Parakeet Diet: Food for Parakeets

parakeet diet

Think about how dull and unhealthy a one-item diet would be for you—it isn’t any more nutritious or interesting for your parakeet.

Poor diet also causes several health problems (respiratory infections, poor feather condition, flaky skin, reproductive problems, to name a few) and is one of the main reasons some parakeets live fairly short lives.

Let’s look at my childhood pet, Ricky, who ate basically a seed-and-water diet and lived about five years.

We fed him what the people at the pet store told us to feed him, which was what people did thirty years ago.

However, if we had offered him a more varied diet and worked with him consistently to accept new foods, Ricky could have lived three times longer.

What Should I Feed a Parakeet?

As recommended by the Association of Avian Veterinarians, a healthy parakeet diet includes 50 percent seeds, grains, and legumes; 45 percent dark green or dark orange vegetables and fruits; and 5 percent protein in the form of well-cooked meat, eggs, or dairy products.

In just a moment, we’ll examine each part of this diet in a little more detail.

Whatever healthy fresh foods you offer your parakeet, remember to promptly remove any leftover food from the cage.

This helps to prevent spoilage and keep your bird healthy.

You should ideally change the food in your bird’s cage every two to four hours (about every thirty minutes in warm weather).

So a parakeet should be all right with a tray of food to pick through in the morning, another to select from in the afternoon, and a fresh salad to nibble on for dinner.

Seeds, Grains, and Legumes

Your parakeet diet is recommended to include 50 percent seeds, grains, and legumes.

The seeds, grains, and legumes portion of your parakeet’s diet can include clean, fresh seeds from your local pet supply store.

Give your pet her seeds in a clean, dry dish, and check the dish daily to ensure your parakeet has enough food.

Don’t just look in the dish, but actually, remove it from the cage and blow lightly into the dish (you might want to do this over the kitchen sink or the trash can) to remove seed hulls.

Parakeets are notorious for giving the impression that they have enough food when they don’t.

They can often fool you because they are such neat eaters who drop the used hulls right back in their dishes.

Millet is one foodstuff that is very popular with parakeets, especially millet sprays. These golden sprays are a part treat and part toy.

However, offer this treat to your parakeet sparingly, because it is high in fat and can make your parakeet pudgy!

Other items in the bread group that you can offer your pet include whole-wheat bread, unsweetened breakfast cereals, cooked rice, cooked beans, and cooked pasta.

Offer a few flakes of cereal at a time, serve small bread cubes, and parakeet-sized portions of beans, rice, or pasta.

Because parakeets primarily eat seeds and grass in the wild, their beaks have developed into efficient little seed crackers.

The underside of your parakeet’s upper beak has tiny ridges in it that you’re your bird hold and crack seeds more easily.

Remember to ensure that the seeds you offer your bird are fresh.

You can test seeds for freshness by ;

  • sprouting some of them in water on your windowsill.
  • Soak the seeds thoroughly in water and drain the excess.
  • In two or three days, fresh seeds will sprout; stale seeds won’t.
  • After the fresh seeds sprout, you can rinse them well and feed them to your parakeets, too.
  • Immediately discard any sprouts that smell funny or grow mold as these are unhealthy to feed to your parakeet.

Fruits and Vegetables

So, what fruits or vegetables can parakeets eat?

Parakeets can eat dark green and dark orange vegetables and fruits as they contain vitamins that help fight off infection and keeps a bird’s mouth, eyes, and respiratory system healthy.

Dark green and dark orange vegetables and fruits contain vitamin A, which is an important part of a bird’s diet and is missing from the seeds, grains, and legumes.

Some foods that are rich in vitamin A include carrots, spinach, yams, sweet potatoes, broccoli, dried red peppers, and dandelion greens.

Serve fresh fruits and vegetables to your bird by slicing them into small, parakeet-sized pieces.

Julienne or shred carrots, and steam or bake yams and sweet potatoes. Make sure they are cool to eat before serving.

You may be wondering whether to offer canned or frozen fruits and vegetables to your bird.

Some birds will eat frozen fruits and veg., while others turn their beaks up at the somewhat mushy texture of these foodstuffs.

The high sodium content in some canned foods may make them unhealthy for your parakeet.

I would recommend offering only fresh foods as a regular part of her diet. However, frozen and canned foods will serve your bird’s needs in an emergency.

See: What Fruits and Vegetables Can Parakeets Eat?

TIP: Opting for Organics

Some pet bird owners prefer feeding their birds organic produce.

This is in a bid to offer maximum nutrition without pesticides and other additives that could be harmful to a bird.

Look for organic produce at your local grocery store or farmer’s market.

