Feed enrichment and foraging behaviour
Animals in captivity show 20-75% less foraging behaviour compared to animals in the wild. Time that is not spent obtaining food increases the likelihood of abnormal behaviour. Feed enrichment is regularly applied to prevent abnormal behaviour. It increases the mental and physical activity of the animal and reduces the risk of abnormal behaviour by increasing the foraging time. Feed enrichment can be defined as creating stimulating situations with the aim of stimulating species-specific wild feeding behaviour. Some examples of methods that can be used in feed enrichment are described below.
The feeding frequency can be adjusted to match the animal's natural behaviour as closely as possible. The time and amount of moments that an animal naturally spends on obtaining food should correspond with the amount of feeding moments in captivity. For example, it does not make much sense to feed a lion several times a day, since in nature they hunt once a day (or less).
Flexible feeding times
It can be wise to choose irregular feeding times as this is beneficial for the foraging behaviour of the animal. In addition, it reduces the risk of stereotypic behaviour, because an animal does not assume fixed feeding times. Also in nature, an animal does not eat punctually at 10:00 and 17:00.
Flexible feeding locations can be used to create additional variation for the animal. The effect of this is that an animal is stimulated to look for food. For example, the food can be hung or hidden. In addition, the term 'scatter feeding' is often used. This means that the feed can be given in a scattering manner, so that it spreads over the bottom.
Food puzzles are attributes to make getting food more challenging for the animal. Often they are objects where food can be put in (such as a cage with nuts in it). It increases the time spent obtaining food and also stimulates mental and physical activity.
Feed variations can be good options that allow the animal to have variety in consuming the food. For example: nuts with shells, meat with bones or frozen meat. It must be taken into account that the type of variation is suitable for the type of animal. For example, not all birds can open large shelled nuts.
The links below are some examples of feed enrichment: