Enrichment for birds in a shelter

by Sharon Kutsop

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It’s not usual for birds to find their way into a shelter or rescue. If you find a bird in your care, here are some quick tips for enrichment.

Captive birds have special needs, some of which can be overlooked. They no longer have the freedom to make the everyday choices they would outside of a controlled environment. Instead, they eat what they are fed and how they are fed it, play with the toys they are given and befriend those who are placed near them. In the wild, the senses of a bird are constantly being stimulated by sounds, sight, free movement and foraging for food. In a shelter, as the bird is awaiting its permanent home, these basic needs are restricted both out of necessity and for safety purposes.

Racket the Conure from CA1694 Parrot Education and Adoption Center

Racket is a fun-loving Conure

There are some simple things which can be done for a bird whose temporary home is a shelter. Chewing is an important and natural activity used to maintain beak health, so make sure any bird in your shelter has safe toys and chewing options. They are smart and inquisitive creatures, so be sure to give plenty of variety in toys so they don’t get bored. A bored bird can be dangerous to itself by plucking feathers and forming other self destructive habits. Hanging a small mirror next to it can give the illusion that it is not alone, and provide some level of comfort.

Think of how colorful many birds are. This can lead us to believe that birds appreciate color. If you have a colorful room or posters you can hang nearby, give it a try and pay attention to their reaction. If you have a gym they can use, move it around to give them new views (if you have more than one safe place in the building for them to play in). New and interesting views can help keep birds engaged. And you know those DVDs made for dogs and cats? They make them for birds too! If you have a small tv with a DVD player, you can try using it to entertain your new feathered friend while the staff is busy with other animals. You should also research the type of bird you have in your care. Birds are typically flock animals, so spend some time with them. Try putting them in an area where they either interact with other birds or people often, but of course pay attention to their particular personalities when making these choices so they do not become overwhelmed in situations that are meant to be enriching their stay.

Ozzy and Sharon

Always remember that there are wonderful bird organizations out there. You can find them on Petfinder and contact them for advice or assistance with placing a winged friend in need. You can also follow this link to find some more information on bird behavior and care.