Some manufacturers offer organic bird food, so be sure to check the product label on your parakeet’s seed mix or formulated diet to see if it’s organic.

Protein

As I mentioned earlier you can also offer your parakeet bits of tofu, water-packed tuna, fully cooked scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, unsweetened yogurt, or low-fat cheese along with small portions of well-cooked meat.

Don’t overdo the dairy products, though, because a bird’s digestive system lacks the enzyme lactase. This means your bird’s system cannot fully process dairy foods.

What Can Parakeets Not Eat?

Do not feed your pet parakeet alcohol, rhubarb, or avocado (the skin and the area around the pit can be toxic).

Avoid giving her any foods that are highly fatty, salted, or sweetened.

Especially avoid giving your bird chocolate because it contains the chemical theobromine, which birds cannot digest as completely as people can.

Chocolate can kill your parakeet within hours of ingestion, so resist the temptation to share this snack with her.

Also avoid giving your bird the seeds or pits from apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, pears, and plums, because they contain toxins that can be harmful to her health.

Here’s a little list to help you remember what foods to avoid:

  • Alcohol
  • Avocado
  • Candy
  • Chocolate
  • Potato chips
  • Pretzels
  • Rhubarb
  • Seeds or pits from apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, pears, and plums

What Human Foods Can Parakeets Eat?

For a start, let common sense be your guide in choosing which foods you can share with your bird.

If it’s healthy for you, it’s probably okay to share.

However, this comes with a lot of conditions.

First, remember to reduce the size of the portion you offer to your bird.

A few shreds of grated squash or carrot, a single Cheerio, or a few cooked beans will be more appealing to your parakeet than a large, human-sized portion.

Secondly, avoid sharing something that you’ve already taken a bite of.

Human saliva has bacteria in it that are perfectly normal for people but are potentially toxic to birds, so please don’t share partially eaten food with your pet.

For your bird’s health and your peace of mind, give her a separate portion.

By the same token, please don’t kiss your parakeet on the beak (kiss her on top of her little head instead) or allow your parakeet to put her head into your mouth, nibble on your lips, or preen your teeth.

Although you may see birds doing this in pictures in a magazine or on television and think it’s a cute trick, it’s unsafe for your bird’s health and well-being.

Lastly, remember that some human food such as avocado and chocolate are completely okay for human consumption but are extremely toxic to parrots.

For example, the leaves of the avocado plant contain persin, which is a fatty acid-like substance that kills fungus in the plant. When ingested by a parrot, this substance may cause weakness, heart damage, respiratory difficulty, and even sudden death.

So, when feeding your bird human food, you might want to do more than just apply common sense. Do your research!

The Pelleted Diet

While seeds are an important part of many birds’ diets, some parakeet owners prefer to feed their pets a pelleted diet rather than a mixture of seeds, fruits, vegetables, and healthful table food.

Pelleted diets are created by mixing a variety of nutritious ingredients into a mash and then forcing (or extruding) the hot mixture through a machine to form various shapes.

Some pelleted diets have colors and flavors added, while others are fairly plain.

These formulated diets provide more balanced nutrition for your pet bird in an easy-to-serve form that reduces the amount of wasted food.

It also eliminates the chance for a bird to pick through a smorgasbord of healthy foods to find her favorites and reject the foods she isn’t particularly fond of.

Some parakeets accept pelleted diets quickly while others would require some persuading.

Introducing New Foods to Parakeets

If you have adopted an older parakeet who eats primarily seeds, try offering your bird some of the fruits and vegetables that are popular with many parrots, such as apple slices, grapes, and corn.

You can offer a small slice of apple that you’ve dipped in seeds, half a grape, or some fresh corn kernels (offering a thin “wheel” of corn on the cob is also an option).

Although these fruits and vegetables are not as rich in important vitamins as their dark green and dark orange counterparts, they can help bridge the gap between seeds and a more varied diet for fussy eaters.

To ease the stress of relocating to your home, try to feed your parakeet a diet as close to the one she ate in her previous home.

To help your bird adjust even faster, you may want to sprinkle some food on the cage floor, because parakeets sometimes revert to their natural ground-feeding habits in times of stress.

If your parakeet seems a bit finicky about trying pellets, you may have to make her believe that you enjoy pellets as a snack.

Play up your apparent enjoyment of this new food, because it will pique your parakeet’s curiosity and make the pellets exceedingly interesting.

If you have another bird in the house who already eats a pelleted diet, place your parakeet’s cage where she can watch the other bird enjoy her pellets.

Before long, your parakeet will be playing “follow the leader” right to the food bowl.

