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Picky Parrots

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Parrots of all types are becoming more and more popular as pets, so let's talk a bit about how to keep them happy and healthy. Did you know that not only is it important for their diet to be good, but also to be interestingly presented? That's right, presentation matters! You see, in the wild, foraging is one of the main activities occupying a parrot's time, which keeps them mentally stimulated and active. So in captivity, it's not only necessary that food is healthy but that it's provided in a way which is interesting and challenging as well. There are lots of ideas out there about this - for now, keep in mind that parrots often mix eating with play, frequently resulting in what appears to be wasted food as they let a lot of it fall to the ground or as they fling it in the air. It is said that a messy parrot is a happy parrot.

Now, what makes up a healthy and complete parrot diet? Well, NOT seed. In fact, seed should make up only 5-10% of your parrot's entire daily food intake - the rest should be quality protein, vitamin A vegetables, other vegetables and fruits, whole grains and carbohydrates, and lots of calcium (which is a parrot's most important mineral). Parrots eating a seed-only diet tend to develop calcium and vitamin A deficiencies over time because they are low in calcium and high in phosphorus. Extruded diets or pellets are a good source of protein but in no way should be considered a complete diet. (And just in case, note that rhubarb and avocado are poisonous to birds!) 

Oh, and don't forget fresh water available at all times!


Converting your hard-core seed junkie to a fresh food diet:

  1. Begin with three dishes in the cage: 1) high-quality parrot pellets, 2) high-quality seed mix, 3) fresh food into which you have mixed seed (50/50). Your bird may not touch the fresh food for several weeks but this is normal for now.
  2. As soon as you see your bird exploring the fresh food, make the following change: In the morning, remove the seed dish, leaving only two dishes:  1) pellets and  2) the fresh mix. In the evening, feed the fresh food mix again, but also return the seed dish.
  3. As soon as you see your bird with a piece of fresh food or observe that he has eaten some of it, eliminate the seed dish completely from his cage, and from this point onward don't feed seed at all except as part of the fresh food mix.
  4. A month later, and on each succeeding month, decrease the amount of seed in the mix until it is down to about 5-10% of the mix.
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