When my daughter was young, it was a seldom that she was allowed to eat candy, chips, cake or ice cream. These were rare treats that were reserved for holidays, birthdays or other special occasions. In fact, it wasn’t until she entered grade school that she even realized that this was not the norm in other households. When she was in school, and away from my direct supervision, she started to be influenced by the other children in her class.
I knew, of course, that I couldn’t shelter her forever, but it was always a source of frustration to me. Until that time, fruit was a snack to her and she was satisfied with that. She would come home from school and ask for an apple. I was very proud of that – it wasn’t easy to keep a child eating well in a world overflowing with Big Macs and Twinkies. She was blissfully unaware, for a while.
Snacks are a part of any child’s life and they should be part of your bird’s life. They are that extra bonus that makes life feel good. But the word snack is a relative term in today’s world. Where one person looks forward to carrot sticks, another will accept nothing less than a Snicker’s bar. It depends on a person’s upbringing.
This holds especially true for our parrots. Wild parrots know nothing of candy. They don’t know about Fritos or cookies. They don’t hold out for butter on their daily veggies. Unfortunately, many companion parrots have been made familiar with all of these things and for the majority of those, the more nutritious choices become unacceptible. Foods without sugar, salt or butter no longer satisfy. Once your bird has developed a taste for junk food, it is a slow road back to a healthy diet.
The very best way to avoid the development of bad snacking habits is to never let your bird try human snack foods in the first place. Be more conscientious with your choices and remember that parrots do not need to experience the tastes that we humans so relish.
If you have a bird that is already stuck on human snack foods, try offering more healthy versions of the foods as an alternative:
- Plain popcorn (preferably made in an air popper) with no butter or salt is a healthy parrot snack.
- Homemade oven baked potato slices or wedges can be replacements for chips or fries. (You can also use sweet potatoes.)
- Oven baked corn tortilla strips will appease the corn chip munchies.
Some other snacks that are okay to offer daily:
- Whole grain cereal pieces
- Veggie chips. Baked NOT deep fried and, of course, no salt! These are easy to make yourself.
- Birdie Breads. You get a lot of bang for your buck with birdie breads or muffins because you can load it up with healthy foods and your bird will still regard it as a treat.
- Dried fruits or banana chips. (These are healthy, but the sugar content is concentrated during dehydration.)
- Millet. Millet is a very healthy grain and something that all birds should have access to either cooked or on the stalks, but it contains fats and feeding should be moderated.
- Nuts. For some species of birds, nuts are a dietary requirement. But for most, they are a snack food. They are a great source of protein and EFAs, but they are high in fat and should be offered in moderation.
I learned from raising my daughter that if you don’t introduce foods that are unhealthy, they will not be missed.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.