Nuts are high in calories and fat, it is true, and they can become unhealthy when we allow our parrots to overindulge in them. However, you should understand the part that nuts play in the parrot diet. There are species, such as the macaw, that benefit from the inclusion of nuts to their diet.
Nuts are a great source of omega 3’s – the good fats – and one of the best sources for plant proteins. Nuts in the wild parrot diet help provide the energy needed to maintain their constant high levels of activity.
Because nuts are dense calorically, we want to monitor the amount our slower-moving captive parrots eat, but we definitely do not want to eliminate them from the diet. Most parrots will do anything for a nut. That works to our advantage because that makes them great training rewards. In a perfect world, a parrot should get their nuts portioned out during training sessions.
Occasionally, we incorporate nuts into the diet in snacks. In our cookbook, Cooking For Parrots, there are several recipes that call for the use of nut butters. Of the many types of nut butters, peanut butter is the most common. However, we don’t recommend the use of peanuts or peanut butter because of the possibility of aflatoxins , and other nut butters are often difficult to find and expensive.
I thought it would be fun for everyone to learn how to make homemade nut butters for your birds (and yourselves – Shhh! We won’t tell!) It’s ridiculously easy but your parrot and significant other probably doesn’t know that, so you might infer that you spent hours slaving away in the kitchen for their pleasure.
Step 1 – Select the type of nut butter you want to make – you can virtually use any nut type you want. The different nuts will produce different textures and flavors– pecans and walnuts produce a soft, oily butter, pistachio butter comes out drier and crumbly, and the skins from walnuts and pecans leave a bitter after taste and aren’t great in a sandwich, but will not bother your bird at all.
Step 2 – Decide if you want to use roasted or raw nuts – the roasting process is very easy and fast. Raw nuts will produce a drier textured butter. Roasted nut butters are smoother and richer in flavor. If you are making the nut butter only for your parrot, it might be better to use raw. The raw nuts are healthier and the consistency of the butter is a little less messy. I prefer the taste of roasted nut butters, but this is an individual preference.
If you choose to roast, place 2 cups of nuts onto an ungreased baking sheet and toast them in a 350º oven for 13-15 minutes. Stir the nuts up well about halfway through the baking process – after about 8 minutes.
Step 3 – Once the nuts have cooled down, place them in the food processor. Be careful not to overwhelm your machine. Some units with lesser power will only handle a cup at a time.
Different nuts need different processing time. Roasted nuts process more quickly and smoothly. The power of your food processor will also be a factor. In general, it takes between 2-4 minutes to bring the nuts to a buttery consistency (pecans process in about 1 minute).
Pulse the nuts several times until they are broken down into smaller pieces and then turn the processor on for constant blending. It just couldn’t be any easier.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.