Parrots thrive in environments where there’s plenty of fun things for them to do. Without toys, games, and human interaction to entertain them, parrots become bored, causing a range of health and behavioral problems.
Parrots are smart and sensitive, requiring plenty of mental stimulation to prevent them from becoming bored. If they’re not engaged with or don’t have enough toys to keep them entertained, they’ll become stressed and unwell. To minimize boredom, handle your parrot regularly and provide a large enough cage. Leave the radio on when you’re out, teach it tricks, and encourage natural foraging behavior.
Because parrots are such intelligent creatures, owners must keep them mentally stimulated, especially when they’re left inside the house alone. Learn how to keep parrots entertained with some boredom breakers.
How To Tell If Your Bird Is Bored
In the wild, parrots spend up to six hours a day foraging. They also build nests, escape predators, and search for suitable shelter. That means 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 the sign of several things, parrots commonly pull out their feathers in response to boredom. As described by Avian Biology Research, captive parrots engage in feather-damaging behavior when their welfare is compromised.
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. Associated reasons for this behavior include:
- Lack of exercise
- Sexual frustration
- Not enough playtime
Feather plucking is different from preening. When your parrot preens, it removes dirt and bacteria from its feathers while spreading the natural oils to keep them healthy.
In comparison, feather plucking is the act of pulling out the feather from the skin, which can be painful. Hopefully, providing your parrot with more mental stimulation should reduce its desire to pull out its feathers.
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 is painful for the bird and can cause long-term nerve and tissue damage. It can also damage the feather follicles, preventing regrowth.
Self-mutilation is a stereotypical behavior. This means that the bird is driven to perform it with no apparent purpose. In this instance, self-destruction is caused by boredom. It’s also a compulsion that will take time and behavioral-based treatments for the parrot to recover fully.
Bored parrots vocalize in a manner of different ways, and most sounds are unpleasant to listen to. These noises include ear-piercing screams and high-pitched squawking. Many parrots scream because they’re desperate for attention, and they won’t stop until they get it.
Your parrot may also click its tongue over and over to entertain itself. This is a sign that the bird wants to be picked up or petted to alleviate its boredom.
Vocalizations are one of the most obvious signs of boredom in parrots. That’s why you should always listen out for any new noises. Similarly, if it sounds like your parrot is stressed, you’ll be able to tell by the tone of the vocalizations, as they’ll become high-pitched.
That being said, some parrots will vocalize even less than usual. It all comes down to their personality.
Some bored parrots become aggressive because they’re fed up and frustrated with their surroundings. At the same time as screaming and screeching, they’ll lunge at their owner’s fingers. If they get hold of them, they’ll bite.
However, biting isn’t just a sign of aggression. It’s also an indication that your parrot feels uncomfortable. This 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 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, especially tropical fruits and vegetables, so this is a worrying sign. After prolonged periods of not eating, parrots may lose a significant amount of weight, which you must address before your bird becomes severely malnourished.
Parrots get plenty of mental stimulation through their food, so encouraging them to eat by making mealtimes fun can help improve their wellbeing, ultimately preventing boredom.
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. These are usually some of the first signs of boredom and indicate that your parrot feels stressed.
As described by Exotic Bird Hospital, boredom is a frequent cause of obsessive behavior. As a result, every attempt should be made to provide your parrot with a mentally-enriching environment that’ll prevent these stereotypical displays.
After long-term boredom, stress bars will develop across the feathers. They appear as thin, horizontal lines that run cross-wise along the feathers. They run perpendicular to the shaft. Some stress bars appear discolored, while others are gray. This all depends on your parrot’s coloration.
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.
As a result, owners must look to their parrot’s environment and improve it to make the parrot feel more stimulated and less bored.
Can Birds Die of Boredom?
While it’s unlikely that parrots could die directly because of boredom, they can die from the stress caused by a lack of stimulation.
When parrots get stressed, a large amount of adrenaline gets released into their bloodstream. This is dangerous because it raises the blood pressure, dilates the muscles’ blood vessels, and empties the parrot’s sugar supply.
If the parrot becomes highly stressed because of its boredom levels, the adrenal glands become exhausted, causing it to die suddenly.
Similarly, boredom can make underlying health conditions and diseases worse, speeding up the process of death. 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
Also, depending on how severely they self-mutilate, parrots could die from an infection of their injuries. It only takes a small number of harmful bacteria to get into the wound for an infection to take hold. If this happens, there’s a high chance of death if the infection’s not treated quickly enough.
However, in most cases, boredom won’t kill your parrot, especially if you take measures to enrich your parrot’s life. It may cause a range of short-term problems though, including:
- Weight loss
- Inability to lay eggs
That’s why owners must provide mental stimulation for their parrots. It’s literally the difference between life and death.
