Learning about Parrot Enrichment

November 6, 2013 § 9 Comments

One of my good friends over at Avian Avenue recently inspired me  by her purchase of the DVD, Enriching Your Parrot’s Life, by Robin Shewokis.  This sent me on another researching spree about all types of parrot enrichment.  I found some awesome articles on the web (all linked below), and also ended up purchasing the DVD too, from Busy Beaks.  I so very highly recommend it for all parrot owners!  It was an excellent resource and a great learning opportunity for me.  This new dose of learning has really provided me with some fantastic enrichment ideas and made me re-commit myself to making sure that Lola and Sabrina lead fulfilling and enriching lives.  I’m going to sum up some of the things I’ve learned in this entry, and then in part two (a separate entry), I’ll talk about actually implementing these ideas and my plans for Lola and Sabrina.

Getting Started: Enrichment as a Process

First I’ll start off with a concept that Robin’s DVD explained: “enrichment is a process.”  I loved how she focused on researching natural behaviors and targeting those evolutionary habits in the enrichment process.  For example, as I mentioned earlier, Lola is more of a ground forager who prefers climbing over flying.  Budgies too like to forage on the ground for germinated seeds and grasses.  One of the things I’m working on for both of them is creating a foraging tray or shelf, where I will put natural materials like wood, vine balls, maybe some dried branches or leaves, etcetera, and also hide some treats in there, like a few sunflower seeds or in shell nuts for Lola, or millet and canary grass seed for Sabrina.  Lola’s wild counterparts also like to carve out cavities in trees.  To reflect that behavior, I’ve been giving her more opportunities to forage in wooden cavities.

Another concept I really liked, that that almost all of the articles and the DVD explained, is the idea of different types of enrichment.  Robin identifies six herself, but in my research online I’ve found that everybody categorizes them differently.  Of course, a lot of them overlap.  I actually liked the way one of the articles, by David Woolcock, classified them, as I think his umbrella categories capture a lot of what the other articles cover and then some:  social, occupational, physical, sensory, and nutritional.  I’m going to discuss each one in turn, but this discussion is fairly repetitive of the articles linked below, with a few of my own thoughts thrown in.

But as a caveat, importantly, Robin stresses that you don’t need to provide every single type of enrichment every single day.  There is such a thing as “over-enrichment.”  The goal is to offer choices, as every parrot would have in the wild, but not necessarily to overstimulate.  Instead, she suggests maybe assigning one type of enrichment to everyday of the week in particular.  I think that most of us will find that some of the tactics we use will actually enrich in more than one way, so that we are enriching in multiple ways each day inadvertently, but I think it’s important to keep in mind that we don’t need to be running around trying to activate every possible type of enrichment all the time.

The Types of Enrichment

social enrichment: Charles (rest in peace) and Sabrina telling secrets (this is a travel cage, not their regular cage)

Now let’s start discussing each type.  First up is social enrichment.  We all know that our parrots tend to be flock animals.  Cape Parrots, for example, typically travel in smaller flocks of up to 20 parrots, but flocks of 80 can gather at food sites.  Budgies, on the other hand, can be found traveling in flocks of hundreds and even thousands!  And then there are some parrots that tend to stick in pairs.  The important thing, however, is that they all have some sort of social interaction and group dynamic.  For those who have their own flocks, and in particular same-species flocks or parrots in pairs, social enrichment is an easy one to check off the list.  But for those of us who do not, or for those of us with two parrots that are dramatically different in size and originate from completely separate continents, I think we should strive to do a bit more to provide social enrichment for our parrots ourselves.  Some examples are easy: talking to your bird, playing, giving scratches, and other interactions.  But things like training and positive reinforcement, or flight recall practice can also count.  More ideas include reading to your bird, singing with your bird, dancing (if your bird is so inclined, as Lola is!), and more.

