Get That Parrot Playing!A Phoenix Landing PresentationByLaura Ford
“Play” is a group of activitiesthat our Companion Parrotsdo in our homes that replacethe natural activities thatwould occupy the day of wildparrots. These activities arenot frivolous, optionalthings, but are critical to themental, emotional and evenphysical health of ourcompanion parrots.What Is Play?
Life of Parrots in the WildSearch for Food & WaterEvading PredatorsBathing and PreeningSocial Interaction withthe FlockChoosing a MateFinding nesting sitesRaising ChicksFlying, Flying, Flying
Certainly we do not want to recreate for our companion parrots all ofthe activities of wild parrots, such as the need to evade predators, ormating, nesting & raising chicks.What we do want toencourage are thenatural activities that areoften called play;preening, snuggling orbattling toys, exploring,manipulating, chewing,foraging,socializing with the flock(avian & human).Why is Play Important?
Play require parrots to beactive, to use their bodies andtheir minds, which helps keepparrots physically andintellectually healthy.Physical and mental activitystimulate the release ofendorphins, which help keepparrots happy.Why is Play Important?
Temple Grandin, Ph.D.Animals Make Us Human…Creating the Best Life for Animals“A good life requires 3 things, Health, Freedomfrom pain and negative emotions, Lots ofactivities that turn on PLAY and SEEKING”Dr. Grandin explains how Seeking is a core emotion for animals (andpeople) and defines it as the basic impulse to search, investigate, andmake sense of the environment.Why is Play Important?
Although, through this presentation we are using the word “play”, in myhome, we call these activities “work”, it is our parrots’ job chew-up /interact with their “toys”.Toy are really the tools for a parrot to do their job. It is our responsibility toprovide our parrots the tools and the skills they need to do their jobs.The Job of Play
Play StylesA Practical Parrot Guide Parrot-Toys & Play Areas:How to Put Some Fun Into your Parrot’s Lifeby Carol S. D’Arezzo and Lauren Shannon-NunnHigh EnergyParrots that are always on the moveMay or may not be serious chewersTend to be rambunctious and sometimes mischievousThey like to do battle with their toys
Play StylesA Practical Parrot Guide Parrot-Toys & Play Areas:How to Put Some Fun Into your Parrot’s Lifeby Carol S. D’Arezzo and Lauren Shannon-NunnLow energyThese are the parrotsthat are perch potatoesPeaceful and sedateTend to be more detail-orientedSome are heavy chewers, many are notPrefer to have toys within easy reach, andmay not go out of their way toreach a distant toyThey often prefer toys to preen and weave,puzzles that requireconcentration, softer destructible toysand toys with multiple textures
Play StylesA Practical Parrot Guide Parrot-Toys & Play Areas:How to Put Some Fun Into your Parrot’s Lifeby Carol S. D’Arezzo and Lauren Shannon-NunnManipulatorsParrots that loves to take things apartDisassemble their toys, their cages andgymsAccomplished escape artistsSatisfaction from unscrewing the quicklink that holds up a toy andwatching the toy fall to thebottom of the cage with a satisfyingcrash
Play StylesA Practical Parrot Guide Parrot-Toys & Play Areas:How to Put Some Fun Into your Parrot’s Lifeby Carol S. D’Arezzo and Lauren Shannon-NunnBuzz SawsParrots that need wood and plenty of itBeak-oriented and need a constant supplyof things to chewWill often destroy their perchesDestructive nature can be challengingLarger buzz saws enjoy the challenge ofhard wood toys
Play StylesA Practical Parrot Guide Parrot-Toys & Play Areas:How to Put Some Fun Into your Parrot’s Lifeby Carol S. D’Arezzo and Lauren Shannon-NunnWeaversArtistic typesCan spend hours weaving things in and out of plastic chain links or through cagebarsThey like to stuff things into tiny holes in other toysStrands of sea grass, palm fronds, raffia, ribbon, leather or jute provide endless funfor weaving and preening
