Updated: Sep 11, 2022
Written by: Georgia Kerr, MSc
Do you and your parrot have a ‘love/hate’ relationship? Perhaps you’ve just acquired them and want to start off on the right 'wing'? Maybe you are just looking for fun ways to interact with your parrot that isn't just training or 'cuddling'.... Here is some neat and simple ways to build a strong relationship with your parrot companion.
What you will need:- 1) Tasty treats (test out which ones your parrot eats first when offered a selection of different seeds / nuts or fruits) Here’s a few of my favourites:- o Pine nuts o Millet spray o Hulled sunflower seeds o Cashews o Walnuts o Apple juice in a syringe (for nectar eaters) 2) Newspaper and some paper bags or other enrichment items. The Parrot Life Shop has some nice options for enrichment and puzzle toys - https://www.parrotlife.com.au/shop 3) 1 x D cup feeder - similar to this one - https://www.petandgarden.com.au/bird-feeders-waterers/523- d-cup-feeders-small-2-pack.html 4) Your bird 5) Patience and FUN!
Game #1 - The Snack Magician This one is an awesome little game for those who want to start off on the right foot, or those who have a parrot that is a little cautious of humans. This game can be used with hand raised or tame parrots, but is also a great one for those less inclined to want to hang out with humans (aviary birds, rescues etc).
*Consult your nearest Parrot Life Behaviour Consultant, if your bird is overly fearful of any approach from people – these parrots need some more help than these games can give. Being the snack magician, it is your duty to prepare yourself to drop a tasty treat into a D cup feeder or your birds bowl. As you walk past your parrots cage or aviary drop a treat into the bowl...then keep walking. Simple!
Try this game at random intervals during the day. Keeping a small jar handy on the bench works well and helps to avoid the dreaded seed festival in the washing machine later in the week. What we are practicing with this exercise is building a positive association with a human approaching or moving around our parrot’s environment. Very quickly we become the signal that good things are going to happen! Kind of like that person at work who always shouts us coffee!
Game #2 - Pay your parrot This next game is a progression on ‘Snack Magician’, so try that one first, until your parrot is happy with your approach and runs to meet you at the D cup. Approach the cage as you normally would, to give a magic snack. Although this time, rather than walking away, stay at the D cup and feed your parrot multiple treats - one after the other - for staying with you. This game helps to teach your parrot that hanging out with you and staying engaged, is FUN & worthwhile for them. This is also a fun little pre-cursor game for teaching your parrot to be engaged with you for future training sessions. Repeat a few times a week and you’ll most likely notice your bird wanting to hang out with you for longer periods.
Game #3 - Secret Squirrel For this game you will need to have prepared in advance a minimum of 2-3 small enrichment items (you want them to be relatively quick to finish) some example might be:
Paper lunch bag rolled up with a treat inside
Carboard roll or box with treats inside
This game is best set up while your bird is busy doing something else in their environment. My go to is when they are busy eating a small portion of their breakfast first thing in the morning.
Place your enrichment items in hard to find places in the aviary / cage.
Wait for them to finish their breakfast.
Call them over and begin 'searching' for your first item together! Have fun and get excited when you and your bird 'find' the parcels! (Imagine you've found buried treasure!)
Once you’ve found the first one together – move onto the next few items until you have found them all.
Play this game regularly and gradually make the parcels harder to find or more spread out around your parrots play spaces!
Tip - this is also a great way to build some value back into tired, old toys! Hide the parcels in the toys and you will find your parrot enjoying them again!
Game #4 - Confidence Challenge
This game is best played with parrots who aren't overly afraid of new perches / items in their cage / play spaces. Always check that your parrot is comfortable with you making changes before doing so. This game is about building confidence with novel objects.
Head on out for a walk and collect some safe, fun, new perches, native pods or browse. Check for wild bird poop and bugs before bringing it home!
Set your new perches / browse up either in your birds cage or play areas. Keep in mind your parrot's comfort levels, set them up where your bird is not going to be spooked by them.
Once you have your new items set up, encourage your parrot to come and check them out. You can do this by pretending you are excited about the new objects - play with them and make a big deal! Whenever your parrot approaches / gets a bit closer reinforce them with some favoured treats. Once your parrot is happy to approach these new objects you can begin to explore them together and pair them with fun things such as the 'Secret Squirrel' game and other foraging activities (hint: drilling small holes in new perches and popping small bits of favoured food into them is a great foraging activity). Playing this game will help your parrot learn to feel comfortable around novel items in their environment, eventually your parrot will be eager to explore new items you bring home before you even get a chance to play!
Have a fun game you like to play with your parrot? Tell us in the comments!