Bottom line ideas for social enrichment: same-species friends, other species friends, talking/singing/dancing to or with your parrot, training and positive reinforcement, flight recall, interacting with your parrot in general.

occupational enrichment: exercising the mind through a foraging opportunity

occupational enrichment: exercising the body by climbing

Next is occupational enrichment.  This one is less intuitive by name, but I think the concept is pretty easily understood.   As David Woolcock describes it, occupational enrichment is enrichment that exercises the mind or the body, such as giving your parrot challenges to overcome, and allowing your parrot to fly.  Foraging opportunities probably come directly to mind: giving our parrots foraging opportunities challenges them to work for their food, enriching them and preventing boredom all the same.  Even something as simple as covering the food bowl with some kraft paper and securing it with some tape, or just switching up the positions of the food bowls, would create a foraging opportunity.  Some very talented parrots also seem great at working on puzzle toys or more mechanical toys.  This isn’t Lola or Sabrina’s strong suit, but would definitely count as occupational enrichment.

Exercising the body is, of course, equally important, but I’d like to expand it beyond just flight to also include climbing, swinging, and swaying opportunities.  I am a big proponent of free flight and try to give my parrots plenty of opportunities to fly.  But as I said above, Lola naturally prefers climbing to flying, so I also give her climbing opportunities through vine-like ropes that she can climb and swing from, boings, climbing nets, and swings.  She absolutely loves these types of “perches” and often prefers them to stationary, bolt-on perches.  Sabrina, interestingly, even prefers to sleep on swings rather than stationary perches.

Bottom line ideas for occupational enrichment: foraging opportunities, changed food bowl positions, puzzle toys, training through positive reinforcement, other challenges, flying, climbing, swinging, and other exercise.

physical enrichment: a separate play area, outside of the cage

physical enrichment: getting outside for some natural sunlight

Third is physical enrichment, in relation to the type of enclosures we keep our parrots in and the elements of them.  I think it should also count play areas and play stands (perhaps a more intuitive name for this category might be environmental enrichment).  So your parrot’s physical environment can certainly be a source of enrichment: is the cage big enough for your parrot to spread its wings?  Sabrina’s is even big enough for her to fly (although that’s a lot easier with a tiny bird like her).  What types of elements are in the cage?  Perches, swings, boings, toys, etcetera all fall under this category.  How often do you change the environment?  This is something I am working on doing more of: rearranging the cage setup, even if it’s just switching around a perch and a few toys a week.  Beyond cages, play stands and play areas and gyms are certainly another sort of physical enrichment.  Likewise, those lucky enough to own outdoor aviaries provide an excellent source of physical enrichment.  But even just taking parrots outside for some natural sunlight and a change of scenery is another great way to provide physical enrichment.  Another thing I like to try to do everyday is make sure that Lola visits at least one different room everyday, for a simple change of scenery.

Bottom line ideas for physical enrichment: thinking about cage size and setup, thinking about cage elements, rearranging cage toys and setup, changing orientation or position of the cage, providing play stands and gyms, providing an outdoor aviary or just making trips outdoors, visiting a different room everyday.

sensory enrichment: her first time trying loofah, a new tactile sensation for Sabrina

sensory enrichment: olfactory enrichment through bird-safe essential oils

Next up is sensory enrichment, which I think includes several of Robin’s categories (auditory, visual, olfactory, and tactile).  Auditory enrichment is something that I definitely wasn’t really thinking about before reading these articles and watching this video.  Some suggestions from the DVD included baby toys or bird toys that say phrases or make the sounds of wild birds or other animals.  But even more simply, noisy toys like bells or stainless steel toys (my girls love the ones from Avian Stainless) can provide ample auditory enrichment.  I’ve also found that Lola and Sabrina absolutely love watching YouTube videos of their own species that make their own natural sounds, which also leads me into visual enrichment.  Videos and photos of other birds really get my two’s attention, but even things like moving the level or position of perches in the cage, which will in turn change a parrot’s line of vision and view, will provide visual enrichment.  Changing the toys in the cage too will provide visual enrichment as it will change the “look” of the cage.

Olfactory enrichment is another type of enrichment I really didn’t think about.  I would be very careful about this one, as obviously many fragrances (candles, oils, etcetera) can be very harmful to our parrots.  But essential oils certainly fall under this category, and as I’ve written about before, my two have responded very well to diffusing bird-safe essential oils.  My friend also suggested some natural scents like rosemary, and I would throw in other fragrant plants like eucalyptus or mint.  Even some ceylon cinnamon sticks or other fragrant herbs like star anise would be sources of olfactory enrichment.

