Updated: Apr 4
A common complaint amongst companion bird owners is the mess! Between enclosure cleaning, poop, feathers and food waste, there is multiple hygiene practices we must undertake to ensure a high level of care.
Whilst conducting our Parrot Life in-home or online consultations, we often hear about food and
water bowls being flipped, causing a great deal of noise, food wastage, and additional clean up. This flipping can be initiated by a combination of:
Excess food portions
Lack of stimulus
Attention seeking behaviour
How do we change this?
The claps or holders used for food and water may not be secure enough to withstand intense movements. These movements can potentially be actions such as our bird bathing, balancing on them to access toys and activities, or used as perches.
A simple change of bowl attachment style, (quick lock, clasps, rungs) may provide additional stability. If purchasing a new bowl type, upgrading the size can assist in limiting its ability to be flipped over, using the extra weight to our advantage.
Another consideration is the age and make of the current bowls. Warping or wearing down may have occurred, requiring a new set to be purchased if unable to be repaired.
Secondly, we need to assess our birds diet. Are we feeding a species appropriate diet, ( commonly pellet with fresh vegetables and minimal fruit), in the correct amounts?
Are we keeping seeds and nuts out of the main diet, and saving them for foraging and training activities?
Rule of thumb is that a small amount of pellet or seed should be remaining at the end of each day, and topped up each morning. If more than this is left over, we are over feeding and this should be scaled back.
Flipping the bowls within the aviary or enclosure can be extremely fun and challenging! Our birds brains are always working, and figuring out how to dislodge bowls from their holders or stands is a disruptive challenge which can bring them great entertainment.
Gradually decreasing the ratio of food offered in a bowl and increasing the amount provided in stimulating activities is simple way to decrease the undesirable behaviour.
No food in bowl = no bowl to flip!
Stimulating activities should start off easy, at our birds current skill level. As they become more confident and adept at this, we will create more challenges. These challenges should be upgraded in small approximations, to allow our birds the best chance at success in retrieving all items from their activities.
Mentally and physically stimulating foraging activities can include:
sea grass mats
Check out our Facebook group "A Parrot's Life" for more ideas!
It is important to remember that our bird may need to be taught how to forage and interact with these items. Ideally they are confident with the activities at hand prior to transitioning onto foraging based feeding. You can find a series of introduction to foraging tray videos on our facebook page, starting with this one "Foraging Tray Introductions' our Facebook page also has many other foraging ideas! Fresh vegetables and fruit will spoil quickly, and should not be left out for an extended period. This can be offered in an easily cleaned activity, or in a bowl. As we progressively change the diet and stimulation available, you should ideally see a reduction in the undesirable flipping behaviour.
Think back to the last time a bowl was flipped inside your home. It was most likely loud, disruptive and gained the focus of everyone in ear shot. When hearing a crash, you will look straight at the cause, to assess what has happened. This means we have looked straight at our bird after they have done this action, earning them reinforcement for it!
If it has worked before…. Why not again?
Noting down time of day, what is happening in the environment and any other details will provide key information about why this is happening. Once a pattern is established, we can implement changes such as those listed above to assist in managing and changing this undesirable behaviour.
Pre-emptively offering interactive foraging items or fun toys before we partake in those previously triggering events is a must. This allows a positive outlet for their energy, with their focus on the fun item we have provided!
Part of this process will be to ignore it in real time, if it still occurs after implementing the changes listed above. When the bowl flipping has ended, mark and reward a better behaviour.
This could be as simple as they have stepped away from the bowl, moved onto a perch, or making happy vocalisations, building up the duration of our ideal or better activity.
Long term maintenance of these behavioural modifications will require:
remaining consistent with correct dietary intakes
providing various foraging activities in rotation, to keep them interesting
reinforcing ideal behaviours, to see them more often
assessing the current bowls on hand
The completion of these factors should allow for a easier clean up for our birds human slaves, alongside mentally and physically happier birds.