Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Power of Flock Dynamics

I try to never underestimate the many benefits of strong flock dynamics! I believe in not simply hoping my birds get along, but in promoting positive flock dynamics, communication, and empowering choice. It is a very powerful tool.

What are some examples of flock dynamics in day-to-day fort living? Some of their communication tools include: flight, eating together, sleeping together, and contemplating the big questions of life together. They are together 100% of the time without cages, so they are constantly making choices on what they want and trying to influence one another.

My #1 Responsibility:
To foster an environment for positive communication between the flock members (not to create it).

How can I foster it?
* By leaving the room if needed. This is a judgement call that I make based upon observation and circumstances. At times, my presence can become a distraction and detraction from clear interaction between the three birds. I must be sensitive and aware, temporarily extract myself from the situation if it is more conducive to their relationships.

* By providing plenty of space and perching options. For 3 birds I have more than 30 different places to perch within the fort system.

* By providing a large enough area that they are free to interact or not, and to whatever extent and for whatever length they choose.

* By encouraging group activities (many of which I also participate in) from eating to napping/sleeping. In the wild a flock acts like a unit of sorts, and my flock operates in the same way within the fort system.

I have experienced the value of flock dynamics in training. As a small example, Strider sees that the other birds stay within the fort system; he follows suit. He looks to them for cues of fort behavior.

The past few days the power of flock dynamics has extended to diet! When Strider first came to me, he was a junk seed budgie. I was able to get him to start eating pellets within a week in addition to limited amounts of certain select seeds. Beyond that, he has had no interest in broadening his palate. Yet it is important to me. Coco and Sammy have an excellent and varied diet including plenty of fresh foods, grains, legumes, certain nuts and other select items. Naturally, I would like to see Strider improve his nutritional choices over time. Despite my continual efforts at introduction, he wasn't budg'ing.

As with many other budgies (and birds in general) encouraging a well rounded, varied and fresh diet is sometimes easy to suggest and hard to accomplish. Inasmuch as foraging must be 'taught' and encouraged, and enrichment is a process of learning and not always something birds fall into naturally, the same is true with diet - they rarely come out of the shell asking for a piece of fresh broccoli with some grated carrot dressing.

Enter stage left... flock dynamics.

In the same way that Strider has successfully learned to live in the fort, with the other birds, without hanging from the chandeliers and chewing the curtains to pieces, he is taking cues from them in every area and this now includes food!

I can certainly use this information to a positive benefit. The 3 birds are immersed in flock living and their learning is growing by leaps and bounds. Now is a perfect time to let the flock show him what good nutrition is all about!

Sunday afternoon Sammy was on my shoulder eating a piece of walnut, and Strider flew over to see what was going on! Here we go... another opportunity to seize the moment! He landed on my hand, and pecked at the nut superficially. Hey, it's a start! I participate in a budgie forum, and most owners indicate it is a bit of a challenge to get their budgies to try something other than seed. Patience certainly does pay off, but they can still be stubborn!

So I am happy he's tasting it! This was the first hint that Strider may be ready to expand his cuisine through the wonder of flock dynamics.

The next day I made some plain oatmeal and, after it had cooled, I offered it to Sammy and Coco. Naturally, they were all over it - oatmeal is a real treat and not something they eat daily or even weekly. I knew that it would evoke a strong reaction in the two of them, and that Strider would be watching. (They all are always watching me and each other, and always learning something.)

Sure enough - Strider flew over to see what all the oatmeal fuss was about! The three of them sat on a perch, directly in front of me, as I held the bowl of oatmeal. They took turns taking bites; Strider was in the middle of the two birds (he does love to be in the center of things!). As I passed the bowl from Sammy to Coco, each time I paused briefly in front of Strider to allow him to look or taste if he chose.

And, I am thinking you may be able to predict what happened next!

After several passes he took his first taste, and thereafter he made sure to get a small bite at each chance! Equally important was the experience of the three of them sitting in close proximity, taking turns eating, having a positive experience and sharing. These are the kinds of experiences I want to foster.

Tuesday evening I placed a small piece of walnut on the base of the little guys fort,. Sammy immediately chowed down. Strider flew over to see what was going on. However this time, instead of simply pecking at the nutmeat, he actually ate it right along with Sammy! There we go - just what I had hoped! His palate is about to expand - a whole new world of fresh foods will be opening to Mr. Strider! Just as parrot parronts teach their chicks in the wild what to eat and how to find food, much of the same is now occurring in the fort setting.

Throughout the coming weeks I will be introducing Strider to new tastes and textures with the benefit and assistance of flock dynamics. I predict that within a month or so, and with Sammy and Coco's help, Strider will be expecting and enjoying a diet rich in variety and nutrients!


1 comment:

wolfgirl1987 said...

Yay for trying new foods!

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