Lastly, tactile enrichment is something we’re all probably pretty good at.  This would include many different things we probably already do: a variety of perching surfaces, different textures in toys (hardwood, softwood, natural wood with bark, types of rope/twine, cloth or cotton, plastic for those who use it, metal parts, etc.).  But so many other things can also fall under this category: bathing, foot toys, utilizing feathers in toys, varying the size of the food we provide our parrots (e.g. tiny pieces or big chunks or even whole fruit!), and even giving ice cubes to our parrots.

Bottom line ideas for sensory enrichment: (auditory) noisy toys, sounds of wild birds, youtube videos, music for parrots; (visual) videos or photos of other birds, shifting perch levels, changing toys; (olfactory) bird-safe essential oils, fragrant plants and herbs; (tactile) varying perching surfaces, varying toy textures and parts, bathing, providing foot toys, utilizing feathers, varying the size of food, providing whole fruits, creating foraging trays, giving ice cubes to our parrots.

nutritional enrichment: Lola foraging for some fresh veggies

nutritional enrichment: an ugly but simple and effective homemade foraging toy

Last one: phew!  Nutritional enrichment.  Like sensory enrichment, a lot can fall under here!  Of course, I think there is a lot of overlap with this one and occupational enrichment, at least as far as foraging goes.  I think that encouraging our parrots to forage for their food is such an important part of keeping them happy, “busy,” and enriched.  Although I still haven’t figured out a really good way to get Lola to forage for her fresh food, aside from covering her food bowls, she does have to work for her dry food and her treats.  I skewer a lot of foods, put them in foraging toys or boxes, wrap them in dixie cups or cupcake liners, etcetera.  She’s not a brain surgeon, and hasn’t figured out those really complicated foraging toys.  But that’s okay with me.  In the wild, parrots might just be flying to another branch on a tree and picking a fruit off of it– that’s still foraging.  Something as simple as sticking fresh veggies in the hole of a foraging toy, but with the veggie still easily accessible (see above), counts as foraging– the toy will swing as the parrot tries to pick at the vegetable, requiring a bit more maneuvering than simply picking food out of a bowl or being spoon fed.  Foraging can be simple!

But there’s a second aspect of nutritional enrichment, which is the source of the nutrition, or the food itself.  Robin talks about how important it is to keep diet choices novel and exciting: if you read my previous post containing my ponderings about variety, you’ll know this is something I’m thinking a lot about lately, and I still haven’t come to a conclusion.  But Robin believes that we can prevent food boredom by offering variety and saving favorites to encourage foraging or reinforce training.  (The logic is, ice cream sundaes might be your favorite food.  But you’d probably get tired of them too if you were fed one every single day.)  Another idea is to make sure we are utilizing seasonal produce, which will naturally force us to keep the diet more novel and exciting as the months change.

Finally, we should also be thinking about food presentation or size.  In the wild, our parrots aren’t getting all their fruits and veggies pre-chopped.  Lola loves diving into and destroying a whole fruit, or most recently, a whole mini pumpkin.  Obviously, there is more waste involved with this, so I don’t do it all the time, but she really loves it when I do.  I think Sabrina might have a heart attack if suddenly an entire apple showed up in her cage, but she does love it when I stick an entire huge leaf of chard or kale in there.

Bottom line ideas for nutritional enrichment: foraging, foraging, foraging!, keeping dietary choices novel and exciting, offering a variety of foods, keeping food seasonal, offering food in different sizes, offering whole fruits or veggies.

What’s Next and Resources

As you can see, I really learned a lot.  (As a side note, there is even more in the DVD!!)  And I feel like this research really invigorated my desire to “do right” by my parrots, and make sure that they are being enriched everyday– maybe not in every single possible way, but making sure to keep things fresh and interesting for them.  Like I said above, as I begin to implement all of these types of enrichment, I hope to write a second entry that discusses practical and easy tips to help you enrich your parrots too.  There are tons of fabulous resources out there already (Kris Porter’s enrichment books come to mind) to get you started, and I’ll throw in a few of my own tips.  Until then, enjoy the excellent resources below!

