Parrot Food

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BAD TABLE FOODS

The following foods should not be given to your parrot:

  • An all seed diet-deficient in 32 different, necessary nutrients 
  • A seed and fruit only diet- still deficient in most nutrients 
  • Chocolate-deadly
  • Alcohol-deadly
  • Caffeine (Coffee, tea, cool drinks)-deadly
  • Avocado- contains a heart toxin-deadly
  • Excessive salt-deadly
  • Shellfish
  • Undercooked meat, chicken, fish or eggs- Salmonella
  • Reheated foods- food poisoning
  • Sugar- leads to fungal infections
  • Salty biscuits and chips-excess salt will lead to kidneyfailure.
  • Never cut fruit on a wooden or plastic board used to cut raw meat as well-Salmonella
  • Cookies, cake, donuts, muffins, tart etc
  • Oily french fries
  • Gravy
  • Macaroni and cheese, lasagna
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Pizza
  • Chicken skins
  • Fried foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Butter, margarine, cream
  • Food from your mouth- we have deadly bacteria and fungi that can kill a bird.
  • Guacamole-deadly
  • Excess heads of beetroot, Rhubarb(marog), raw spinach-interferes with calcium absorption in body
  • Cabbage and onions in excessive amounts-cause damage to red blood cells.
  • Seeds of fruit – contains cyanide
  • Black spoilt bananas, spoiled sprouts, any mouldy food, wet day old pellets-deadly
  • Sugar coated or glazed fruit
  • Dirty water- deadly (becomes bacterial and fungal soup).
  • Insects, worms-birds can get parasites and worms.
  • Cuttlefish bones- sometimes polluted with oil and heavy metals
  • Good foods gone “off”
  • Cereals coated in sugar, Jam
  • Bacon,Chicken skins.
  • Droewors, Biltong,
  • Dog and cat food (Wrong protein fat ratio, too many minerals, and bacteria in food that differs from what bird needs in their intestines).
  • Peanuts in shells intended for animal use- source of  very dangerous fungi and aflatoxins.

GOOD TABLE FOODS

  • Pellets – Harrisons, Nutribird, Aviplus
  • Cooked dried beans
  • Lean meats – turkey, chicken, fish
  • Canned tuna in brine
  • Well-cooked eggs
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Spinach pasta
  • Brown rice
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Peas
  • Squash,kumquat
  • Carrots
  • Green beans
  • Spinach – cooked
  • Fresh lettuce,salad greens
  • Warmed frozen vegetables
  • Canned or lightly cooked vegetables
  • Nuts – treat
  • Peanut butter – treat
  • Good quality human, unsalted peanuts – treat
  • Clean seeds – treat only
  • Cooked corn on the cob
  • Grapes
  • Paw-paw
  • Mango, Litchees
  • Watermelon
  • Citrus, Apricot, Peaches
  • Tomatoes
  • Cherries
  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Berries,banana
  • Celery
  • Spirulina
  • Vitamins, rooibos with no milk or sugar
  • Dried fruits
  • Dark green,yellow and orange fruit and veggies.

More good table foods

  • Commercial egg food from Aviplus or Nutribird
  • Nice warm adult bird porridge from Aviplus
  • Guava
  • Green peppers, hot peppers
  • Whole grain cereals
  • Whole-wheat toast
  • Chili peppers, red peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Couscous
  • Mielie pap
  • Air popped popcorn
  • Rice cakes
  • Fat free pretzels
  • Fresh seed sprouts
  • Non-fat yoghurt-very little
  • Low fat cheese-very little
  • White fish-well cooked
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Butternut squash, Hubbard squash,
  • Pumpkin
  • Nectarines, apricots,
  • Peas in the pod, bean sprouts
  • Green asparagus
  • Tomato, cooked potato, pomegranates
  • Figs
  • Plums, kiwi fruit, cranberries, prickly pears
  • Pineapple
  • Toast, granola, muesli, wheat germ,
  • Baby foods like Purity etc
  • Boiled peas, mealies, beans
  • Sprouts, nuts
  • Blackberries, blueberries
  • Brussels sprouts, oranges
  • Artichokes
  • Leeks, parsley
  • Cabbage, plums
  • Capsicum, potatoes
  • Chickpeas. radishes
  • Chili peppers, raspberries
  • Citrus fruits,
  • Cucumber, squash
  • Garlic, strawberries
  • Cranberries, tomatoes
  • Grapefruit, watermelon

