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NUTRITION, CHOP AND TOXIC FOODS
General knowledge of bird nutrition is constantly evolving due to continual research being done in order to meet the needs of the different species of birds. Birds need a proper, balanced diet as much as any other animal. Different species of birds require different things. For example, lories require a special nectar diet, an eclectus requires a diet low in fat and high in beta carotene, and should not be fed artificial colors.
A good diet is important to your birds overall health. While many bird owners feel that they are feeding a proper diet, it’s not until their bird gets sick that they find out the diet wasn’t meeting the bird’s basic nutritional needs.
In the wild, most parrots eat a variety of seeds, nuts, fruits and berries and vegetables or vegetation. Therefore, feeding a bird nothing but a seed diet fails to meet even the basic nutritional needs of any bird. I will be discussing what I feed my macaws in this blog. If you have questions about the proper diet for your bird, call your avian vet or visit our store and we will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Although there are many great pelleted diets available today, I believe that they should only be a part of your bird’s diet. They are not a natural food source for your bird and birds tend to be inquisitive creatures who get bored easily. Therefore, I like to feed my birds a mixture of several different foods. At first I questioned myself…was I over-thinking all of this…over-doing it…or maybe just losing it in general? But after discussing it with other bird owners, I was relieved to find out that many other bird owners did the same thing. Whew! I’m not alone!
OK – let’s just put it out there – my macaws’ “day” food (yes, I said day food) includes the following: Harrison’s High Potency Pellets, Zupreem Natural Large Diet, Abba Macaw Blend, Higgin’s Safflower Gold for Large Hookbills, Goldenfeast Tropical Pudding I and Lafeber’s Nutri-berries. I feed Harrison’s High Potency because I have a few macaws who are special needs babies…Harrison’s has other great blends available too. This mixture gives my birds several of the staples that they would be eating in the wild – minus the vegetables. My birds get their vegetables in their second or evening meal. You are probably thinking that a mixture like the one above is expensive – not really – everything lasts longer therefore, the cost evens out.
Believe it or not, my birds’ second or evening meal doesn’t include bird food at all. I feed them chop in the evening. There are many recipes out there for chop and I don’t think any two people make it the same. It’s important to find out what is safe and what’s not safe to put in the chop…but after that…go crazy…experiment…see what your birds like and don’t like and go from there. If made with the right ingredients, chop is super healthy for your bird. I would never feed it as a complete diet because I feel that birds should also be fed what is “natural” to them…which includes a seed mixture.
Chop is something you make ahead and freeze in individual servings. I microwave my chop until it’s just slightly warm…never feed it to your bird hot! My chop consists of the following (well most weeks): brown rice, quinoa, steel cut oats, ground pine nuts, organic grated coconut, kidney and navy beans (always soak and cook beans before offering them to your bird), kale, jalapeño peppers, sweet potatoes, chia seeds, flax seeds, and a good frozen vegetable mix (without salt). It’s called chop because the fresh vegetables are ground before adding them to the mixture. I tend to partially cook and cube the sweet potatoes though. I add a few fresh fruits on top of the chop too. My birds favor bananas…so that’s what they usually get.
There are many good seed mixtures and pellets available today. With a little time, patience and research you will find what works best for both you and your bird.
Please remember, it’s important to feed fresh food and water. If you give you bird a well-balanced diet, you will find that your bird will be healthier and happier because of it.
CHOP, BIRDIE BREAD AND GRAIN BAKES
Chop is a mixture of grains, fruits, vegetables, seeds - or really whatever you feel like adding - or whatever your birds will eat. A good chop recipe will include things like brown rice, quinoa, steel cut oats, dark leafy vegetables along with other assorted safe vegetables. It can also include ground pine nuts, chia and/or flax seeds, ground unsweetened coconut – the list goes on. Chop gets its name because it’s finely chopped in a food processor. Depending upon the size of your bird, you may want to chop everything - or for the larger birds – chop the leafy greens, nuts, peppers while leaving the other vegetables whole. While you can certainly add fruits to chop recipes, they don’t freeze as well as vegetables. So, offering the fresh fruits on top of the chop may be your preference.
This leads to the question – Are fresh fruits and vegetables healthier than frozen fruits and vegetables? While we would all love to feed our birds the best “fresh” ingredients available, frozen fruits and vegetables actually have a few advantages over their fresh counterparts. Frozen fruits and vegetables are usually available when the fresh are “out of season”, frozen fruits and vegetables have a longer shelf life and believe it or not – frozen may even be healthier than the “fresh” fruits and vegetables offered in the produce department. Frozen fruits and vegetables are flash frozen when picked or shortly thereafter - while fresh fruits and vegetables have spent days being shipped and even longer sitting on the grocers’ shelves. The longer they sit, the more they lose in nutritional value. If buying frozen vegetables check the labels. Be sure to buy those without the additives.
Sample chop recipe:
Just like chop, there are many birdie bread recipes available across the internet. Some which start with a packaged cornbread mix and some which start with making the cornbread from scratch. While we would all prefer to feed our birds the homemade version of just about everything, some schedules don’t allow for it. Either is fine – the bread is not meant to be a total diet for your bird. A good rule of thumb – if you are going to be feeding birdie bread as more than an occasional snack, you may want to make the homemade version without the additives. You can add any combination of vegetables, fruits or chopped nuts to the bread. I find it’s a great way to get my birds to eat a few carrots…by chopping them fine in the food processor before adding them. Play around, see what works for both you and your bird.
1 package corn bread mix
Sample birdie bread recipe starting from scratch:
1 cup whole wheat flour
Grain bakes are relatively easy to make. They are made from grains, fruits and vegetables – all of which you toss in a greased (I use coconut oil) casserole dish, cover with water, cover and bake at 325-350 degrees until all of the water is absorbed. You can use anything from brown rice, quinoa, steel cut oats, grated coconut, flax seeds, chia seeds, vegetables and fruits.
There are many great recipes for chop, birdie bread and muffins and grain bakes across the internet.
The list below is a partial list of foods that seem to be the most prevalent when it comes to poisoning by food among our pets. When in doubt, either call your vet to confirm or do an internet search prior to feeding your bird or parrot something questionable.
Onion & Garlic
Fruit Pits & Apple Seeds
High-Fat, High-Sodium, High-Sugar Foods
Other Foods to Avoid