December 3, 2016 § 5 Comments
Hello, parrot people! It’s been too long. But Lola and I are doing well, and so much has changed for us since we last wrote. We are now proud residents of sunny California, where we have been enjoying the year-round beautiful weather, and many more days outside soaking up vitamin D. Lola and I made an epic cross-country road trip together, where we got to see many, many parts of the U.S. we’d never seen before. In less happy news, Lola came very close to getting a new sister and flock mate, another female cape parrot. She was a much, much older and retired breeder, but unfortunately she passed away at home just a week before we planned to adopt her. We all agreed it was for the best that she passed away in comfortable, familiar surroundings. And we are still waiting for our perfect adult female cape companion for Lola.
I am even more sad to say that this fall, Scott Lewis of Old World Aviaries passed away. Scott was truly a giant in the cape parrot and general aviculture community. He was a wonderful man who had extensive expertise and was always willing to share it and help out. When I was first researching what parrot species would suit me, I found videos of the most charming parrot online, Thor, who I learned was a cape parrot from none other than Scott Lewis. His website provided a wealth of information, and when I emailed him letting him know that I was interested in learning more, he immediately offered his help and knowledge with absolutely no expectation that I would be a customer of his. When I eventually chose another breeder, whom he happened to know, he had only the most wonderful things to say about her and told me I had made a great choice. And he and I continued to discuss cape parrots, their classification, their diets, their habits, and their all-around wonderfulness for many years after that. He was a kind man who genuinely loved parrots and spreading that love. Rest in peace, Scott. You are already sorely missed.
I thought I’d share Lola’s latest cage setup, which we are still perfecting for optimal perch placement. The front panel’s lower area is pretty empty at the moment but I can’t seem to find a spot that won’t get soiled daily. So we’re still experimenting. Also, apologies for terrible photos. These were taken in the early morning, and although the room was sun drenched and lovely, the photos look quite dim due to the back lighting.
I often get messages asking if I still recommend Expandable Habitats, and the answer is an effusive yes! Lola’s cage is still going strong and is every bit as sturdy as the day it came home. They’re a big investment, but it’s a lot of peace of mind to never have to worry about checking all of the bars for chipped paint or rust, or worrying that there is something toxic that could hurt her.
Starting with the left side, there’s a food bowl on her main door, along with a fun natural and shreddable toy. (There’s also a flagstone platform perch to the left of the bowl, but it’s not visible in this photo.) Just behind that toy is a safety pumice perch, and above that is a chunky willow wood perch with lots of delicious bark (and Lola sitting on top of it, playing with her acrylic ball foraging toy).
On the side door of the left panel of the cage is another food bowl, and next to it a fantastic foraging perch. I love these perches– lots of ridges for chewing but also holes drilled throughout for stuffing with food (I like stuffing them with stalks of carrots or cucumbers or zucchini, or in shell nuts). On the back wall there is a cardboard box holder in acrylic for more foraging fun. And all the way up in the corner is a hard-to-get treat pot.
Lola’s got her soft and fuzzy swing hanging on this side, as well as another fantastic foraging block toy, hanging from the ceiling. (We’re big on foraging!) And on the right of this photo but the center of the cage is a lovely cotton boing with a great Avian Stainless bell toy that makes tons of noise hanging in the middle.
Around the center of the back panel is a platform perch, I believe in elm– Things for Wings always has so many beautiful types of wood for platforms. To the right of that is hard to see, but it’s an acrylic drawer foraging toy with two side-by-side drawers that pull and slide. And next to that is another really beautiful platform perch, this one with built-in toys on one and and lots of cork drilled into the sides. That one definitely keeps her busy. Up above you can see one balsa Christmas tree toy, which is hiding a second holiday toy behind it, a mini snowman’s head, both from Tweety Pie’s Bird Toys. Lola has made short work of the santa one. On the right, one of her favorite double-ended ribbon wood perches, still an old stand by. Next to it is a second cardboard box foraging toy with an acrylic holder.
Below that layer is another with (on the left) a great toy packed with balsa and cork, a very prized cajeput perch that I’d been hoarding (sadly, it’s my last), and an Avian Stainless pepper toy. In the corner is Lola’s trusty stainless steel toy bucket chock full of stray toy parts and foot toys, straddled by a sandblasted manzanita corner perch. And up front here, another food bowl.
And that’s it! So far, so good with perch placement of the existing perches. We like to rotate toys and also make sure there’s a variety of types and textures in there. So many toy companies have come and gone the past few years, but we are thankful for all of the wonderful toymakers who have provided Lola with so much enrichment and fun.
