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Converting Parrots to a Healthier Diet - Tips

Monica

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A healthy parrot starts with a healthy diet. Although the perfect diet is controversial, many parrot enthusiasts and experts agree on one thing; a seed only diet is a diet that is lacking in essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Studies have shown that adding fresh foods and pellets to a parrots diet can not only increase their health but may also prolong their lifespan. A healthy diet can help aid a birds immune system in keeping illnesses away. Feeding a healthy diet and having your bird eat a healthy diet can be entirely two different things! So, how do you get a seed junky, perch potato to eat healthier? In this guide, we will go through a few different techniques that you can use to get your birds eating healthier!

1. Before you make the switch
2. Sprouty Goodness
3. Mash-terpiece
4. Ingenuity
5. Morning Feed
6. Cold Turkey
7. From Seeds to Pellets
8. Sweet Treats
9. Pellet Paste
10. Size matters
11. Juicy Supreem


Before you make the switch

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 behaivor 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 backwords 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.
 
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Monica

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Sprouty Goodness

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.




Grains
  • Wheat
  • Weatgrass
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Whole oats
  • Hulless Barley
  • Spelt
  • Kamut
  • Amaranth
  • Wild Rice
  • Brown Rice
  • Hulless Oats
  • Rye
  • Teff
Legumes
  • Mung
  • Lentils
  • Adzuki
  • Chick peas
  • Whole peas
Seeds
  • Sunflower Seeds
  • Clover
  • Alfalfa
  • Broccoli
  • Arugula
  • Radish
  • Fenugreek
  • Pumpkin Seeds
  • Raw Buckwheat
  • Chia
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Flax
  • Fennel
  • 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 potatos, 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.

 
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Monica

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Mash-terpiece

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 potatos 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 prepaired, 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.

 
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Monica

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Ingenuity

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 inbetween 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 pschycological 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.

 
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Saemma

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:D Very nice!! Thanks Monica:D
 

Monica

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Morning Feed

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.



Sweet Treats

If there is one particular seed that your bird enjoys out of their seed mix, such as sunflower seeds, peanuts, nutz, 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.

 
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Monica

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Pellet Paste

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)
seed mix.png



Pellets (Roudybush Maintenance Mini)
pellets roudy bush.png



Pellets in a coffee blender
pellets in blender.png



Pellets being grounded down to a dust
pellets ground dust.png



The pellet dust
pellet dust.png



50/50 Seeds and Pellets
5050seed pellet.png



The seeds/pellets divided into daily containers
seedpelletdailycontainer.png



Some water
somewater.png



Mix a tiny amount of water (you don't want it runny) with the pellets and seeds.
mixtinyamountofwater.png



Add to the dishes
addtothedishes1.png
addtothedishes2.png



"Cake" bit - just flattened out
cakebit1.png
cakebit2.png




And the birds eating it!

eat3.png
eat1.png
eat2.png
eat4.png






 
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expressmailtome

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Thank you for this post!

Matt
 

Monica

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Size Matters

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.



Juicy Supreme

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!


 
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Gen120

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wow, great info! All my parrots will eat pellets with gusto except for my parrotlet. I will try a few of these methods on him and see if those work on switching him to pellets.
 

Monica

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Your welcome guys! I hope it helps for those with stubborn birds!
 

LemonGrass

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ty for the info :hug8:
 

Beemersmom

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Back to the drawing board to try some different recipes! This has given me a few tips in which to try, again!!! Thank you! :0) I knew I kept my coffee grinder for a reason. LOL
Beemer will be going to a 'local pet shop' for his vacation over Labor Day Weekend, while we go to Branson for a few days. If he doesn't pluck then, he will be fine until spring time!! Finding him a mate that he enjoys might not be so easy. He likes talking to all the birds, and not the other Grey.
He does love his boiled/scrambled eggs; about how long do you suggest leaving them on top of his cage? I usually leave them for about 2-3 hours, hope that is ok.
Also wanted to know, if I sprout some different seeds in a small bowl, is it ok to put it on the bottom or top of his cage and just leave it? I have tried that before and he wouldn't go near it. My budgies loved it but not the Grey. Hoping I will find some more recipes to 'try' that he won't be so picky about.
Will pick up some Roudybush while he stays at the pet shop. I wish they would/could sell it in small sample bags, just to try, and write down what type, and when he tried them.
He does like his sweet potatoes, frozen corn, frozen peas, apples and fresh bananas, wish it was more. He used to like oatmeal mixed with some peanut butter. That is about it besides his Nutriberries. Am anxious to see what comes about.
Thanks, all.
Lin aka Beemersmom
 
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quakingcanopy

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just got a pair of Suns who have always been fed seeds only and have been looking for ways to convert them to my mix I feed my other Sun which has 50% pellets. I am trying to method where I grind the pellets, add water and seeds. Going to give it a go tomorrow in the AM and can't wait to see if it works. Thanks!!
 

August33

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Hey, :D thanks for the info. My little guy is really scared of trying new foods and he's looking kinda thin so I appreciate the advise.
 

spideysmom

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This thread has inspired me to try try and try again. My teil and buddgie's seed mix has some pellets in it, but not much. I have also never been able to get them to eat fresh foods. This morning I made a very colorful mix of seeds, fruit, and greens. I'm not sure how much of it that are really 'eating,' but they are very curious about it and picking away. It seems so obvious that if it looks fun, they may try it, but I never thought that way till reading this thread. Thank you! Going to have to pick up some pellets and try grinding next.
 
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