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What is Manzanta Hardwood

Manzanita is a dense hardwood growing from Baja Mexico up through Washington State ranging from the coast up to 6000 ft in the mountains. There are over 27 sub-species of Manzanita. The plant grows as a shrub like tree with the branches rarely exceeding 5” in diameter. Historically used for parrot perches due to its strength and resistance to splintering. Though anecdotal, all references I found on the internet proclaim it as non-toxic. Over the last 3 years we have shipped hundreds of pounds of Manzanita for use with a wide range of species. We have received no complaints of any type but specifically none regarding adverse reaction due to ingestion or physical injuries due to the woods properties. In its natural range the Manzanita fruit (Manzanita in Spanish means little apple) is eaten by a wide variety of wildlife. The foliage is consumed as browse by deer, goats and sheep though not as a preferred food source. Due to its dense composition little if any detergents are retained during cage washing and it is autoclavable.

Click here to take a look at all the Manzanita items ASAP has to offer.

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Foraging Benefits Many Species

Many animals can benefit from foraging, as it is a time consuming behavior practiced in the wild. In the laboratory, animals are presented with feed and water, in ample supply and easily accessible. From the research perspective, this is a good thing; from the animal’s perspective, however, they are deprived of this natural behavior. Cages, while providing a safe and clean environment are essentially barren of opportunities to perform most normal behaviors. According to one source, animals may spend 20 to 30% of the feeding time locating the appropriate feed supply. Once found, many animals may hoard a feed supply for future use or for sharing with young or others in the colony. Consumption is the final stage of foraging. Zoos were one of the first to address this behavior, and many natural habitat exhibits include foraging opportunities.

Feeding is a pleasurable activity, and creative feeding strategies that encourage foraging behavior are very desirable. Interval feeding, varying feed types by adding fresh foods, and mixing textures all add interest to the feeding activity, encouraging the animals to explore and choose. Support of such appetitive behaviors can come in many forms. Puzzle feeders, foraging boards, and complex bedding materials strewn with tasty morsels all prolong the feeding experience.

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Pigeon Enrichment

In the wild, birds of all kinds spend the day foraging and scratching for food. They reside in small social groups, use dust baths to for feather conditioning and nest build. Pigeon cages should be large enough to allow the birds to stretch and flap their wings, and perches are essential. Multiple levels of perches are better than a single perch, allowing the birds choice. In addition to perches, enrichment includes hanging items, especially those that make noise, and bright colored objects.Providing bedding also allows the birds a chance to forage, which is a time consuming appetitive behavior. Dietary enrichment includes a variety of nuts, fruits and insects. Birds also require grit for proper nutrition.Some sources suggest that background music can reduce stress, and the availability of nest building materials allows birds to engage in natural behaviors, which are important for reducing stress levels.

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Floor Space in Cages

The most recent edition of the Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals specifically mentions that floor space taken up by food bowls and other items, including toys and foraging devices may actually reduce the useable floor area within the enclosure (page 56). If the item takes up floor area and doesn’t allow use of the space below or above it, that area cannot be used to calculate space in the same way as perches in cat caging; if the animal can’t use the floor area below the perch, that floor area can’t be counted. There are some enrichment item designs that can actually provide additional usable surface area to replace that taken up by the footprint of the enrichment item. There are also lofts or perches which can be suspended from lids or wire bars that don’t impact the floor area, but rather provide additional useable surface. These designs allow the animals to make use of the space above and below the enrichment item and provide a more complex enclosure.

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Chinchilla Enrichment

Chinchillas are a less common laboratory animal. As such, their enrichment needs may be less understood. They are social animals, and do better when housed in compatible groups. A dust bath is essential for chinchilla health, and also serves as enrichment. As rodents, they need to chew; items such as chew sticks, manzanita wood and nylon chews are some options. For variety, try hay cubes. Chinchillas like to climb and jump, so a-multilevel cage or shelves and perches will facilitate exercise. A den or private area, such as a tube, allows the animals a choice to be social or not. There should be ample floor space for the above items and open space for these active animals. Running wheels can also be provided, but not all animals will use them, and they must be “chinchilla safe” with a smooth surface. Bedding is needed for animal comfort and also allows animals the opportunity to forage. See the recent blog posting on dust baths for more detailed information.

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Importance of Nesting Materials

Many common research animals will make a nest when appropriate nesting materials are available.

For some animals, nest-building is a reaction to breeding; for others, nesting is just a normal activity. For example, hamsters will make elaborate tunnels if the bedding is deep enough. Guinea pigs do not nest, even during pregnancy and parturition. Observing mice, you can also note how much time animals spend tending their nest, rearranging and cleaning both the nest and surrounding area.

Consider the types of beddings and nesting materials offered to animals. A good bedding material should be hypoallergenic, non-nutritive, absorbent and dust free. Additionally, it should be non-toxic and pathogen free. The function of bedding is to provide warmth, privacy, safety, protect and contain young and keep animals dry by absorbing urine. Some animals will store feed in the bedding. It maintains the environment of the cage and contributes to animal welfare by allowing the animal to behave in a natural way.

There are many types of beddings and nesting materials on the market; sometimes this leads to confusion in selection. Bedding can be natural materials such as wood or corncob, or paper products. Bedding should not contain oils that can interfere with research results. There are beddings that provide additional enrichment by allowing the animals to spend time shredding, unraveling, fluffing up or otherwise interacting with the bedding material to create an acceptable nest.

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Rodent Enrichment Update

The new Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals recommends enrichment for rodents as a way to reduce the stress of confinement, crowding, and other stressors, by allowing the animal to exercise choice and control over its environment. In fact, enrichment should be provided across the entire animal program.

One important point is that enrichment programs must be reviewed by the IACUC, researchers and the veterinarian. The Guide implies that the enrichment program should be in writing, and that enrichment should be considered an independent variable which must be controlled within the research project.

Social housing is the default position of the guide and animals that must be singly housed, including rodents should be permitted access to larger enclosures with additional enrichment opportunities.

On a related note, personnel should be trained on animal behaviors and observation so as to appropriately monitor and report on abnormal behaviors. For additional information, see the FAQS at

Take a look at our line of enrichment items for rodents.