Authored by: Matt Smith, Executive Director of Project Perry.
Good nutrition is one of the most important things you can provide for your companion bird. We recommend feeding your bird a varied diet of natural and organic fresh produce in addition to human grade organic dry seed/grain mix, pellets and in-shell nuts. It is best to try and avoid food toxins (pesticides, etc…) in produce. The following article outlines our recommendations for a healthy companion bird diet.
Organic Fresh Produce
This should comprise approximately 60% of your birds diet, and should be more vegetables than fruit.
|Beet Greens||Apples* (no seeds)|
|Lettuce (any but Iceburg)||Nectarines*|
|Sweet Potato (cooked)||Tangerines|
* While recommended, we understand that an all organic diet may not be feasible for everyone. The fruits and vegetables listed with the asterisks are the top “worst offenders” for pesticides and fertilizers. These foods should always be organic. You can download a printable pocket version of the “Dirty Dozen” from http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/. You can also print/view a full ranking of all fruits and vegetables tested to see where your favorites rank from a contamination standpoint.
This should comprise approximately 20% or your birds diet. Most commercial seed mixes on the market are high in fat and fillers and low in nutrients. Because of this, you may want to consider making your own human-grade organic seed/grain mixes. This will help you provide your bird with a varied diet of seeds and grains, while controlling or eliminating the high fat ingredients. Smaller birds (ie finches, parakeets & cockatiels) have different dietary needs from the larger birds, so you should make separate mixes for each. It is easier than you may think to make your own mix. Go to any health food store and you will see the bulk bins of seeds and grains. Many grains are also becoming more mainstream and can be found in supermarkets (ie. quinoa). There are also abundant online sources for seeds and whole grains. In addition to feeding a grain and seed mix dry, you can soak them for 10-12 hours, sprout them, or for grains, cook them and sprinkle some seeds on top. Seeds and grains to include in your birds diet include:
|Barley (hulled or rolled)||Flax|
|Brown Rice (cooked)||Hemp|
|Buckwheat Groats||Pumpkin Seeds|
|Kamut (whole or puffed)||Safflower*|
|Oats (rolled or groats)||Sunflower*|
*Safflower & Sunflower seeds are high in fat and should only make up a small portion of any mix.
Pellets should comprise approximately 20% of your birds overall diet. High quality pellets are an important part of your birds overall diet. Pellets typically include all the vitamins & minerals required in a birds diet. These can be particularly important if you have finicky eaters. Organic non extruded pellets are your best choice. Some good options are: Roudybush, Totally Organic (TOPS), Foundation Formula and Harrisons. A good source for these options is the Birdsafe Store. Please consider helping Project Perry by making your pellet purchases via the Project Perry website. Click on “How You Can Help” then the BirdsafeStore.com banner part way down the page. The Birdsafe Store donates 5% of your purchase to help the birds at Project Perry.
When possible, you should feed your bird in shell nuts. Nuts are nutritious and nuts in a shell provide good beak exercise. Some birds may need the shells cracked for them. Make sure you purchase unsalted nuts.
Buy in shell:
- Almonds – good source of protein, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E & magnesium
- Brazil Nuts – good source of selenium
- Hazel Nuts – good source of potassium, Omega 3 fatty acid
- Peanuts (Roasted human grade only) – good source of niacin
- Pecans – good source of potassium and vitamin E
- Pistachios – good source of potassium, vitamin E, magnesium & phosphorus
- Walnuts – good source of Omega 3 fatty acid, protein, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus & potassium, manganese.
- Cashews – good source of magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, & potassium
- Macadamia – good source of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium & potassium
In shell nuts are readily available during the November/December holiday season, but usually need to be purchased online during the rest of the year. There are a few sources of in shell nuts out there, like Anton-Argires. You can find them at www.anuts.com. They are reasonably priced and available year round.
Other nutritious foods to include in your birds diet include:
- Eggs (cooked only)
- Beans – Beans should be cooked or sprouted. The most nutritious beans include lentil, garbanzo, adzuke or mung. If buying canned beans, please choose organic no salt options
- Whole Grain Pasta (cooked or uncooked)
Most birds love to be included at mealtimes. Small amounts of healthy people food can be included in your birds diet. It may be the only way to get some birds to eat their vegetables. Most birds love pasta. Please refer to the “Foods to Avoid” list to make sure what you are sharing with your bird is not toxic to your bird. You should refrain from sharing overly salty or fatty foods with your bird.
If your birds are eating a healthy varied diet including pellets, there should be no need to add vitamin supplements to your birds diet. However, there are some things you can include in your birds diet that will aid in their overall well being.
- Cinnamon – antimicrobial (prevents growth of bacteria and fungi), anti-inflammatory and aids in digestion and improves appetite.
- Cayenne Pepper – enhances circulation, aids digestion
- Celery Seed – anti-inflammatory, liver tonic
- Tumeric – anti-inflammatory, liver tonic
You can make a mix of 40% cinnamon, 40% cayenne and 20% tumeric. Put it in a shaker and sprinkle it over the birds fresh food daily, along with a pinch of celery seed.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – Unpasteurized raw organic (with the “mother’) apple cider vinegar is a good overall tonic. It is high in minerals, vitamins and amino acids. You can sprinkle a little on fresh fruits or veggies, or mix small amounts into cooked meals.
- Red Palm Oil – Provides essential fatty acids, high in antioxidants and especially high in vitamin E, helps with dry skin & feet, and dull feathers. Numerous health benefits for birds. Should be fed sparingly as this is a fat.
Foods to Avoid
- Avocado (toxic) Caffeine (toxic)
- Chocolate (toxic)
- Dairy (Birds are lactose intolerant)
- Fried Foods
- Non-Organic Imported Grapes
- Raw Eggs
- White Flour
Variety is important in your birds diet. As with children, you may need to find creative ways to sneak good foods into your birds diet. Puree vegetables and add to cooked grains. Feed your bird on a dinner plate. Try baking your own birdy bread (recipe follows). Sometimes if they see you eat it, they will try it. Try putting chunks of vegetables on a bird skewer, as some birds like to work for their food. Some birds like their vegetables cooked or steamed slightly. If you have a finicky bird, experiment and try to find something that works to get them to eat their vegetables.
4 c flour (use a variety of flours, whole wheat, buckwheat, garbanzo bean, rye, oat, almond meal, corn meal etc. White flour is not recommended)
Sprinkles : Oats, millet, pumpkin seeds, safflower seeds, sesame seeds
1 – 2 c water
1 c apple sauce
1 T aluminum free baking soda
1 c greens (whatever available)
1 c mixed berries fresh or frozen (or whatever you have on hand)
1 egg (optional)
Sprinkles : Oats, millet, pumpkin seeds, safflower seeds, sesame seeds
Place fruit, veggies and wet ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree. Mix this in with the dry ingredients. If it is too stiff, you can all a little fruit juice or soy/rice milk. You want a fairly stiff consistency. Grease a bread pan or muffin tins and add bread mixture. Sprinkle tops with any variety of the “sprinkles” above. Bake for about 20 minutes (will vary depending on consistency) at 350 degrees.
For more information on Matt Smith and Project Perry please see the About the Author section below.