Parrots thrive in environments where there are fun things to do. Without toys, games, and human interaction to entertain them, parrots will soon become bored, leading to stress, low mood, and behavioral problems.
Parrots are clever animals that need mental stimulation and interaction to prevent them from getting bored. Unhappy parrots become depressed and develop behavioral problems. To avoid boredom, provide a spacious cage, out-of-cage time, fun toys, handling, teach them tricks, and encourage natural foraging behavior.
Because parrots are such intelligent creatures, owners must keep them mentally stimulated, especially if there’s just one parrot. That’s why you need to keep parrots entertained with boredom breakers.
How To Tell If Your Parrot Is Bored
In the wild, parrots spend up to 6 hours a day foraging. They also search for cavity nests, escape predators, have the companionship of their flock, and fly freely for miles. So, they spend most of their days being active.
Unfortunately, captive parrots don’t have the same opportunities to keep themselves busy. If owners don’t provide enough fun and excitement, their parrots are vulnerable to boredom. Signs of parrot boredom include:
While feather plucking can be a sign of several things, parrots commonly pull out their feathers in response to feeling bored. As described by Avian Biology Research, captive parrots engage in feather-damaging behavior when they live uninteresting and unfulfilling lives.
Interestingly, feather plucking is only seen in captive birds. Wild birds don’t display this behavior because they’re not subjected to the same phycological stresses. Reasons for this behavior include:
- Lack of exercise
- Sexual frustration
- Insufficient playtime
- Not leaving their cages
Feather plucking is different from grooming and preening. When your parrot preens, it removes dirt and debris from its feathers while spreading natural oils across its feather to keep them healthy.
In comparison, feather plucking is the act of pulling out the feather from the skin. Providing your parrot with additional mental stimulation should reduce its desire to pull out its feathers and other destructive behaviors.
In severe cases of boredom, self-mutilation occurs when parrots don’t have anything else to entertain them. Not only do parrots pluck out their feathers, but they chew their skin and muscles, going as deep as the bone. This can cause long-term nerve and tissue damage. It can also harm the feather follicles, preventing regrowth.
Self-mutilation is a stereotypical behavior. This means that the parrot is driven to stereotypy with no obvious objective or purpose. In this instance, self-destruction is caused by boredom in captive parrots.
Bored parrots vocalize in various ways, and most sounds are unpleasant. These noises include ear-piercing screams and high-pitched squawking. Many parrots scream because they crave attention, and they won’t stop until they get it.
Your parrot may also click its tongue repeatedly to entertain itself. This is a sign that the parrot wants to be picked up or petted to alleviate its boredom. Always listen out for any new noises.
Some bored parrots become aggressive because they’re fed up and frustrated. At the same time as screaming and screeching, they may lunge at their owner’s fingers.
However, biting isn’t just a sign of aggression. It happens if your parrot’s cooped up in its cage for too long or never gets the chance to interact with its owner.
When parrots feel bored and stressed, they become depressed. Some parrots respond to these negative feelings by refusing to eat. They won’t even touch their favorite treats, or they’ll only pick at them for basic sustenance.
Most parrots enjoy their food, so this is a worrying sign. After prolonged periods of not eating, parrots may lose weight, which you must address before it becomes severely malnourished.
Parrots get mental stimulation through their food, so making mealtimes fun can prevent boredom. For example, allowing them to crack open seeds and nuts.
Some parrots display obsessive tendencies to cope with their boredom, such as constant toe-tapping, pacing, body swinging, and head bobbing. They do this to stimulate themselves.
As described by Exotic Bird Hospital, boredom is a frequent cause of obsessive behavior. As a result, every effort should be made to provide a mentally enriching environment to prevent these stereotypical displays.
Prolonged boredom will lead to stress bars. They appear as thin, horizontal lines that run cross-wise along the feathers, running perpendicular to the shaft. Some stress bars appear discolored, while others are gray.
Part of the reason bored parrots develop stress bars is that they lose their appetite and can’t get the nutrients they need. However, stress bars aren’t an indication of a specific illness, just a sign that something’s wrong.
Can Birds Die of Boredom?
While parrots won’t die from boredom, they can die from the stress caused by a lack of stimulation.
When parrots get stressed, adrenaline is released into the bloodstream. This is dangerous because it raises their blood pressure and dilates the muscles’ blood vessels. If the parrot becomes highly stressed because of its boredom levels, the adrenal glands become exhausted, leading to sudden death.
