“my bird is a picky eater” or “I took in a bird, who is a picky eater” are sentences I hear at least several times a week.
Lets have a look at that.
Our parrots are not domesticated creatures. Their instincts are pretty much full in place.
So, lets imagine how this ‘picky eater’ would work in the wild. The parrot fledges and the parents and flock take it out to show what is save food. And because there is so much and they only have to fly miles and miles to find it, they say to the young bird: “Do you like this? Or shall we fly another 5 or 10 miles to see if we find something you like better?” Can you imagine that?
Well, it rather is like this: they fly and show this is food and it is save to eat and then they eat it. Now how come they are so picky when living with us? Did you ever consider that when you put some new food in your birds bowl or chuff in its face, it doesn’t even know that is save parrot food? How can he/she?
There are several ways to teach a parrot to start eating a variety of foods. One is that you, as a flock mate, eating it.
Showing this food is save. Or you can offer the dish every day in the cage. Though that can take month with some birds, which knows a very limited diet.
But you would not live with a parrot if you would not have an infinity source of love and patience, right .
offered spelt soup on the menu. I never had spelt soup before. The co- owner and chef, Davide, had me try a little, and I was hooked. I ate a bowl and took a container home, because it was so good.
Now they change their menu everyday, so I went on the internet to find a recipe to make my own. And because I am a curious person, I started to read more an more about spelt. I already knew that it was very nutritious, because when I lived in Germany we ate it quite a bit.
I knew that the Romans fed it to their soldiers, so they had the strength to march the whole day. In parts of Europe spelt’s heritage goes back to bronze age. Already than it was a staple.
Due to spelt’s high water solubility its nutrients are easily absorbed
and made available to the entire organism with a minimum of digestive work. It is high in protein (significantly higher than wheat), higher in B complex vitamins, and it is high in both simple and complex carbohydrates. These complex carbohydrates are an important factor in blood clotting and stimulating the body’s immune system.
Well, since a while now, I eat it daily and offer it also to the parrots food.
The easiest way to use it, is to slow cook it. I take a thermo can
with an large opening, ad 2 ounces of washed spelt, 4 ounces of boiling water, close it and let it sit over night. The next day I
drain the water and use the spelt in soup, over salad and vegetables
or as breakfast with yogurt and fruits. The birds get it with whatever food they get at any given day and they often pick the spelt out of it.
Here is more info on spelt:
and here the soup recipe:
Seeds are little miracles. Slumbering within them are all the nutrients necessary to develop and grow a plant. When germinated this dormant treasures awaken. Now the seeds provide the necessary vitamins, minerals, enzymes, chlorophyll, amino acids, fatty acids and much more every plant needs to grow.
All this nutrition’s are offered in a perfect combination only Mother Nature provides. Unlike raw food, they are also easy for the body to utilize in this form.
We can copy this process for our parrot food, if we soak the seeds and grains before feeding them. Most are at the peak of their nutritional value after 8 –12 hours of just soaking them in room temperature water. So, why don’t we throw our clean, organic seeds and grains in water, rinse them after the 8-12 hours and voila, we have a fresh nutritious food for our birds.
We can get fancy and soak them in orange juice. Or serve them with some cut up fruit, carrot juice, applesauce or any mash a bird loves.
The parrots food I prepare daily contains always carrots. Some days they are eaten, other days the birds pick out something different.
My parrots get 12 hours of rest every night. Except Gilmore my African Grey, who seems to need less sleep. After my birds are all tacked in for the night Gilmore comes to the living room to hang out a few hours longer. One evening I had the tip of a steamed carrot and offered it to him. He inhaled it. I am steaming carrots for my dog anyway, so from that day on Gilmore got a piece of carrot a day. And now it was getting interesting. If the carrot is the thin end and peeled, he is eating it like a goodie. If it is from the rest of the carrot, even cut thin, he does not eat it. He also does not eat it, if it is not peeled.