Play StylesA Practical Parrot Guide Parrot-Toys & Play Areas:How to Put Some Fun Into your Parrot’s Lifeby Carol S. D’Arezzo and Lauren Shannon-NunnGatherersThis type of parrot likes to collectthings like: Bits of toys,foot toys, foodSome pile up their collection andsome hide their treasures insideother things in their cage
Play StylesA Practical Parrot Guide Parrot-Toys & Play Areas:How to Put Some Fun Into your Parrot’s Lifeby Carol S. D’Arezzo and Lauren Shannon-NunnAcrobatsThese are the clowns ofparrotsEnjoy hanging by a toenailthan standing on two feetLike lying on their backs or even standing on theirheadsSwings, hanging rope orchain, andbungees/boingsare favoritesfor these guys
Play StylesA Practical Parrot Guide Parrot-Toys & Play Areas:How to Put Some Fun Into your Parrot’s Lifeby Carol S. D’Arezzo and Lauren Shannon-NunnHide and SeekersParrot that peers out at youfrom their secret spotLike their own private hideawaylike huts and tubes
Play StylesA Practical Parrot Guide Parrot-Toys & Play Areas:How to Put Some Fun Into your Parrot’s Lifeby Carol S. D’Arezzo and Lauren Shannon-NunnCompanionsParrots that substitute toys for acage-mate rather than somethingto chew up/destroyRarely destroy their toys, butsnuggles next to them
Toy CategoriesA Practical Parrot Guide Parrot-Toys & Play Areas:How to Put Some Fun Into your Parrot’s Lifeby Carol S. D’Arezzo and Lauren Shannon-NunnDestructible toys provide your parrot with:An outlet to express the natural urge tochewEncourages and teaches your parrot tochew on acceptable items, saveshousehold itemsDestructible toys can be:Wooden, Shreddable, Plastic, Baskets, Paper, or Cardboard
Toy CategoriesA Practical Parrot Guide Parrot-Toys & Play Areas:How to Put Some Fun Into your Parrot’s Lifeby Carol S. D’Arezzo and Lauren Shannon-NunnComfort toys provide your parrot with:A sense of securityA safe place to hide and sleepComfort toys can be:Tents, Rings, SwingsComfort toys can be soft, furry pieces ofmaterial that your parrots can cuddleand preen
Toy CategoriesA Practical Parrot Guide Parrot-Toys & Play Areas:How to Put Some Fun Into your Parrot’s Lifeby Carol S. D’Arezzo and Lauren Shannon-NunnIf your parrot likes to undolocks and escape from it’scage, you should try someInteractive toysStainless steel nuts and bolts are great and simpleManipulative toysA lot of interactive toys for human babies/smallchildren have sound – parrots love soundThese could be any baby type toysDifferent type parrot safe puzzles
Toy CategoriesA Practical Parrot Guide Parrot-Toys & Play Areas:How to Put Some Fun Into your Parrot’s Lifeby Carol S. D’Arezzo and Lauren Shannon-NunnForaging means to search for somedesirable item, usually for food.There are many commercially madeforaging toys available to buy.When making your own foragingtoys, incorporate food items, such aspasta, ice cream cones, or rounds of melbatoast, dehydrated fruits or vegetables, andbird muffins, as toy parts.Or include containers, such ascups, bowls, baskets or buckets in theconstruction of the toy, which treats can
Toy CategoriesA Practical Parrot Guide Parrot-Toys & Play Areas:How to Put Some Fun Into your Parrot’s Lifeby Carol S. D’Arezzo and Lauren Shannon-NunnA Foot Toy is any toy or toy part that canbe picked up and held in the foot.Many toys will fall into more than onecategory.
Safety ConsiderationsNo toy is 100% safe!Some birds may ingest wood or plastic or fabricSome birds like to wrap toys around their necks, make sure any ropesor chains are short enough they can not strangle themselves.Check to make sure there are no parts that your bird could becomeentangled in, chains or rings that are either too small for afoot or head, or well large enough to not get stuck in.Trim any frayed strings that could get wrapped around a toe.Make sure quick links are closed.
