How to Feed Your Pet Parrots in a Food Shortage

Lori and Dori (rainbow lorikeets) enjoying some baby food.

Many parts of Australia are in natural disaster mode as I write this. Seventy-five percent of New South Wales is underwater due to record-breaking floods. For those unfamiliar with Australia – that’s an area larger than the entire of France. Similarly a substantial part of Victoria, Queensland and South Australia are also flooding. So that’s four states in flood crisis. Meanwhile Western Australia has bushfires. Apparently a couple of cyclones are possibly brewing around the place too.

Many major highways are closed and entire towns have been evacuated. Farms and orchards have been destroyed. The damage bill will be incredible. Obviously, many people with birds have evacuated but the impact isn’t just felt in the flood-affected towns. With major highways closed, food deliveries to supermarkets across the country will be impacted. If they make it to the shelf, fruit and vegetables will rise in price and even that is going to make some people struggle.

Half empty shelves because deliveries aren't getting through, even in major cities.

I’m lucky, I don’t live in a flooded area. That said, I’ve just been to two local supermarkets and the shelves are very empty and both the range and quality of vegetables is appalling. Unless I want to poison my birds with avocado and onion – I need to look at alternatives to my fresh fruit and vegetable plans this week.

Merlin and Nemo (rosebreasted cockatoos) enjoying a tray of freshly grown pigeon mix.

I tend to keep a supply of frozen vegetables on hand for emergencies. Ok, they’re not as nutritionally valuable as the fresh stuff, but they will get me through. I’ve also got a good supply of baby food on hand. Apparently babies like pureed fruit and vegetables – so do my birds. I buy the Heinz jars as these seem to have decent use-by dates that allow for long storage periods.

The pigeon seed that I like to soak (before soaking)

My next little trick is soaked seed. I keep a barrel of a pigeon mix that I use for this, but any birdseed will work. The second a seed starts the sprouting process, it undergoes a chemical change that makes it more nutritious/more vegetable-like. Soaked seed is often used to help with egg binding in birds. There are different processes, but I find my pigeon mix is ready to use after 12 hours of soaking (1 part seed to 2 parts water). It’s important that the seed is washed thoroughly before use and that you make sure that there are no traces of mold in it. It pays to stick your nose in! If it smells slightly nutty – you’ve got it right, if it smells even slightly sour – throw it out. That rule also works for sprouts.

The next thing that I have on hand that isn’t ‘fresh’ but provides a good vegetable source is a soup mix/pulse mix. I keep a stock of organic dried soup mixes, which I like to soak overnight and then boil for 45 minutes. I often mix them with some mashed sweet potato, brown rice and various vet-prescribed vitamins. Again, they’re handy when I can’t get fresh vegetables/fruit because they keep in the pantry for a long period of time.

Freshly cooked pulse mix, with sweet potato mash and corn kernels.

When the above run out, there are some alternatives that I can pull out of my yard. I drive my mother completely crazy with my love for weeds. I have “accidentally” proven to be completely incapable of weeding. Our front lawn is over-run with dandelions and milkweed; their leaves make a fantastic source of ‘greens’. I’ve included some pictures below.

Dandelion leaves - cheaper than spinach!!!!

An assortment of weeds I'll drop in an aviary

I also have a tendency to “accidentally” spill birdseed in my mother’s garden. There are no pesticides in my mother’s garden because every time she tries to buy some it seems to go missing before she gets the chance to use it. (It’s a possibility that I might be hard to live with.) A great trick – because homegrown birdseed is another fresh food source.

Home grown French millet sprays.

To those in the disaster zones, the rest of us are thinking of you. Meanwhile, if you’re lucky enough not to be and are like me and looking at empty shelves or crazy prices in frustration – hopefully this post helps! Please share in the comments field if you have other ideas, because I have a feeling a few people might be looking for some tips!

Merlin and Nemo enjoying some weeds.

Mel Vincent works as an animal rehabilitator out of Australia.


Joanna Johnson

I live in Tassie and find it impossible to find a good pellet or seed mixes. None can be imported due to strict import laws. It’s frustrating.

Joanna Johnson

I have a medium sulfur crested cockatoo. My first bird ever…I’m owner #3 and a former professional pet sitter. So glad to know from your info here that I am giving my Rocky a very good diet with good pellets, fresh fruits and veggies and the veggie greens like the tops of carrots. I live in idaho and get fresh greens, peppers, and s few fresh herbs and spices from my best friend who grows Italy in her garden and it’s all organic. I’ve taught my bird some things like playing catch,peekaboo and the hokie pokie…. I’d like to learn how to teach him some other things and I’d like to know about your cages…..they seem bigger and more enclosed than mine. I have two big ones one for outside and one for inside. He travels well and is a really sweet bird. Is there a window for their talking or can you continue to teach the new words as they age. He is now 17 and I got him free when he was 10. Sweetest bird ever and he’s very social. I’m an actor and I’d like to train him for movies….how do I do that?we did a couple of PSA’s for the Nevada ASPCA fundraisers when we lived there but we just had to show up and ride in a golf cart with me dressed as a pirate. How did you guys get started training birds….I’d love to learn how to train birds.

Jennifer Perez

Are there any weeds that are NOT safe for parrots?

Jennifer Perez

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