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Healthy Diet

Feeding Your Bird a Healthy Diet for a Long Life

As a rescue, we get birds surrendered from various backgrounds. One of the most common things we see is birds that have been on seed only diets for years. Many cockatoos will have had sunflower seed only diets. We have had birds that have come in with gout, many galahs with fatty lumps the size of golf balls, birds with oily or poor feather condition from an oily seed diet, and the majority of birds with liver and kidney damage. The information on diet I am going to share, is based on the health conditions of the birds surrendered that came from seed only diets and the improvements in condition after being converted to healthy diets.

Birds need healthy, fresh food with lots of variety, with chop being the best option. Chop is essentially mostly vegetables, some fruit, grains, nuts, and healthy seeds (like flax, hemp, and chia) all combined into one healthy meal for your bird. Chopping into fine pieces will ensure there is a good mix of everything in each bowl, and it makes it harder to pick out the things they don't like. I use a food processor to rough chop most vegetables. You can make a large batch and freeze it into individual portions that you can set in the fridge the night before to thaw, or you can make a fresh batch each week. I find my fresh batches are good for about 4 days, so I am making fresh batches about twice a week. I also find the birds enjoy the fresh food more than frozen and thawed, but of course, frozen and thawed is better than no chop if your time does not allow for making fresh weekly. One thing for sure, once your bird has been converted to chop, it will be it's favourite food. Here at the rescue, we convert all birds to a chop diet plus a quality pellet, with the exception of birds like Eclectus and lorikeets that have a more specialised diet. All our birds, from canaries all the way to cockatoos, love to eat their chop first before any other food.


A good diet will help reduce your vet visits from diet related illnesses, and will give your bird the chance to live out it's full life.

 

Converting to a Healthy Diet

All Birds Can Be Converted

The one complaint we hear the most is "my bird is too stubborn and can't be converted!" This is simply not true. It has to be done correctly, but it is actually fairly simple. We convert all birds to healthy diets within a week, including birds that people swore that they had tried to convert for 20 years! The keys are the ingredients you use and your method. Also, if there is a seed bar hanging in your cage or a bowl of plain seed, your bird will always choose the seed first. Dry seed is the equivalent to fast food for humans. It's both tasty and really bad for you. Most people, when given the choice between fries and a salad, will choose the fries. It's the same with our birds. I often hear that seed is what birds should eat because it is what they normally eat in the wild. There is some validity in this, however, the information is not complete.  Bird seed we buy from the store is dry seed. It has lots of stored energy so it can sprout and grow in to a plant. This stored  energy equates to a high energy meal for birds. Birds in the wild do eat some seed, but the seed they find is fresh live seed that does not have the amount of stored energy dried seed has and it is very nutritious. They also have access to a larger variety of seed than is in store bought mixes. They spend their days searching for food and their diet varies depending on what they can find to eat. It also includes much more than seed depending on the type of bird. If you are going to feed seed, consider sprouting. When a seed sprouts it becomes a different, healthier food.

When converting to a healthy diet, we actually work on converting to pellets first. Once, a bird is converted to pellets, we work on teaching them to eat their chop. One bonus, aside from an all around healthier bird, is birds on a chop and pellet diet will then see seed as a high reward. You can then use a very small amount of seed each day to help with taming or training a very shy bird.

Notes: With some of the large birds like cockatoos and galahs, we can often skip step one and change their diet by simply taking away seed and giving pellet and chop. We skip to step 2 and mix seed in the chop for a week. They often start eating pellet on their own without much encouragement.

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Step 1: Converting to Pellets

We have found that type of pellet makes a world of difference in this process. We use Harrison's High Potency. It's a good quality, organic pellet, and it tends to dissolve and stick to the seed best. We mix the Harrison's pellets 50/50 with a budgie seed. Add water to the pellet and seed mix until it just covers the mix. This will create a mushy mix. The birds will dig the seed out of the mix and will taste the pellet. Change the mushy mix daily. After about three days, they will start eating more and more of the pellet in the mush. After one week, you should be able to put dry pellets in the cage with no seed and they will eat the pellets. During this process, never offer plain dry seed in the cage, and always offer a bowl of fresh food like chop. Also, closely monitor that they are eating. They often will pick out just seed the first day or two, but will start picking at the pellet and chop by day three.

Once converted to pellets, it's easy to switch to any quality pellet. Please research your pellets and use high quality pellets. 

Step 2: Converting to Chop

Once you have converted to pellets, you can start focus on improving their love for chop. This step is easy, and they may have already started eating the chop during your pellet conversion. Now that you can offer dry pellets, offer chop and stir in a small amount of seed. We don't want to regress to only eating seed, so only add a small amount to encourage them to dig through the chop. With a good quality chop, your birds will convert quickly. Some keys to making your chop tasty is to add cooked grains, cooked quinoa, a small amount of grated nut, and healthy seed like flax, hemp, and chia plus the live seed from your capsicums, peppers, pumpkin, and melons. (Don't use apple seed. They contain small amounts of cyanide, not harmful if they eat one or two, but you don't want to purposefully add it to the diet.) After one week of stirring the seed into the chop, your bird should eat chop without seed by choice.

