Awarded Awesome Foundation Grant for project: Crafting enrichment for people and parrots

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Captive pet parrots often become stressed due to lack of enrichment, leading to ear-piercing screaming/squawking, feather-plucking, self-mutilation, biting, and other behavior challenges. As a result, many parrots are surrendered to parrot rescue organizations.

The Awesome Foundation is an international philanthropic organization devoted to forwarding the interest of awesomeness in the universe. Every month they award a no-strings-attached grant to a project that they deem Awesome. They’re interested in a wide variety of projects, ranging from friendly postcards sent to random strangers to light festivals to pop-up museums and all sorts of things. My project, Crafting enrichment for people and parrots, was selected for an Awesome Foundation grant.

I will be partnering with senior centers in the greater Seattle area to build parrot toys for local parrot rescues. The partnership is a win-win: senior toy builders improve their dexterity, practice creativity, and contribute to a community project; parrots receive toys essential to their mental stimulation and beak health.

In the wild, parrots are constantly using their strong beaks to hollow out cavities for nesting, crack open nuts, and chew branches. Many researchers equate their intelligence to that of a two year old child. Deprived of the physical and mental enrichment of the natural world, captive pet parrots rely on toys for mental stimulation and to maintain beak and nails. Parrots lacking this enrichment often turn to self-mutilation, feather plucking, and screaming, which can be too much for an owner to handle. During its 20-85 year lifespan, the average parrot will be rehomed five times. When a pet parrot is surrendered to a rescue, rescues must use limited resources to provide immediate housing, food, and veterinary needs. Therefore, rescues rely on donations for enrichment to provide the parrots the stimulation they need.

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I will guide seniors to design and build parrot toys using coconut slices, wood beads, vine balls, and other materials.

We will partner with senior centers in the Renton, WA region to assemble parrot toys for local rescues. Building parrot toys requires hand-eye coordination and creativity. Participants will select a parrot to “adopt” from a group of photos, names, and short biographies of each bird. They will choose from a variety of pre-drilled toy parts including mahogany pods, wood blocks, leather scraps, yucca slices, and more and thread them onto a stiff raffia cord. The completed toys will be delivered to the rescue. We will take a photo of each bird with their new toy and print it for the person who built the toy.

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