What To Do When Your Bird Is Bored
If you notice signs and symptoms of boredom, you must do something about it to prevent your parrot from becoming unwell. Thankfully, parrots are good at telling their owners that they need stimulation, allowing you to take immediate steps.
If you’re looking for ideas on how to keep a parrot entertained, try some of 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 bird a few times every day is an excellent way to cement your bond and provide positive mental stimulation that should make your parrot feel more calm and comfortable in its environment.
While holding your parrot, talk softly to it and encourage it to communicate with you. Parrots love being petted around their beaks, the back of their heads, and around the neck, so be sure to focus on these areas to show your parrot some affection.
Another benefit of this is that it allows you to become more aware of your parrot’s body. That means you’ll be able to notice if anything changes – for example, if your bird develops an injury.
If your room’s secure enough, allow your parrot some out-of-cage time and let it explore its surroundings. Parrots enjoy getting finding out what’s what, so make the room parrot-safe and let it loose.
Provide Toys And Rotate Them
Providing your parrot with toys to play with is one of the best ways of keeping it entertained. However, parrots get bored of them after a while, so merely putting toys into their cage isn’t enough to keep them mentally stimulated.
To prevent your parrot from becoming fed up with its toys, keep a large stash and rotate them every week, aiming for different combinations each time. You can even use some types of old baby toys. This will help your parrot’s toys feel like new and will keep it mentally occupied.
If you can play with your parrot using its toys outside of its cage, that’s even better. That’s because your bird gets to play with you and receives enrichment at the same time. This is another great way to build your bond and ensure your parrot’s getting plenty of time away from its cage.
Teach Your Parrot Tricks
If you have time, why not teach your parrot how to do some fun tricks? Training is a good way to socialize your parrot and can help it adopt good behaviors. It can also help strengthen your bond.
When teaching your parrot new tricks, have some tasty treats to hand so that you can reward its successes. As we’ve already mentioned, parrots receive mental stimulation through their food.
You don’t have to make this process complicated. Depending on your bird’s intelligence and willingness to learn, you could start off small, teaching your parrot the “step-up” command. This is where you get your parrot to jump or step onto your fingers.
You could also train it to talk, wave, or make up your own tricks that are exclusive to you and your parrot. The possibilities are endless with time, patience, and consistency.
Leave The Radio On
Parrots are naturally curious and enjoy listening to new sounds. Whenever you’re away from home and your parrot’s left alone, leave the radio on quietly so that it can focus on the noise. If you’re training your bird to talk, this may help improve its skills.
Your bird might even sing and chirp along with the music, especially if it’s got musical genes. Parrots, particularly African greys, have good mimicry skills and will spend hours copying the noises they hear.
You can do the same thing with the TV. Make sure it’s not turned up too loud, or your bird might become frightened of the loud noises. Aim for background noise, as this will provide your bird with all the mental stimulation it needs while it’s on its own.
Foraging bird toys are also an excellent option, as they encourage your parrot’s natural behavior. They force your parrot to think about how to get its food, allowing your bird to problem-solve and use its intelligence.
Another fun game to play is to hide tasty treats, such as your parrot’s favorite nuts and seeds, in corners of a parrot-safe room and encourage your bird to find them.
While captive parrots don’t need to forage, these activities keep their instincts sharp and their minds active. Many parrots also enjoy foraging, so it’ll keep them entertained for hours.
You can also encourage foraging inside the cage. Place food up at different levels and leave your parrot to find it. This enables captive parrots to move more often, which is beneficial as they often miss out on exercise.
Choose A Suitable Cage
Parrots get bored if their cages are too small. That’s because there’s not enough space for them to roam or play with their toys. Therefore, if your parrot’s cage is too small for its size, you’ll need to upgrade to a bigger one.
When creating the optimum environment for your bird, ensure there are perches of various sizes and widths. Aim for three 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.
Also, aim for a cage that’s big enough to house 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 one that’s too small.
What Do Parrots Like To Do For Fun?
All parrots are entirely different, so they all enjoy doing different things for fun. Some enjoy roaming about 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. That means that you should provide an environment that’s suitable for the individual needs of your bird. Otherwise, it could get just as stressed out by an unsuitable environment as it does being bored.
However, in the first instance, you can’t go wrong with toys and accessories. The types parrots love include:
- Climbing frames
- Rope perches
- Foraging toys
- Chew toys
- Pedi perches
By offering your parrot at least some of these items, you’re providing it with enough enrichment to prevent it from becoming bored. Then, you can start to build a mentally stimulating environment for your parrot.
Parrots get bored quickly, so only offering toys isn’t enough. Instead, your parrot’s environment should be an ever-changing one to prevent it from getting used to your boredom breakers. Keep trying new things with your parrot and continuously provide it with unique experiences that it’ll love.