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Chop Recipes

Feeding Your Birds Healthy Food For a Long, Happy Life

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Basic Chop Recipe

Cooked Quinoa
Cooked Diced Sweet Potato (boiled)
Beetroot 
Cooked Split Pea Lentil and Barley
Silverbeet and Kale
Apple and Pear
Frozen Peas and Corn (thawed)
Blueberry
Grated Carrot
Diced Zucchini
Diced or Shredded Beetroot
TBSP of Flax and Chia Seeds
Grated Organic Coconut Shreds
Finely Chopped Walnut (small amount)

Spice It Up

Cooked Quinoa
Cooked Chickpeas
Cooked or Raw diced pumpkin
Cooked Freekeh
Rocket and Choy Sum
Chopped Cauliflower
Turnip
Thyme and Rosemary (fresh)
Yellow and Red Capsicum
Diced Chilli
Grated Tumeric
Touch of Cayenne Pepper
Almond Slivers
TBSP of Flax Seed
Organic Rolled Oats

Budgie and Cockatiel Delight

Cooked Quinoa

Cooked Diced Sweet Potato

Cooked Lentil

Cooked Wild Rice (small amount)

Chopped Broccoli

Parsnips or Beetroot

Chopped Kale and Silverbeet

Alfalfa Sprouts

Red Capsicum

Grated Almond

Corn

Flax and Chia Seed

Rosemary and Thyme

Apple

Blueberry

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Eclectus Delight

Cooked quinoa and lentils

Cooked Pumpkin

(plus raw pumpkin seed)

Cooked Buckwheat pasta

Cooked Chickpeas

Beetroot

Corn, chilli, and green beans

Grated Carrot

Silverbeet and Choy Sum

Okra and Cucumber

Cantaloupe with seeds

Pomegranate (favourite!)

Apple diced

Almond and Walnut

Flax and Chia seed 

Lorikeet Favourite

Cooked Quinoa and Lentils

Cooked Diced Sweet Potato

Silverbeet and Bok Choy

Grated Carrot

Diced Apple

Grapes (small amount) or Diced Watermelon

Peas and Corn (small amount)

Blueberry

Rosemary

1-2 chopped almond

Organic coconut shreds

Special Treat Chop

Cooked Quinoa, Sweet Potato, Yellow Split Peas, Red Split Lentils, Chickpea Pasta, And Black Rice

Kale and Rocket

Zucchini and Carrot

Beetroot and Turnip

Grated tumeric and Ginger

Chilli

Green Bean and Sugar Snap Peas

Blueberry or Blackberry

Mango or Passionfruit

Healthy Seed Mix

Pepitas

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Roots and Shoots

Cooked Quinoa

Cooked Sweet Potato

Cooked Chickpeas

Diced Beetroot and Turnip

Silverbeet and Bok Choy

Diced Apple, Sliced Grape

Grated Ginger Root

Blueberry

Chia and Flax (small amount)

Sprouts (Can sprout your own seeds and beans)


Sprouts

Soak chick peas, adzuki beans, mung bean, and lentil for 12 hours in a glass container with twice the amount of water than bean. After soaking for 12 hours, rinse thoroughly 3-5 times a day. Don't leave in the sun (I keep on countertop out of sun.) I use a colander to rinse thoroughly, then place beans back into the container. The glass storage baking dishes are excellent for sprouts. Sprouts are ready in 3-5 days when tails emerge. Sprouts should smell nice. If any sour smell is present, throw them out.

Healthy Seeds for Chop

(sprinkle 1-3 tbsp of the mix into a large chop)

Chia Seed

Flax/Linseed

Hemp Seed

Sesame Seed

Organic Coconut Shreds

Millet Seed (from health food store)

Chilli Seed

 
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DIY CHOP

Easy Steps to Making Your Own Chop Recipes

  • Always add more vegetables than fruit. A good key is 75-80% vegetable.

  • Cooked quinoa gets even the pickiest eaters to try chop.

  • Include a variety in vibrant colours.

  • Add a small amount of healthy grains

  • Spice up your chop with herbs and spices

  • Stir in a small amount of healthy seeds like chia and flax (check out the healthy seed mix above)

  • Include fresh seeds from pumpkin, chilli, capsicums, melons, pomegranate, and passion fruit

  • Be sure to add root vegetables too

  • Dried beans should always be either fully cooked or sprouted

  • Never use canned fruit or vegetables. Fresh or frozen is best. 

  • Use raw unsalted nuts and seeds

  • Foods to avoid: avocado (kills), garlic, onion, tomato stems and leaves, mushrooms, fruit pits and apple seeds, salted nuts or salted seeds

  • Little to no nutritional value: iceburg lettuce and white potato