Birds are smarter than they seem, especially if you're a first-time bird owner. Many of the birds that become popular pets, such as parrots, doves, cockatiels, and pigeons, are especially bright. They have strong memories, are highly inquisitive, and love to investigate new sights and sounds. If your apartment doesn't offer them much stimulation, they're going to get bored.
Aside from their intelligence, birds are also emotionally intelligent and emotionally sensitive. According to The Spruce, some parrots have the "emotional complexity" that five-year-old humans do. Just like children that are bored, stifled, and left to their own devices for too long, birds' health and behavior can start to suffer.
3 Ways Boredom Can Hurt Your Bird's Health
All pets can suffer when they're bored or ignored. Birds need just as much love and attention — or even more — than cats and dogs. When birds start to feel bored, they develop unhealthy and dangerous behaviors. For example:
1. They develop aggressive tendencies.
Birds need a lot of attention in order to stay mentally healthy. If they start to sense that attention is limited or they're only noticed when they make a lot of noise, they can become aggressive. They're more likely to bite at their cage bars, make more noise, and resent companion birds that either receive more attention or compete for attention. Uninformed owners can become frightened by birds that start to display aggression and keep them caged, which can worsen the behavior.
2. They lose interest in play and typical activity.
Birds are social creatures. They need regular interaction with their owners and, for many species of intelligent bird, other birds to stay happy and healthy. Many pet birds learn how to play and enjoy toys due to positive feedback and praise from their owners. If that attention starts to waver, they stop playing. This creates a cycle of increased boredom and increased indifference towards play.
3. Unhappy birds can start to mutilate themselves.
Self-mutilation may sound like an extreme term, but veterinarians and bird advocates use the term to describe how birds start to hurt themselves when they live in environments they don't like. While physical illness and poor diet can make pet birds hurt themselves with their beak, their feet, or by rubbing against sharp edges of their cage, more common causes include:
- Mental anguish
- Isolated environments
According to an article by The Dodo, this behavior is common among highly intelligent birds that are left alone for long periods of time. They can harm themselves so severely that the injuries become permanent. Less immediately dangerous self-harmful behaviors including picking at feathers, regurgitating food, and startling easily.
How to Keep Your Bird Stimulated and Mentally Healthy
Luckily, there are plenty of ways to keep your pet birds engaged, healthy, and happy. Even if you aren't interested in finding a companion bird to keep your pet company while you're at work, you can build a healthy routine of interaction and play. Here are four ways to keep your pigeons, doves, or other pet birds happy:
1. Take your bird for a stroll.
One of the best ways to keep your pet entertained is to give them new sights to see. That can be difficult in an apartment or a house. So take them for a walk outside with the help of a pet stroller. You can take your pet to the park, around the block, or to visit a friend who also has a bird. This helps stimulate your pet birds because they can:
- Experience new sights, smells, and sounds.
- Spend more time with you.
- Break up the monotony of spending most of their time in one cage or room.
2. Hold your bird.
Just like with pet dogs, pet birds often see their owners as the center of their world. They rely on you for food, toys, attention, and care. Birds want to have a positive relationship with their owners and physical contact is a great way to facilitate that.
Tame and well-trained birds can even walk freely around a sofa or room with their owner's supervision. This freedom and change of pace do a lot to keep your bird happy and healthy, even in the same setting. Regularly holding your bird also gives you a closer perspective on their health. You will be able to better feel any starting signs of plucked feathers and self-mutilation that let you know your bird is bored.
3. Teach them tricks with praise and treats.
According to The Spruce Pets once more, teaching a bird new tricks is great for socialization and averting boredom. The more you teach your bird, the busier their minds are. Training them gives them focus and something to look forward to during the day. It can also break up the monotony of their day.
Teaching your bird new tricks also brings several secondary benefits such as:
- Giving you and your bird more bonding time and physical contact.
- Entertaining your bird with treats.
- Positive praise and interaction with an audience or other family members.
Adding new routines and activities can also give birds something to do when they're alone or to better communicate with you.
4. Rotate their toys and experiences.
Remember when we said that parrots had the emotional complexity of a five-year-old? Just like young children, they can also get bored with the same toys or seeing the same places. Break up the monotony by rotating out their toys and decorations. Adding different mirrors, noise-makers, and dangling toys and removing older toys will keep your bird interested. Removing certain toys before your pet is completely bored of them will keep them fresh for a future rotation, too.
Another great way to keep your bird stimulated is to take them to different locations in your pet stroller. Birds can remember places they've visited before. Even when locations are action-packed, your pet can start to become familiar with the route and the destination. Widen their view of the world by visiting different parks and other locations within walking distance.
If you love birds, you'll love the story behind the Pigeon Stroller. It's a double-decker, comfortable stroller that's custom-built to keep your pigeons and pet birds comfortable as you take them for a stroll. Contact us here to learn more about the stroller and Palomacy's pigeon rescue programs.