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BEHAVIORAL ENRICHMENT

A consistent daily feeding program contributes to physical and mental health as much as a varied diet. The availability of natural items such as branches, empty nutshells, leather pieces and coconut shells create a stimulating environment. GRIT Grit is small non-dissolvable rock. The necessity of grit in the diet is debatable. Some birds, such as pigeons, fowl, canaries and finches, may need the availability of grit. In psittacine species, an occasional grit particle is harmless but it is not necessary for healthy maintenance of pet parrots.  Too much grit in any species can lead to grit impaction. SALT Salt licks are not necessary for birds, and should be avoided to reduce risk of salt toxicity. DEPRAVED EATING HABITS Birds that routinely eat inappropriate materials (e.g., feces, enclosure substrate) should be examined by a veterinarian. This behavior may be associated with disease or nutritionally deficient diets and is often prevented by the feeding of a more balanced formulated food product. SPECIAL REQUIREMENTS Lories and lorikeets require specialized diets in captivity. These nectar diets attract insects and result in liquid and messy feces. Your avian veterinarian can recommend a diet for these species. In soft-billed birds, waterfowl, backyard poultry and game-birds many commercial foods are available for these species.  Some toucans and mynahs may have a special dietary requirement for a low-iron formula. Consult your avian veterinarian for recommendations.

Cockatiels and Budgerigars tend to eat a higher percentage of (low fat) seeds in the wild.  A viable alternative to standard pellets in these birds is Nutri-An cakes (a 50% low fat seed and 50% pelleted ration that is difficult for them to pick through).  Ask your vet for more information on this conversion, which even the most finicky budgie or cockatiel can be converted to (at home or supervised in the hospital setting).  If this option is used, insert “Nutri-An cakes” in place of “commercial pellet diets” in the recommendations below.  In order for these cakes to deliver optimal nutrition, they must be carefully portion fed (otherwise the bird will pick out and consume only the seeds).

2. Detailed Formula for Providing a Balanced Diet:

**Remember, the percentages listed below are based on quantities actually consumed by your bird, not just what is offered.  If an abundance of food is offered, the bird will be able to dictate the percentages of each type consumed.  The only way to control this is to portion feed (like you would with a dog or cat).**

Commercial Bird Formulated (“pelleted”) Diets (fed as 75%-80% of the total diet)

Most reputable manufacturers have developed their formulated diets as a collaboration of the efforts and research of many veterinary nutritionists.  These diets are constantly evolving and improving (much like commercial dog and cat foods), and are now considered by most avian veterinarians to be the ideal staple diet for most parrot and many other avian species.  Furthermore, they are very convenient for owners (easy to dispense, store and clean-up after).  There are a wide variety of types on the market that include granules, clusters, and colored and non-colored pellets.  They are particularly useful for overweight birds as they tend to be lower in fat.  

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions (using a monitored conversion process) and change the cage papers daily to monitor the number of droppings being produced during conversion.  If the number is decreased, or there is only water (urine) being passed for more than 24 hours, then return the bird to its original diet and consult with your avian veterinarian.  Some birds have starved to death when converted too quickly to a commercial diet.  For detailed information on the conversion process, see the manufacturer’s recommendations or our diet conversion handout.

We recommend the commercial bird pelleted type diets as a replacement for seed and vitamin supplementation (vitamins are built into the pellets), but would advise you to also continue giving a variety of fresh foods daily (or at least 3 times a week).

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