January 27, 2015 § Leave a comment
Nothing like a snow day to get in some extra snuggle time with your little loves! Juno didn’t actually bring all that much snow to our area, but I understand that some areas of New England really got dumped on. I hope everybody is staying safe and warm. Lola and I are taking today to get in lots of quality time. I also thought it would be nice to make some time for the blog! I changed Lola’s cage setup recently for the new year, and we’ve had a week or two already to test it out. She and I both approve. It’s a little different from our normal setups in that we usually have certain places we like certain perches to be, but I decided to change it up and see what happened.
I know I’ve said this before, but I’ve really gotten Lola to truly maximize her cage space by adding foraging opportunities at all different levels. I know so many people that say their birds never go in the lower half of the cage or favor certain spots. You can help encourage them to be more active and utilize their space by making sure they get rewarded when they do! Lola never knows she’ll find down in her toy bucket, or her foraging pot. So she makes sure to wander over and check them both out regularly. Take a look:
Here’s the full view, door open. There’s a bit of a “bald spot” in the back– I had to take out a foraging toy for cleaning, but normally there’d also be a clear acrylic drawer foraging toy in the lower back between the cotton rope perch and the sandblasted manzanita corner perch. We’ll take a tour from left to right.
Here’s the door, which is simple but has a few perching spots for Lola. On the left is a natural cork bark perch from I Got a Woody Bird Toys, along with one of their fantastic basswood and cork toys (or, what’s left of it), and at the bottom on the right is a treasured cajeput perch. Yes, I may have hoarded a few of them over the years.
Moving towards the left, there are two stainless steel ring bowl holders (the cage is empty right now because I was changing water and cleaning, etc.). The center top perch is one of the Fantastic Foraging Perches from Things for Wings. Lola loves this perch. The sides are totally torn up as she makes her way through it. I like to stuff treats or even veggies in the foraging holes. Try threading a whole skinny carrot or even a leafy green (broccolini can work nicely) through them. There’s another Things for Wings toy above that, and to the right is her favorite Avian Stainless toy, the Crosswinds.
Moving downwards, on the far left is an awesome side-mounted toy from I Got a Woody, and Lola’s trusty double-bolted ribbon wood perch from the Birdsafe Store in the middle. Normally, I always put this one high up as a roosting perch, but I’m actually finding it works nicely in that spot. The area below the side door is always kind of a weird place because you can’t really hang toys on the door or else they get in the way when you’re opening and closing them, but this perch allowed me to put the foraging pot in the middle, and gives Lola some room to move around easily. Finally, on the right is an Eco Perch from Polly’s. I like that it helps to keep Lola’s nails trim, but is not at all abrasive.
Here’s the center back (and Lola!). You can see the Eco Perch on the left, but in the foreground is Lola’s snuggly supreme cotton rope swing from Big Beaks. Behind it in the back is her awesome Skywalk perch from Oliver’s Garden. I’m not sure you can tell from the photo, but it’s a really, really cool hardwood platform perch with embedded beads, and a “trap door” of sorts in the center. Hanging above it in the back is a garland toy packed with fantastic parts from I Got a Woody. Snaking from the lower center to the upper right is our favorite cotton rope perch from Grey Feather Toys. We are still sad that we can’t get another, but this one is really holding up beautifully. Like I said above, normally there would be an acrylic foraging toy in the center back, but I pulled it out to give it a good wash.
And finally, bringing us to our last view, the right side. There’s the last stainless steel ring holder, and the big toy in the foreground is a really cool Things for Wings toy. It was actually supposed to be a holiday toy, but I requested it un-dyed. It’s big and packed full of toy parts, but most of them are soft shreddables– this would be a great toy even for the little guys who aren’t intimidated by size. It used to have a few more vine balls, but Lola has since torn them off trying to seek out the treats I sneak into them! The green perch is a Safety Pumice Perch which also helps to keep her nails trim, and the toy on the far right is another cool side-mounted foraging toy from I Got a Woody. Lola loves to rummage through it for almonds or other goodies.
Moving down a level, her faithful stainless steel toy bucket is mounted to the side, full of lots of foot toys and abandoned toy parts, flanked by a natural wood perch. I think it’s sandblasted manzanita, as is the corner perch. Hanging in between it is another great Things for Wings toy.
