A parrot in the wild has all the means to go out and forage for food. Parrot colonies fly all over the different areas from their nesting grounds just to look for food. These birds are hardy and are very determined to get the best kind of food, and usually, when food is scarce in their nesting grounds, they will fly to look for another place to settle where there’s plenty of food.
Meanwhile, most captive parrots are spoiled and taught to be lazy. These animals don’t need to forage or fly around to find food because this is already offered to them. And yet despite this, more captive parrots are prone to suffering from an imbalanced diet.
An imbalanced or incomplete diet is a very common problem in captive or pet birds. Usually, it is the cause of illnesses in birds and is preventable. Pet owners can prevent bird malnutrition and other diseases and health conditions by following a parrot diet chart.
What is a parrot diet chart?
A parrot diet chart is a simple working chart that will indicate how much food your pet needs in a day. It also includes the nutrients that your pet needs to fuel his daily activities and metabolic needs. In parrots, a diet chart may be formulated by a special avian dietician. It is also possible for a general vet to come up with this plan, but an avian dietician will be more thorough, indicating what your pet needs are, especially for sick birds.
As mentioned, most parrot and bird illnesses stem from poor nutrition. Therefore, sickness and other health conditions may be treated with the help of a good diet plan. And to start a diet plan for your pet right away, take it to an avian dietician.
What happens next?
An avian dietician is like a regular dietician who can formulate the right diet plan for your pet. First, it will assess your pet’s health using medical tests and physical exams. He will check for any illness and rule out health problems. Assuming your pet is healthy, he will recommend a healthy pet parrot diet, which is mostly composed of fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and other plant crops.
An avian dietician will also recommend adding more water to a healthy parrot’s diet. Water improves a parrot’s digestion and will make him more regular. It will also help improve hair, feather, skin, and bone health.
Supplements may also be given, but usually, these are not necessary for a parrot with a well-rounded diet. The most common supplements that dieticians and vets recommend for parrots are Calcium, Vitamin A, and Omega supplements.
If your feathered friend is found with a health condition or is malnourished (too heavy for its size or too light for its size), a dietician will recommend a diet that can help support your pet’s condition. A dietician also collaborates with an avian vet to help treat health issues and to create a better diet plan that’s right for your pet’s needs.
Formulating your diet chart at home
Yes, you can make your diet chart at home provided your pet is healthy and has no nutritional problems. And to make this diet chart, you must learn the basic food items included and are not part of a parrot’s daily diet.
For most parrots and parakeets, a diet based on seeds is deficient in many kinds of nutrients, including vitamin A and calcium. Also, seeds are mostly high in fat, and this can lead to obesity or being overweight. Seeds remain a vital part of most avian diets, but you must combine seeds with other food items, preferably food rich in lacking nutrients like calcium and vitamin A.
Also, most birds that eat seeds usually become picky when it comes to other types of food. Some birds may have a bad habit of eating only their favorite seeds from a regular seed mix, and this further worsens its diet.
So when parrot nutrition, consider seeds to be similar to junk food. Your pet loves to eat them, but these are not the healthiest food to give them. As much as possible, seeds should only be 10 percent of your pet parrot’s diet. Meanwhile, in purely seed-eating bird species like budgies and cockatiels, seeds should only make 25% of the bird’s diet.
Formulated pellet diets
Most pet parrot owners use specially-formulated pellet diets. These are products made from different parrot foods such as grains, seeds, fruits, veggies, and pasta and are supplemented with vitamins and minerals.
Most of these formulated diets are baked into pellets or in different shapes. When consumed by your pet, these can provide a balanced and nutritious diet. Also, parrots won’t be able to pick their favorite food from the lot because everything is packed and processed.
The problem with using formulated pellet diets is that birds that start from seed diets don’t like to eat them. Some smart birds may even starve themselves unless offered their preferred diets. Some birds may also find this delightful during the first few days but will soon get tired of eating a pellet diet.
This is why pellets can be considered as the base of a healthy parrot’s diet, which is 50 to 60% of what your pet should eat. Just some of the best-formulated diets to consider are Harrison’s, Kaytee, Pretty Bird, Roudybush, and Zupreem.
Companies that produce formulated diets also have special products for parrots and birds with special dietary needs. You might find low-calorie products which are important for overweight pets. There are products for young birds or senior birds which have a different formula compared to adult and healthy birds.
The recommended amount of pellet food by avian veterinarians and avian nutritionists is to give this food at around 50-70 percent of a bird’s diet. Choose the best type of pellets to feed your parrots, such as those that don’t contain sugar or dyes. These can have a terrible effect on the body and can cause diseases even when taken in small amounts but within a long time. These can even shorten a birds’ life span.
