Educating parrots to eat the correct diet can be difficult. Most parrots that have come into my possession tend to eat or have eaten very little but dried sunflower seed with the possibility of a little fruit and clean water. Parrots are remarkably hardy and can sustain life on that diet and although they will look physically good will find it extremely difficult to build up the necessary reserves to breed. I would say that you need to be relatively brave but no overly stubborn when it comes to changing your parrots diet. Some parrots will almost go to the extent of starvation rather than change. It doesnt really matter whether it takes days, weeks or month to change the diet but be patient until you do. It is not possible to simply cut off a diet which has been consumed for years overnight. In all aviaries (with the exception of Eclectus), we have 3 feeding bowls. One contains fresh water changed daily during the winter unless soiled, and twice daily during the summer. The second bowl contains an excruded pellet diet, which has been designed specifically by the manufacturer for a particular type of parrot, i.e. Amazon, African grey or Macaw. All species of parrots have been catered for and their assumed needs have been produced via the excruded pellet. I believe to supply only the diet in a pellet form would be extremely boring for the bird. Also it would be true to say that pellets for parrots are a relatively new innovation, certainly in the UK. A pellet diet for hand reared babies in the USA has been the standard for much longer. I would still say that it is early days and the jury is still out on a diet consisting purely of pellets as aviculturists cannot yet be completely aware of the long term effects on a parrot. Poultry have been eating pellets for many years now bearing in mind that poultry very rarely live more than 2 to 3 years their life expectancy is nothing in comparison with that of an African grey. In the third bowl we have a good quality parrot food ie. Comprised mainly of sunflower seed with diced fruit and vegetables.
The juices from the fruit and vegetables will make the mixture moist and therefore it is possible to add powdered vitamens and minerals with relative ease. It is found that all parrots will consume the fruit and vegetables and parrot seed prior to consuming pellets. A portion of this mix is fed to each breeding pair in early morning. The portion is only sufficient to last until Midday or early afternoon. Once this has been consumed, the diet then switches to the extruded pellets for the remainder of the day. This ensures that the birds diet consists of entertainment value as well as nutritional value. The reason why I excluded earlier the Eclectus from the 3 bowl feeding principle was that hens can occasionally deprive the male bird of food and therefore it is necessary to double up in the case of these birds. Two feeding stations in the aviary is advisable. I would also recommend this principle for newly acquired birds that appear to be not completely compatible. Once you have observed that both partners are able to feed without aggression, then it will be possible to bring it back to a 3 bowl principle. When feeding multi-vitamens or additional protein it is advisable to stick wherever possible to manufacturers instructions. Overdoing in this area can cause more harm than good. An example would be in Cockatoos if the male comes into condition earlier than the female due to additional vitamens over and above that recommended, there could be disastrous consequences for the female. Liquid calcium supplements can be added to both the water and the fruit and vegetable mix as required. Breeding hens obviously have a need for calcium at the point just prior to egg laying. If administered correctly egg binding should be a thing of the past. In the case of larger Macaws, it is essential to provide a range of nuts as they require these in their diet to ensure sufficient protein. It is essential that your birds are never without food and that is the reason why pellets should be in the aviary on a continuous basis. One major drawback in regard to feeding in the way I have just outlined is the existence of vermon, i.e. rats and mice. Traditionally parrots are kept outside and therefore it is essential to either clean up on a daily basis any food that is dropped to the ground and therefore you require cemented floor aviaries or you only feed parrots indoors where the area is vermon free. If rats or mice can get at a continuous supply of food, it will not take long before they will completely over-run your aviaries and instead of feeding parrots you will be feeding the rats and mice of the entire county. Obviously any excreta or urine that gets into the parrot food is likely to cause disease and subsequent death. Cleanliness and hygiene in this department is critically important. Many parrots like the additional supplements of digestive biscuits. Eclectus, Amazons, Cockatoos relish these items and I always take the trouble to feed them this item in the early evening. All the effort involved in feeding your birds and ensuring that they have the correct diet will derive benefits once the breeding season is upon you. I never feed soaked seed. I find that the seed can so easily go off if not maintained and washed continuously. It can be difficult to get love birds to take a pellet diet, although pellets are produced in various sizes to accommodate all species from love birds to Macaws. When endeavouring to persuade your birds to go onto the new diet, dont be dogmatic they are all different and they take time to adapt. I find that if I put half consumed amounts of the fruit and vegetable mix into a pair that currently is not consuming these items then they tend to feel that someone has been in there to eat already and they will tackle the objects which previously were ignored. Instead of putting whole pellets into the mix put a few ground pellets in that have been consumed by other parrots. By using a little psychology then it is possible for humans to outsmart parrots to the parrots ultimate benefit. Remember all of the water containers and food container with fruit and vegetables in must be washed minimum every 24 hours so it is advisable to have running water in your aviaries so that this can be achieved without moving many bowls long distances. It has taken a number of years for me to come to the conclusion that this diet is the best and visits to other major parrot breeders and parrot parks have convinced me of its necessity. If it is your intention to keep your birds in perfect healthy condition and breed many chicks then this type of diet is unavoidable. By adding natural yoghurt to your fruit diet it will add beneficial bacteria and promote optimum conditions within the digestive tract for healthy gutflora.
There are a number of food which are bad for your parrot and should be avoided at all cost. Advocado certainly falls into this category and unfortunately is not reported sufficiently in parrot journals. I am aware of a number of parrots who have died from this source of food. It is highly toxic and death can ensue rapidly. Rhubarb, even after cooking, contains excessive acids and can retain properties of toxin. Olives have a salt and oil mix that can be dangerous. Aubergines or egg plants contain solanin can cause digestive upsets or worse in parrots but is completely harmless to humans.
Stomach upsets can be caused by asparagus. Theobromin is contained in chocolate and although much loved by humans is associated with respiratory and cardiac problems and is toxic in parrots. Coffee and tea also contain caffeine which may cause hyperactivity and in large quantities cardiac problems. Butter fats, creams and milks in large quantities cause digestive problems. Bearing in mind the number of good things to eat it is important to be as careful as possible if you are unsure.
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