And that’s the current configuration! I’m happy to report that so far, her droppings seem to miss whatever’s below them due to placement. The only one that really gets soiled is the foraging platform, because of its width. So it gets cleaned a lot. Toys get rotated and changed weekly. I like to make sure to change where the foraging opportunities are so that she has to keep guessing. I have this awesome basket toy from Things for Wings (I think it’s called the Cornucopia) which is full of nooks and crannies for treat hiding. That one’s getting rotated in next. The fantastic foraging block might also make an appearance soon. Who knows what else?
December 17, 2014 § Leave a comment
Lola wanted to do a little demonstration on foraging with her very favorite foraging perch from Things for Wings. It’s a little basic, but she thought it might help encourage the beginners.
Step one: Scope out the goods. Check out each pod cup and see which one has the best goodies.
Step two: Like what you see? Then start foraging!
Step three: Sometimes, you need a little bit of leverage. Don’t be afraid to use a firm grip!
Step four: Don’t give up! You’ll get it eventually.
Step five: My darn big beak… just… let me at it!!!
Step six: Success!!! Retrieve the nut!!!
Step seven: Now here is the most important part: savor your hard-earned treat! (And don’t forget to check the other pod cups too in case there’s anything else worth foraging for!)
November 30, 2014 § Leave a comment
Now that Thanksgiving is over, it’s officially “acceptable” to start decorating for my very favorite holiday of the year: Christmas! I love getting Lola’s cage decked out with festive decor and ornaments and garlands. Of course, it’s slightly more difficult with my “all natural” color scheme, but thankfully the ladies at I Got a Woody were up to the challenge! I asked them to design a custom toy for Lola– some sort of Christmas tree with a few parameters, but mostly I left the details up to their creative license. I absolutely love how it turned out! There may not be color, but I think it captures the spirit of the season quite well. Unfortunately, my photo really doesn’t do it justice, but it’s lovely.
To create the shape of a Christmas tree, they used four carefully carved balsa chunks that mimic the boughs and branches of a real tree, and embedded little ornaments into the branches– cute little hardwood beads. They make great foraging opportunities and always entice Lola. The tree is also decorated with chain garlands hanging from the different levels, and there is a real natural wood trunk at the bottom (not visible in the photo). Beneath the tree are extra fun presents, in the form of chunky corks and hardwood beads. It’s even topped off with a pretty wicker star! What’s more, it’s all strung on a stainless steel skewer, so when Lola’s all done destroying it, I can refill the base and turn it into an entirely new toy. This toy came out perfectly. I couldn’t be more pleased.
I purchased another Christmas toy, but without the color– it doesn’t quite look like Santa’s Belly without the distinctive red, but I still think the toy is awesome. It has two wicker baskets that hide lots of treats within, like basswood, turned corks, natural cork bark, and more. Of course, there’s lots to chew both above and below as well! I wonder how long it will take Lola to realize that it’s the perfect spot to hide an in shell almond.
A few other toys also incorporated the foraging opportunities of baskets, but in the form of side-mounted toys instead. They both come equipped with stainless steel mounts, which I love because they can be installed exactly where you want them (as opposed to only where there’s a horizontal cross bar). I especially like to install foraging toys at lower levels of the cage, where Lola might not necessarily visit without something to attract her there. The possibility of a treat hiding in one of her baskets always does the trick. The smaller basket on the left is open on top, but has cork, wicker, and beads flowing from it, whereas the basket on the right has a balsa “cover” that hides the goodies within.
These garland toys are huge and packed with so many toy parts. The first one, Twigs and Berries, really has a ton: basswood slats with bark, willow chunks, natural cork bark, tons of hardwood beads, shredders, paper, and probably more. It’s a really good size and will definitely last at least a little longer than Lola’s average toy. The next toy included a few custom twists, like larger vine balls (which are also great for foraging!), and includes balsa with embedded beads, cardboard, and even more beads. The garland toys can be hung at both their ends, either side to side, up and down, diagonally, or even hanging from the ceiling like a swing.
The last two toys are surefire hits. On the left is the Isis. I made the mistake last time of only getting the small version, which Lola quickly turned into toothpicks in no time. She couldn’t get enough of fishing the turned corks out of the thin, crunchy pine. So this time, we got the large. But perhaps I didn’t quite learn the lesson because I only ordered the Mini Sanitarium. (Yes, there’s and even bigger version!) This one has huge jumbo corks and basswood triangles. We’ll see how it fares under her beak!
The last addition to the order was one of the basswood platform perches. Oh my goodness, I had no idea how MASSIVE it is! It’s like a serving platter! I think it’s a bit too big for the inside of Lola’s cage, so I’ll have to figure out where it can go. Perhaps it’ll be her new balcony?
