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Feeding Your New Parrot

General Points:

  1. If it is good for you it is usually good for your bird (see exceptions below)
  2. If it is not good for you, it is not good for the bird.  Give fatty foods in very limited quantities.  Really limit salt.
  3. If the food is of a quality and age that you would eat it yourself, then you can give it to your bird.  Don’t feed the “bad” parts of anything: he is susceptible to the same bacteria in food as you are (and probably some additional ones as well).
  4. Feed with 2 dishes in the cage – one for water, one for dry food or for fresh fruits and veggies.  Four might be used if you want to separate pellets from seed, or have a special treat bowl.
  5. Parrots do not need “grit”- their muscular crops are quite sufficient to preprocess food without any mechanical assistance.  In fact, giving grit can be harmful to them – they can become impacted by eating too much of it, and they can get heavy metal toxicity from certain kinds of grit.
  6. Make sure you clean the dishes thoroughly between feedings.  Birds are very susceptible to bacterial infection.  Also, if your parrot tents to drop soft food and wipe its beak on the bars of his cage, be aware that these areas are breeding grounds for bacteria and it is crucial that they be disinfected frequently (once or twice a week), with large hunks of food picked up every evening.

Water 

Your bird should have fresh water every day.  We usually give the fresh water in a clean bowl the morning.  In the afternoon, rinse the bowl and refill with fresh water if the bowl hasn't been soiled. If it's been soiled, clean the bowl.  

Don’t put anything in the water (vitamins, fruit juice, etc.) unless specifically prescribed by your avian vet.  Bacteria love to grow in such solutions.  Giving your bird a taste of fruit juice is fine, though they tend to get wired because the juice is full of natural sugars.

 

Soft Food

It is very important to feed your bird a variety of fruits and vegetables at least five times a week, though every day is preferable.  It is important to emphasize vegetables that are high in vitamin A – these are vegetables that are very dark in color like yams, dark leafy greens etc.  If a good mixture of veggies is fed, you should not need to supplement and any vitamins in your birds’ diet.  The greater the variety of things mixed in to soft food, the more excited your bird will be to eat it, and they are less likely to get bored with the same thing every day.

 

Here is a good list of VEGGIES to provide to your bird:

  • Frozen mixed veggies
  • Broccoli/cauliflower
  • *Yams/Sweet potatoes (orange ones)
  • Peppers (hot or not hot- they tend to really like the hot ones)
  • *Carrots
  • Summer squash (zucchini, yellow squash)
  • *Winter squash (acorn, butternut)
  • Leafy greens (kale, collards, Romaine, mustard greens, beet tops, spinach, endives etc.)
  • Brussels Sprouts
  • Celery (chopped across the veins)
  • Beets
  • Snow peas
  • String beans
  • Corn
  • Peas
  • Lima beans

*These veggies should be par broiled in the microwave for about 5 minutes - this softens them, and makes them a little sweeter

 
Here's a good list of FRUITS to provide for your bird:

  • Melons
  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Papaya
  • Mango
  • Oranges
  • Grapefruit
  • Bananas
  • Palm nuts 
  • Coconut

Limit the amount of fruit given as they are high in natural sugars and may cause your bird to become wired like little kids who have had too much candy.
The ratio of veggie to fruit should be about 70/30 in a mixure.

 

Other good stuff:

  • Cooked or sprouted beans, quinoa, rice and pasta.  There are a several really good commercial soak & cook mixes out there that have a lot of this stuff in them that the birds really like, especially when served warm.  Bird Street Bistro, TOPS are a couple of good ones.
  • Sprouted beans and seeds are another good thing to feed your parrot. Sprouts are highly nutritious, and the birds seem to really like them a lot.
  • If your bird becomes overweight, you will want to cut out the beans, rice and pasta, as they are high in calories, and emphasize the leafy greens and celery that are low in calories.

 

Dry Food

The rest of your birds diet consists of dry food.  This includes pellets, seeds, and nuts.

There are a lot of pellets out there that say that they are a complete diet, but this is not true.  Many vitamins that have been added to the pellets leach into the air after a while, and therefore are missing from the diet if no veggies are fed.  Seed should be limited as they are very high in fat, and except for some species (like cockatiels) that are strictly seedeaters; there is not much nutritional value to them.  Nuts also should be limited for most species as they are also high in fat.

PELLETS: There are many brands of pellets. We feed Harrison's and Tropican to our birds.  We have had the best luck with them - the birds seem to like it better, and they appear very healthy.
Here is a list of high quality bird pellets:

  • Harrison's Bird Food
  • Hagen's Tropican and Tropimix
  • TOPs Organic Bird Food
  • RoudyBush
  • Oven Fresh Bites
  • Zupreem Naturals

SEEDS: We combine our pellet with a yummy seed mixture (a small amount). Here are a variety of good options for seed:

  • Hookbill Cuisine options by Leach's
  • Goldenfeast's variety of options
  • Kaylor of Colorado's Sweet Harvest line
  • TOPs Organic Seed Mix

NUTS:  

  •  Almond
  • Walnuts
  • Pecans
  • Filberts (hazelnuts)
  • Brazil Nuts
  • Pine Nuts
  • Pistachio
  • and Macadamia Nuts (for Hyacinth and Greenwing Macaws)

Always choose human grade, all natural, unsalted nuts for your birds. In the shell, even better. Keeps those beaks busy!