Fresh vegetables make a great addition to a healthy parrot’s diet. However, not all veggies are equally nutritious, so we’ll give you a list of the best ones to give your pet. Usually, dark yellow and leafy green vegetables are recommended, but you can still give vegetables in a variety of forms to entice the bird to try them.
The trick with some birds is to serve veggies in a way that they will be interested in. Remember that parrots and most birds have fantastic eyesight and are enjoy the world in full color. So you may want to consider feeding your pet veggies of different colors.
You can feed your pet whole or chopped veggies or cooked and slightly warm before feeding. You can make your pet work for its food by hanging vegetables from the side of its birdcage or placing large chunks that they can pick up using their feet and bite on. Your goal is for your pet to take an interest in the food and to get him to eat veggies regularly, like little kids.
Try the following vegetables:
- Broccoli, the head and leaves
- Carrots, the root, and tops
- Corn, in kernels, or on the cob
- Green beans
- Leafy greens like collards, kale, Swiss chard, beet greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, and dandelions
- Romaine or green or red leaf lettuce
- Sugar snap or snow peas
- Sweet potatoes
- Sweet red, yellow and green peppers
As much as possible, you should give a wide variety of fruits and not just two or three favorites. However, this is not a common problem for most parrots because most love fruits and may even prefer to eat fruits than seeds and pelleted food. If you observe this in your pet, you must correct its diet at once.
Luckily, it’s easy to supplement fruits with other colorful food items like veggies and seeds. But if your pet loves a particular fruit like an orange or grape, you can use this as a form of a treat or a reward for good behavior.
Just like veggies, most deeply-colored fruits are more nutritious compared to other fruits. Consider feeding your birds tropical fruits that are naturally found in their environment. Never let your pet eat pits or seeds like apple seeds because these are toxic to pet rabbits. Try the following fruits:
- Apples but do not feed the seeds
- Cantaloupe but remove the rind
You may also feed your pet parrots a variety of different foods, including grains. You can serve cooked brown rice, wheat, barley, quinoa, oats, and pasta. You can serve all kinds of pasta raw or cooked. You may also feed your pet parrot whole wheat bread or unsweetened whole wheat cereals.
When it comes to beans or legumes, serve these cooked because raw beans can have toxins that can affect your pet’s health. Birds may also eat small amounts of lean meat and poultry, but these have to be well-cooked and cut into small pieces. You can also serve boiled eggs.
Sprouted seeds are a good source of nutrition for parrots and are a great way to supplement your pet’s diet with greens. Freshly-sprouted seeds are full of nutrients as the seed is full of nutrients in a highly- digestible and bio-available form.
Sprouts are high in vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants. Some people also call sprouts to be nature’s perfect food. This food is an excellent way to boost your bird’s nutrition. It’s also easy to grow your supply of sprouts. You can grow this on a small dish with soil, and these will be ready for harvest in just a few days!
Vitamin and mineral supplements
You must offer a cuttlebone to give your pet extra calcium or use extra vitamin and mineral supplements. But if you are feeding your pet a well-balanced diet according to a proper parrot diet chart, then you don’t need to provide additional supplements. As much as possible, supplements should only be given under the supervision of a professional.
Supplements are usually in the form of tablets, syrups, and in powder form, and of all the three, pet owners prefer to dust pet food with supplement powder. Supplements like Calcium powder help give your pet the necessary amount of calcium in its diet. Calcium prevents degenerative bone diseases that are usually present in adult birds.
Also, calcium is needed by birds that are producing eggs. If your pet parrot is a female and in the reproductive age, it needs more calcium in its diet. Otherwise, the body will take calcium from the bones to form eggs leaving bones brittle and easy to break or fracture.
Food that’s not included in a parrot diet chart
Never give your pet parrot human food and foods that are rich in fat, sugar, and salt. Also, birds are lactose intolerant; therefore, you should limit milk and milk products in its diet. You may also give it cheese or fruity yogurt but do so in very small amounts.
Please take note that there are foods that are very dangerous to parrots and other birds. Chocolate, avocado, and rhubarb are very damaging to pet birds. Also, don’t give any beverages that have caffeine or alcohol.
Do not give your pet processed meats or other foods that contain nitrates, nitrites, sulfites, or MSG. Foods such as sprouted lima, fava, onions, navy beans, fruit pits, and apple seeds are also dangerous and should never be given to your pet.
Some pet owners do not recommend feeding their pet parrots peanuts inside a shell with the fear of Aspergillus fungus. This is a deadly fungus that can cause respiratory illness and can produce a toxin called aflatoxin, which is a potent cancer-causing toxin.
