Years ago, I started out with just one bird - a Quaker parakeet. Like so many others just starting out, I fed that one bird a commercial seed based diet.
In time, I learned that feeding a commercial seed mix diet is much like sending your child off to school with a tasty lunch. The child eats the cookies and potato chips and throws the sandwich, apple and carrot sticks in the trash. Most commercial seed mix's often include artificial colors and preservatives as well as ingredients that your bird is just NOT going to eat. Birds pick out the tastiest bits - usually the ones highest in fat and the least nutritious and then YOU throw out what the bird doesn't eat. Besides being wasteful, all those seed hulls make a terrific mess each time the bird flaps it's wings.
Veterinarians report that birds who exist on commercial seed diets alone are usually found to have multiple vitamin deficiencies. Such birds are nearly always deficient in vitamin A. Armed with this knowledge as well as great advice from my Avian Vet we made the switch from seed to pellets.
At first of course the birds just refused the pellets. Afraid they might actually starve themselves, I tried mixing seed with pellets - so they picked out the seed leaving the pellets untouched. The vet suggested I try leaving pellets in the cages all day, offering seed for only 20 minutes per day - allowing them to eat all they wanted in that 20 minutes. Once they began to eat the pellets, I just stopped feeding the commercial seed mix. We did it!
I chose Harrisons due to the fact they use only certified organic, human food grade ingredients and no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. The brand you choose is up to YOU. Read the ingredients. Avoid those containing anything artificial and keep in mind - No matter how good a manufacturer claims their pellet brand to be - if your bird won't eat it - it's money wasted. A good quality pellet, while not ideal, does cover most of the basics. That said… pellets should NOT be considered a complete diet! There is a better way. It's the REST of the diet that's really important!
I feel a healthy variety in the diet is best and this seems to keep all the birds in my flock happy, healthy and thriving. This varied diet includes fresh vegetables, greens, sprouts and fruit as well as cooked foods and recipes that I prepare especially for my flock. Some of these recipes including the Birdy Bread they all love can be found on the RECIPES page of this website. In addition, I offer healthy seeds such as pumpkin, pepper, squash, melon, anise, dill etc. Nuts are a favorite of most birds and when available are the first thing my own flock picks out of the food dish. I NEVER feed peanuts. Peanuts are very high in fat. Too much fat in the diet leads to obesity which can result in fatty liver disease. Even more importantly, peanuts can harbor an invisible mold responsible for a disease called aspergillosis. Almonds and walnuts, relished by most birds are a good source of protein as well as calcium and are a much healthier choice overall. There is nothing wrong with offering moderate amounts of healthy table food. Birds love it when you share and eat as a flock. - whole grain pasta, steamed or raw veggies, brown rice, etc.
Feeding My Flock: Winters are cold here in Indiana. When it's cold everyone - humans and birds alike appreciate a little comfort food. This is also the time of year when hormones begin to rage in my otherwise well behaved male Amazons. With 3 adult, male Amazons in the house, it’s imperative to limit the amount of protein and reduce or restrict warm, mushy foods which tend to make the males feel very macho and often - dangerously over-aggressive. So... we work around this. In the morning the boys all get a breakfast of Harrisons Pellets and a square of LaFeber Avi-Cakes or Birdy Bread.
Late afternoon, the birds in my flock get another fresh meal. A scoop of Layered Salad (Layered Salad recipe can be found on the RECIPES page of this website) or a variety of fresh veggies like sugar snap peas, carrots, green beans, broccoli, sweet potato, sweet or hot peppers, organic broccoli slaw, etc. They also get 2 to 3 small pieces of fresh fruit - usually organic and in- season. This is topped off with several of the following: almonds in shell, walnut pieces or halves in shell, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, star anise, cinnamon sticks, etc.
Birds are a lot like kids when it comes to eating. If every time your child said "I don't like it", you were to take them at their word and stop serving that food, the child would never learn to enjoy a variety of foods and of course grow up to be a picky eater. If you keep trying, keep offering different foods in a variety of ways, sooner or later they may just decide they really DO like it after all. If your bird won’t eat certain vegetables whole, try chopping, grating or slicing. If raw vegetables don’t go over well, try steaming them lightly. Try the Layered Salad recipe on my RECIPE page. Birds love to forage through the many ingredients in search of favorites and in the process might just try something they hadn't really planned on!
Feeding companion parrots can be a controversial subject. I have tried many different types of diets for my birds. The method that I have settled on is the one that I feel seems to best suit my flock. My parrots are all healthy, happy and have an iridescent glow to their feathers - a sure sign of overall good health! Of course, you should use your own good judgment when deciding what works for you and yours.