When my daughter was young and in school, I can remember a few times that I would wake her up in the morning and say: “How about skipping school today and going to the park instead?” Or keeping her up late on a school night because I had gotten tickets to a show that was in town. Her schoolwork might have suffered a little that week, but watching her face light up assured me I was doing the right thing. It was done infrequently and these occasions built a special bond between us. She knew that I understood that life was not always all about schedules and lessons and being where others insisted we be at all times. In addition to doing what is expected of us, LIFE IS SUPPOSED TO BE FUN!
No matter how hard we strive to be the perfect home for our companion birds, we will always fall short. The perfect life for a bird is one that is lived in the wild. But since so many are captive bred and will never know that life, it is up to us to do everything we can to make their lives as fulfilling as possible. That includes occasionally straying from the rigidity of rules. Breaking the rules sometimes can provide a cage bound bird with a richer life.
My last post suggested 5 recipes for sandwiches we can make for our birds. There were a number of comments that rebuked some of the ingredients such as cheeses and peanut butter. At first my heart sank, but as I continued reading I got excited about how many people are aware of no-nos in a birds diet. THAT is good news!
Technically, cheese and peanuts are on the no-no list. I use the word technically because while birds are lactose intolerant and peanuts might contain a fungus that might metabolize as an aflotoxin (corn too), most birds do fine with them, and really enjoy them. I use the term no-no because they are NOT dangerous ingredients that might kill your bird. There are some birds who will not react well to those ingredients letting you know not to use them again, but the vast majority do just fine.
A good rule of thumb is that if it is not good for us, it is not good for our birds. But how many of you have eliminated french fries from your diet entirely because they offer no nutritional benefits and are fattening and artery clogging? I bet not many. Unless your are in very ill health, you will sometimes allow yourself to be naughty and simply set limits.
When I reach into the freezer for that tub of Ben and Jerry’s that has been calling my name since I bought it, there is always a slight moment of hesitation. I know I am probably going to overindulge and eat the entire thing. I glance down at my thighs and wonder how tight my jeans will be later in the week. That hesitation takes all of 3 seconds and then I am eating and enjoying.
If we were to turn down every food that had some “bad” substance in it, we would be left with very little to eat. Kale, for instance, a very healthy food for our birds, interferes with calcium absorption in subsequent meals. This is not a good thing, but its benefits far outweigh that drawback. It is up to us to determine when to temporarily remove it from the diet, such as during egg laying times when calcium is very important.
My point here is that we must not allow ourselves to take away the opportunities we have to make our bird’s lives better by living in fear of busting loose every now and again. I will always say that we MUST feed an optimum diet that is heavy in fresh foods, I will always say safety first, but I also will say let your birds enjoy life. They like cheese. They like peanut butter. Small amounts of these foods will not harm your birds. And if you look closely, you will see them smiling as they eat it.
Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.