Proper Parrot Nutrition
Proper and adequate avian nutrition combined with good husbandry is probably the single most important factor in insuring that your pet bird lives a long and healthy life.
The good husbandry aspect is very straight forward; supply your companion with a roomy, clean environment with full spectrum lighting, plenty of toys, quality time with you, regular veterinary care and most important of all, time out of the cage with plenty of mental and physical stimulation. The proper and adequate nutrition aspect is more complicated and complex.
You should feed your birds a healthy well-rounded and varied diet. Feed them a little of everything mentioned on this page, and never over do it with any one food type.
Avoiding the following: Huge quantities of Sunflower seeds, (They are very high in fat), Raw Peanuts, (Monkey Nuts), buy human grade only and give as a treat, Avocado, Chocolate. High-fat junk food, Alcohol or caffeine, Fruit pips, Onions, Mushrooms. Food high in salt and preserved meat should also be avoided since birds are very sodium sensitive.
Harrison’s Bird Foods are the formulas that provide proper nutrition for your bird’s lifetime care. Because the single most important thing you can do for your bird is to feed it right.
Harrison’s Bird Foods is a family of certified organic, formulated diets that were created by avian veterinarians and nutritionists with the health of your bird in mind. Our formulas require little or no supplementation.
Dr. Greg Harrison, the main developer of Harrison’s Bird Foods, is a certified avian specialist with 34 years experience in bird care. He has transformed his practice into an avian wellness clinic that incorporates preventive medicine through proper nutrition with Harrison’s Bird Foods.
Harrison’s is sold in veterinary clinics throughout the world. Make an appointment for your bird to see a vet today and be sure to ask for Harrison’s Bird Foods.
Formulated Food - Pellets
Research and experience show that birds stay healthier and live longer on formulated diets rather than seed-based only diets, no matter how nutritionally complete a seed based diet claims to be!
A seed-only diet is inappropriate for psittacine birds. Some seed is high in fat and low in most nutrients necessary for good health. Parrots that eat seed only will suffer from nutritional deficiencies even though they may look healthy, and may even be overweight.
Fortified seed has most of the fortifications in the hulls. Often bird owners think that they are providing a complete diet by purchasing fortified seed mixes. Unfortunately, the vitamins and minerals are coated on the seed hulls, which are discarded when the bird eats the seed.
Formulated diets, also known as pellets, are manufactured to meet the specific nutritional needs of companion birds. Ideally, the diet of companion birds should be composed of a minimum of 40-50% pellets, with the remainder in healthy table foods and produce and a good quality seed mix.. Recent studies have found some pellet brands to contain too much zinc & vitamin D3, which can contribute to zinc poisoning and kidney failure in pet birds. When purchasing a pellet brand stay away from the coloured ones, choose a brand with no artificial colouring. And make sure it is always made from organic ingredients.
Some birds convert to formulated diets quickly and willingly, while others may take weeks or months. Owner persistence is the key to successful dietary conversion. (We recommend you use Harrison's Fine Grade for small to medium parrots, being smaller than the regular sized pellets, there is much less wastage). The formulated food should be offered in a separate dish and left in the cage at all times along with fresh fruit and vegetables. Usual food items (such as seed and table food) should be restricted to one hour twice daily, preferably morning and evening. It is extremely important that you don't forget to feed your bird his normal seed and table food twice daily until he eats sufficient amounts of pellets.
Many birds will not initially recognise pellets as food and can starve themselves. Most birds will start to nibble on the formulated food within a few days to a few weeks and the usual foods are gradually withdrawn until they compose 60% or less of the diet.
Please be sure your bird has had a recent veterinary exam before changing the diet to screen for any underlying health problems and obtain a current weight. If you are looking for an avian vet near you please go to our find avian vets page.
Malnutrition, the leading cause of disease and early death in birds, is a human-created problem that can be prevented through proper nutrition.
Every day, without exception, a bird needs to eat 30 essential nutrients.
Food passes through a bird's digestive track in just 120 minutes.
A bird does not store nutrients.
Over 80% of the birds taken to the vet for some "sickness" are suffering from malnutrition.
Seed-only diets are nutritionally inadequate for our birds health because they are deficient in the fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D3, E, and K), several B vitamins, certain amino acids, and some minerals including calcium, zinc, copper, and iron.
Dr Laurie Hess, DMV, Dipl. ABVP-Avian; Owner, Veterinary Center for Birds & Exotics in New York, conducted a study on 135 pet birds. She reported the finding at the first International Symposium on Pet Bird Nutrition held in Hanover.
