It seems to be the tendency of parrot owners to overfeed their birds. Obesity is a serious issue with many companion parrots. Wild parrots often have to fly many miles to reach a food source each day. Ours get room service, often followed by a nap. As wonderful as that life might sound, the combination of too much food and too little activity in unhealthy for our birds.
How much should I feed my bird?
This is a complicated question because there is no single right answer. Different sized birds of different species consume different amounts. When you factor in the individual bird’s likes and dislikes, there are a lot of variables. I think the best way to gauge how much you should feed your bird is watching how much he is eating and discarding. If he is maintaining a good weight for his size and is in good general health you are on the right track. This can be difficult if you house more that one bird per cage. It’s hard to be certain who’s eating what.
Some people like to measure their bird’s food. This method might work for them, but it doesn’t for me. Linus, my picky umbrella cockatoo, likes his food cut differently every day. It’s one way I am able to keep him interested in fresh foods. Some days I prepare his foods finely chopped, other days, I serve it in chunks. Since minced foods pack more tightly into a measuring cup, he would receive much more food on those days than the days that I chop coarsely.
Some people, especially those who have their birds on food management for training purposes, prefer to weigh the amount of food offered. This is a far more accurate measure because food weighs the same no matter how it’s prepared. Another method used is weighing the bird before and after feeding to know exactly what has been eaten. As long as the bird is thriving, they can be satisfied with the diet.
Personally, I eyeball it. I don’t weigh or measure. I base the portion I offer on what the bird actually eats vs his overall weight and good health. This works for me.
When should I feed my bird?
Wild birds go out in search of their first meal at daybreak. They spend the late morning and early afternoon hours preening, playing, napping and bathing. In the late afternoon, they feed again and then return to the roost for the night. If we want to mimic nature, which we do, this is your answer.
Unfortunately, human schedules don’t usually coincide with nature. While my birds usually get their breakfast around the same time every day, they get their second meal when I get home from work. Because I work different hours each day, that meal comes at different times. My birds are very flexible with this. Two meals, when it best fits into your routine, is fine.
What foods to feed when:
Along with fresh, clean water and pellets, which are given freely to Linus because of his iffy eating habits and in lesser amounts to my birds with healthier appetites, usually in foraging toys, a typical day’s menu might look something like this:
- Morning meal: broccoli, carrots, sprouts and papaya or perhaps legumes, butternut squash and apple
- Evening meal: warm brown rice or cooked quinoa with chopped kale or collard, mustard or turnip greens mixed in
- Snack: bananas or grapes, nuts, millet or nutriberries. Some of my birds like warm sweet potato as a snack which makes me very happy!
Some people prefer to serve mash diets which include small portions of all the major foods groups combined. Some people serve only one of a different fruit and veggies every day. Others offer a chop diet containing smaller amounts of a huge variety of fresh foods and grains. ALL of these diets are great and keep a parrot healthy and happy.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.