Breakfast time! There are four macaws, four cockatoos, three parakeets, two cockatiels, one congo african grey, a swainson’s toucan and a quaker waiting patiently for their breakfast every morning. On the menu today is fruit pasta blend, fresh broccoli, beets, sweet potato, and kale.
Breakfast time is always one of my favorite parts of the day. I really enjoy the preparation of foods and I love seeing the birds watching everything I do in anticipation of their first meal. I often let one of the birds be my “helper” for the morning. This day it was Linus, and he “helped” himself to the corn that was actually on the dinner menu. I learned the hard way to only allow one bird to “help” at a time and to never let my quaker, Libby, the resident bowl flipper, “help” from anywhere but my shoulder.
As much fun as I have in the morning, the kitchen can be a dangerous place. Hot stove tops, boiling water and sharp knives are often present and create all kinds of potential for accidents. It’s a good idea not to allow your birds into the kitchen when you have the stove on or have open pots of water boiling. Always be aware of birds toes when you are chopping and don’t leave your sharp knife available as a toy. My “helper” is often unwilling to sit patiently by while I am chopping and filling bowls, so I have to be very vigilant and careful.
I always try to serve a variety of foods and I cut them up differently everyday to keep it interesting for them. I try to serve an orange vegetable and dark leafy greens everyday because they are so high in nutrients. I also try to feed favorite foods later in the day. This way, I am more likely to get them to eat, or at least try, the foods that are in their bowl in the morning when they are the most hungry. It’s a good strategy for ensuring a nutritional balance.
A couple of my birds are very finicky eaters and sometimes I have to be clever to get new foods into them. Here are a few tips for getting your picky eaters to try new foods:
- Make food fun! Placing food around the cage, woven or wedged into the cage bars, strung onto skewers, or tossed in whole is a good way to get them playing with their food, which is often the first step to eating it. Try buying a stalk of brussel sprouts, a head of cauliflower, or a green pepper and letting them have a ball.
- Make foraging toys out of foods. Try putting nuts into a halved head of cabbage or beneath the leaves of an artichoke (with the pointy parts snipped off).
- If they don’t like it raw, try steaming it and serving it warm. This worked well with Linus, my umbrella, cockatoo. It was what started the ball rolling and he will now eat his veggies raw as well.
These are ways to let your bird find out that something unidentifiable might be a food. Unlike a dog, a hungry bird will stay hungry before it will eat something it doesn’t like or recognize. Eating fresh foods is the most natural thing in the world for your parrot and it should be considered the most important part of her diet. If you have some picky eaters like I do, give them a fighting chance for a healthy life. Use your imagination, have fun, and show your parrot the variety that’s available to them.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.