Dr. Hess's findings were quite alarming:
57.8% consumed less than vitamin A than recommended for maintenance
98.5% consumed less than vitamin D3 than recommended for maintenance
21.4% consumed less than vitamin E than recommended for maintenance
95.6% consumed diets containing less calcium than recommended for maintenance
Common Nutritional Deficiencies
Different bird species are prone to different nutritional and diet-related health problems.
Health Problems by Species's
African Grey- Calcium deficiency
Amazon - Vitamin A deficiency, fatty liver disease, obesity
Budgie - French Moult, (they require Iodine and other nutrients for good feather development)
Cockatiel - Vitamin A deficiency, fatty liver disease
Cockatoo - Obesity (they require low-fat diet)
Eclectus - Calcium deficiency
Finches/Canary- Iodine, Calcium and Protein deficiency
Lory - Bacterial infections, iron storage disease
Macaw - Vitamin A deficiency
Mynah Bird - Iron storage disease (they require a low-iron diet)
Parakeet - Liver disease, obesity (they require a low-fat diet)
Toucan - Iron storage disease (they require a low-iron diet)
Pellets and extruded diets
To overcome these deficiencies, pellets and extruded diets have been developed to provide balanced nutrition. Seeds, minerals, and vitamins are ground to mostly homogenous mixture, and then processed into a pellet. This process makes it difficult or impossible for a bird to pick out and eat favorite parts and leave other parts behind. The homogenous food thus helps to ensure that the bird consumes a balanced diet.
Additional Supplement Requirements
Calcium deficiency is even a bigger problem for birds that eat a seed only diet, than Vitamin A deficiency. Most owners give their birds cuttlefish bone for their calcium requirements. Most of the cuttlefish is not used by some birds. You should use a cheese grater, to grind the cuttlebone into powder, then place it in a separate dish...
The finest calcium solution is Calcivet. It is easily absorbed and quickly gets to the bones, nerves and muscles where it is needed.
You would be amazed how many birds are suffering from inadequate calcium intake. Behavioral problems, droopy wings, fluffed appearance, poor perching and clumsy flying, shaking, fear, aggression, self mutilation and difficulty laying an egg are all indicators of calcium problems. If you are in any doubt, especially if the birds been on a seed only diet, use a little extra Calcivet on egg food and soft foods, for one day a week or twice a week for African Greys for a month.
Hens require extra calcium to make good quality egg shells. Most birds only carry enough calcium stored in their bones to produce three eggs. Using Calcivet provides Calcium, Vitamin D3 and Magnesium will ensure healthier hens, producing larger clutches with better hatch ability! During the breeding season make sure Calcivet is always available in a separate dish.
Parrot Seed Mix Comparisons
Choosing a Parrot seed mix
Before buying your Parrot seed, compare the difference in quality, above you can see the differences.
Sunflower Seeds are high in fat, which is ideal for wild birds, that require plenty of fat that coverts to energy to fly around for long periods in search for their food in the wild. Caged birds do not need a high fat diet, as they are not as active and will not burn of this fat, and will eventually give your bird Faty-Liver Disease, resulting in an earlier deaf.
The first picture The main thing to compare is the amount of sunflower seed and raw peanuts/monkey nuts, both these are not good for your Parrot in huge quantities. They contain far to much fat that's not good for inactive cage birds and contain very little nutritional value
Some stores also sell a mix that looks more like Rabbit food, this type should also be avoided.
The second picture This mix is low Sunflower seed 5% and has no monkey nuts. Most of the seeds are without the hulls, which means less waste.
The third picture This mix also contains less sunflower seed 10%, and no monkey nuts. Most of the seeds are without the hulls, which means less waste.
It makes more sense to buy better quality seed mixes, they are much more healthier for your bird and better value as there is very little wastage compared to the cheaper high fat seed mixes.
Please go to the our Parrot supplies page to buy these quality mixes.
Egg Food for all seed eating birds
Egg Food is a complementary food for all species of seed-eating birds. Because of its coarse structure this product is completely absorbed and contains all the vital nutrients for young and adult birds during the resting, breeding, and moulting season: (animal and vegetable proteins), vitamins, amino acids, minerals and trace elements.
Egg Food is composed of quality ingredients: egg, honey,… Thanks to the additional honey Egg Food is ready for use.
Instructions for use:
To be fed straight to the birds or can be completed with germinated seeds, vegetables and/or fruit.
• Resting period: feed 2 to 3 times weekly 1/4 of a daily ration of Egg Food.
• Breeding season: feed birds with Egg Food as much as they like.
• Moulting period: feed 1/4 of a day’s ration of Egg Food on a daily basis.