We have all been raised with the misconception that a bird’s diet should consist of seeds. Fact is: Exotic birds in their natural habitat eat very little seed. Seed is deficient in almost every nutrient except fat. This provides only energy to the body to survive from day to day, but the bird will not be healthy at all. Even if your bird is supplied with extra fruit and vitamins, the diet is almost definitely still unbalanced. Fruit consist mainly of water, sugar, fiber and vitamins, but still lacks the essential amino acids and proteins that the bird needs. It is not enough to make up for the deficiencies in the seed. Yes, it may be true that birds also do not eat pellets in nature. We have taken away their freedom to feed themselves though and bird pellets is our only way of providing them with all the essential food groups that they need. With bird pellets, every bite is balanced. Some parrots have strong individual preferences for foods based on experience and habit. Colour, texture, fat content, shape, size and taste are all factors that play a role in the selection of food. Unfortunately humans unintentionally encourage selective eating habits by providing the bird only with the food that it readily eats. Some birds become fixated on sunflower seeds and will refuse to eat anything else. This leads to severe nutrient deficiencies if the poor eating habits are left unchecked. Most birds are fed seed diets because it is cheap. Imagine a daily cup of sunflower oil as your only source of nutrition for the rest of your life? Believing in seeds is like still living in the dark ages!

The daily routine should be:

 

  • Good bird pellets (preferably organic) and clean fresh water (preferably filtered non-chlorinated) in the cage all day.
  • When you are having breakfast, lunch and early supper, you may share some of your good foods with your parrot. Offer it in a separate bowland remove it again from the cage after an hour or so. (Birds in nature forage for food in the early morning and late afternoon). They may accept a new diet more readily first thing in the morning when the appetite is the strongest. Clean the cage and give fresh pellets and water before he goes to bed. Your parrot will wake up the next morning with a strong appetite and will have no choice but to eat his scientifically formulated bird pellets. Give the more healthy food in the morning.
  • Don’t leave a ton of food in the cage- your parrot will only play with his food or throw everything out to get to the nicest bits. Provide limited portions only (Roughly 10% of parrot’s bodyweight in grams – 10g per 100g). This will encourage the bird to eat everything offered) Too much food will only spoil, waste and cause disease.
  • Remember also that fatty starchy food will also satisfy your parrots hunger quickly and then he will not eat his healthy fruit and vegetables. Just like a child who gets a chocolate before his meal. Too much fat also leads to a number of health problems.
  • Seeds are a treat only!!! Never mix seeds with your parrot’s food. Theywill only eat the seeds. You may be offering a balanced diet but in the mean time your parrot is eating only what he wants. An all seed diet is called a death diet. No amount of extra fruit will make up for the deficiencies. You will be very, very sorry

More facts regarding the diet:

  •  Advantages of feeding pellets: Better body condition, longer life expectancy, brighter colored plumage, increased energy and vitality, more vocal and playful, decreased biting, yelling and picking, increased affection, increased resistance to disease, healthier and happier birds, earlier sexual maturity, improved fertility, more eggs, increased hatch percentage, healthier chicks, less food consumed- due to good digestibility, no food wastage due to searching for seeds between hulls, cost per kg of pellets not much more than that of seeds without the hulls, good acceptance after change over, fully balanced, easy to feed, eaten entirely- every bite balanced.
  •  Never feed a parrot from your mouth or your spoon. You have bacteria in your mouth that may be deadly to your parrot.
  • Always wash fruit and vegetables first. Don’t overcook veggies. Do not give big pieces of fruit and vegetables. Birds tend to take one bite only and drop the rest. Rather use a food processor to cut it into smaller pieces.
  • Remember – “just a little bit of this or that“is actually a lot for your parrot’s size. Small pieces of junk food may not sound that serious, but just like with us your parrot will want to eat more and more of that and will reject his healthy foods. This may lead to a long list of medical problems.
  • Add a pinch of Spirulina to the food every day. This is a very high source of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and an excellent immune stimulant. Do not oversupply vitamins and minerals- this may lead to far worse imbalances!
  • Also add pro-biotics every day. These are the normal bacteria your parrot needs in its intestines. The more “good guys” the less the chances for “bad guys “to overgrow and cause disease.
  • Birds on a pelleted diet don’t need grit. Supply a little if you give seeds as part of the diet.
  • Feed different shapes, colours, textures and sizes of natural foods from the different food groups. (Protein, carbohydrates, whole grains / fiber, veggies, fat, minerals and vitamins). Teach the parrot to eat different pellets as well.
  • Birds are opportunistic omnivores and will eat almost anything edible that they discover. From insects, flower buds, roots, grass seeds, to fruit and nuts etc.
  • Although birds will accept sunflower seeds and peanuts readily and get hooked on it, it doesn’t mean that it is healthy for them and that they know better what to eat.
  • Birds fly for long distances in nature in search of food and will instinctively crave high-energy foods to supply their energy requirements. However, birds in captivity will never expend all the energy supplied by seeds.
  • Although finches, budgies and canaries do eat a higher percentage of seeds, these are usually germinating seeds or green seeds still on the plant with a higher nutritional value. They also do not eat only seeds but also fruit, insects, flower buds etc. Seeds should be ten to twenty percent of the diet.
  • The most serious deficiencies in seeds are high quality protein, vitamin A, vitamin K and calcium. No amount of added vitamins will make up for the deficiencies.
  • Adding vitamins to water is ineffective. Vitamins will oxidize after a while and promotes bacterial growth in the water. Rather mix it with the food.
  • Only buy food that is in its original, sealed packaging.
  • Never give old, limp, wilted, overripe, rotten or dirty fruits and veggies. Only give food that you will eat yourself. Always inspect sprouts, nuts, grains, seeds and pellets for wetness, mold and insect damage. Rather store food in the fridge.
  • Many of us do not eat a healthy, balanced diet like we should. We get into a habit of eating a lot of processed or fast foods after a busy day. These foods are very high in carbohydrates and fat. We should change our focus and feed our parrots and ourselves a healthy balanced, low fat and sugar diet.
  • Malnutrition is directly or indirectly responsible for 99% of the problems seen in the patients presented to us every day. It is still the main reason for illness, stress, short lives and death.