That ‘s it all together. We are so happy with this awesome order and are ready to get decorating!
February 1, 2014 § Leave a comment
Setting up a cage well is a real art. I find it very difficult to do, increasingly so the larger your bird is and the less space you have. Whenever I am visiting my mom’s house and have to change the setup of Lola’s temporary cage, the King’s aluminum cage, I always struggle with fixing it up nicely for her because it’s only 33 x 25. (I will admit, Sabrina is pretty easy to deal with because she has quite a bit of space and is so tiny.) But fixing up a cage for a medium to large bird is a totally different story!
Where do you start? In my opinion, the easiest place to start is with the food bowls. For many people, this is the most natural place to start because it is the one part of the cage of which they don’t control the placement, because they use feeder doors. I don’t use feeder doors with attached bowls, but I still think this is the best place to begin, simply because I know that I like to keep the food bowls relatively close to the side doors (in case I ever have to travel, I can have somebody else feed Lola safely), and you’ll know that wherever there is a food bowl, you’ll need at least one perch nearby. That always helps to get me started. I try to change whether they are directly on the door or near by it, level with it, a bit higher, or a bit lower, but mostly they are a relatively constant.
Once the food bowls are in place, you can start placing a few perches. You’ll need one near the bowl, obviously, and I tend to avoid putting perches above food bowls because then you increase the likelihood of clean food or water getting soiled. I did make an exception this time by putting a very wide platform perch above a food bowl because I think it’s wide enough that the bowl getting soiled is not a danger. I’m still testing it out, but hopefully it will work!
After a few perches have found their place, I find the other stuff tends to naturally follow. There are usually a few things we all like to keep in the cage– for Lola, for example, I like to use one cotton rope perch and at least one swing. So those usually go in next, and I try to configure everything so that each perch is reach-able from at least one other without having to climb the cage bars much. I also like to make sure there is a large variety of textures, sizes, and heights. I’ll always include several natural wood perches: some with bark, some without, some curvier, some harder, some softer; a pedicure perch; a platform or two; and a cotton perch. I don’t use dowels, ever– I know that some people feel they are “okay” as long as there are other choices, but why bother with just “okay” when you can do way better with natural wood? The uniformity of dowels simply isn’t comfortable or healthy for parrots’ feet. I know some people also like to have at least one perch that spans the length of width of the cage. I choose not to have one like this because I think it limits placement of other things, but that’s a personal preference.
Once I feel like there is a solid network of perches, that’s when toys and other accessories can get placed. I like to make sure there are a very good variety of toys– a single toy often falls into multiple categories, but I like to make sure that each of these core “functions” is fulfilled: noise-making, foraging, natural wood coins or chunky pine, snap-able wood beads, natural textures like coconut or vine. Some people also include snuggly toys or plastic toys depending on their birds’ preferences. Lola also adores her foot toys, so a good foot toy bucket is a necessity as well.
And that’s all there is to it! Now of course, easier said than done– and every time I rearrange the cage, I am constantly tweaking it for the next several days. That’s okay. Some setups are more successful than others, which is why I always take photos so that I can reinstate the “good” ones after cycling through a few others. This past week I did a new setup for Lola. It’s actually not one of my favorites and I have tweaked it several times since I took these original photos, but Lola really likes the perches I chose, so I’m only making minimal changes for now. Here’s what it looks like.
In my opinion it’s a bit busy, although I have spaced out and lowered some of the perches since taking this photo. Then again I’ve also added a few more toys, so not sure how it all comes out to balance.
On the left, there are two out of Lola’s three food bowls, both place on or near the side door. So that’s where I began with this setup. In between the two, I placed a curvy grapevine wood perch from the Birdsafe Store so that she could get between the two. On the left is a forked sandblasted manzanita perch from Things for Wings. On the right is a safety pumice perch, and in the front winding all over is her cotton rope perch. Up above, you’ll see the wide platform perch I was alluding to earlier.
I love this perch! Aside from the fact that I can put it above a food bowl because it blocks Lola from soiling it, she really adores it. It is made by Kris Porter but sold by Things for Wings and I highly recommend it. As you can see, Lola has already gone to town on it and has been stripping it away and smearing her blueberries on it, but she really enjoys being on it. I have been wrapping up little treats in unbleached cupcake liners and putting them in the foraging holes and she loves to look in each hole to see what surprises there may be.