Gilmore has the habit of destroying his feathers. Usually once a year he leaves them alone long enough to lock perfect. And then suddenly I find little feather pieces all over and that was it for a while. In 12 years I never could figure out what causes this behavior. We started the carrot ritual 2 months ago and Gilmore is fully feathered now. Is it one of his “leaving his feathers alone” times again or are the carrots the cause? I don’t know. Time will show. But as long as he eats his 2-inch, peeled, lightly steamed carrot every evening, I will continue offering it.
I know it often depends on how we offer a food for parrots to eat it. And the learning never stops. We have to keep an open mind to find new ways to offer the foods we want them to eat.
If you read my book “What Happened to my Peanuts” or followed this blog, you may have seen that I am a fan of plantain (Plantago Major). I am using it as parrot food and for myself during the summer. And I feel always safe to have an herb, which helps with so many issues, like wounds, as tea for internal problems, etc. For the winter I used to dry my own. And I am ready to harvest and dry some batches for the next winter.
Though, today I got my weekly Dr. Christopher’s Herbal Legacy Newsletter with the following information:
Plantain is best used fresh, as opposed to the dried herb. What works very well for us, is to take the plantain, right after being picked, place it in a blender with only enough water as needed to blend it until smooth. Fill individual dividers in ice trays with this blended plantain, and freeze. When frozen completely, remove to plastic freezer-safe bags, label, and store in freezer. When bitten by a snake, spider, or in the case of an insect sting, simply remove one of those frozen cubes, thaw, and apply to the affected area, holding in place with a cotton gauze, or some other bandage.
I am excited about this information, because it seems much easier to prepare my winter batch. This way I can freeze enough to use it for food for my parrots in times when no plantain is growing. I am going to try this with other herbs, like basil, nettle.
Several years ago, I was invited to Pittsburgh, PA to speak to the members of the Parrot Education & Adoption Center there. Their executive director Christy Kaufman, who had made all arrangement for me to come and speak there, was a most gracious host. I will never forget how welcome I felt. She also impressed me with her knowledge about parrots nutrition. She drove me around and showed me the area and such wonderful places like the National Aviary. My memories of Pittsburgh are very found because of the open and eager to learn members of PEAC and Christy.
I just got the newsletter from PEAC in Pittsburgh, PA and it anounces that Christy is retiring from as a executive director.
I wish her all the best. I am sure it will not be easy to find a replacement for such an loving, patient, knowledgeble and hart working person and wish the board of directors and Christy that somebody who can replace her will come anlong soon.
Here is a link to the newsletter, in which you can also find information of the “Parrot Personalities” workshop for the 24th of July.:
Take good care of your self, Christy. I hope to see you at some of the ‘parrot events’.
About ten years ago a parrot owner ask me for a suggestion about what kind of parrot food or herbs she can feed for a certain condition of one of her birds. She thought what I was telling her was total nuts. I must have tried rather stern to convince her, because she thought I yelled at her. I guess she was just not used to my German way of communicating. LOL. Though, I learned to be more tolerant in the mean time. Anyway, she was open enough to have a look into using certain foods or herbs for her birds and think it through. She says she learned a lot from me about nutrition and how to feed her parrots right. Over time we did not only become friends but started to learn from each other. She comes up with the most delicious recipes and was gracious enough to allow me to share here cantaloupe relish, which is just wonderful during for our birs these hot summer days.
And here is Crystal Smith’s email from this morning, in which she shares her parrot cantaloupe relish recipe:
This was our breakfast today! I forced myself to take a bite… I can’t even describe the sensations my mouth went through. (We’ll leave that for another time) The birds however are definitely enjoying! Tommy hasn’t manners though – he’s talking with his mouth full. He can’t get past the need to identify his meal with the repeated phrase of “WHAT’S YOUR NAME”!! Weirdo bird.
We’re always on the look-out for new concoctions that appease the senses as well as provide a healthy meal for our parrots. We keep to the main goal of “fresh is best”! This pretty much guarantees achieving the best nutritional value of the food offered.
