This is the question most commonly asked by parrot owners. We all know that our birds need to be on a healthy diet to prevent them from developing vitamin and mineral deficiencies that will surely bring on health problems later in life, and a diet that keeps their immune system strong enough to ward off disease now. The sooner we convert them to a diet that covers their nutritional needs, the less we have to fear for their well being.
Many companion parrots come from pet stores where they are fed in a manner that is the simplest: seeds and pellets. Apparently, the chain pet retailers seem to think that their employees are only smart enough to pour formulated foods from a bag and any more thought to the diet of their birds is not required. I have to say that there are two shops among the many I have visited in Orlando where I have seen fresh foods in the cages of their parrots. One is an independently owned bird-only shop, where I expect to see proper feeding, and the other is a part of a chain. So kudos to them, especially the latter, for going the extra mile.
We bring home birds from pet shops who have been weaned onto seed or pellet only diets and we find ourselves in a situation where this new bird has no interest whatsoever in eating anything else. What to do? Here are some tips:
- Remember that birds are very tactile creatures and that the texture and consistency of foods are important to them. Working with a variety of foods, prepared in a variety of ways, is your best shot at determining what your bird prefers. When your bird turns down coarsely chopped fruits and veggies, chop them finely. If those are turned down, puree them. Try adding finely chopped to the pureed mixture. Try frozen or canned veggies. The texture in these is different from fresh.
- The temperature of their food is important to some birds.Some like them served at room temp, some like them cold. Some like their veggies warmed in the microwave. Experimentation will determine what pleases your bird.
- Incorporate untried foods into favorite foods. One great way to do this is with birdie bread. There is no limit to what you can put into these recipes, from pellets to nuts and seeds to fruits and veggies. If your bird is a fan of birdie bread, you battle with your bird’s diet is already half won. If your bird tends to eat around the good stuff, cut it smaller so that he will eat it undetected. I am not beneath tricking my birds into eating well.
- Make food into “toys”. Weave leafy greens into toys or through their chains. Jam a stalk of broccoli into the cage bars, or tie it with rope and hang it. Toss a cabbage or large pieces of squash or cantaloupe onto a clean cage bottom. Use foraging toys and kabobs to draw interest to the foods inside them. Even if the food isn’t eaten at first, it is being experienced, which is an important first step. Get creative! Make it new and exciting!
- Captive bred parrots, especially those coming from pet stores, may not even understand that what you are serving is actually food. Be the example. Let your bird observe you eating and enjoying what you would like him to try. Be very vocal and dramatic in your presentation. This will surely catch your bird’s attention. There isn’t a bird on Earth that doesn’t want what he doesn’t have. Let that jealousy work in your favor.
Here are two links: one contains more specific tips on how to convert your birds away from an all seed diet and the other lists the variety of foods needed in your birds total diet. The best tip of all is to never give up trying. Even the most stubborn bird can be encouraged to try the foods that we need him to eat!