Ingredients: bakery products, egg and egg products, vegetable protein extracts, seeds, sugars, oils and fats, minerals.
Grit and Gravel
While not a food, grit is something people think all birds need. They do not. If it is overeaten, grit impaction can occur in the digestive system. Finches and canaries may benefit from a couple of grains of grit every couple of months, but budgies, cockatiels, parrakeets and other parrots do not need it. For more information, see www.avianavenue.com
Buying table foods that are good for your birds
Before you shop for your birds
First consider these facts
Soil Depletion and Toxic Chemical Contamination - Due to soil depletion, caused by todays bad farming practices. Fruits and Vegetables are much Less Nutritious than they were decades ago. So for this reason and the excessive use of Toxic chemicals used in modern farming, that reduces the soils fertility even further. You should only buy organically grown fruits and vegetables for your birds.
The crops we buy today from the supermarkets have very little nutritional value. It is true that fruits and vegetables grown decades ago were much richer in vitamins and minerals than the varieties most of us get today.
The main culprit in this disturbing nutritional trend is soil depletion: Modern intensive agricultural methods have stripped increasing amounts of nutrients from the soil and then contaminated the ground with harmful toxic chemicals - That include: fertilisers, herbicides (weed killer), and pesticides, (which the food we all eat every day grows in). Sadly, each successive generation of faster-growing, pest-resistant crops, are truly less good for you and your bird, than the ones before.
You should only feed your birds organically grown fruit and vegetables (or grow your own)
We recommend that you only use organically grown fruit and vegetables, as birds are much more sensitive to the pesticides and other chemicals that are used in commercial farming. You can buy them here: www.riverford.co.uk
Compare the differences between conventional and organic farming
Conventionally - grown produce - Facts
Grown with synthetic or chemical fertilisers.
Weeds are controlled with chemical herbicides.
Pests are controlled with synthetic pesticides.
Organic fruit and vegetable - Facts
Grown with natural fertilisers (manure, compost).
Weeds are controlled naturally (crop rotation, hand weeding, mulching, and tilling).
Pests are controlled using natural methods (birds, insects, traps) and naturally-derived pesticides.
Foods that are bad for your birds
You should never feed your bird avocado or chocolate. High-fat junk food (potato chips, doughnuts, etc.) Alcohol or caffeine, Fruit pips, table salt, Onions, Mushrooms - They are poisonous to birds and fatal if fed in sufficient amounts. Food high in salt and preserved meat should also be avoided since birds are very sodium sensitive.
You should definitely avoid giving your bird Sunflower seeds and raw peanuts (monkey nuts). They are both high in fat. It's recommended when choosing a seed mix always buy one without Sunflower seeds, or low Sunflower seeds, as already mentioned above.
Table foods that are good for your birds
Most produce and table foods that are good for people are nutritional for birds as well. All fruits and vegetables should be washed thoroughly before feeding!
Some of the most beneficial foods are dark, leafy green vegetables like kale, broccoli, dandelion greens, swiss chard, mustard greens, etc., as well as carrots, cooked sweet potatoes and squash.
Lettuce and celery are not recommended since they contain mostly water and sodium and no nutrients. If you must feed your bird lettuce, romaine would be the most beneficial one.
Note: Spinach is very high in calcium BUT it is also very high in oxalic acid which binds to calcium. In other words spinach is not a good source of calcium for your bird. In addition given over an extended period of time it can cause gout. Some greens that are safer are collard greens, mustard, dandelion, alfalfa greens, water cress and escarole. It's all in the amount and frequency that you feed greens. If you give your bird a variety of greens in small quantities a couple of times a week it doesn't really matter which greens you give him! Just don't overdo it!
Although all fruits are acceptable, they should only be offered in small amounts due to their high water content. Orange fruits such as papaya, mango and cantaloupe are highest in vitamin A and would be most beneficial.
Healthy table foods, such as cooked egg, corn, peas, beans, pasta, rice (brown is best), and low sugar and low sodium cereals etc., can also be offered in small amounts.
Choices of fruits and vegetables for psittacines.
Nutritious Additions to a Psittacine Diet
Fruits and Vegetables list include:
Radishes, Turnips, Carrots (root and tops), Cooked sweet potatoes, Radicchio, Endive, Mustard & dandelion greens, Swiss Chard, Kale, Parsley, Cooked red potatoes, Green beans, Tomato
Sweet red & green, and other types of peppers, Cauliflower, Broccoli (head and leaves), Beet & turnip greens, Eggplant, Kohlrabi, Sugar snap or snow peas , Squash (peeled & steamed)
Red beets (peeled) Romaine or green/red leaf lettuce, Collard greens, Corn, Cucumber, Apples, Berries, Kiwi, Mango, Cantaloupe
Honeydew, Pineapple, Cherries, Cranberries, Banana, Pears, Peaches, Oranges, Pomegranate, Tangerines, Star fruit, Grapefruit
Papaya, Plums, Grapes, Apricots
Wash all vegetables and fruits thoroughly before feeding. Remove the pits and apple seeds from the fruit. Any vegetables and fruits left uneaten should be discarded daily so spoiling is not a problem. Because fruits and vegetables are high in water content, the urine portion of the droppings will increase.
