Pet birds don’t come with signs saying “will work for food.” But that’s what their counterparts do in the wild. Wild parrots mine lawns for worms, strip bark from branches, hang upside down on tree limbs to get berries and work diligently to remove husks from nuts. Just watch the birds in your yard. They spend more than half their waking hours foraging for food.
Our pet birds have a constant supply of food, courtesy of their very own household staff, and they seldom have to move more than a few inches to access their bowls of plenty. As a result, our birds can suffer from boredom, which often translates to screaming, feather plucking, aggression and other undesirable behavior. One of the solutions seems to be providing “work” for our birds to do, and one of the best ways is to create foraging opportunities.
How Creative Foraging Systems Work
I recently introduced my parrots to Creative Foraging Systems from Caitec, and the Amazon parrots and African greys found them especially intriguing. I started them off with hexagonal-foraging boxes, which are as much fun for me as they are for the birds. The foolproof little chipboard boxes are like “origami for dummies.” They are scored and die cut for easy setup. A cardboard honeycomb insert goes inside, and it all comes together with a plastic connector and leather strip for hanging. I filled the interior compartments with millet, pine nuts, almonds and shredded paper, and then punched out the pre-cut holes in the sides of the box to partially expose the contents.
The pet birds already had a history of shredding paper and cardboard, so the box was easily accepted. It didn’t take much time at all for my flock to catch on. At first they were a little too enthusiastic, and food dropped to the bottom of the cage. But as they worked their way through the cardboard chambers, they became more careful, slowing down to glean a precious pine nut or other tidbit.
Another successful item was the feeding station, a multi-compartment chipboard box that is housed in a clear, polycarbonate holder. It comes in a starter kit, which includes the holder and 10 foraging boxes. Refills are available. The holder plate installs on the cage using a large hand screw. When the box is filled, the faceplate is attached and the perforated slots punched out to expose the food inside. My African grey parrot, Bobo, quickly learned that this was where her favorite treats were hidden.
Creative Foraging System Starter Tips
Start off by putting some shredded paper inside the boxes with the food. The destructible and bio-degradable boxes and honeycomb inserts are made of USDA-approved chipboard that is free of glue and toxins that may be hazardous to birds.
Want something indestructible? The Creative Foraging Systems line includes refillable, beak-resistant polycarbonate devices that can be loaded with small toys or wet or dry food. The Hide & Seek comes pre-filled with shredded paper, small wood blocks and a straw ball. The clear foraging Carousel incorporates doors that must be slid or lifted open so that the bird can gain access to the food or toys inside.