Here is a list of some of the SEED RELATED problems we have to deal with every day:

  • Feather plucking and self-mutilation
  • Sinusitis
  • Thickening of the surfaces of the respiratory passages with obstruction and difficulty in breathing.
  • Thickening of the kidney tubules with kidney failure
  • Thickening of the reproductive tract with egg retentions.
  • Egg binding problems and poorly formed eggshells.
  • Abscesses behind eyes, under chin, inside mouth etc.
  • Weak areas in feathers (“stress lines”) that causes the feathers to break easily at that point.
  • Itchy, dry, flaky skin.
  • Brittle, frayed feathers that look more like hair than feathers.
  • Obesity, Fatty liver degeneration and liver failure.
  • Poor immune system.
  • Colour changes in feathers. (Green to yellow / grey to pink / blue to black / grey to black)
  • Slow, incomplete moults. Retention of feather sheaths around the feathers.
  • Thickened dry crusty lesions on feet.
  • Shiny thinned out skin on feet.
  • Pink areas on soles of feet with unhealthy feet and bumble foot
  • Thick keratin plugs blocking the nostrils and destroying the nasal openings.
  • Goiter in budgies with resultant swollen thyroid glands in throat with voice loss and obstruction to breathing)
  • Weak, bent bones, and bones that fractures easily.
  • Gout with swollen red painful hocks
  • Calcium deficiencies with seizures and balancing problems.
  • Rickets in young birds with abnormal development of body.
  • Slipped tendons.
  • Behavioral problems including aggressiveness, nervousness, rejection of food and regurgitation, increased biting, increased screaming, inactivity and reluctance to play.
  • Leg weakness
  • Bleeding tendencies
  • Poor growth and stunted birds.
  • Pale anemic birds
  • Poor hatchability of eggs, Nestling deaths.  Decreased fertility
  • Arteriosclerosis, Ascites
  • Sudden collapse or fainting.
  • Paralyses
  • Unexplained anesthetic deaths

“Seed junkies” may not perceive pellets as a food item and therefore patience and the correct technique is necessary to convert them.

Remember: The following technique does not involve forcing or starving the parrot!!!!

Changing the diet safely:

  • Change the diet only when the bird is healthy. Any food modification will result in stress to the bird.
  • Be strict but observe your birds very closely during this time.
  • Young birds will adapt more quickly to new foods.
  • Acceptance can be greatly improved by wetting the pellets a little in the beginning.
  • Feed the new foods in the old, familiar bowls and the old food in a new unfamiliar bowl.
  • Put the new diet at the higher perches where the bird spends the most time. Put the old diet in a less accessible place.
  • Some bird will switch to a nutritious diet immediately. Some may take longer and need more patience and time.
  • The idea is not to starve the parrot, but also not to give it a choice between seeds and the new diet. It doesn’t help to only mix the pellets and seeds and to hope that he will eat the pellets. The bird will only eat the seeds if given a choice.
  • It is very important to make sure that the bird is eating enough of any other good foods in the time that it is taking for him to realize that the pellets are also food.  It is your responsibility to make sure that the bird is eating something and not just starving.
  • If the bird initially absolutely refuses to eat the pellets provided or any of the good foods in between, you have no choice but to provide a separate, small bowl of seeds in the afternoon. Let the bird eat it and then remove it again. If the bird is prepared to eat fruit and veggies or baby porridge and egg food – rather give them that in 3 separate meals throughout the day and throw the seeds away.
  • Watch the bird’s stools and make sure that it is eating and going to the toilet. If there are very little stools, it means that the bird is not eating!! Be aware that the bird may be going through the motions of eating, but may not be taking in enough food. Sometimes it may look like they are eating their new pellets but in fact they are only searching between the pellets for seeds. The only way to monitor intake is to watch the “output” You can sprinkle a couple of small seeds on top of the pellets just to get the bird to go to the bowl. Do not mix the seeds with the pellets.
  • Do not starve your bird. Cockatiels, budgies and finches may starve themselves rather before trying the new food. Seed junkies are usually already in a very poor condition and can’t handle additional stress. It is better to start by preparing them for the switch first. The new food should be mixed in between the seeds for 2 to 3 weeks. The idea is not to expect them to eat the new food, but just to teach them to recognize pellets as a new element in the diet.
  • During the real switch over period, pellets and seeds will no longer be mixed! Let them go a half-day without seeds, and only provide the new food. If they don’t eat anything the whole day- give them a separate bowl of seed late afternoon and then remove it.
  • If the bird eats very little or not at all, stop the process for a while, but try again after the bird has eaten some of the old food for a day or two. Do not give up after only one or two attempts. It takes time, but most birds will eat with a little persistence from the owner.
  • Another way to go about it with stubborn cockatiels and budgies is to start the first week with: New food in the cage 30% of the time and theold food 70% of the time. The second week should be: 70% of the timenew food and 30% of the time old food. The third week should be 90% of the time new food and 10% of the time old food. Do not mix the foods together. This works very well at home with stubborn birds.
  • A safe way to go about changing the bird’s diet is to ask your veterinarian to help. The bird will receive only the new food at all times. He will, however, be fed baby bird porridge with a syringe twice a day to make sure that he doesn’t starve. This method usually takes more or less 3 days and then the parrot eats his new food eagerly.
  • Birds are social eaters and want to eat when their flock is eating. Pretend that you are eating the food and the whole family can get except the parrot. Give the food to the rival person or dog and let the “rival” cry out with joy and reward the “rival” with praise. Your parrot will then want some of that food. Don’t act suspicious around the new food or try to bribe the parrot with it. The parrot will sense that you are up to something immediately. Just leave the new food there and walk away.
  • Unacceptable excuses: “ my bird won’t eat that / my bird won’t eat anything green / he throws anything new on the floor / he hates vegetables / he hates me when I don’t give him seeds” These birds are in control and are manipulating their owners. Surely you won’t let your child eat only chocolates every day! The bird will not change its habits unless you are convinced and also change!
  • In the beginning it may feel like you are only wasting food. Don’t let that stop you. Don’t make a fuss when he turns the bowl over- just get the cable ties out! Even if he doesn’t look at the food initially or throw it out, keep on trying. It may take weeks but it will be the best thing you ever do for your parrot.

Good luck and good health!

OVERWEIGHT BIRDS

Obesity in pet birds is a very common problem.

  • Certain birds are more prone to obesity than others. (Cockatiels, Budgies, Quaker parakeets, Amazons and Cockatoos)
  • Reasons for obesity:
    • Bird doesn’t get enough exercise.
    • Bird eats the wrong foods, like junk foods and seeds.
    • Bird eats the whole day instead of morning and afternoon like in nature.
    • Bird gets far too much food (a budgie needs only half a teaspoon of seeds a day for instance)
    • Bird gets a mixture of good and bad food but selects only high in fat foods from the mixture.
  • Obesity leads to the following medical problems:
    • Stress on joints, Pressure sores on hocks and feet
    • Heart problems, Arteriosclerosis, strokes
    • Diabetes, Pancreas problems
    • Thyroid problems, Fatty tumours like lipomas and xanthomas.
    • Liver failure, Organs covered in fat
    • Anesthetic risk, Breathing difficulties
    • Sinus problems, Preening gland blockages and abscesses
    • Diabetes

You can use the following technique to see whether your bird is overweight or not. Wet the chest and abdominal area with a little bit of spirits. You will clearly see the yellow fat accumulated over the belly, chest and hips. Also feel the chest bone; if it feels round and has a cleavage in the middle, your bird is overweight. Some birds may seem thin but fat may be accumulating in blood vessels and around organs.

  • Make sure your bird is healthy before you put him on a diet.
  • Restrict his calories and increase his exercise.
  • Put bird on a proper, balanced diet that you have discussed with your vet.
  • Follow instructions on how to change the bird’s diet.
  • Avoid fat based treats like seeds.
  • Avoid simple carbohydrates like human junk food.
  • Limit time bird is exposed to food. Rather give three small meals a day.
  • Bird must learn that what there is is what there is.
  • Food should be 10% of the bird’s weight.
  • Start with some exercise slowly.
  • Give bird opportunities to walk, climb, and flap their wings and swing.

©Pet’s Health

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