The purpose of enrichment is to increase species-specific, natural behaviors. But how do we measure this? That's where activity budgets come in.
Every animal has an activity budget. Simply put, activity budgets measure how much time an animal spends performing a particular behavior. These figures are typically expressed as a percentage. To make this clearer, let's use an example: myself.
On an average weekday, I spend 9 hours sleeping, 0.5 hours grooming, 0.5 hours traveling, 1 hour eating, 11 hours working, 1 hour watching Netflix, and 1 hour studying. This adds up to 24 hours, and can be represented as percentages: 37.5% Sleeping, 2.1% Grooming, 2.1% Traveling, 4.2% Eating, 45.8% Working, 4.2% Netflix, 4.2% Studying. (Figures are rounded.)
Now, for the fun part...pie charts!
Of course, these behaviors are very generic, but an activity budget can be as specific as you'd like! Activity budgets are based on ethograms, which can be modified to fit the purpose. Now that we have our activity budget and pie chart, what's next?
Comparison! How does my species' activity budget compare to that of a wild counterpart? Do I spend too much time working? Should I spend more time studying? Am I missing a crucial behavior? Once you've made an activity budget for your individual animal, research that species to see if the activity budgets match up.
If your animals' activity budget mirrors that of a wild specimen, that's a good indication your enrichment is working! Keep up the good work!
We've posted a few activity budgets to help out! View them here.