Location MattersSome toys are not safe to leave your birdalone with, but are fine when you are closeby and can supervise.Safety Considerations
Why Make Your Own Toys?Commercially availabletoys that are affordableare usually very lowquality, and good toys tendto be expensive.When you make your owntoys, you can make safehigh quality toys at areasonable price. Thissaves money, which meansyou can make moretoys, for your birds, to giveto friends’ birds, or donateto parrot rescue groups.
Why Make Your Own Toys?You can customize toys for your bird. Startwith materials they already like and add newvarieties of material, texture, color andshape. Pairing familiar material with novelones allows even birds who are fearful ofnew things to slowly learn to enjoy exploringnew items.
Why Make Your Own Toys?Allowing your bird to watch youwhile you build a toy forthem, watch you handle and playwith the parts so they see thatthere is no danger, watch youthreading, tying, constructing partsmay peek their curiosity andencourage them to try anddeconstruct the toy, or at leasttouch it, which is a good start.
Getting Started Making ToysTo start you really only need to be able to usescissors, tweezers, thread things on rope, and tie knots. Asyou gain more confidence you will probably want to learn touse power tools, like saws and drills. If you ask around you willprobably findsomeone, spouse, sibling, parent, friend, neighbor, or co-worker who has some tool experience and would be willing tohelp, or if not, most larger stores that sell tools will havesomeone on staff to show you how to use them, and mayeven have classes you can take.Choose a small box to keep all your toysmaking tools together.Start with scissors, needle nose pliersand/or tweezers.Add wire cutters, blunt pliers, leatherpunch, hand held drill or Drimmel
Creativity Can Be Borrowed!I have taken much inspiration overthe years from Kris Porter and herParrot Enrichment website, freebooks, and now blog and facebookpage.Share toy making ideas with friendsJoin online groups such asThe Parrot’s Workshop
Creativity Can Be Borrowed!When I see a cool toy at an event or on a website, I will often buyone and use it as a template, to see how it’s constructed, formaking something similar myself. (As I am not selling these toys or trying to passthem off as originals, I don’t think I’m in violation of any copyrights laws.)The more toys you make, the more you will find yourself thinking ofsubstitute parts, how to recombine elements, until you are comingup with your own unique ideas.
Rebuilding ToysQuite often a parrot will become bored with a toy long before it has beencompletely destroyed.Even more importantly, a toy may become dangerous as parts have beenchewed away, leaving ropes or chains that can be an entanglement hazard.When this happens, remove the toy from the cage. Remove and discardany dangerous parts, discard or clean any soiled parts.Remaining parts can be used for re building or building a new toy.
Make MultiplesHenry Ford taught the world that the key to productivity is an assemblyline. This is as true for bird toys as it is for cars. When I make toy I rarelymake just one of anything. I usually make between 6 to 20 of a given toy ata time, depending on the quantity of materials I have on hand. Repeatingeach step with each toy, one at a time, so all toys are at the same stage atany given time. This way the movements become more automatic, withless thought and concentration required, so it goes pretty fast.
Make MultiplesFor those birds who find comfort in the familiar, this can be very helpful ifyou have made multiples of a toy (which will all have minor differences, which we may notsee, but the bird will) it will be easy for you to replace them when needed, andthis teaches your bird to be comfortable minor variances.
Multi Textural ToysIf you are unsure of what kind of materials your bird may prefer, try making somemulti- textural toys.You can combine a variety of ropes & leather, different types of woods, wicker, papersor other types of shreddables, plastics, beads, metal, and fabric. And watch what yourbird chooses to interact with first.These are great toys for teaching your parrot to interact with new materialstoo, mixing new items with things you already know are your bird’s favorites.
Just Add FoodAdding food and foraging into toys is one of the simplestways to get your bird to engage with a toy. Allow your birdto watch your place favorite treats into a toy.