So if you want to feed your parrot raw peanuts, you must feed it good quality human-grade peanuts. Screen every bit for mold. You can still give your pet shelled, blanched, and unsalted peanuts. Make it a habit to inspect all the products and all food items you give your pet to avoid mold and other dangerous microbes.
Fresh foods for birds
Take note that the remaining 30 to 50 percent of a parrot’s diet must be composed of foods that are fresh such as:
- Give raw or steamed vegetables. Veggies must be organic. You can purchase organic produce from local supermarkets or specialty supermarkets.
- Whole grains can be given raw or cooked. You can give rice (brown or wild rice), oats, barley, quinoa, teff, buckwheat, and amaranth.
- Legumes should be cooked. Give sprouts and legumes.
- Offer nuts and seeds, but these must be soaked or sprouted.
- Give raw fruit but only organic fruit but only in limited amounts.
Some important points
Foods such as fruits, seeds, and nuts must comprise no more than 10 to 20% of your bird’s diet. You may have thought that parrots found in the wild are animals that feast on fruits, nuts, and seeds, but actually, researchers have found out that some parrot species are the opposite.
Wild birds expend a lot of energy compared to captive birds, so they require extra sugars and more good fats that are found in nuts and fruits. Also, the fruits that they consume in the wild contain less sugar and have more fiber compared to products that are grown for humans. This is why you must offer fruits, seeds, and nuts as a reward, especially after it has followed a trick or command. You must give berries and raw unsalted nuts as a reward.
And as you learn more and more about the nutritional needs of birds, the diet of these birds should include more nutritious fresh foods as well as formulated pellet diets. You must also give a small percentage of seeds.
Also, freshly prepared foods are likely to spoil easily and, therefore, should be removed from the cage after a few hours or as soon as your pet loses interest in them. And if your bird is not eating new foods, offer these in the morning because it is likely hungrier in the morning after a long sleep or during nighttime when these birds are foraging for food in their natural habitat.
Parrot diet preparation
One of the easiest ways and also a time-saving way to provide a variety of fresh foods to your bird is to chop food. You may cook a batch of grains and legumes and then chop up different vegetables and mix these in a container.
Keep 3 to 4 spoons of the mixture in individual daily servings in a smaller container or use sandwich bags and put in the freezer. Depending on how many birds you keep or how much food you prepared, usually, a batch of chop can last a week to a few months. You can find other recipes for natural bird food dishes online, or you can share recipes with friends.
Converting your parrot to a healthy diet
Many pet parrots are unaware of what a healthy diet is and how it tastes, but good news, these parrots may still be saved. You can still teach a parrot to eat a healthy diet, but it can take more time.
You can start by introducing new healthy food each day. Don’t immediately change its diet to a totally strange one because your pet may only starve itself to death. If it is used to seeds, limit the number of seeds it eats in a day and offer a cup of fresh fruits or cooked veggies instead.
Parrots may be stubborn and may not welcome new food, new smells, and tastes, but you can help it eat new food in no time. And in worst cases, take your pet to the vet if it is not accepting anything you feed it. It may be sick or have a medical condition that needs to be addressed.
Toxic foods and foods to avoid giving parrots
Remember the following toxic foods that should never give your pet parrot
- Cassava (tapioca)
- Chocolate or cocoa
- Dairy products
- Fruit seeds and pits
Also, avoid foods that are high in salt, fat, and sugars. Food that contains dyes or preservatives should also be avoided.
Evaluating the effectiveness of a parrot diet chart
You’re not just using a parrot diet chart to monitor what your pet eats, but you will also use this tool to evaluate the effectiveness of your pet’s new healthy diet. Some points to consider are:
- Is your pet out of eating seeds? Is he accepting new and healthy foods?
- Is your pet losing or gaining weight?
- Is your pet parrot accepting pellet foods, which should be a huge part of its diet?
- Is your pet parrot more active or less active because of its new diet?
If you’re taking care of a sick pet and it has a special parrot diet chart, evaluate the effectiveness based on your dietician’s goals. If the diet is meant to support your pet’s health condition or illness, then take it to the dietician or vet for evaluation.
Likely, your pet will again be subjected to tests to check his condition and to monitor nutritional deficiencies. It is also likely that your dietician may change its diet or maintain it depending on the results of your pet’s evaluation. For this, regular evaluation and visits to the vet and dietician are necessary. You may also need to monitor your pet’s weight and development at home. Use a small digital weighing scale as a food scale and keep a record of your pet’s diet.