  1. Laura Ford, “Go Outside!” available at http://www.phoenixlanding.org/blog/2012/06/go-outside/
  2. Peggy’s Parrot Place blog post, “Enriching your parrot’s life,” available at http://zoologica.wordpress.com/2011/07/07/1186/
  3. Robin Shewokis, Enriching Your Parrot’s Life (DVD)
  4. Kathleen Snipes, “Natural State Aspects of Avian Foraging,” available at http://www.phoenixlanding.org/blog/2009/07/avian-foraging/
  5. Liz Wilson, “Enrichment for your Parrot,” available at http://www.northernparrots.com/enrichment-for-your-parrot-blog75/
  6. Karen Windsor, “Not doing enough for your parrot?  Get creative!” available at http://www.parrots.org/pdfs/all_about_parrots/reference_library/behaviour_and_environmental_enrichment/PS%2018%204%20Nov%2006%20KW.pdf
  7. David Woolcock, “Enriching lives:  One parrot at a time,” available at http://www.parrots.org/pdfs/all_about_parrots/reference_library/behaviour_and_environmental_enrichment/Enrich_PS19_4.pdf

Our Parrots’ Wild Habits

October 31, 2013 § 2 Comments

I’m on a research kick.  This is nothing new, but a few thought-provoking posts and comments I’ve read lately have gotten me really interested in the wild habits of our parrots.  It started with diet, but then I just found out a lot of fascinating things.  As usual, as I found more answers, they led to even more questions.  Although my research pertained to Cape Parrots and Budgerigars in particular, I think what I found might be quite interesting to all parrot owners.

First, I’ve often wondered if Lola was just a little bit chubby and clumsy and therefore not the greatest flyer.  I’ve noticed that in comparison to my budgies (Charles in particular, who was a spectacularly graceful flyer) as well as my mom’s Hahn’s Macaw, who is another beautiful flyer, Lola is … well, she’s a little slow and labored.  She likes to fly, but unlike my mom’s Hahn’s who takes joy in doing laps around the open floor plan of her home, Lola likes to go shorter distances and sometimes opts to waddle over when she can.  Obviously I think part of this is influenced by the fact that as an apartment dweller she simply doesn’t have as much space to fly and therefore gets less practice, but I also read recently that Capes in comparison to other birds actually have shorter wings, evolved for maneuvering in the forest canopy while feeding, rather than for long distance flight.  In fact, I read that it can take Cape Parrots twenty-five times as much energy to fly than other birds!  This was really astounding and fascinating to me and explained a lot about Lola’s flying efforts.

On the other hand, budgies seem to be wonderful, graceful, and rapid flyers.  Sabrina is an exception because she had a lot of trouble with breaking her wing feathers as a baby and as a result is a bit of a shaky flyer, but Charles was magnificent in flight.  Which makes sense, because in the wild, budgerigars can travel dozens and even hundreds of miles in a single day looking for food.  So although they are often described as ground feeders and foragers, their long tails reflect that they are also spectacular flyers.  (Lola’s short little tail, on the other hand, gives her away as a ground feeder who is not meant for long distance flight.)

I also started thinking about what Lola would eat in the wild.  Cape Parrots feed almost exclusively off of the fruit of the yellowwood tree.  Nowadays, due to the destruction of the yellowwood forests in South Africa and other regions of the African continent, they have turned to other sources of food, including plums, pecans, cherries, acorns, and others.  However, this has also coincided with a widespread outbreak of PBFD (Psittacine Beak and Feather Disease), which has been rapidly decreasing wild populations.  Many researchers believe that the PBFD outbreaks are linked to the Cape Parrots’ inability to find adequate food sources.  (The Cape Parrot Project is dedicated to saving the wild Cape Parrot.  They are an excellent organization and I highly recommend giving their site a visit, and donating to their cause if you are so inclined.)