Introducing ToysSome parrots may need to watch a toy for a while to be sure its safe beforeinteracting with it. For those birds place new toys across the room from theircage, gradually moving it closer as the bird becomes comfortable, then hang onthe outside of the cage, before moving it into the cage.I have a friend who has built a toy display/storagerack in their bird room, where new toys are keptwithin sight until needed.
Training to Play(The Power of Positive Reinforcement)Positive Reinforcement Training, sometimes also known as ClickerTraining, can be used to teach any behavior, including Play.“Shaping” is a series of small behavior changes. Start with rewarding aparrot for looking at a toy, leaning toward a toy, moving toward a toy,touching a toy, and finally playing with a toy.“Targeting” can also used, have the bird touch the end of a target for areward, and follow the target to the toy and touch and play with thetoy.
Training AS PlayThe act of training itself can become play. It gives you and your bird the opportunity to havepositive social interactions and build a healthy relationship. Anyone who has ever trained eventhe simplest behavior to a bird will tell you the joy and excitement that a bird displays once atask is mastered.“It gives all the control to the bird. They get to choose what they want to do. We don’t forceanything. We don’t insist on anything. It is all up to the bird. It is totally his choice whether ornot he does a behavior. He discovers he controls you, the very dependable click and treatmachine. The realization that he is in control of all good things that flow gives a bird confidence.Shy birds get bolder and try new ways to make the click and treat happen. It becomes a gamethe bird really enjoys and you are his partner in training. I never tame a bird, I just teach himStupid Parlor Tricks and very shortly he is tame.” Message posted on Bird-Click Yahoo group, Wendy Jeffries.
ResourcesDownload the activity books at:http://parrotenrichment.comPrevious Phoenix Landing Classes:Clicker Training for Parrots Workshop, by Melanie Phunghttp://bestinflock.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/clicker-training-for-birds-workshop/Toy Making Made Easy, by Laura Fordhttp://abirdsbestlife.wordpress.com/2012/12/21/toy-making-made-easy-a-phoenix-landing-class/Fun With Foraging, by Laura Fordhttp://abirdsbestlife.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/fun-with-foraging/Toy Making Directions:http://abirdsbestlife.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/peat-pot-foraging-shreddding-toy/http://abirdsbestlife.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/whats-in-the-box/http://abirdsbestlife.wordpress.com/2011/10/08/judys-halloween-toy/http://abirdsbestlife.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/baskets-for-easter-and-beyond/http://abirdsbestlife.wordpress.com/2011/12/20/a-christmas-tree-for-the-birds-parrots-that-is/http://abirdsbestlife.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/some-thoughts-from-the-workshop/About Training, Foraging & Playing:http://larajoseph.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/that-is-music-to-my-ears/
ResourcesParrot Enrichment Vol. 1 & 2 by Kris Porter http://parrotenrichment.comParrot Enrichment Blog http://parrotenrichment.com/blog/Parrot Enrichment FaceBook page http://www.facebook.com/parrotenrichmentThe Parrot’s Workshop FaceBook grouphttp://www.facebook.com/groups/TheParrotsWorkshop/Yahoo Group BirdClickhttp://pets.groups.yahoo.com/group/Bird-Click/?yguid=295463844Training Classes:Phoenix Landing’s intensive training workshop http://www.phoenixlanding.org/stepup.htmlSusan Friedman’s Living & Learning With Parrots online coursehttp://behaviorworks.org/htm/comp_professional_overview.htmlBooks:A Practical Parrot Guide Parrot-Toys & Play Areas: How to Put Some Fun Into your Parrot’sLife , by Carol S. D’Arezzo and Lauren Shannon-NunnAnimals Make Us Human…Creating the Best Life for Animals, by Temple Grandin, Ph.D.Getting Started Clicker Training for Birds, by Melinda JohnsonDon’t Shoot the Dog, and Reaching The Animal Mind, by Karen Pryor