Sunday, March 6, 2011

Birds That Love Their Toys Too Much!

In my last post, Enrichment, there is a video of Coco playing in her box. You may have noticed that she seemed much more interested in her box than in helping me make a great video for the blog! She was almost too interested in her box to try the bean mix... almost!

So, what if I concluded that she 'ignored' me in lieu of playing with the box? That she was more interested in the box at that time than me! Should I take her box away so she will pay more attention to me? Should I be concerned that she seems to like the box a lot more than me??
You may see where this is going.....

We recognize that providing mental, physical, visual and auditory enrichment is an important part of our role as a good caregiver to our companion birds. Therefore, we rightfully spend a great deal of time, thought, effort and money on toys and other forms of enrichment.

However, after spending all this time, effort and money, when we finally find a toy that our bird really likes, how do we react?

  • Are we threatened that they are spending too much time with the toy and ignoring us?
  • Are we concerned that they will "bond" with the toy, and stop wanting to be around us?
  • Do we moan and groan because they spend a lot of time looking at the 'birdie in the mirror'?
Hey - isn't that why we got the toys to start with? So, they would play with them?!
It sure seems such a bizarre dichotomy... who thought there could ever be "a bird that loved their toys too much"?!

Perhaps the problem is not that they love their toys too much, but that we are concerned or convinced that they may "love us less", or not at all, if they are allowed to keep a toy they really enjoy.

Do we really think that the bird is confused into thinking that the plastic toy in the cage is a real bird despite it not moving, breathing, chirping, regurgitating, preening, eating or flying?!

We acknowledge that our birds have the intelligence of a child between the ages of 1 and 4 (depending on the species). If our toddler had a favorite rattle, doll or blanket, would we take it away for fear they were liking that toy 'just a little bit too much'?

Instead, we let them carry the dirty blanket around, and sneak it to the washer while they are sleeping. We encourage play, even independent play, and are thrilled when we find a toy that the child actually likes to play with (as opposed to the wrapping paper!). We love seeing them play by themselves or even with their little friends, and are not at all concerned that it will affect the 'bond' that we share with them. We recognize that we are not their entire life, although a big part of it, and it is important for them to have a well-rounded life and experiences. But this knowledge flies out the window (pardon the pun) when it comes to living with our birds.

Far too often we become threatened when they have a favorite toy. I will even read of people responding by removing the toy that "is coming between them" and the relationship with their bird.


Our relationships with our birds are such that they can be threatened by a plastic toy, perch, swing or favorite mirror?

Can the mirror give them rides around the house or millet treats? Can the swing whistle and sing funny songs with them? Is it necessary to deprive our birds of a toy they enjoy because we are concerned that it might become a threat to our relationship?

This is also often cited as the main reason not to allow a bird to have another bird friend. ... "oh - don't dare do that... the bird will really like the other bird and stop paying attention to you.!!!"

Well, if this were actually true, and it was what made the bird happy (spending time with one of its own species), then shouldn't we place the happiness of our bird ahead of our own desires and expectations?

The good news is that birds, like people, can enjoy a variety of relationships and activities, all without the companion feeling insecure or threatened that a toy may be coming between them and the bird, and making a decision to dump the toy. The budgie-boys do things with each other that I cannot do for them: preen, regurgitate to one another *yuck*, and have relay races. On the other hand, I provide them with activities, treats and rewards that they cannot gain from one another. There is room in their lives and in their hearts for both.

But to take away a favorite toy because I am concerned that they are 'liking it just a little too much'? Wow.... In other words, I am threatened by their enjoyment of the very toy I bought for the purpose of enjoyment and enrichment!

Before taking a toy away from your bird, consider this:

Is the toy being removed because it is in the bird's best interest to do so? Is the bird really loving the toy too much, or are we insecure and afraid that the toy may be "coming between" us and the bird? Food for thought!


1 comment: said...

Sweet budgie. I have my blog about my bugdie too, but in another language :P

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