Converting Parrots to a Healthier Diet - Tips
Posted 25 May 2010 - 07:28 PM
When deciding to change your parrots diet, it is essential to speak with your avian vet about a diet plan. Your avian vet may be able to help you set diet goals for your bird, give you tips and advice on switching over, and help you along the way. The avian vet can tell you if your parrot is underweight, overweight, or 'just right' and the a-vet can do blood work to determine if your parrot should be on a special diet. If your bird is sick, it is best to get your bird healthy before trying to make a diet change.
Make sure that you have a gram scale to weigh your bird daily. The best time to weigh your bird is first thing in the morning after the 'big bomb.' Keep a journal of your parrot's weight so you can figure out if your bird is gaining or loosing weight too quickly, or staying just right. A gram scale can help you determine if you are making the diet change at the right pace or taking things too quickly. Gram scales can be bought at any grocery store, simply look for a kitchen scale or a postal scale. Using a digital gram scale may help you keep more accurate records.
During this transitional diet, it may be advised to also keep track of what diet changes you did in your journal as well as your birds behavior throughout the day, noting how often and when your bird is eating. Keeping a journal or diary may help you spot any behavior changes and can help you determine if you are going forwards or backwards during this conversion.
Using a dye-free, natural and/or organic pellet is best. It's recommended to use pellets as 25-50% of the diet for small species, while the larger species do well with 50-75% pellets. Studies are showing that small birds fed a diet too high in pellets often suffer from kidney problems. Eclectus may do best on the Rice Diet from Roudybush or on a fresh food based diet. Parrotlets, particularly mutation parrotlets, may do best on a dye-free, organic/natural pellet or a fresh food based diet. Each bird is an individual, and what may work for one may not work for another. Getting blood panels done can tell you if you have your bird on the right diet or if additional diet changes may be required.
Posted 25 May 2010 - 07:30 PM
Many parrots love seeds and may quickly take to eating sprouts. Sprouting seeds can be bought at a health food store, some parrot stores, as well as online stores. Here's a list of seeds you can use to sprout.
- Whole oats
- Hulless Barley
- Wild Rice
- Brown Rice
- Hulless Oats
- Chick peas
- Whole peas
- Sunflower Seeds
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Raw Buckwheat
- Sesame Seeds
- Mustard Seeds
When sprouting legumes, only use lentils, adzuki, chick peas (garbanzo beans), or peas, and sprout until the tails are 1/4-1/2" in length. Larger beans must be fully cooked and not sprouted. Most sprouts are fine to feed after 1-5 days, depending on length of sprouting times.
Whether you buy premixed sprouting seeds or create your own mix, the goal is to get your bird eating sprouts. Sprouts can be left within the cage for several hours. Once the sprouts are ready to be fed, start feeding them! If your bird readily eats the sprouts, after a week, you can start adding in 1-2 finely chopped vegetables. You might try carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, steamed sweet potatoes, corn, cilantro, hot peppers, etc. If you notice your bird starting to eat the vegetables in addition to the sprouts, more vegetables can be added to the sprout mix. Once they are eating the sprout mix well, you can also add in some healthy sprouted and/or cooked grains and legumes, with a small amount of fruits.
Posted 25 May 2010 - 07:31 PM
One issue with getting birds to eat a healthier diet is that many birds enjoy a variety over something that appears plain and dull. I've noticed this especially with my own flock. A dish of cooked rice or a couple of pieces of vegetables can appear quite "boring" to the eye and not very interesting. Making up a batch of mash can intrigue those birds who love variety! A base mash diet consists of 30% grains, 15% legumes, 45% vegetables, and 10% fruits. The grains can be fed cooked or sprouted with the legumes cooked or sprouted with at least 1/4" tails. If using the larger legumes, be sure to fully cook these.
Do not sprout large beans due to the toxins not fully released when sprouting. Most vegetables can be fed raw or steamed, or you can even choose to use frozen vegetables. Be sure to steam potatoes if you feed any. Fresh, organic fruits are best, although frozen fruits can be used as an alternative.
Cook or sprout the grains and legumes separately. For your smaller birds, you may want to chop up the legumes. Vegetables can be chopped finely, diced, sliced, julienned, chopped into chunks, or even run through the food processor. Fruits can be chopped or sliced. Once all the ingredients are prepared, mix them together. Feed to your birds first thing in the morning and leave inside the cage for 2-6 hours, shorter periods of time if you have to deal with heat and humidity.
Your birds may ignore the mash for a day or two, but most birds will try the mash after a few days due to the variety of foods. You can help entice them to eat the mash by mixing in a small amount of seeds or sprouts.
Posted 25 May 2010 - 07:32 PM
If you own a curious parrot who will check out anything in their cage, you can try taking leafy greens or strips of carrots and weaving them in-between the cage bars, hanging the food from the top of the cage like a toy, or even putting pieces of fruits and vegetables onto a kabob. The curious bird may decide to take a nibble, and if it tastes good, eat some of the bounty!
If that doesn't work, there's always the option of making corn bread with fruits, veggies, and even pellets mixed in. A homemade cornbread is healthier than some of the pre-mixed ones. If making cornbread or muffins, finely chop or dice the fresh foods you are going to add. To mix things up, you can use apple juice instead of water.
Mirrors are not recommended due to the psychological and possible physical damages that they can cause, although many people report great success putting a dish on the floor of the cage and putting fresh foods or pellets on top of the mirror. The birds, curious, peck around the top of the dish and eventually try some of the food.