Similarly, boredom can worsen underlying health conditions and diseases, so they don’t live as long. These conditions include:
- Adrenal gland issues
- Breathing difficulties
- Difficulty processing nutrients
- Getting sick from bacteria or viruses more easily
- Heart complications
- High blood pressure
- Inability to sleep
- Low immune system
- The onset of age-related disease
- Taking longer to recover from illnesses
In most cases, boredom won’t kill your parrot, especially if you take steps to enrich your parrot’s life.
What To Do When Your Parrot Is Bored
Parrots are good at letting their owners know that they need stimulation. If you’re looking for ways to keep a parrot entertained, use these enrichment techniques:
Interact with Your Parrot
Parrots that have made deep connections with their owners enjoy nothing more than one-on-one interaction. Handling your parrot a few times a day is a great way to improve your bond and provide positive mental stimulation.
Hold your parrot, talk to it, and engage directly. Parrots love being petted around their beaks, the back of their heads, and around the neck. Focus on these areas to show your parrot some affection.
If your room’s secure enough, allow your parrot some out-of-cage time and let it explore its surroundings. This will provide your parrot with the opportunity to exercise and expend some calories.
Provide Toys And Rotate Them
Providing your parrot with toys to play with is one of the best ways to keep parrots entertained. However, parrots get bored of the same toys eventually.
To prevent your parrot from becoming fed up with its toys, keep a large selection and rotate them weekly. You can also use certain types of old baby toys if you have any stored in the basement or attic.
If you play with your parrot with its toys outside of the cage, that’s even better. That’s because your parrot gets to interact directly with you and receives enrichment at the same time.
Teach Your Parrot Tricks
If you have time, teach your parrot how to do some fun tricks. Training is a good way to socialize your parrot and can lead to it adopting good behaviors.
When teaching your parrot new tricks, have some treats to hand so that you can reward its successes. As mentioned, parrots get mental stimulation by interacting with their food.
Depending on your parrot’s intelligence and willingness to learn, you could start small, teaching your parrot the “step-up” command. This is where you get your parrot to jump or step onto your fingers.
Leave The Radio On
Parrots are naturally curious creatures and enjoy listening to new sounds. Whenever you’re away from home and your parrot’s left alone, leave the radio on. If you’re training your parrot to talk, this can improve its talking skills.
Your parrot might even sing and chirp along with the music. Parrots, particularly African greys, have good mimicry skills and will spend hours copying the noises that they hear.
You can do the same thing with the TV. Make sure it’s not turned up too loud, or your parrot might become frightened of the loud noises. Aim for background noise, as this will provide mental stimulation when on its own.
Foraging bird toys are also a good option as they encourage your parrot’s natural behavior. Your parrot has to think about how to get its food, meaning that it’s forced to problem-solve.
Another fun game is to hide tasty treats, such as your parrot’s favorite nuts and seeds, in corners of a parrot-safe room and encourage the bird to seek them out.
While captive parrots don’t need to forage, these activities keep their instincts sharp and their minds active. Many parrots also enjoy foraging, so this activity will keep them entertained for hours.
You can also encourage foraging inside the cage. Place food up at different levels and let your parrot search for it.
Larger Cage Size
Parrots get bored quickly if their cages are too small because there’s not enough space for them to roam or play with their toys. If your parrot’s cage is too small for its size, upgrade to a bigger one.
When creating the optimal environment for your parrot, ensure that there are perches of various sizes and widths. Aim for three perches in the cage – one at the top, one in the middle, and one at the bottom. Parrots enjoy being up high where they have the best view of their surroundings, but they also need a perch close to their food and water.
Get a cage that’s big enough for a nesting box. If your parrot feels tired or vulnerable at any point, it can seek refuge in there. However, don’t overfill the cage, or you’ll have the same problem as you would with a cage that’s too small.
What Do Parrots Like To Do For Fun?
All parrots do different things for fun. Some enjoy roaming outside of their cage, while shyer birds prefer playing with their toys in the safety of their enclosure. That’s why you must offer your parrot tailored mental stimulation. The types of toys that parrots love include:
- Climbing frames
- Rope perches
- Foraging toys
- Chew toys
- Pedi perches
Parrots do grow bored, so your parrot’s living environment should be an ever-changing one to prevent it from developing behavioral problems and becoming depressed.
By watching your parrot, you’ll be able to determine the toys and activities that it loves. With the rest, keep testing out new toys to give it unique experiences that it’ll enjoy.