 

Exceptions – what NEVER to feed your parrot:

  •       Avocados (very fatty, possible toxins from the pit)
  •       Onions (causes anemia, bacteria in the layers cannot be cleaned out)
  •       Caffeine (coffee, tea, soda)
  •       Alcohol
  •       Chocolate
  •       Grit/Gravel

     

      Limit salty/fatty/oily foods, Milk, milk based foods (birds are lactose intolerant)

      Don’t leave soft food out for longer that 3 hours, as it is more likely to grow bacteria after this long.

 

Vitamins

If you feed an adequate diet, as described above, you should not need to give vitamin supplements very often.  If you want to do something, give a food source supplement.  We like to use Fresh Addition, from China Prairie.  You could also use Wheat Grass powder sprinkled on top of the soft food once or twice a week.  Wheat Grass powder can be obtained in a health food store and is all-natural – there can be no overdosing.  If you want to use a commercial vitamin mixture, use Nekton or SuperPreen product sprinkled lightly on their soft food.  Once a week is sufficient.  Calcium supplementation us best supplied through giving cuttlebone shaved onto their soft food, or hardboiled eggs, with the shell ground into the soft food or birdie bread.  Yogurt is also a good source of calcium, though a limited amount should be used because it is milk based.  Never give any food that is vitamin fortified to any macaws- this causes calcification of their organs and can be very dangerous.

 

Feeding Amount and Special Instructions for the Different Species of Parrot

 

Species

Dry food

Soft food

Comments

African Grey

(Congo & Timneh)

90% Pellets, 10% seed

20-25 Harrisons High Potency pellets/meal

1/3 cup initially

Greys tend to become obese easily-limit fat.  They need high amounts of Vitamin A and Calcium

Red Bellied Parrots

90% Pellets, 10% seed

1 Tbsp Fine Grind Harrisons pellets/meal

¼ cup initially

Some Red Bellies prefer course grind pellets that they can pick up.

Jardines Parrots

90% Pellets, 10% seed

22-23 Harrisons High Potency Pellets/meal

¼ cup initially

 

Macaws-Large

90% Pellets, 10% seed

40-80 Harrisons Adult Lifetime Pellets/meal (depending on size)

2-10 nuts/meal

¾  cup initially

Macaws are prone to Vitamin D toxicity (causes calcification of the organs) Don’t feed anything vitamin fortified. Hyacinth Macaws should have High Potency pellets their whole lives, plus lots of macadamia and palm nuts (where available)

Macaws- Minis

90% Pellets, 10% seed

15-18 Harrisons Adult Lifetime Pellets/meal

¼ cup initially

Mini Macaws are prone to Vitamin D toxicity which causes calcification of their organs. Don’t feed anything that is vitamin fortified.

Amazons

90% Pellets, 10% seed

22 Harrisons Adult Lifetime Pellets/meal

1/3 cup initially

Amazons are very prone to obesity- limit fat in their diet

Pionus

90% Pellets, 10% seed

22-23 Harrisons Adult Lifetime Pellets/meal

¼ cup initially

Pionus consume large amounts of food for their size

Caiques

90% Pellets, 10% seed

22-23 Harrisons Adult Lifetime Pellets/meal

½ cup initially

Caiques are very active- they consume large amounts of food for their size, and burn calories very quickly

Eclectus       

Eclectus cont.

100% Pellets

20-25 Harrisons High Potency pellets/meal

½ cup initially

Eclectus need lots of veggies.  They are prone to obesity and fatty liver disease. They tolerate no artificial coloring in their food-this causes them to molt in yellow feathers. Occasionally an Eclectus will tank on water, regurgitate their food, and then eat it again (a kind of Bulimia)-Feeding sprouts solves this problem

 

 You should use these suggested food amounts initially and watch how much your bird is actually eating.  Both with the soft and dry food, if you find that your bird is eating every scrap (and is not overweight), then he is not getting enough and you can increase the amount slightly to accommodate the amount of food that he thinks that he needs.  If you find your bird leaving a lot of food in the dish, or throwing a lot on the floor, or picking out only his favorites, then he is getting too much, and the amount of food should be decreased.  A good amount of food is given if your bird eats most of what is given (leaving maybe a pellet or two), but is not wasting a lot of food.  Young birds up to about 18 months may need extra amounts of food as they are still growing and developing.

  

For more information about nutrition and feeding your parrot, see Sally Blanchard’s Companion Parrot Handbook pgs 74-75,78-80, 122-125; Birds for Dummies pgs 103 (99-113); and My Parrot My Friend pgs 143-144

 

 

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