Birds are often flock creatures, and most being curious, may be willing to try whatever you are eating. This can be as simple as eating food in front of them and sharing it, to making yummy delicious sounds as you eat, acting like you are going to share, hog the food, make the bird jealous, then finally sharing for the bird gets extremely curious as to what it is you are eating that is so good that you cannot share the food. Anyone up for a dish of pellets?
Another idea is to act like you are picking through the birds food using your fingers. Some owners have reported having great success with this technique.
Posted 25 May 2010 - 07:34 PM
Often times, the best times to introduce new food is when the birds are hungriest. This is usually first thing in the morning and in the afternoon or
evenings. At night, remove any and all foods from the cages when your bird goes to bed. First thing in the morning offer the birds new food in their current dishes. Leave the new food for 2-3 hours before removing and replacing with their old food. Repeat every day until you see your bird eating the food.
Controlled Cold Turkey - The Roudybush Way
This method may be used with finicky, resistant birds that are starting out at a normal or excessive body weight. Remove all the old diet and fill the feeders with pellets. If you have the ability to weigh your bird, weigh first thing in the morning on the day of the switch. Weigh your bird every morning.
If your bird looses more than 3-5% of its body weight, put it back on its old diet for 1-2 weeks, then try the switch again. If you are unable to weigh your bird, change the cage papers the day you make the switch and do not use litters, so you can evaluate droppings. If the fecal part of the dropping is small and dark green or black or if the droppings have no fecal portion, it means your bird is not eating. You can go for two full days for small species of birds and three full days for large species of birds. If your bird's droppings are still anorexic at the end of the switch period, put your bird back on his old diet for 1-2 weeks and then try the switch again. Most birds will switch the first time. The most finicky birds may take three attempts.
From Seeds to Pellets - The Roudybush Way
This technique works with birds that will try and eat many different foods. Mix 3/4 of the original diet with 1/4 of the Roudybush pellets or crumbles. Feed this mixture for one to two weeks. Increase the proportion of Roudybush to 1/3 and feed for one to two weeks. Continue increasing the proportion of Roudybush. When you reach 3/4 or more of Roudybush, change the cage papers and do not use litter so you can evaluate droppings. If you see anorexic droppings (see description above in Controlled Cold Turkey), add more of the original diet for a week or two. This method is slower, but safer for those owners who cannot closely monitor their birds.
Posted 25 May 2010 - 07:36 PM
If there is one particular seed that your bird enjoys out of their seed mix, such as sunflower seeds, peanuts, nuts, safflower seeds, etc, remove that one favorite seed from their seed mix. Introduce a treat cup inside the cage, and two to three times throughout the day, put in 1-3 pieces of their favorite seeds. After your bird learns that this particular dish equals treats, the next time you give a piece of a treat, drop in a pellet or two. If you notice that your bird is eating the pellets along with the treats, you can increase the amount of pellets until they become a part of the diet.
Many birds may not find the bigger sized pellets appealing enough to try. This is especially so with budgies and cockatiels who may prefer seed sized pellets instead of the larger ones. Some species may prefer larger sized pellets over the smaller ones. Green cheek conures can eat either the cockatiel sized pellets or the conure sized pellets. If you are having an issue getting your bird to eat pellets, try a larger or smaller sized pellet to get them eating. Some large parrots have been known for enjoying the smaller sized pellets.
If you can find millet colored pellets, you can try buying some millet sized pellets and mixing the two together. Once the birds finishing eating the millet they might try the pellets since it's "somewhat" similar in size and color.
Many parrots may find that pellets are too dry and uninteresting. To spruice things up, try adding some water or fruit juice to the pellets. Birds who enjoy dipping their pellets may be less inclined to make "parrot soup" if their pellets are already moistoned a bit!
Posted 25 May 2010 - 07:38 PM
Get some dye-free pellets and crush them in a coffee blender or food processor until they are dust. Then mix 50/50 with a basic (preferably, dye-free) seed mix. Before you feed, add a small amount of water to make a thick paste. If you get the consistency right, you can make pellet/seed balls, or even "seed cakes" with the stuff, or the pellet paste can be fed 'as is'. Even if your bird doesn't eat the crushed/wet pellets, so long as your bird will dig through the stuff to find the seeds to eat them they will still be tasting the pellets. Do this for about a week.
After a week is up, make the same recipe again, only before you feed it, add in some dried pellets and do this for another week. You can slowly increase the amount of dry pellets while decreasing the amount of wet pellets, and eventually your bird may eat the dry stuff, too!
Seed mix (Sweet Harvest Budgie mix)
Pellets (Roudybush Maintenance Mini)
Pellets in a coffee blender
Pellets being grounded down to a dust
The pellet dust
50/50 Seeds and Pellets
The seeds/pellets divided into daily containers
Mix a tiny amount of water (you don't want it runny) with the pellets and seeds.
Add to the dishes
"Cake" bit - just flattened out
And the birds eating it!
Posted 05 June 2010 - 05:31 PM
These were not all my ideas. Quite a few came from other members/people, and these ideas have been gathered through the years so I can't credit everyone properly, but I want to say thanks to everyone out there for "helping me" put this together, even if you were/are unaware of what information I was storing for later use! Couldn't have done it without you guys!
The pellet paste is actually from Vetafarm itself and is the only source I can credit with all due respect. Here is the video!
If anyone else has any other ideas on how to convert a parrot over to a better diet, or would like to expand on something previously mentioned (do you have pictures that would help? or perhaps more information for a specific one already posted?) then please fill free to let me know and I can add it in!
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