Can My Bird Safely Eat People Food?

Can My Bird Safely Eat People Food?

My parrots love eating any kind of fruit or juice, nuts or seeds, but aren’t interested in any other kind of food I think is good for them. How can I change this?

This article is written with the understanding that you are providing a high quality formulated parrot pellet to your bird. Seed diets are ok but many nutrients are lost from “vitamin fortified” seed diets when the hull of the seed (where the vitamin fortification is applied) is discarded by the bird. We advocate a multi vitamin supplement to insure optimal nutrition with an all seed diet.

Feeding your parrot is not only great fun, it’s a terrific bonding time at the dining room table. I think we all know of at least one cockatiel noshing on pizza, or an African Grey picking at a chicken wing. My conure thinks a morning bowl of cheerios is heaven to dunk his beak into.

A few important notes on feeding your parrot:

If you won’t eat it, don’t serve it to your parrot. When your parrot’s dish is dirty, run it through the dishwasher, just like your own dishes, after every serving. If fresh food has been sitting out for more than an hour, throw it away. Don’t invite toxic bacterial problems into your parrot’s environment.

Let’s begin.

Everything in moderation: We’ll cover meat, dairy, grains, legumes, carbs, fruit and the all important veggies. A well balanced diet is essential, and fun! Also included is a list of the foods to never feed your parrot, plus a muffin recipe to share with your parrot.

Fruits:

Think of fruits as treats, like sunflower seeds, not as food.

Just as you hopefully provide nuts and seeds in moderation, so you should with fruits, as they are very high in sugar content. When you offer a juicy snappy grape to your African Grey, notice the grape is the same size as her head. It’s like you eating an entire watermelon.

Personally, my parrots will do just about anything for a grape. Or a piece of banana. Ooooh, or an apple slice. Or sucking the juice from a piece of orange. Just like we humans need to take it easy with fruit, so does your bird.

An excellent low sugar fruit to offer is a blueberry or a blackberry. A half or quarter of a strawberry is an excellent treat, as long as they are certified organic. Fresh cranberries are another great treat to offer, cooked (not dried and sweetened). Try a wee piece of papaya or mango.

These delicious fruit treats can be used for training, as a reward for good behaviour.

Unfortunately, fruits oftentimes make up too much of a parrot’s diet. Here’s how to switch from a high fruit diet to a high veg diet.

Vegetables:

After your parrot’s formulated pellets, vegetables should be the most offered food.

Begin by offering a good selection of different coloured vegetables so you can see what your parrot goes for. Offer cooked, and also raw. It’s trial and error, but worth it.

Peas. Try frozen for a new mouth experience. Yum. Raw snap peas – even better as they have to work for the peas. Yams (cooked and mashed) are the food of gods for parrots. Offer corn only as a treat (popcorn’s a favourite) as it’s used to fatten animals.

peaches a senegal parrot eating form a bowl of cooked peas

My parrots will not eat cooked carrots, but they will eat them raw. Broccoli, cauliflower, celery. Edamame is a favourite. Green beans. Brussel sprouts. Squash. Cucumber. Sweet peppers in every colour. Hot peppers–yes! They love them, the spicier the better!

The trick is to mix ‘em up, so there’s a colour smorgasbord of tempting veggie treats. They may pick and throw at first, but they’ll find at least one (and that’s a great thing) that they love.

Make their veggies treats, too. A slice of celery filled with all natural peanut butter — look out! Leafy greens can be lots of fun attached to the cage. Beet tops and celery tops are faves.

If time is at a premium, I always keep a bag of frozen ‘stir-fry’ veg in the freezer. Just make sure there are no mushrooms available to them! NO fungus for your parrots. And absolutely NO avocado.

I just found an excellent organic mix of frozen veg — the typical green beans, peas, corn and diced carrots. Wouldn’t you know it, this is now a favourite, as it’s a bowl of lovely colour AND they are eating cooked carrots, too!

Dairy Products:

Yes, you can give your parrots dairy products in moderation. Yogurt is the best treat ever, second only to all natural ice cream. A wee piece of cheese is also a terrific training tool. Most parrots will flip over backwards for a piece of cheese! Here’s a good article regarding dairy products for parrots.

Meat:

My macaw loves nothing more than holding a chicken leg and eating the meat from it. My African Grey actually chews through the bone to get to the marrow. Grass fed beef is another favourite. High quality organic meats are always welcomed, again in moderation. Fish and shellfish are also favorites. Try the tail of a cooked shrimp with meat in it. Oh yes please!

Legumes:

Beans are a big favourite of parrots, as long as they are never, ever fed raw. Cooked beans (black, navy, kidney, white, chickpeas, etc) can be offered, but note: never lima beans.

Carbs:

Every parrot loves pasta. So simply choose the healthiest pasta on the market — whole grain, rice pasta and so on. Cook it up with some beans and vegetable for an awesome dinner treat. Offer a strand of raw hard spaghetti for a pre dinner chew toy. Potatoes are another favourite. Plain cooked is the way to go. Okay, the smallest wee bit of sour cream. Parrots will gobble up rice, so make it whole grain, whole wheat, not white. The easy rule with carbs is no white bread, no white pasta, no white rice. (Just like us…)

Grains:

What parrot doesn’t love warm porridge for breakfast ? It’s a favourite at our house, especially when you mix in some other goodies with the oats, such as chia seeds, quinoa, amaranth seeds, even sneaky vegetables like spinach and peas.

What NOT to feed your parrot:

Here now is the list of foods to NEVER feed your parrot, followed by an excellent muffin recipe for you and your parrot to share.

If in doubt, print this out. I always make sure any caregiver I have has this at hand when we’re away on vacation.

NEVER feed your parrot:

  1. Alcohol
  2. Avocado
  3. Caffeine
  4. Chocolate
  5. Fruit pits or apple seeds
  6. Lima Beans
  7. Mushrooms
  8. Onions
  9. Raw Beans of any kind
  10. Processed meats or any food high in nitrates, nitrites, sulfites or monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  11. Sprouted lima, navy, or fava beans

Note: Peanuts in the shell must be human grade. Freeze them. If in doubt of the quality of the peanuts in shell throw them out.

Here now is my own personal muffin recipe to share with your parrot (in moderation, does it go without saying?).

Parrot People Muffins

In one bowl MASH ALL TOGETHER:

¼ cup organic virgin coconut oil

¼ cup raw organic honey

1 egg

4-5 over-ripe bananas (I keep them in the freezer once they’re over ripe)

In another bowl MIX TOGETHER:

1 cup whole wheat or whole grain flour

1 cup oats

1 ½ teaspoon baking soda

? tsp Pink Himalayan Salt or SeaSalt (a pinch)

¼ cup Chia Seeds

¼ cup walnut pieces, if desired (or pecan pieces)

Then MIX DRY INGREDIENTS INTO WET INGREDIENTS GENTLY

And then

GENTLY FOLD IN:

1 cup fresh or frozen wild blueberries

Scoop into muffin tins and bake at 350F for 25-30 minutes. When cooked through (test with toothpick) immediately overturn muffin tin to cool.

When serving to your parrot, offer a size that is about one quarter of the size of its head.
Freeze individually. Note the sugar content in this recipe while low and all natural, is still sugar, so it’s considered a TREAT. For both of you.

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Denise Wamsley
for Windy City Parrot, Inc

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