Anyway, all that aside, these simple facts got me thinking: why do we think variety is so crucial to a healthy diet?  Don’t get me wrong– I’m by no means saying it isn’t– in fact, I am fairly certain I have said in this blog that variety is key, and I still believe that.  Let me be clear that I think there are often two arguments for variety: first, for health purposes (e.g. to get a variety of vitamin/minerals/nutrients), and second, for boredom/enrichment purposes.  I still believe in the first reason, that variety is necessary for health purposes.  Obviously we do not have access to these yellowwood fruits, and thus  we cannot replicate the wild diet– so, we should do our best to give a variety of nutrients that will mimic a complete diet or attempt to do so, at least.  I still do this and think it’s important to do.

But, I think that maybe we obsess over the second argument for variety too much: the boredom/enrichment argument.  Again, of course I believe enrichment is important!  (In fact, this has been another research kick of mine, and I am working on a large write up on it.)  But why do we assume that parrots get bored eating the same thing everyday, when that’s exactly what some of them do (and is healthiest for them to do) in the wild?  And although Capes are somewhat unique in that regard, they aren’t the only ones.  The vast majority of the diet of wild Hyacinth Macaws, for example, is made up of palm nuts.  Just thinking of the way that I feed Lola, however, I often obsess over giving her a variety of foods from sprouts to fresh veggies (from chopped to sliced to steamed to whole to stuffed) to dry mixes to fruits to breads to mashes to endless variations upon variations.  I’m wondering if these things really matter to her at all, being that she’d be perfectly happy and healthy eating yellowwood fruits all day everyday for the rest of her life.  (One important distinction: the question of dietary enrichment in terms of presentation or foraging, I think, is a separate one. I absolutely believe in variety of presentation and encouragement of foraging.  I’m not saying that we shouldn’t try to make food presentation less “boring” by hiding food or creating foraging opportunities– I think that’s super important!  I’m talking about boredom, referring to the make up of the food itself.)

Maybe this is all just very obscure and doesn’t make sense.  I mean, I’m still confused about it.  And I’m not sure I will necessarily be doing anything differently.  I think maybe I will not obsess so much over giving Lola a different fresh fruit/veggie mix every morning, so long as she’s getting a good mix in there.  (I used to be afraid that she’d get bored of eating the same meal three days in a row.  Now I feel silly thinking that.)  But again, as usual, my research leaves me with more questions than answers.  Just something to ponder!

Oh: and Happy Halloween! 🙂

Budgie Updates

November 14, 2011 § 1 Comment

Charles and Sabrina are doing well in their new cage.  I added a boing to Charles’s side and he is really enjoying having it.  Sabrina is keeping herself busy by destroying everything in sight and trying to get to Charles through the divider.  I think about once a week she forgets that the divider is there and tries to jump on him through it, and is shocked when she is stopped.  I am thinking of getting some kind of ladder for her so that it’s easier for her to make her way back up.  Thankfully, though, she has grown in all her flights back– she knocked them out during a bad night fright a few weeks ago– and has been gaining her gracefulness at flying back, little by little.  She sure is a cutie.

Sabrina's flight feathers are back!

... and she happily used them to fly across the room to the atom!

She and Charles are still iffy.  They are somewhat okay outside of the cage, but even then, they have to stay away from each other or else fighting ensues.  My latest project for them, however, is finding new temporary cages for them.  With the holidays coming up, we will be spending a bit of time at my mother’s, and they will of course come along.  Technically I do already have temporary cages for them there, but one of them is pretty tiny and inadequate, and it’s a piece of junk cage made in China.  I always feel bad when I have to put them in it, plus because there are a lot of people around, they tend not to get as much out of cage time either.  The other one is quite nice– it’s actually the cage that Sabrina was in prior to moving into the new cage.  I’d love to get my hands on a second one of those, but the problem is, it’s an Italian cage (made entirely in Italy) that my mother somehow was able to finagle from an old wholesaler friend of hers, that otherwise aren’t available in the U.S.  I’ve been contacting store after store to see if they would ship to the U.S., but so far, nothing.  Oh well.  I’m sure I’ll find something soon.  The nice thing is that it’s only for one budgie since the two of them don’t get along, and it’s much easier to find a cage that is suitable in size for one rather than two.