Adding variety and appeal: Birds decide what to eat by sight, texture, and taste. Offer a wide variety of vegetables and fruit to provide a balanced diet. Keep them in as natural a state as possible and be creative when preparing meals. Hang food from the cage top or sides, weave food into the bars of the cage, or stuff food in the spaces of toys. As an example, for larger birds, feed corn on the cob rather than feeding kernels of corn in a dish. This will help entertain the bird as well as provide physical and mental stimulation.
Switching your bird from a seed-based diet: It is much easier to start a young bird on a varied diet of healthy foods than it is to convert an older bird to a new diet. A bird on an unhealthy diet may take more effort to be converted to a healthier diet. When switching a pet bird's diet to one based on pelleted foods, you may notice a change in the bird's droppings, which will appear larger and lighter in colour. If you see only scants amount of dark droppings, contact your veterinarian; it may mean your bird is not eating well and may need to be converted more slowly.
If your bird is refusing to switch to a pelleted or egg food diet, you should remove the seed mix for one week.
Non-seed eating birds
Diets for non-seed eating psittacines such as Lories and Lorikeets consist primarily of a commercially prepared formula. Some of these may be fed dry or moistened; others need to be made into a solution and fed as a nectar. The nectar will need to be replaced several times daily; every 4 hours in hot weather.
The diet should also include some fruits such as: apples, pomegranates, papaya, grapes, cantaloupe, pineapple, figs, and kiwi. Pollen, corn-on-the-cob and some flowers such as pansies, nasturtiums, roses, hibiscus, marigolds, and dandelions may be offered, as well. Check with your avian veterinarian to determine the proper amounts.
For most adult birds, supplements are not necessary, and should only be provided if recommended by your veterinarian, due to having nutrient deficiencies or a medical problem. Birds that consume at least 25% of their intake in formulated food do not require vitamin and mineral supplements and further supplementation can actually be toxic. Supplements include powders, drops, and mineral blocks. Commercial formulated diets contain the minerals and vitamins your bird needs. Using vitamin supplements could result in vitamin overdoses. The only additional supplement you should give your bird is calcium, as mentioned above, but only as required, or recommend by your avian veterinarian.
Spring Me a Treat bird toy Feeding methods
Birds in the wild spend at least 1/3 of their day foraging for food. Simply putting food in a dish deprives them of that physical and mental stimulation. Try using foraging toys and other methods to enliven your bird's eating times. One of the best treats you can give your pet bird would be Nutriberries. Monkey nuts can be given too, but only in small amounts, and only as a treat, as they are high in fat. Birds love breaking them open.
Formulated diet can be available at all times. Natural feeding times in wild birds are about a half hour after sunrise and again at 5-6 PM, so these would be good times to offer the fresh vegetables. Always remove any uneaten vegetables or fruit at the next feeding. Foraging toys can be left in the cage throughout the day for snacking and entertainment.
You should offer your bird only what he can eat in a day. This will make it easier to monitor his daily intake. Decreased food intake may be the first sign that a bird is ill.
Dishes should be washed daily in hot soapy water. No food should remain in the cage for longer than 24 hours, as the risk of fecal contamination or spoiling is high.
Fresh, clean water should always be available. If a water bottle is used, the water should be changed daily and the tip should be checked daily to be sure it is working. Dehydration is a serious problem that can occur within a day or two if water is unavailable. If you are switching your bird from a water dish to a water bottle, make sure your bird knows how to use the bottle before removing the dish.
No matter which bird comes into your home, read and ask your veterinarian questions regarding your bird's specific nutritional needs. Feeding a balanced, varied diet will play a major role in helping your pet bird live a long and healthy life.
We hope this overview of feeding your pet bird will not only stimulate you to review your bird's needs, but also to look at your pet's diet in general. If you know of a friend whose bird is not enjoying the benefits of a completely balanced diet, take a few moments to educate him or her and help benefit the lives of both bird and its owner.
If after reading this page, you do not try to apply what you have learnt here, you would be truly committing a act of animal cruelty to your pet bird.
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