Here’s the other side, where you’ll see the opposite end of the cotton rope perch snaking down. That perch was from the now-closed Grey Feather Toys and I am still upset about it. I still can’t find a cotton rope perch with a stainless steel interior that I like as much. On the right of it, you can barely make it out, but there is a cute little side-mounted foraging pot too hidden under the cork bark perch from I Got a Woody. That’s another little spot that Lola loves to check for treats. The cork bark perch at that funky angle proved to be a big hit with Lola, so it reprised its role in this setup. On the right of it is a lovely, chunky willow bark perch, also from Things for Wings. That funny looking pale colored perch near the top right is a new one for us; it’s the Nu Perch sold by the Parrot Wizard store. I’m always happy to see perches being made with stainless steel hardware so I thought I’d give this one a try as well. It’s interesting in that I assume it is made of a uniform dowel, but they actually cut it and shape it so that it is no longer uniform and is quite varied in shape and diameter. The result is a very nice looking perch that appears to be very comfortable and healthy for our parrots. Lola really likes hers so far, except that she has already taken a big chunk out of the end. Down below you’ll see a sandblasted manzanita corner perch (flanking a third food/water bowl), as well as a Manu mineral perch.
In the center back of the cage you’ll notice another awesome foraging perch, this one also from Things for Wings. I love this one: it’s also a platform, but it has lots of chunky willow bark on the bottom side for stripping, and there are several pod cups hanging below for more opportunities to hide treats! You’ve probably noticed by now a recurring theme in my cage setups– a multitude of places in which to hide treats. I love having dozens of different foraging opportunities for Lola because it keeps her busy. She will go around and check all of these hiding spots, multiple times a day, because she never knows where she might find something. This is such a great thing to do to keep your parrot active and stimulated, even while in the cage, especially if you work all day or if you have a perch potato. Encouraging Lola to forage is of the utmost importance to me for her physical and mental health.
Finally, you probably noticed this awesome swing front and center. It’s homemade! Well, sort of. The very cool, refillable stainless steel base is made by Scooter Z, an awesome chunky willow wood perch from Things for Wings, and fantastic pine wood pieces and cork-stuffed blocks from Mother Pluckin’ Bird Toys. Actually, my sister very kindly made this for Lola. She loves it and has been very busy chipping away at the wood pieces!
Other things included… there’s an awesome grapevines wood perch on the front door that Lola loves to perch on, as well as several toys from Things for Wings, I Got a Woody, Oliver’s Garden, Parrot’s Treasure, and more. You can be sure that the uglier ones are homemade by me. I have actually changed and added a few since posting these photos so there is a bit more variety now. I am also getting some new Avian Stainless toys so I am very excited about that!
So that’s how Lola’s cage is now, but it never stays in one iteration for too long. Just as how the seasons change in the wild, I like to change her cage often and keep her guessing. I change out toys weekly and perches every so often, and do a full cage restructuring every 2-4 months. 🙂 Hope this helps you set up your cages in an enriching and stimulating way as well!
January 16, 2014 § 2 Comments
2014 has only just begun and it already feels like a whirlwind! Goodness, sometimes life can really get in the way. 🙂 Anyway, just a few random updates here with no particular threading holding everything together.
First up, Lola has brand new all-time favorite foot toys! The wonderful Kris Porter of Parrot Enrichment designed some amazing and enticing foot toys, exclusive to Things for Wings. They are awesome! They are perfect for a smaller in shell almond (I usually buy Lola these chunky big kahuna ones because they are much more challenging, but these holes are only 3/4″ I believe, so only smaller ones will fit). I lodged a few inside the foraging holes and let her work away. They drive her nuts because she can’t get the almond out without actually breaking into the wood. It’s one of the few foraging toys that combines both visibility of the treat but also more of a challenge. I have trouble with increasing the difficulty rate of a lot of Lola’s foraging because for her, once it’s out of sight, it’s out of mind. But these give her visual confirmation of a reward, and also make her work much harder for it than a lot of my more simple foraging toys.
On the topic of Things for Wings, we’ve gotten two awesome packages from them in the past month or two, but keep forgetting to take photos. I did snap one of her gorgeous Sunflower Basket, which is both a toy and a forager and a perching area all in one! I’m wondering if it will fit in her cage. I’m planning on rearranging the whole cage soon, though, and will definitely be adding a lot of our new perches (like the Fantastic Foraging Perch or the chunky willow bark foraging perch!) so I will have photos soon. Sabrina also got some cute little toys.
