I’m really big into foraging for my birds – I believe it is one of the healthiest activities they can engage in. Foraging is a completely natural behavior that many captive birds get stripped of. In the wild parrots can spend anywhere from 4-8 hours foraging for food. In a cage, most birds spend 15 seconds: locate the foodbowl, waddle over, and start eating.
Foraging helps my molluccan cockatoo engage in positive behaviors, and keeps him engaged, so instead of chewing his feathers, he is playing with toys. It also helps my birds quiet down when they are being loud- simply give them a small foraging toy, and welcome the happy, near-silent noises of your birds working to get to their treat. When I find myself not making the time to give my birds foraging opportunities, I find my birds getting bored, vocalizing more often, and becoming perch potatoes.
I wanted to share my (and my birds) favorite foragers.
1. The foraging wheel. This wheel is made by Caitec Corporation and is a part of their Creative Foraging Systems. It is fantastic, and I highly recommend it. This particular wheel is good for medium to large birds – my molluccan cockatoo currently has one in his cage. Tooie has done everything to this wheel – he has chewed it to try and get to the treats, he has spun it around and around; even ripped it off its backing in an attempt to get to the treats inside. This wheel has not suffered a bit, and only has a couple of minor scratches on the surface. I consider that a huge testament to this toys strength and build, considering what a big beak Tooie has.
This wheel has many compartments that you can stuff with your birds favorite treats or snacks. If your bird is good at foraging and this toy is easy for them, spice it up. For Tooie I put a couple of his favorite nuts in different compartments, and stuff each compartment with shredded paper, so only after he pulls out the paper can he discover which compartments hold the prize.
The foraging wheel is dishwasher safe, I just place it in the top rack of the washer when I’m about to start it. Its easy to fill too – simply remove unscrew the bolt and the front of the wheel will easily come off. Fill each compartment with treats, replace the front, screw the bolt back in. Then place the wheel on your birds cage using the back connector. I’ve not found a cage that this wheel will not fit on – the back is a threaded four way connector, making it an almost universal fit. I really cannot recommend this toy enough.
2. The nut cage is another all time favorite of mine. I have one for each of my birds – all my large birds (cockatoos, macaws, eclectus) have the large size, and all of my smaller birds (greencheek, caiques, conures) have the small size. For the big birds, I stuff each cage full of fun things – wood blocks, rawhide chips, abc blocks, coffee filters, whiffle balls, large marbella beads, etc. Then I’ll hide a treat here and there. For the birds, the treat is just the icing on the cake – they love having to work to get to a block of wood so that they can promptly destroy it. For the smaller birds, stuffing bits of cotton rope, sisal rope, golf sized whiffle balls, and other odds and ends make a fun toy for them. Birds of all sizes also love it if I put a roll of adding machine paper in the cage. The paper will spin around easily as your bird pulls and shreds through the roll.
Each nut cage is powdercoated, so it is extremely durable, and also dishwasher safe. If your bird has a big beak and this toy takes a lot of beating, you don’t have to replace it – make an appointment at your local motorcycle repair shop and get the toy re-powdercoated.
Of course, each nut cage can also be stuffed with fresh fruits, veggies, and whatever else your bird likes. The possibilities are endless!!!
3. Every bird owner needs a stainless steel skewer. Why? Not only can this skewer act as a toy base – simply place your drilled toy bits on the skewer, and hang in your birds cage – but it makes a great foraging tool as well. You can make your bird a kabob by placing its favorite fruits, veggies, or bird muffins on the skewer and hang in the cage. Your bird will have the challenge of eating the food as the skewer gently moves with the motion of your bird, so your bird will have to figure out how to grab the skewer and hold it to get at the food it wants.
If your bird is an advanced forager, you can get little paper cups, place a treat inside each cup, and then put the cup on the skewer. Stack two to five cups on the skewer on top of each other. Your bird won’t be able to see the treat, and will have to tear through the cup to be able to locate the goodie inside.
4. This toy is a favorite with my smaller birds. If your bird isn’t a big chewer, this is a good toy. If your bird has a big beak, I wouldn’t recommend it, as they will snap through the rubber easily. I’ve used this with birds as large as amazons.
This makes a great toy for birds that are intermediate foragers. You can easily stuff this full of nuts, or chunks of large dried fruit. Your bird will see the treats through the holes, and start working to get the treat from the toy so they can eat it. If you feed peanuts to your birds, I recommend stuffing this toy with peanuts to entice your bird. To mix things up a little, what I do is wrap the nut in a coffee filter, and then stuff in the toy. This way your bird will know something yummy is inside, but they have to work a little harder for their reward. Plus because this is a hanging toy your bird will be challenged as the toy swings while they are wrestling to get to the treat. This toy also comes in an oblong orange hanging version, and a smaller blue egg shaped foot toy version.
5. This isn’t what I consider an ‘everyday’ foraging toy, but this is a fun way to add some variety to your birds routine. I consider these advanced foragers because your bird has to be extremely driven and ready to chew to get to the treats that are hidden inside each pinata. Each pinata is made for birds, meaning all the materials that make up the pinata are completely safe for your feathered friend. Just like a human pinatas, each pinata comes ready to fill. Stuff with your birds favorite treats, perhaps a foot toy or two, some shredded paper. Then hang in your birds cage and watch the fun commence! These pinatas are hardy and will take some chewing to get to the fun filled core. If your bird is shy, new to foraging toys, or intimidated by certain toys, you may want to gradually work up to a pinata. Pinatas come in several sizes, but are recommended for medium to larger sized birds. There are also lots of fun shapes to choose from, including several holiday pinatas, so you can give your bird a new and exciting experience each time!