Charles also wanted to be a part of this entry.

In other news, Charles has been his same old self, keeping busy through grooming and looking dignified.  He often sits across the divider staring at Sabrina while she makes all kinds of gestures and noises at him.  He calmly sits and stares with no reaction.  I trimmed his little nails yesterday and he was so compliant.  Gotta love that bird.

Oh, one more thing: I was away this weekend and got back on Sunday night.  When I walked in the room, Lola popped up and greeted me with, “Hi!! I’m so cute!!”  Such a modest little bird I’ve raised!!

Holes in the Ceiling!

October 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

We finally have holes in the ceiling!  Yes, it’s a good thing.  One of my least favorite things is putting holes in the walls and ceiling, but it’s a necessary evil when it comes to designing a great bird room.  Mine is quite very far from great, but at least I have the bare minimum up now: the Crawler and the Atom!  (A huge thanks to my friend Billie Faye, by the way, without whom I would definitely have caused my ceiling to cave in on me and then would be in a lot of trouble with the management.)  Everything is looking pretty grim now until I get more toys and things up there, but I’m happy to at least have these up.  Unfortunately, it seems I actually don’t have all that many studs in my ceiling, so there are really only a few spots from which I can hang things.  I could only find six places for my stainless steel hooks that made sense.  I’ll keep looking, but I’m not too hopeful.

The Crawler

There’s the Crawler, set up right above Lola’s cage.  On one end, it hangs directly from the hooks in the ceiling, but the ceiling is partially vaulted, so on the other end it hangs from ceiling protectors so that it is slightly lower.  So far, the flock isn’t terribly impressed with its location for some reason, but I think I just need to hang some toys from it to attract them.  They absolutely loved the Crawler in our old bird room.

Lola hanging out on her Crawler

Lola did play on it a little last night, but then she flew to me for some cuddles.  Oh well!  Not the worst thing in the world 🙂  I think that once the budgies’ new cage comes, I will attach the budgies’ crawler in between their cage and Lola’s cage, as a bridge between the two.  Their cages will be adjacent to each other and I think they will really enjoy that arrangement!

Lola playing on the Atom

For some reason, everybody was much more attracted to the Atom, which surprised me because it is hanging so much lower than the Crawler.  Maybe it’s because it’s on the opposite side of the room, near my chair?  I’m not really sure what it is, but they all love it and opted to hang out on the Atom yesterday, ignoring the Crawler.  I have to rearrange the toys on the Atom too though… offer some variety and shake things up 🙂

The sixth hole is being saved for a project I’ve been working on forever.  I don’t think I’ll finish it any time soon so I’ll probably put up a different swing in the mean time, but I am definitely very excited about the future project… it’s been a long time in the making!

In other news, Sabrina had a pretty awful night fright the other night and somehow managed to knock out all of the longer flight feathers on her right wing, and now she can’t fly at all.  It’s really upsetting to see.  The feather shafts came out fully, though, and didn’t break, so I think that I am just going to keep her safe and grounded for now until the new flight feathers come back in– hopefully it won’t be too long.  I would hate to clip her, especially because her wings were really butchered when she was a baby and I was so happy to see her regain her flights.  She is a beautiful flier.  She’s a little upset about being kept in cage, but she just plummets when I let her out.

Sunlight and Some Flight (Feathers!)

June 1, 2011 § 3 Comments

It’s very quickly becoming too hot to venture outside with the birds, but we’re getting in as much time as we can before it hits the triple digits.  I bring out a spray bottle full of cool water and everybody gets some fun spritzes to keep cool and also for a nice bath!  Here are the latest photos.

Lola looking particularly prehistoric

Another one of Lola

I was sitting in my front steps when one of my neighbors came out onto her balcony to admire Lola. She said she was very impressed that she was so attached to me and said that she too had a bird, a cockatiel, named Sunny!! It was very cool. She briefly brought Sunny out and asked me where to get a harness like Lola’s. Perhaps soon we’ll see them out together on walks too!

