The Feeding of a parrot
by Johanne Vaillancourt
Translated by Marlène Picard (Mooghie)
Nutritional deficiencie are still, at the beginning of this millennium, with poor hygiene and psychological stress the greatest causes of disease or premature death in our "domestic" parrots. Malnutrition is a silent killer that works slowly, daily. Months, even years of poor or inadequate diet can jeopardize the health of a bird forever. Nutritional deficiencies are the cause of a wide variety of diseases; from dull feathers to chronic feather plucking, diseases such as respiratory tract infections and most importantly, serious vulnerabilities of the immune system resulting in a bird that is more susceptible to infections, bacteria and viruses; as well as all problems related to reproduction.
These kinds of diseases are created by domestication ... by man and it is up to man to correct the situation. Parrots are totally at the mercy of humans ..! To imagine that a pelleted diet (extruded granules) or mixtures of seeds may be sufficient to meet the nutritional needs of your birds is plain magical thinking. Some individuals (misinformed individuals) will only feed their parrots products found in pet stores, as too often these products are sold as complete diets. Although most feed or seed mixtures sold on the market are very good, we should never consider them as complete diets. As Sally Blanchard once aptly said: "Asking a clerk at a pet super-store how to feed your parrot is like asking the bag boy at the grocery store how to feed your children" (Pet Bird Report no.26).
- Provide fresh food every day (of course).
- Water should be changed twice a day or more (a small detail for some but essential for the parrot).
- Thoroughly wash (with a brush) fruits and vegetables to remove any residual chemical (insecticides, pesticides). You can wash your fruits and vegetables with a solution of 2 tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar diluted in 4 liters of water. Soak fruits and vegetables 5 minutes, then rinse.
- Do not leave perishable foods too long within your bird's reach.
- Old seeds lose a high percentage of vitamins C and E.
- It is important to feed foods rich in vitamin A and D3, and calcium.
- Assess the freshness of the food you serve your parrot. Do not give your parrot anything that you would not dare eat yourself.
- Do not feed hot food: soup, porridge, "Pablum" cream of tomato, etc. at a temperature higher than 106 to 108 ° F. (41-42° C).
- Pay attention to foods cooked in the microwave (hots spots).
- Never give food from your mouth to your parrot.
Food that meets certain basic dietary needs of certain species of parrots, but that must be accompanied by all categories of food contained in the Food Guide.
- Less dirty, stays clean.
- Does not require the addition of vitamin supplements.
- Boring food for the majority of parrots (nothing to open).
- Several parrots will refuse to eat it.
- Not enough research done on how it meets the dietary needs of parrots.
- Nutritional deficiencies noticed in some birds fed with pellets only (without addition of fruits, vegetables, etc.).
- It is important to check the expiry date on the package.
- Bacteria can grow if the food is contaminated (water, feces).
- There are now on the market extruded pellets made specifically for certain species.
- Vitamin deficiency and hypervitaminosis (depending on the quality of the pellets) are common. Do not provide vitamin supplement to a parrot who is on a pelleted diet, it can lead to hypervitaminosis (vitamin intoxication).
Commercial mixtures for parrots (sunflower, safflower, millet, pumpkin seeds, corn, canary seed, buckwheat, wheat, oats, sesame, etc.).
- Seeds should not be more than 35% of the diet of the parrot. They are low in vitamins and calcium, high in fat. Birds fed exclusively on seeds are exposed to serious dietary deficiencies (see vitamins and minerals). Seeds should be accompanied by a varied diet: fruits, vegetables, etc.
- Seeds should be fresh (germination can ensure freshness).
- Do not store seeds in a humid location (mold).
- Germinate seeds. Parrots love it and germination increases their vitamin content.
- Always check bowls of food containing seeds. Sometimes they may appear full because of empty husks.
- Parrots love to work with their beaks. Opening and shelling seeds are pleasures that the pellets do not provide.
- Seeds should be kept clean, dry, dust free and free of mold. They should be stored in a cool dry place.
Parrots love them!
Excellent sources of vegetable protein. Parrots prefer "al dente".
The delight of all the parrots ... with the sauce of course!
Once or twice a week, cooked and served with the shell (cooked). Remember to vary the format.
Thoroughly cooked, without fat. The bones provide a good source of calcium.
Rich in fat, amino acids, minerals and protein. Provide a reasonable amount. Let the bird break them open if possible (depending on the size of your parrot's beak). Walnuts, peanuts, filberts, almonds (rich in calcium), pecans, pine nuts (keep refrigerated), pistachios (rich in vitamin A and iron), Brazil nuts, coconut, palm kernel, macadamia nuts, etc. Almonds and pistachios are the healthier option.
Rolled in vitamins they are a treat for the birds!
Pasteurized cheese, yogurt (no milk or cheese from raw milk).
Rice, couscous, bulgur wheat, barley, etc. Parrots love them!
No scraps ...! Only the same food that ends up on your plate. Naturally, it would be advisable that you do not eat too much "junk food". The key to a healthy diet is variety!
Powder preferably. Water soluble supplements are not recommended because they are low in fat-soluble vitamins (valuables vitamins A and D among others), and quickly become a breeding ground for bacterial growth.
- Vitamin A (one of the most important for birds) is oxidized within 15 minutes when in contact with water (as are all fat-soluble vitamins). In addition, the vitamins added to water encourage bacteria to multiply, which smells really foul.
- Unpleasant water taste.
- Dirties the water very quickly (bacteria soup).
- Buy only the amount of vitamins you can use in 6 months.
- After this time, vitamins lose their strength and potential, especially if exposed to the air.
It is important to seek veterinary advice before offering a vitamin supplement to your parrot. It is not unusual these days to see a bird suffering from hypervitaminosis (intoxication due to excessive intake of vitamins).
Good source of calcium for parrots but not necessary.
It is important to supplement the small parakeets with a block of iodine (available at pet stores and inexpensive) or an iodine supplement (available from your veterinarian) to avoid a too common problem: hypothyroidism (goitre the parakeet) caused by iodine deficiency.
©Johanne Vaillancourt 2005
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