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Foraging Training for Parrots

Parrot Foraging Education Learnt Throughout the Early Parrot Education Stages

  • Elementary foraging device
  • Elementary shredable foraging device
  • Intermediate foraging device
  • Advanced foraging device
  • Advanced foraging shredable device
  • Acrylic foraging device
  • Ability to forage on swinging or bouncing foraging device
  • Training blocks

Stage 1 of Early Parrot Education – Introductory Stage

Elementary Foraging Skills

The crop, once fully extended by volumes of food will soon downsize a bit. It’s imperative for the chick’s long-term digestive health to keep the crop motility in good shape. This can be achieved with assisted feeding strategies with softened extruded diet morsels mixed with the hand feeding formula on a spoon as well as a the placement of shallow dish with moistened extruded diet in the chick pen. The idea behind this implementation is not to start forcing the chick to eat on his own, but to play into his natural instincts of picking up and mouthing objects within his reach, which, at this age, might otherwise be the substrate. It is better to provide nutritious and familiar flavor to satisfy his natural tendencies for foraging behavior.

  • This stage provides the perfect opportunity to introduce dry weaning granules in the nursery chick pen as it is the age of curiosity. This introduction provides elementary foraging skills.
  • The weaning granules should be of a larger size, such as sticks or biscuits.
  • The large morsels can be placed on the floor of the chick pen in clean substrate or in a shallow dish.
  • The larger size of the granules will encourage foraging and will discourage ingestion of the substrate.

Elementary Foraging Skills

Stage 2 of Early Parrot Education –  Pre-Fledgling Stage

The stage 2 pre-fledgling might begin to perch, nibble on a little extruded weaning granules, and seek companionship with his clutch mates all while he continues to further develop necessary motor skills and coordination. In this step, the lessons introduced in Stage One are still being reinforced by the avian caretaker. While the chick remains in the comforts of his chick pen, a few changes to his chick pen are implemented.

Once desensitized to towels of various textures and colours, the pre-fledglings will gradually find comfort under the dry towel, encouraging attention and focus on nibbling on their extruded weaning morsels.

foraging when desensitzed to towels small

Stage 3 of Early Parrot Education –  Fledgling Stage

Intermediate Foraging Skills

Foraging through exploration: foraging activities still take place mainly inside the fledgling cage, although training sessions to further educate and desensitize them to slightly more dissimulated food morsels found in accessories of various textures & colors can be performed outside the cage ideally after their exercise time, and most importantly when they are not too hungry… as this activity is not to lure them, it is to make them proud of their discoveries, and reward their gregarious achievements. These foraging items will return with them in their weaning cages where they spend most of the day still at this stage, focusing on eating, preening, toning & conditioning their bodies & sleeping.

intermediate foraging skills

Stage 4 of Early Parrot Education

Advanced Foraging Skills

Foraging activity with caretaker can also be viewed as positive reinforcement.

After numerous years exploring and structuring a comprehensive program for early parrot education & nutritional guidelines for optimal health, we believe there is additional value in the caretaker’s action of foraging side by side with their companion following a training or educational session.

This activity can be done :

  • At a shared foraging /activity center or with a separate yet similar foraging device.
  • By foraging for extruded granules or enrichment foods but not sharing the same morsels.

We feel this activity is more stimulating than simply offering a treat reward by hand, as this positive rewarding activity is more interactive and fulfills their natural gregarious behavior. Furthermore, the caretaker/trainer takes on the role of the mentor.

Parrot Foraging Activities
Food rewards should not be used as positive reinforcement until the parrot has successfully completed all stages of the weaning process. The parrot pupil should never be hungry nor deprived of food prior to a training session, nor lured to perform with a food reward. Play, nurturing, mentorship & modeling are valuable tools for successful education.

 Foraging Actvities:

  • Desensitization & Education through play & modeling when introducing a new foraging box, toy or device. The caretaker teaches the fledgling discovery activities such as searching for hidden granules under towels, in cardboard boxes or paper bags.
  • Fledglings are now actively engaged in primary lesson “training” and are no longer simply being desensitized.
  • The “classroom” set up is the most efficient way to educate numerous fledglings at once.
  • Training sessions are more successful after the misting & exercise activities.
  • An extremely efficient way of incorporating all the EPE Primary lessons throughout the stages is to have all the accessories needed organized and within reach when working with the fledglings.

Creative Foraging Tools to Use at Home

Advanced weaning flight for the day activities

  • Foraging opportunities throughout the flight, some which may require more agility (advanced foraging skills)
  • Numerous feeding and water dishes are placed to ensure all fledgling have access to these, despite the foraging opportunities
  • Various perches offering different textures & size can promote dexterity, although chicks agility will be challenged too much if perches too large are offered
  • Full-spectrum lighting can be provided in the activity day flight
Advanced Foraging Techniques
An extremely efficient way of incorporating all the EPE Primary lessons throughout the stages is to have all the accessories needed organized and within reach when working with the fledglings.

 Stage 5 of Early Parrot Education – Fledgling Acquiring Independence

  • Foraging activities continue to be offered away from the flock.
  • Although feeding enrichment will be explored more in the next stage, fledglings that have maintained a healthy weight without assisted feedings can be offered Tropimix.
  • Advanced foraging sessions further away from flock, gradually preparing fledgling that will leave clutch mates and flock to continue to engage in occupational skills without the separation

Parrot Foraging Activities2

Stage 6 of Early Parrot Education – Feeding and Environmental Enrichment

  • Nursery caretakers must be creative and intuitive by offering enriching environmental stimuli while at the same time providing gratifying and challenging occupational activity
  • Encourage yet monitor time away from the flock or cage mates.
  • Caretaker should continue to be opportunistic with foraging opportunities.

Want to learn more?

Watch this video overview of desensitization to introductory foraging skills for parrots and how it’s implemented at the HARI facility.

For learn more advanced foraging techniques for your parrot be sure to watch the Intermediate Foraging Skills video.

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Hagen Avicultural Research Institute