I recently wrote a blog post that discussed how important it is to try mimic nature in the environment we provide for our birds. Being undomesticated animals so new to captivity that some of their their grandparents may have lived their lives in the wild, they will certainly appreciate that level of attention to detail.
But recently, I had a conversation with someone specifically about looking to nature for guidance in the parrot diet. It brought to light how very confusing this message might be – in fact, we actually can’t feed a captive parrot the same diet as a wild parrot.
If you were to research the diets of most of the parrot species we tend to keep in captivity, you will find that it is very high in seed and nuts. These are foods we frown upon for the captive diet and the reason is very simple: they are very high in fat. A wild parrot’s level of activity requires the increased fat for energy, and in some cases warmth. For our more sedate captive parrots, that diet would result in obesity and the diseases that go with it.
We are one of the few sites that also do not push fruits, another food that is a huge part of the wild parrot diet. Fruits that grow wild are lesser in sugar and higher in nutrients than the ones we get at the market. A diet high in the fruits cultivated by humans is detrimental to parrots in large amounts and we recommend they be used sparingly or as treats only (NOTE: this does not pertain to nectar eating species).
The well-rounded captive diet includes some of all of the foods a parrot can eat and includes some seed or nuts and fruits, legumes and whole grains and a great quality pellet. But the mainstay of the diet, the heavy lifter, is the vegetable. This is the one ingredient that must find its way into your bird’s diet.
My birds’ diets consist of about 80% vegetables, legumes and sprouts. Vegetables contain nutrients which are crucial to your bird’s health and are not available in other food types. This is the best way for us to keep our birds healthy in captivity.
Raw, fresh vegetables offer the highest nutrition and we should strive to get our birds to eat them without processing or cooking, and most sources will recommend that you serve them this way.
However, in the conversation I mentioned above, I learned that in the quest to provide her bird with the very best nutrition, my friend inadvertently turned her bird away from vegetables altogether.
Years ago, she introduced her bird to vegetables by offering it tastes of what she served her family for dinner – most often the vegetables were cooked. Cooked foods have a different taste, texture and temperature than raw and this became her bird’s preference.
As she grew more educated about parrot nutrition, her attempts to switch her bird over to raw vegetables were flatly rejected and eventually resulted in her bird’s refusal to eat any vegetables at all.
If you have had the pleasure of knowing more than one parrot in your life, you are aware of how very individual they can be. They have preferences and likes and dislikes just as we humans do. Texture and temperature play a big role in getting some birds to accept the taste of certain foods. You should work with that.
If the only way you can get your bird to eat vegetables is by cooking them, then so be it. It is by far better choice than allowing them an unhealthy, vegetable-less life. If your bird prefers cooked frozen vegetables -or even canned, both of which offer their own unique texture, then by all means, go in this direction.
There is no harm in continuing to try to offer raw veggies, but don’t be so insistent in making the change that veggies become unpleasant.
If your bird enjoys cooked carrots, for instance, you might make the switch to raw by slowly cooking the carrots less and less to the point where you are eventually only warming them and not actually cooking them at all. If your bird seems to be on board with the change, you might begin making temperature changes to where he will accept his breakfast straight from the fridge (food served cold stays fresher in the cage for longer periods). But don’t push too hard.
The point to this post is that while raw veggies offer the highest possible nutrition, NO veggies offer no nutrition at all. Do what you have to do to get your bird eating what it needs to live a healthy life.
Please click here to learn about our nutrition course and cookbook that offers numerous suggestions and tricks to get the most resistant bird eating right.