What’s that? More toys? Well, I couldn’t resist placing an order with Oliver’s Garden before they shut down for new year renovations. This one was just a small one but we got some awesome goodies– Lola’s beloved crabby toy, an awesome new lobster toy that has stainless steel hardware to be side-mounted, as well as an awesome hitching post perch for Sabrina and a tiny maple candy toy too. To fit in with Sabrina’s all natural oasis, I switched out the colorful beads below the perches with some natural ones, but it still looks gorgeous. I’m thinking of using it as a foraging platform for her and putting some natural materials in it and maybe some sprinkles of seed or crumplets for her to pick at. I love that she will be able to perch on the small, natural wood perches on the side.
In other news, here’s a photo of a big batch of mixed veggies I made the other day. It had a mix of fresh and dry ingredients: sweet pea shoots, broccoli, kale, bok choy, watercress, coconut, pomegranate, red peppers, carrots, mulberries, mango, goji berries, figs, laver (seaweed), corn, peas, sesame seed, dandelion, and alfalfa. I think that’s everything. For some reason it was still very wet and my attempt to freeze it didn’t pan out well but I’ll keep trying.
November 11, 2013 § 7 Comments
A few posts ago, I summarized a few excellent articles and a DVD on parrot enrichment. (You can read that post here.) Although I included examples in that post, I thought it would be helpful to show how I’ve since integrated what I’ve learned about parrot enrichment into my girls’ lives. I personally felt that the biggest takeaway from my research was just how important foraging is: it covers four out of the five major categories (occupational, physical, sensory, and nutritional) and is a natural behavior that all birds exhibit in the wild. So I have begun integrating as many foraging opportunities as possible for my two, making sure to switch them up and to keep them guessing.
There is a myriad of excellent information about foraging on the web, and tons of sites with fantastic ideas. My ideas draw from many of them, and are only a drop in the bucket compared to just how many brilliant ideas there are out there. But I try to focus on natural materials, and easier foraging opportunities. My parrots are beginning foragers, and foraging is a particular challenge with a bird as tiny as Sabrina is, so these are the few foraging tips that I’ve decided to implement for right now. Those with more advanced parrots will probably not find this entry particularly illuminating, but if you are getting started with foraging or just looking for different, easy tips to expand your foraging repertoire, I hope this helps!
Some of the easiest foraging toys involve simply adding paper. The first thing I’ve started doing with Lola is simply putting some paper on top of her food bowls, and securing it with a little masking tape. I use natural Kraft paper and Japanese washi tape. (As a side note, I find Japanese washi tape particularly useful because it is reusable, and also because you can find it in about a billion colors and prints and patterns! To go with my natural theme, I use natural tones [browns, tans, dark leafy greens] and a wood grain washi tape.) It costs next to nothing and it takes about two seconds, so there’s no excuse not to do it– except that Lola absolutely doesn’t get it. For some reason, she doesn’t understand what in the world she is supposed to do. I can lift up the paper a million times to show her the food underneath it, but once I re-secure the paper, she stares at me like, “Well?? Where’s my food? What am I supposed to do with this?” She even walked on top of the paper across the bowl and looked under the bowl as if the food was hiding from her. Silly bird. I’ll keep trying 🙂 This is something I really want her to learn how to do because it’s one of the only ways I can think of to combine her fresh foods plus foraging.
In fact, there’s an entire world of foraging ideas out there that just use paper. An assortment of some of the things I use is photographed above: mini kraft paper boxes, tiny tiny kraft paper bags, slightly larger kraft paper bags, one of my rolls of washi tape, and natural mini cupcake liners. The possibilities are endless. For an incredibly easy fix, wrap treats, squares of bird bread, or anything else in cupcake liners or dixie cups. If I hand Lola any nut wrapped up in a cupcake liner or a dixie cup, she knows exactly what to do, and she wastes no time getting to it.
Another thing I absolutely love are these tiny little 2.5″ x 4″ kraft paper bags. They perfectly fit most in shell nuts and are adorable! I wrapped one up and secured it with some thin leather cord, and Lola loved it. The paper is actually a little bit thicker than most kraft paper bags, so it makes for a good treat wrapper. My good friend at Avian Avenue made a post about these bags and I have been obsessed ever since. (Actually, a lot of these ideas are things that she came up with first!! She is a truly inspirational parrot owner and has endless ideas for foraging toys and enrichment. The paper wrapped toy below is an original of hers, and I only found out about washi tape because of her as well.)