Finally, you may want to roll a favorite treat, such as an apple slice or a damp broccoli floret, in pellets and offer this decorated piece of produce to your pet.

Whatever you do, don’t starve your bird into trying new food.

Offer a variety of new foods consistently, along with familiar favorites.

This will ensure that your bird is eating and will also encourage her to try new foods.

Don’t be discouraged if your parakeet doesn’t dive right into new food.

Be patient, keep offering new foods to your bird, and praise her enthusiastically when she is brave enough to sample something new!

If you want to convert your pet to a pelleted diet, you need to offer her pellets alongside or mixed with her current diet.

Once you see that your bird is eating the pellets, begin to gradually increase the number of pellets you offer at mealtime while decreasing the amount of other food you serve.

Within a couple of weeks, your bird should be eating her pellets with gusto!

Do Parakeets Need Grit in Their Diet?

Parakeets do not need grit because they remove the outer hull of the seed before ingesting the kernel. Aside from not needing the mechanical digestion of grit, it doesn’t provide them with any nutrition.

In the past, grit was believed to aid digestion by breaking down food mechanically in the gizzard.

Pigeons and doves, however, are the only birds that need gravel to digest seeds whole without removing the outer shell.

There are some parakeets that over-consume grit when offered, which results in gastrointestinal obstructions that can be life-threatening. Hence, parakeets shouldn’t be given grit.

However, you should still be sure to feed your parakeet a healthy diet and consider adding a calcium supplement as these are not something you can ignore.

As a new bird owner, you may hear a lot of talk about the importance of grit in your bird’s diet.

Birds use grit in their gizzard to grind their food, much as we use our teeth.

Avian veterinarians and bird breeders do not agree on how much grit birds need and how often it should be offered to them.

Some will tell you birds need grit regularly while others will advise against it.

If your parakeet’s breeder and your avian veterinarian think your bird needs grit, offer it sparingly (only about a pinch every few weeks).

Do not offer it daily and do not provide your parakeet with a separate dish of grit because some birds will overeat the grit and suffer dangerous crop impactions as a result.

What Supplements Do Parakeets Need?

Generally, a parakeet that is eating 75 – 80% of its diet in the form of pelleted food does not need supplements. However, if your parakeet is on a seed-based diet, supplements may be required to help provide added vitamins and minerals.

Also, specific vitamins or minerals may be more important at various times during a bird’s life (e.g., egg laying requires calcium supplementation).

Parakeets on pelleted diets should be getting all the vitamins and minerals they need from these special diets, so supplements are not needed.

However, if your parakeet’s diet is mainly seeds, you may want to sprinkle a good-quality vitamin and mineral powder onto your pet’s fresh foods, where it has the best chance of sticking to the food and being eaten.

Vitamin-enriched seed diets may provide some supplementation, but some brands add vitamins and minerals to the seed hull, which your pet will remove and discard while she’s eating.

Avoid adding vitamin and mineral supplements to your parakeet’s water dish, because they can act as a growth medium for bacteria.

They may also cause the water to taste different to your bird, which could discourage her from drinking.

How Much Water Do Parakeets Need?

Parakeets do need water, but not as much as other mammals. They will generally drink 2-3 times a day, and this will provide them with the hydration they need.

While they may not drink in your company, ensure you are providing enough, easily accessible water, and be sure to monitor the levels over time.

Birds require water to digest their food properly and to maintain good health, and their drinking water should be offered separately from any water they use to bathe.

Some parakeets prefer to drink from open dishes, while others like to drink from water bottles.

Find out which type of water container your bird is accustomed to before you bring her home, so she’ll know right away where to look when she’s thirsty.

How Much Food Should a Parakeet Eat a Day?

Parakeets should eat at least twice a day. If you have a training routine then training before a meal has a bird more eager for treats.

Clean fresh water must always be available and changed once or twice a day in hot weather.

Can Parakeets Overeat?

Although it is not very common, your parakeet can overeat. However, symptoms of eating issues are more likely caused by the nutritional value of what they eat rather than by how much of it they consume.

Most parakeets will not overeat, even when their food dishes are kept full and refreshed often.

They may nibble on something new out of curiosity, but even then they rarely eat much of it.

As the owner, you should pay attention to your parakeet’s weight and size to ensure they are not overweight, as this can lead to more severe health issues.

If you notice your parakeet is too heavy, it’s most likely their diet.

Do Parakeets Need Cuttlebone?

Parakeets need cuttlebone in their cages as it is a great source of minerals that can be hard to get from parakeet diets alone. They also help to wear down their beaks, to prevent them from becoming overgrown.

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