I have spent the last several months looking into a holistic approach to my parrots’ diets. They all have great eating habits except one: Linus, my umbrella cockatoo. It makes me crazy and I worry and fret every day about whether he is getting the nutrition he needs. He is healthy and I guess that says a lot. Still, I am always looking for ways to make improvements in everybody’s diet, but especially so with Mr. Picky. I decided that prying his beak apart and stuffing squash down his throat would probably result in trust issues.
So what do you do about the bird that doesn’t eat all those healthy things you provide? You maximize the foods he does eat. Here is a short list of every day spices you can add to your bird’s food for a blast of new flavor and added health benefits:
Cinnamon is high in fiber, iron, calcium and manganese. It can be used as a treatment for fungals, and other types of yeast and aspergillus. It gives relief to arthritis pain. Since it has anti-bacterial properties, it helps to lessen the growth of bacterias on fresh food. Cinnamon sticks are also a great toy!
Cayenne pepper is loaded with Vitamins A and C, B-complex, potassium, iron and calcium. It increases fat metabolism and reduces fat deposits – great for birds with, or with proneness to, fatty liver disease. It stabilizes bleeding, shock and has been known to stop heart attack. It returns blood pressure to normal and improves circulation.
Paprika is ground from a dried sweet red pepper. It has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects (as does cayenne). It may also lower the risk of cancer. Paprika is high in vitamins A and C Iron and calcium. It has many of the same benefits as cayenne.
Garlic is an excellent source of manganese, and a very good source of Vitamins B6 and C. It lowers cholesterol levels, reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke and protects against many cancers. It reduces inflammation, fights infection and pathogens such as botulism. It helps with heavy metal toxicity. The list goes on and on. Powdered garlic is not as effective beneficially as fresh, but still has a lot to offer. For increased benefits, try adding minced fresh garlic to the diet occasionally.
How much to use:
Keep in mind that spices are very potent in flavor. Think about how you would use it to season your own food, and then take into consideration the lesser portions you give to your bird. A light sprinkling over the food will do the job. Many birds love the taste of cayenne pepper. Try sprinkling it over a veggie your parrot will not normally eat. Some people use cayenne in the drinking water with great results. Make sure, though, that your parrot is drinking enough water and that the cayenne is not keeping him away from it.
As always, use these in moderation. For example, with all of it’s great benefits, garlic can cause anemia if used excessively over a length of time.
How to buy and store:
I usually buy my spices from the health food store or at Whole Foods. This way I can use their bulk jars and buy just enough try it out. And it’s usually fresher. If you do buy jars of these spices, read the ingredients first. If you are buying paprika, it should list one ingredient: paprika. Never buy anything that has salt or other flavorings added for use with your parrots. Sometimes silicon oxide is used to make it sprinkle more easily. Instead, put rice in the jar. It will absorb moisture and help stop clumping.
Store your spices in a cool dark place. A cabinet away from the heat and moisture of the stove is fine. Dark glass jars work best.
Author Patty Jourgensen specializes in avian health, behavior and nutrition and has been working with and caring for rescue birds since 1987.