I buy all sizes of kraft paper bags now, and they are so versatile and easy to use. With a slightly larger bag, you can fill it up with any assortment of treats or foot toys or anything else and just hang it up in the cage. It’s like a parrot pinata and by changing the contents with each bag, you’ll keep your parrot guessing. (And again, it’s something that takes about 5 seconds and costs very little!)
But you don’t only have to use kraft paper bags as bags. I have some larger ones around 9″ long and I will cut them in half (so that they’re two detached sheets rather than a bag) and use them to create this paper wrapped foraging toy. In each section, there’s a treat: in this one, an almond, a hazelnut, and a dried cranberry. I am going to hang this up in Lola’s cage and she’ll have to forage her way to treat-dom. You can make even longer or shorter versions of it, or put anything you can dream up in each pocket.
Those paper boxes are also great. I put them together and poke holes through to skewer them (see the toy on the right in the above photo), but I am also going to try to side mount one with some stainless steel hardware. Above the cardboard box in the photo is a little wooden treat box that opens. There’s another super simple idea. You can find little wooden treat boxes or cups like this at most craft stores, or you can buy them online. I purchased this one from Things for Wings, where Danita is kind enough to drill holes through them, or add some stainless steel hardware to make a side-mounted foraging cup like Lola has in her cage. And on top of that there is a vine ball, which has endless possibilities (more on vine balls below).
In the center of the above photo is actually a deconstructed toy that I skewered. It’s actually a Planet Pleasures two that’s much larger (has two of those coconut feeders) and comes on a long piece of metal chain. I’m not a big fan of chain and I don’t use any non-stainless steel metals, plus the toy was ginormous, so I took the toy apart and made a smaller, skewered version. I actually really love the parts to this toy because aside from being made from great natural materials (just bamboo and coconut shells), it’s an awesome foraging feeder that requires Lola to stick her head in the coconut hole, but the upper coconut piece actually moves along the skewer and can be lifted up, so that there is no chance of her getting her head stuck. With a lot of the foraging toys out there that consist of a wood, bamboo, coconut, plastic, etc. base with a hole in it, you must be very careful to make sure that it is properly sized for your parrot and that your parrot won’t get his or her head stuck in it while busy foraging. This one bears no such risk and I think it’s a great toy. Plus the bowl is very generously sized, and is a great alternative to just putting a seed mix or pellets in a normal bowl everyday.
Finally, on the left in the photo up above is another toy that I deconstructed and made my own. I actually don’t know the name of this toy or the brand, but in store it comes with a bunch of dyed parts and other things stuffed inside the cardboard peanut base and attached to it elsewhere. I took all of that stuff off and skewered the cardboard peanut. I’m going to stuff it with some paper and other materials, and use it as a treat cage.
One more awesome foraging material: skewers! Skewers are so easy to use, and they’re reusable, and they make the perfect safe toy base for any size bird. Unlike rope or cord or chain, there’s no chance of a skewer getting tangled around your bird’s neck or toes, and they are great for toys or simply for skewering fresh veggies or food.
Now back to vine balls. Vine balls area amazing. Strangely, I didn’t know this until I ordered this very cool toy from Things for Wings called the Cornucopia. Lola has always been such a wood chipper and has never really taken to shredding, so I had really stopped buying toys with vine balls or using them on my DIY toys. I’m not sure what possessed me to buy this toy– probably how cute it is– but it’s awesome. It’s a whole bunch of delectable parts in a basket (which is yet another great foraging toy part), which Lola loved to begin with, but she truly went nuts for it when I finally thought of putting treats inside the vine balls. Not only did it turn her on to a new toy part to play with, but it also got her exploring a lot more. I would put treats in some of the vine balls on some days, other vine balls on other days, and sometimes nothing, but every single day, she checked the entire toy without fail. And the more I introduced vine balls in other toys, she did the same thing. One of the best things about foraging is that when your parrot learns that there could be treats lurking in anything, they are way more willing to try new toys and to dive right in, and they are willing to go to different parts of the cage to explore and find them!
For example, once she learned that vine balls could contain treats, she would seek them out wherever she could. I threw together this ugly skewered vine ball and wood toy in about 10 seconds, and it kept her busy for hours. She could chip away at the wood and she could break for snack time, all from one spot.
Here’s another easy peasy foraging toy using a vine ball. This one’s also got a plastic cup and a little foraging box too, but it was still a breeze to make. With plastic cups nowadays I will usually wrap the treat in paper first (like one of those mini paper bags or mini cupcake liners), unless I know the plastic is food safe.
Those little boxes are really great resources as well. A lot of bird toy stores carry little boxes or containers in all shapes and sizes, made out of great shreddable material. These are just a few examples.
