One cannot overemphasize the importance of eating a varied well-balanced diet. So what is the right parrot diet?
Despite popular beliefs, parrots cannot survive on a diet of just seeds and water.
Just imagine how unhealthy and dull a monotonous diet of seeds and water would be. It certain make your parrot less healthy or less interesting.
Improper diets, which can lead to malnourishment, can cause a variety of health problems in parrots.
Some of these health issues include respiratory infections, poor-looking feathers/plumage, flaky skin, overgrown toenails and beaks, flaky beaks, reproductive problems, and more.
Other health challenges include obesity, vitamin A deficiency, calcium, iodine deficiency, iron storage disease, phosphorus, vitamin D3 Imbalance, etc.
In fact, improper diet is a major reason most parrots live so short lives.
Since it is believed that poor diets are responsible for some behavior problems in pet birds, a good diet can help improve parrot behavior.
The Association of Avian Veterinarians recommends the following diet for healthy parrots:
- 50% pellets, legumes, and grain
- 45% dark green or dark orange fruits and vegetables
- 5% meat (well cooked), eggs (well cooked), or dairy products
Finches and canaries can also benefit from this diet, although the owners of finches may have to add live food (such as insects) during the breeding season.
Pellets, grains, and legumes in your parrot’s diet can include unsweetened breakfast cereals, whole-wheat bread, cooked beans, cooked rice, and pasta.
Green or orange vegetables and fruits contain vitamin A which is an important nutrient for birds. This nutrient is lacking in grains and legumes.
Birds need this vitamin to fight infections and keep their eyes, mouths, and respiratory systems healthy.
Dietary sources of vitamin A include carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, broccoli, dried red peppers, dandelion greens, and spinach.
Try offering your pet some of the fruits and vegetables that many parrots enjoy, such as peeled and seeded apple slices, sliced-open grapes (you can leave the seeds in the grapes), and corn on the cob if you’ve adopted an older bird who primarily eats seeds.
Although these fruits and vegetables don’t have as many vitamins as their dark green or dark orange counterparts, they can help fill the gap between seeds and a more varied diet for fussy eaters.
You can ease the transition to your bird’s new home by feeding your parrot the same diet she ate previously. Gradually introduce new foods.
And you might be wondering whether to offer your bird frozen or canned vegetables and fruits.
Frozen vegetables and fruits can be eaten by some birds, while others are turned off by the somewhat mushy texture.
Some canned foods contain a lot of sodium, making them unhealthy for your pet.
You can feed your bird frozen or canned foods in an emergency, but only fresh food is recommended regularly.
You can also give your pet water-packed tuna, scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, and low-fat cheese in addition to the small pieces of well-cooked meat.
Note, however, that a bird’s digestive system lacks the enzyme lactase, resulting in an inability to process dairy food.
It is, therefore, best to feed dairy products in relatively small quantities.
Also, to prevent food spoilage, discourage bugs, and help keep your parrot healthy, remove food from the cage as soon as possible.
You should change the food in your bird’s cage every two to four hours (or every thirty minutes if the weather is warm).
You should provide your bird with a food tray in the morning, another in the afternoon, and a fresh salad at dinner.
Formulated Diets (Pellets)
Your bird’s fresh food should be supplemented with pellets as commercially made pellet contains a balance of all of your bird’s essential nutrients that your bird needs to stay healthy.
Pelleted diets are made by mixing a variety of healthy ingredients into a mash and then forcing (or extruding) the hot mixture through a machine to form various shapes.
While some pelleted foods are flavored and colored, others are quite plain.
With these formulated diets, your pet bird will get more balanced nutrition in an easy-to-serve, waste-reducing form.
A bird also loses the chance to pick through a smorgasbord of healthy foods to find her favorites and reject the ones she isn’t fond of.
Pelletized diets are accepted by some birds easily, while others require some extra persuasion.
Sp, adding pellets to your pet’s current diet or serving them as a side dish will help her transition to a pelleted diet.
Before proceeding, be sure the bird knows pellets are food.
And once you see your bird eating pellets, gradually increase the number of pellets you offer at mealtimes while decreasing the amount of other food you offer.
Your bird should start eating her pellets enthusiastically within a couple of weeks.
To get your parrot to try pellets, you may have to act as if you are enjoying the snack in front of your pet.
Play up your enjoyment of this new food to your pet as it will pique his curiosity and make the pellets look more appealing.
Avoid starving your parrot into trying new food. Instead, other varieties of new food should be consistently offered to them along with their favorite foods.
This encourages your pet to try out a new meal while also ensuring the bird is eating and not starving itself.
