It is fall, which makes it cranberry season again. YAY! I don’t think there is any other fruit my birds have more fun with. When you think about it, it’s half food, half toy. My birds enjoy playing with cranberries as much as they enjoy eating them. I watched one of my cockatiels rolling a whole cranberry around with his beak for about a half hour once. They are fun to drop from a height because they are firm and they bounce. They make a dazzling bead-type toy when strung onto a bamboo skewer with the ends tucked into the cage bars. Their dry, solid consistency leaves you with all kinds of fun options. The all-purpose cranberry.
On top of all of that, they are a very healthy food. It is very high in Vitamin C, fiber, and is loaded with antioxidants. When selecting fresh cranberries, look for firm, deep red berries. The deeper red berries contain a higher concentrate of certain beneficial compounds. Don’t forget about my bird’s bounce test! This is how harvesters like Oceanspray check their readiness for picking. While soft, fully ripened berries contain the most antioxidants, at this point they are walking the line between fresh and spoiled.
Fresh cranberries can be stored in a zip lock bag for several months in a refrigerator kept at or below 40 degrees. Be sure to pick out any soft, discolored or shriveled ones first. Frozen cranberries can last for years if kept in deep freeze. To properly freeze a cranberry, you need to lay them out on a cookie sheet in a single layer so that they will freeze entirely and uniformly. After about three hours, they will be individually frozen and can be transferred to a dated freezer bag and stored in bulk. When thawed, they will become soft and need to be used immediately.
Dried cranberries are a great addition to birdie breads (fresh ones too!) and dry mixes. They are great for foraging, but are a little sticky and might be difficult to get out of some of the plastic foragers. I use cranberries in the cardboard foraging systems that will be quickly destroyed, or in some that I make myself out of paper products or tortillas.