alphabet blocks, beads and some almonds in bulk. If you buy the toy parts from Drs. Foster and Smith they will already have holes in them (you may be able to find them cheaper on other sites that specialize just in bird toy parts). Then use an electric drill to put holes through the almonds. String them up on the toy and your bird will spend many fun hours trying to remove the almonds and destroying the wooden pieces.

Since Mika does enjoy playing with toys and will play with toys even if there are no hidden treats involved, her foraging toys sometimes are just filled with paper and various foot toys.
Mika and Her Foraging Bucket

Here’s Mika’s Bucket of Foot Toys, which can contain anything from foot toys, bits of paper (she loves paper!), pumpkin seeds and occasionally an almond wrapped in a plain, unwaxed Dixie cup. Sometimes she enjoys the Dixie cup so much she completely forgets about the almond.

Do your birds have favorite foraging toys? If so, what do you hide in these toys for your birds to find?