Habitat enrichment for pet birds

Nearly three years ago, a very dear bird came into my life. I heard an unusual parrot call, went outside and noticed a cockatiel on the lawn. She was weak and hungry and allowed herself to be picked up and put in a cage with food and water. I couldn’t find the owners of this little one, and before I knew it, had my first pet bird. After Num came Teddy, who escaped in January 2014, then Jo Jo.

I still struggle with the idea of keeping birds in cages. I believe they should fly free, but Num couldn’t look after herself and was seconds away from being killed by a cat when I heard her call. We let our cockatiels’ wings grow out and let them fly around inside the house every day. We also take them outside every day to socialise with other birds and experience different weather.

There are many bird toys available, but I’ve found that the best toys are native plants. I clip off pieces and peg them to the inside of the outdoor cage.

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I use bottlebrushes, wattles, banksias

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and lilly pillies.

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They like nibbling flowers, so I use grevilleas

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and westringias

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In the wild they eat grass seeds, so I let grass go to seed in my garden and peg the seeding stalks to the cage.

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They like to bite dried banksia flower spikes, crisp brown leaves, light twigs (not sharp) and wattle seed pods.

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The plants must be native or approved by a bird specialist and must be free of chemicals (herbicides, pesticides, fertilisers etc).

Here’s Jo Jo enjoying westringia flowers …

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And here is Jo Jo eating grass seeds and Num eating grass I’ve pushed through the bottom bars of the cage so it is like a plant growing.

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This keeps them entertained and encourages natural behaviour. And it’s cheaper than commercial toys (which I do use in the indoor cage, because they’re not as messy).

I also put them out in light rain, and watch them turning upside down and stretching out their wings.

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