Sabrina harassing Charles

Charles preening Sabrina

I’m not sure if you can tell very well from the photos, but Sabrina’s flight feathers are finally growing back in! She has one on the left side and two on the right, and two of her tail feathers have also grown back much longer and healthier than before. I am keeping a close eye on her while her flights grow back in and I can’t wait until she can fly like Charles!

Sabrina’s New Toy Interest and Updates

May 22, 2011 § 4 Comments

Although Sabrina really became a part of my flock simply for Charles– to be his companion, and not to be my pet– I do find myself slowly coming to love her.  This is big for me, because in general I really am not a fan of female budgies.  They tend to be much nippier, more highly strung, more feisty, and more high maintenance– and boy does Sabrina fit the bill!  She’s nothing like the calm, docile sweetheart that my Charles is.  But she’s a cutie nonetheless.  And I adore how she really relishes her toys!  She is a mini destructo-bird and it does make me smile, no matter how much I suppress it.

Sabrina nibbling on some crunchy loofa

More loofa for Sabrina

This week I discovered a new toy interest for her: loofa!  I’d seen it on toys before, but never thought to try it for whatever reason.  Well, I had actually gotten this chunk as a free sample from one of my purchase from Things for Wings, so I wedged it onto a knobby part of one of the grapevine perches.  Sure enough, Sabrina came by and started to rip it up!  I was pretty pleased.  I purchased a few custom toys for her with adorable loofa parts that should be here next week.  I can’t wait to see how she likes them!

In other news, I’ve been having to travel a lot on weekends, but finally I think I’m done, at least for a short while.  It’s tough being gone from the flock, even for a few days.  This weekend they seem to have been extra kind, though, and it isn’t nearly as messy and chaotic here as it has been in the past.  I am also pleased to report that Sabrina finally has one flight feather coming in on each side!  She got a horrible, horrible clip as a baby and she just drops to the ground when she tries to fly.  I can’t wait for her flights to grow back in.  Not terribly much else is going on here.  I do believe I have a new cage for the budgies in the works, so that’s exciting, but it won’t be done for a few months.

Lola Outside on her Harness!

May 11, 2011 § 11 Comments

This past week, Lola and I made a sudden breakthrough with her harness training!!  We’ve been through months and months of harness training that seemed like one step forward, two steps back most of the time.  I wasn’t hopeful, and in fact had been losing hope more and more in recent weeks.  Then suddenly this week she let me put the harness over her head with no resistance… and the next day I actually got the whole thing on her!!

Lola enjoying the beautiful weather on her harness!

I am so, so excited!!  I really didn’t think we’d ever get there, after all of my failures and frustrations.  But we did, and the past two days in a row I’ve been taking her for walks around the neighborhood to enjoy the sun!!  She definitely doesn’t love being harnessed, but, she has been a lot better about it than she has in the past.  It also seems like once I get her outside and walking around, she is much more interested in what’s going on around her than chewing at the harness itself.  She also enjoys getting showered with treats and praise, of course.  She’s attracted quite a few neighbors and children especially!

Lola showing off her Aviator Harness

Although I had been taking her out in her travel cage frequently since the weather’s been nicer, I am so happy to have her harness trained.  I even have a flight line for it, so hopefully one day she will be brave enough to let go of her death grip on my hand and arm.  I am a really big fan of the Aviator Harness, and in my opinion it is the absolute safest harness on the market.  It is very, very secure (and doesn’t depend on velcro straps which to me doesn’t seem safe at all) and also the least bulky.  I think that the idea of diapers is a bit ridiculous, personally.  Parrots “go” so frequently for various biological reasons, and one of them is to keep their bodies as light as possible to promote flight.  To buy a flight suit or a harness with a diaper attached seems incredibly counter intuitive to me, and much more for the human’s convenience than the parrot’s enrichment.

Taking in the sights and sounds

Anyway, I couldn’t be more pleased about finally getting her into this thing– it sure took long enough!  I am hoping that we can continue to make trips outdoors all throughout the nice weather.  I am so excited!!

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