What should you really be feeding your bird?
When most people think about birds and what their diet in captivity should be based on, seed is often the first thing that comes to mind. Historically, seed-based diets were all you could purchase at pet stores and supermarkets for you birds. I’m going to tell you why this is an outdated, and unhealthy approach to parrot nutrition.
Whats wrong with seed?
Seeds and nuts are actually very high in fats and low in other important vitamins and minerals. Birds often enjoy the taste of seeds and nuts and will prefer to eat these over other healthier foods such as vegetables and fruits. In a way, most birds are “seed-junkies”! We also find that birds in captivity are much less active than their wild cousins. Birds in the wild will often spend most of their day searching and foraging for food, so they probably need this higher energy diets.
Aside from the obvious risk of weight gain and obesity from a pure seed diet there are other potential healths risks too. For example, in egg laying birds, extra calcium is required for production of a mineralized shell and often birds will find it difficult to get the calcium they need from a seed-based diet alone. This could led to reproductive problems including trouble laying eggs (egg-binding) or abnormally shelled eggs. In many cases, some female birds will continue to lay many eggs while their bodies are calcium deficient. This can have many detrimental effects on their long-term health.
Why you should feed your bird pellets?
There are a number of pelleted diets that have been formulated for birds. These came about in the late 70’s and 80’s with help from top avian veterinarians and nutritionists. The diets have been adjusted and refined on over the years and today we have access to excellent well-balanced foods.
The different diets come in a variety of sizes, shapes and flavors so it is important to find a brand that your bird likes. These diets should comprise 60-80% of your birds diet with healthy vegetables and table foods making up the rest. Seeds and nuts should NOT be the major component of your birds diet. Instead, they should be reserved for use as treats and in training.
What’s a Nutri-Berry?
Nutri-Berries are a mix of seeds and grains that are coated in vitamins, minerals and amino acids. These are a great alternative to commercial seed diets. They are formulated by a company called Lafeber, and come in a variety of sizes and flavors. There is even a senior variety with added herbs (milk thistle, dandelion and ginger) and the joint health supplements glucosamine and chondroitin. Nutri-berries are great for foraging and can be used for birds transitioning to pellets.
What’s a Pellet-Berry?
Pellet-berries have been formulated by Lafeber to contain a higher percentage of pellets than their Nutri-berry range. These are another great option for birds who may refuse traditional pelleted foods. They contain 81% pellets, 19% fruits and grains and are again coated in vitamins and minerals. Some birds love to crunch and crumble Pellet-Berries and Nutri-Berries, others love the contents inside.
Parrot Nutrition Care Sheet
Click here to view and download a copy of my diet recommendations for pet birds. There also some more information about healthy table foods, vegetables and fruits that you can feed your bird in addition to a pelleted diet.
Often birds will ignore or refuse new food items and if they stop eating this could be detrimental to their health. For this reason, please consult with your avian veterinarian before changing your birds diet.