Guest Author - Heather Thomas
Pet birds benefit greatly from the addition of whole foods to their diet. It can be easy to forget that your bird would not eat a standard seed blend or formulated pellet diet in the wild. This warrants some consideration. What would your birdís diet look like if it were a wild bird? Most birds kept as pets would eat mostly fruit, nuts, and seeds with small amounts of insects and clay.
Fruits are one of the easiest whole foods to get your bird to eat. They add sweetness, interesting shapes, and textures to your birdís dish. Cut fruit into pieces your bird can easily pick up with its beak or foot. Peel any non-organic fruit. Do not include pits from stone fruit, such as peaches, plums, or apricots, or apple seeds in your birdís dish. They contain trace amounts substances that can be harmful to your bird.
Some bird owners have a very hard time getting their birds to eat vegetables. Vegetables contain many vitamins and minerals that are hugely beneficial to your birdís health and it is worth ďgetting creativeĒ to work these nutritional powerhouses into your birdís daily routine. If your bird absolutely refuses to eat vegetables but enjoys fruit a sneaky but effective way to incorporate more vegetables, especially greens, into your birdís diet is by grinding fruit and vegetables up in a food processor together. Simply use a small, single-serving, food processor to pulse all your birdís fruits and veggies into a chunky mash. The sweetness of the fruit masks the veggies.
Nuts and Seeds
Often, birds favor nuts and seeds. However, they should make up no more than 25 percent of your birdís diet. This may come as a shock to anyone feeding their bird a seed-only diet. A diet too high in fat can cause obesity and related health issues in pet birds. Ideally, nuts and seeds should be viewed as a supplement to your birdís healthy diet and not the mainstay. Instead choose a formulated diet as the base of your birdís diet adding seeds and nuts to this already complete diet. A formulated diet is composed of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, vitamins, and minerals extruded into the shape of a pellet. It is difficult to transition a seed only bird over to a formulated diet but the addition of other interesting foods to your birdís dish helps make the process smoother. No more than 50 percent of your birdís diet should be comprised of formulated pellets.
Sprouts and Legumes
Dried beans, or legumes, should never be given to pet birds; they contain enzyme inhibitors and are very hard on a birdís digestive system. However, these same beans or legumes in their sprouted form are an excellent source of protein (without the fat), vitamins, and minerals. If youíve never sprouted before, it takes a little trial and error to determine what works best for you, but it is really a simple process. Soak your seeds or legumes, then rinse and allow your sprouts to drain in a strainer for the next 2 to 4 days as your sprouts grow. Sprouts must be rinsed 2 to 4 times per day to retard bacterial growth. When the sprouts have achieved their desired size, store them in the refrigerator. Fresh, homegrown sprouts will often last for two weeks or more in the refrigerator.
Provide your bird with a whole food diet and improve your own diet in the process. Instead of cutting into an apple just for your bird, simply cut a slice off the apple you eat for breakfast. Reserve some of the leafy greens from your evening salad or raw vegetables before you add them to a soup or stir-fry. Donít view your birdís diet a separate thing, make it a part of who you are and what you do every day.