By: Association of Avian Veterinarians (AAV), 2005. Printed with permission.
Visual and physical stimulation is important in a bird's life. One of the easiest things to provide for a bird is a clean environment. Take time each day to provide clean food and water in clean dishes, change or clean the floor substrate, and change or clean soiled cage items.
Unsalted Nuts can be toys as well as snacks for larger psittacines. Burying the nuts in dixie cups or hiding them in a covered dish is an excellent way to stimulate your bird mentally and to encourage normal foraging behavior.
Toys provide activity involving the beak and feet and give the bird distraction from boredom. Many toys are available from stores and many can be made or improvised at home. If toys are purchased, check to be sure that they cannot be broken by the bird. Some toys, such as wood objects, are designed to be chewed apart by the bird, but birds should not be able to beak plastic or glass into shards.
Some toys for smaller birds, such as lories or conures or the small cockatoos, include tennis ball, wood block or beads, sections of heavy nautical rope (natural fiber) tied into knots, and short lengths of PVC pipe that the bird can either climb into (larger) or carry around (smaller). Large birds, such as macaws and cockatoos, need heavy-duty toys that either cannot be shredded or shredded safely. Some birds, such as Lories, will play in a paper bag, and most birds will get hours of enjoyment from bottle caps and kitchen utensils. Keep enough toys so they can be altered and washed often.
Toys to Avoid include breakable plastic toys, toys that contain lead weights, lead glass, fibrous synthetic material such as pieces of looped nylon carpet or nylon yarn, and toys with openings where the bird can become trapped or get a foot or neck or beak stuck in it.
Food and Natural Toys are ideal. Fresh nutshells, (walnut, coconut, Brazil nut) are excellent.
The list of foods that provide interest, taste and nutrition, is varied and the foods are easy to obtain. Granola cereals, fresh corn-on-the-cob with the part of the husk left on (for chewing), oranges, bones from your dinner, peas in the pod, fresh broccoli, and popcorn (no salt, no butter) are just a few. Anything that your bird can open and eat, or not tear up and still play with without danger, is entertainment. Junk or salted foods, chocolate, alcohol, or sugar (candy) should not be offered at any time. Tearing up a pinecone will provide beak and foot exercise.
Socialization is important in preventing boredom. Pet birds should be included in the family unit. If the bird is tame and not afraid of noises such as vacuum cleaners, taking the bird from room to room on a freestanding perch while you perform household chores can be a social event. Some owners take their birds to work with them.
Play and time outside of the cage can be an important daily activity. Give pet birds time each day for individual attention. If the bird can safely come out of the cage, time on the playpen is beneficial. Most playpens have areas for climbing and swinging. Wood or rope ladders, swings, and dangling articles such as keys all make interesting toys. Be sure that he bird is supervised when it is outside of its cage and not permitted to climb onto cages of the other birds or have access to household dangers such as toxic plants, lead or toxic items (i.e., leaded glass, window putty).
Use a cage that can be seat-belted into the car so the bird can see out of the window and take the bird with you on short trips. Do not permit the bird freedom in a moving car. Do not leave a bird alone in a car during the day.
Other socialization: Taking your pet bird into the shower with you every morning or once a week provides socialization, entertainment, and encourages normal bathing behavior. Shower perches are available commercially. Bathing is a popular social event for birds, and they need the baths. Many birds that develop self-mutilation habits or feather destructive behaviors have been helped by daily bathing.
Visual stimulation is important if the bird is left alone for long periods. Place the cage by a window. Be sure there is no direct sunlight on the cage during the day, or that there are places in the cage that are always shaded. If there is no perception of threat on the bird's part, you can also place other birds' cages nearby so they can see each other. Do not place raptors next to other species. Pet birds, however, can usually be placed side by side as long as they can't reach into each other's cages. Many birds enjoy the company of other similar species (such as Pionus with Amazons), but check for compatibility. Bonded pairs may not benefit from being placed near other birds.
Auditory stimulation is also important. CDs, radio, or TV can provide sound for the bird(s). Nature tapes with the bird and forest noises are popular.
The things that make a bird's life more interesting and rewarding are easy for most people to provide. We are responsible for their lives and we need to meet that responsibility.