One such meal our parrots enjoy on a hot summer day is what we call “Cantaloupe Relish”. Kept simple, (as shown below) this recipe calls for chopped cantaloupe, cilantro, and various sprouted seeds (from our Auntie Gudrun at Totally Organics).
If you are interested in the nutritional value of this simple recipe – read on!
Cantaloupe – this sweet smelling fruit offer significant amounts of Vitamin A and C. They are also a good source of beta-carotene, potassium and contain smaller amounts of calcium, iron, niacin, B-12 and riboflavin.
And don’t forget the Cantaloupe seeds! They can be washed, dried with a paper towel (or air dried) and then added to the relish as well! They also contain vitamins, minerals, as well as protein and carbohydrates!
Cilantro – A member of the carrot family and also referred to as Chinese Parsley and Coriander. This herb is often referred to in my health food cook books as an “appetite stimulant”! The leaves of the Cilantro have a pungent smell and humans tend to either love it or hate it! We’ve found that our parrots are drawn to any dish that contains this herb. Cilantro also contains antibacterial properties and can also be used as a fungicide. Rich in vitamin C, A E, K, Fiber, and Calcium.
OH!!! I almost forgot! I roasted some cantaloupe seeds! Birds LOVE them! I just washed and dried them with a towel.. then tossed them with cayenne pepper and roasted in oven ..low heat for about one hour! OMGosh – such a delicacy for them… but nearly sent me to the ER, my tongue was on fire!
In many ways parrot food is not that much different from human food, when it comes to a healthy diet. Some people think, if something is good, more of it is better. But a healthy diet consists of a variety eaten in moderation.
Consuming regularly different foods we can help the body to break them down and assimilate and absorb the nutrition.
Enzymes are very important for digestion. So, some pineapple, papaya or apple on a regular base will support that part of assimilation. Bitter foods, like dandelion, arugola, nasturtiums, etc will help the body breaking down fats. Sour foods, like lemons, grapefruit, (and yes) apples help to break down carbohydrates. Cayenne pepper and/or ginger stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid to break down food and make it easier to get the nutrition. Coconut or olive oil help the body to absorb more of beta carotene.
These are just some samples to show how a diet with great variety can help absorb the nutrition a body needs. Coming from a background where this kind of a diet is normal, I apply it to the way I feed my birds.
I like foods I can share with my birds. Sometimes I prepare a dish and during or after finishing it, it occurs to me that it is a perfect parrot food. A while ago I ate this delicious mashed sweet potato dish. Today I made it myself and before I added salt, thought this makes a perfect bird food. Here is what I used for 10 parrots and myself:
2 large sweet potatoes
½ can of coconut milk
2 tablespoon of coconut flakes
2 tablespoon of nut pieces ( almonds, walnuts, macadamia, filberts)
¼ teaspoon of ginger root powder or 1 teaspoon of fresh grates ginger
a sprinkle of nutmeg
I baked the sweet potatoes for about 1 hour by 300 degrees. When they were really soft I pulled them out of the oven, let them sit a moment to cool. Peel them, put them in a large bowl, mashed them, add the coconut milk, ginger, nutmeg, coconut flakes and nuts and stirred it all in.
½ I set aside for the birds. To the other half I added some salt and ate it. By the time I was done the “parrot portion” was cool enough to feed it to them. It delights me to hear for a minute or so the whole bird room go: hm, hm, hm
We all probably know many ways of offering new parrot food to our birds. I certainly thought I know a bunch of them. And then Lisa, a customer of Totally Organics sends me the following email:
”In September we brought another tiel into our home that is older and had been on a seed diet. We were able to get her transitioned to sprouts and cooked grains very easily but she would not eat the pellets. Well, last month I had the idea to ground the pellets up a bit with a mortar and pestle. I spread that around on the bottom of her cage and she immediately hopped down and start foraging around gobbling up the pellets. I was so excited to see her having fun and it’s great to know that she is getting more variety through the pellets.”
I know cockatiels are one of the parrot species that are ground feeders. But it never occurred to me to present their food in a way like these birds would eat in their natural environment, on the ground. Talking about not seeing the forest for all the trees.