Stick them on a skewer, and suddenly you have a new toy! Lola loves this one in particular for some reason, and it’s really funny to watch her stick her whole head and half her body into this toy to fish out one measly sunflower seed. She pretty much always has some variation of this toy in her cage, and she forages for all sorts of dry foods out of it.
Similarly, natural baskets make great foraging toys. You can skewer them, hang them, or side mount them, and throw some stuff in there. Alternatively they also make great foot toy buckets.
In the same vein, little shreddable bags also make great foraging toys, in particular for the little guys. I often find it challenging to create foraging opportunities for Sabrina, but this is one of her favorites. If I stick natural items or treats or anything into a little shopping bag like this one, Sabrina will go in and fish it right out. She loves these little bags and has gone through a ton of them. This one in particular is from Things for Wings. Be careful about the handles when using them and make sure they are either too small for your bird to get his head through, or large enough for him to get his whole body through. If they are somewhere in between, I’d snip the handles.
Soft woods make awesome foraging toys. Just like the balsa wood toy on the right from I Got a Woody, I often take all sorts of soft wood and push little treats into them to embed them in the wood. It will get your bird foraging but it’ll also help get them started destroying their toys and playing more. I do this with yucca and cork as well, as they are both very soft and great for embedding sunflower seeds or pine nuts. Mother Pluckin’ Bird Toys carries corks in all sizes, but they also carry jumbo size ones I haven’t seen anywhere else that make awesome foot toys. Loofah is another cool toy part that also makes a great foraging base.
Soft woods are great for embedded treats, but hard woods can do the trick too! The wooden block toy above is an awesome (and actually very cost effective toy) from Kris Porter called the Fantastic Foraging Block. (They also happen to be on sale right now!) As you can see above, you can stick hole veggies in the holes (like I did with the carrot tops), or you can put pieces of them in the slats (like I did with the actual carrot). Another great choice is are the wood toys from Parrot’s Treasure. I’m sure if you were handy with a drill, you could also make some awesome ones on your own.
Don’t get me wrong– I’m absolutely not handy with a drill. But if you’re like me, you can still buy the parts for cheap and with a little patience, turn them into really cool toys! Here are three toys that I’m extra proud of. The one on top has a longer channel in it and three big hole openings, but you can make them more challenging by tying leather cord in them like I did so that the treats don’t just fall out and require some manipulation. Below that, the middle toy has a ton of fun wood to chew and destroy, but also holes embedded in the center blocks for treats. And finally, the one below it has two long foraging tubes that also have leather strips in front of the holes to make them more challenging. Notice that all three of them are based on my trusty stainless steel skewers as well!
My masterpiece is the DIY bridge / ladder swing above, which also marked my official retirement from DIY toys. (Just kidding. Sort of. I don’t take anything ambitious on anymore, at least.) But this is a really cool project, and I even managed to slip some foraging opportunities in there for Lola while she’s hanging out and swinging.
But there’s so much more. I recently mentioned the acrylic drawer toys from Parrot Island Inc. Still love ’em! They do admittedly require more of an upfront investment, but they are so well made that I am sure they’ll last forever. Another easy toy to make yourself: a measuring cup or stainless steel spoon toy. You can use what you already have, or buy a cheap set from the store. I also recently purchased some paper straws, which I’ve seen really cool toys made out of. I haven’t gotten them yet but will post some ideas once I receive them and figure out how to make something. Another thing I’m working on is creating foraging trays for my guys, both Lola and Sabrina. They’ll be wooden trays and I’ll fill them up with wood pieces, fresh branches and leaves, and other foraging material, and hidden will be some seeds, nuts, etc. that they will forage for. It’s a similar idea to creating a foraging food mix rather than just a dry food mix, which I’ve seen some manufacturers actually create now. I first learned about it here (a really cool link!).
Well, that’s all I’ve got for now, until my guys advance to more difficult foraging tasks. I hope this has given you some ideas. For me, the key thing is to keep them guessing and keep changing it up! You might have noticed that Lola has about a billion different types of “bowls” in her cage: three food bowls, two foraging bowls, a coconut cup (will post about that soon), skewered boxes that serve as food bowls, acrylic drawers, a stainless steel toy bucket, etc. (Yes, Sabrina has a ton too.) They’re never all full at once, but she knows that I might put food or treats in any of them on any given day, so she checks them all. This keeps her busy and hunting around for food– foraging! It’s all about keeping her mind and body busy, and keeping her enriched.