If your parrot does not dive right into the new food, do not be discouraged.
Be patient, keep offering new foods to your bird, and give her lots of praise whenever she displays the courage to try something new.
Supplements are not necessary for parrots on pelleted or formulated diets.
This is because all of their vitamin and mineral requirements should be met by these special foods.
However, if you have an older bird that mostly consumes seeds, you might wish to add a high-quality vitamin and mineral powder to the fresh meals your pet eats.
This will increase the chances that the powder will stick to the food and consume it.
Seed diets enriched in vitamins may provide some supplementation, but some of these products have the vitamins and minerals added to the seed hull, which your bird will remove and throw away while eating.
Avoid adding vitamin and mineral supplements to your bird’s water dish as this can act as a medium for growing bacteria.
This can also cause the water to taste differently to your bird, which may discourage her from having a drink.
Choosing Organic Produce
To provide maximum nutrition without pesticides and other additives that could be dangerous to a bird, some pet bird owners prefer to feed their birds organic produce.
You can get this organic produce at your farmer’s market or local grocery store.
Check the product label on your parrot formulated diet or seed mix to see if it is organic as some manufacturers sell organic bird food.
Toxic Foods for Parrots
- Cassava (tapioca
- Chocolate or cocoa
- Food containing dyes or preservatives.
- Fruits seeds
- Highly salted, sweetened, and fatty foods
There are several foods considered harmful to pet birds, such as alcohol, rhubarb, and avocados (the skin and the pit can be toxic), as well as highly salted, fatty, and sweetened foods.
Chocolate contains 0.5–2.7% Theobromine, a chemical birds can’t easily digest. So, don’t feed your pet bird chocolate, as it can kill her.
Also avoid giving your bird seeds from apples, apricots, cherries, plums, peaches, and pears since these can be harmful.
Common sense should guide your choice of which foods to offer your bird. If food is healthy for you, it probably is good for your bird.
You should, however, reduce the size of the portion you offer your bird.
A smaller bird-sized portion is more appealing to your pet than a larger, human-sized portion.
Sharing healthy people’s food with your bird is fine, but sharing something you’ve already taken a bite of is not.
I know it’s perfectly normal for people to have bacteria in their saliva, but these bacteria can be toxic to birds, so don’t share partially eaten food with your pet.
To ensure your bird’s good health and your peace of mind, give her a portion of her own.
Parrot Diet Preparation
Making a big batch of grains and legumes, chopping up a variety of vegetables, and mixing it all in a large container is a good way to provide your bird with a wide variety of fresh foods each day.
This method is easy, time-saving, and cost-effective.
Then spoon 3-4 daily servings into sandwich bags or other containers and place them in the freezer.
One batch of chop can last anywhere from one week to several months depending on how much you make and how many birds you have.
Food Can Be Fun!
With just a little effort on your part, mealtime can double as playtime for your pet bird.
By providing your bird with new and unusual ways to serve her food, you are helping to challenge her mind, which is one good way to ensure she doesn’t misbehave or become bored.
Offering your pet nuts in the shell is one way to challenge your pet at mealtime.
Medium to large-sized parrots enjoy eating peanuts, pecans, walnuts, filberts, or macadamia nuts served in their shells.
To let your pet know that there’s a treat inside the shell, you may have to crack the nuts slightly the first time you serve them, but your parrot should soon learn how to open the shells herself.
Offering some fresh foods on a skewer is another way to make mealtime into playtime.
Any firm fruit or vegetable, including apple slices, corn Cobbett, or tomatillos, can be threaded onto a skewer and served to your parrot.
Making a kabob of new and familiar fresh foods may tempt a finicky eater into trying something new, especially if the new food is touching one of her favorite food.
The bird may accidentally get a bite and discover something new and tasty!
Another method to provide food entertainment for your pet is to present it to your bird as a toy by stringing uncooked pasta or sugar-free breakfast cereal onto a clean piece of string or vegetable-tanned leather.
She might simply mouth the food while she plays or eats part of the paste or cereal.
Unsweetened cereals are recommended because your bird doesn’t need the processed sugar present in some cereals any more than we humans do.
Uncooked spaghetti is also not harmful to your bird.
You may use the same strategy by making a garland for her cage out of fresh cranberries and popped popcorn, similar to the ones used to decorate Christmas trees.
Alternatively, you can customize the garland by using your bird’s favorite foods.
Just like us humans, a bird’s health greatly depends on how well it is fed. So bird owners should keep striving to improve their birds’ diets.
Birds can indeed survive on substandard food, but the goal, however, should be to help our parrot to thrive, not just survive.