I love to put things into my birds’ food that adds a special oomph to a meal that might be just a little too familiar – variety being the spice of life and all. It is a real plus when it brings something else to the table like extra nutrition or acts as a natural remedy to common problems or symptoms.
Here is a list of common herbs and spices that can safely be used as needed medicinally with parrots:
Ginger is often used as a preventative for motion sickness. You might be surprised how many birds suffer from this affliction, but transporting our birds by car is sometimes necessary. You can offer your bird fresh ginger root or make a tea out of it by steeping fresh ginger slices in hot water (allow to cool thoroughly before serving). Replace your bird’s drinking water with this a couple of hours before your trip.
Dill is very useful in both settling digestive disorders and has calming properties. It can be offered fresh, dried (added to wet foods) or steeped in a tea.
Mint is used for a number of digestive discomforts from nausea to indigestion, but it has stimulant properties and it is best that it not be used right before bedtime. The leaves can be serves fresh or steeped to make a tea. Dilute full strength tea with plain water (1/4 tea with 1 cup water). If you have a bird that takes a special interest in your chewing gum or toothpaste, he will enjoy mints leaves.
Chamomile is great for a restless or nervous parrot. If you are traveling with, or boarding, a bird that is uncomfortable with new surroundings, or have a cockatiel that has frequent night frights, chamomile tea might help. I offer it warm to my birds in a mug just before bed time. Dilute ¼ cup of your tea with about 1 cup of warm water for your bird. Just the act of having a warm cup of tea with your bird is calming.
Sage is used for digestive disorders, but it is also supportive of the liver and is used to boost its functionality. I sometimes add a sprinkle of dried sage over my bird’s food and I occasionally add fresh sage to batches of the BirdTricks Diet.
Have you ever considered growing your own herb garden? Basil, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon and thyme all do well when grown on a sunny window sill. These are all safe for our parrots and will add flavor, variety and nutrition to their meals. Here are some tips to help you grow a great indoor herb garden:
- Choose a window that gets about 6 hours of sunlight – a southern exposure will provide strong light that won’t burn leaves.
- Water plants regularly but make sure there is proper drainage to prevent root rot.
- Turn the plants often to ensure even growth.
- Resist the urge to harvest the from the plants until they are about 8” tall and never clip away more that ¼ or the plant.
NOTE: Not all herbs and spices are suitable for parrots and you should use caution before adding them to the diet. Many are surprisingly potent and may have side effects that you may not be aware of.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.