I live in Florida where the temperatures never get particularly cold. It is a rare occasion when we get an overnight freeze and it never lasts for more than a day or two when it occurs. I love the warm weather and I intend to make good on my vow to never shovel snow again.
However, I am not the only one who finds the climate here particularly hospitable; bacteria also thrives in warmth – and moisture, another thing that Florida supplies in abundance. Most bird owners experience warm weather for at least part of the year, which means that we all have a common problem…how to keep bacteria from attacking our bird’s food.
There are many bird owners that work outside of the home. This means that they have to feed their birds before they go to work. That part is easy enough to plan out, but what happens when your bird is the type that likes to take a nibble and save the rest for later?
Birds have different eating styles, just like people. Some birds wolf their food down. My birds, all of them, eat with a carefree attitude. I know that part of it comes from being caged separately. They don’t have to compete or approach their meals with the idea that the last one to the bowl loses. Mine take their sweet time.
This isn’t a problem unless you are not there to collect the food bowls after a few hours. You can’t force them to eat faster and you can’t eliminate fresh foods from the diet. In the warmer weather, this becomes even more of an issue. What do you do?
There isn’t a perfect answer to this question, but I can give you some tips to lessen the worries if your birds are slow eaters like mine:
- Serve Drier Produce – There is no such thing as a “dry” veggie, but some contain less moisture than others. If I know I am going to be away for a long period of time, I serve broccoli, carrots, cauliflower or green beans, for example, in the morning meal. I save the wetter foods like fruit or sweet potato for later in the day when it is cooler and I am there to remove any uneaten portions after a few hours.
- Serve Less Food – This may take away the notion that food is disposable to your bird. If there is a little bit less in the bowl, it will be valued more and perhaps eaten more quickly. When I do this, I make sure my birds have pellets available.
- “Float” a Food Dish on Ice – Fill you bird’s regular food dish with ice and place the food in a smaller dish that will sit inside the bowl containing the ice. This will help keep the food fresher for longer.
- Serve Frozen Food – My larger birds enjoy frozen veggies on really hot days – they will eat them frozen. Sometimes I add frozen veggies into the bowl with fresh ones to keep everything colder longer.
- Antimicrobials– There are certain spices that are common in the kitchen that can be added to the food dish to help slow the growth of bacteria. Try alternating among the following: Garlic, cinnamon, cloves, mustard, allspice, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme – fresh or ground. Lemon peel is also an antimicrobial and can be place in the food bowl.
It would be wise to do some experimentation to determine which of these your bird prefers. You don’t want to drive him away from his food by adding a flavor he doesn’t care for. And a word of caution: while garlic is by far the best antimicrobial, offer it sparingly as overuse causes anemia – I limit it to once a week.
As I said, there is no perfect solution that eliminates the growth of bacteria on food, but these tips will help slow it down. For information on the perfect fresh food diet for your bird, click here: Natural Feeding.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.