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Breeding Parrots, Cockatiels and Lovebirds.


Normally the bigger parrots eat seeds and fruit. The size of their beak determines the size of the seeds and nuts they can crack. Depending on what is available during the season, in the wild parrots can eat 40 to 50 different kinds of fruit, seeds, nuts, berries and nectar.. Many parrot species eat insects and maggots, which they either actively look for, or that are eaten incidentally together with other food. The natural diet generally has a high content of vitamin A.

Parrots living in captivity need a diet that meets their needs. A way to give them this is to imitate the natural diet. This does not necessarily means that expensive tropical fruits have to be given, but everything must be done to give them a varied, well balanced diet with a lot of fresh food. For the majority of the bigger parrots this should consist of 25% seeds and nuts, 25% pellets or dog biscuits and 50% of fruits, vegetables and legumes, plus some animal protein and some other matters like those mentioned below:



Parrot mix
Commercial parrot mix, often contains too many seeds (especially sunflower seeds), which contain too little calcium, vitamin A and especially amino acids.

Seeds can be bought ready mixed or you can make your own mixture. Suitable seeds are wheat, oat, corn and millet.

Oily seeds
One must keep in mind that for wild parrots, sunflower seeds are only available a short period of the year. Although it is a good source of energy, they should be given in a limited amount to prevent the birds from getting overweight. They contain a lot of cholesterol and are poor in vitamin A and calcium.

You can give a large variety of fruits, like apples, prunes, edible berries, oranges and grapes.

Again you can try giving many sorts like carrots, celery, cabbage, sweet corn, watercress, lettuce, peppers and cooked roots. (Avocado and Eggplant is poisonous!)

Peas, beans and other legumes contain a lot of protein and little fat and are suitable to give to bigger parrots. Be thorough in washing and soaking them , because some can contain poison.

Animal protein
This is a source of essential amino acids. Crickets and dew worms are plentiful and readily available, but are not ideal because they contain little calcium. Insects like black flies, can be given as well as boiled lean meat, pieces of fish and low-fat cheese, while the bigger parrots can enjoy a fleshed bone. Do not give maggots or insects like houseflies. These can be a source of bacterial infection. Cod liver oil is a good source of calcium and vitamins.

Egg food
Egg food is an excellent source of animal protein. The biggest problem with many parrot like birds is that, from a given diet, they select the seeds they like and leave the rest. To prevent this, one could mix some oatmeal through the seeds-egg food mix. If this mixture is made sticky with a little bit of water, the oatmeal will glue the egg food to the seeds. When the bird peels the seeds it likes, it will automatically take some of the egg food stuck to it. Some commercial diets are based on this principle. The problem with this diet is that the bird can still select and can also wipe the egg food off the seeds before peeling them.

Pellets and extruded granules
As an alternative, pellets and extruded granules can be used. Especially in the United States these parrot diets are very popular. A pellet diet can never be eaten selectively. It is always difficult to teach parrots to eat pellets, but once they are used to it, it is certain they get all the necessary nutrients in the right amounts. Extruded granules generally are digested better. Pellets can be given to parrots as big as, or bigger than cockatiels. Sometimes Lovebirds can learn to eat pellets, but sometimes they can not crumb them well.


Other matters
-Some young wild plants such as dandelions, sorrel and chickweed can be given. Make sure they are not sprayed.
-Grit (not sand or oyster shells) must be available.
-Fresh clean branches must be given regularly
-Do not worry if the parrots eats it's own excrements. Many parrots do this to get certain nutrients.
-Always give sufficient fresh drinking water.
-All food must be fresh and must be taken away if it is put aside or has gotten dirty.
-Changes in the diet must be brought on gradually. If your parrot will only eat one kind of nut or seed, reduce the quantity gradually until the parrot eats balanced again.
-Wild parrots spend a lot of time searching for food in treetops. Try to feed several times per day to reduce boredom.
-Give whole food the parrot has to work on itself, instead of chopping everything up. By hanging pieces of food in several places in the cage, you can get it to look everywhere and thus introduce something new to its environment.

Food and grit can be bought at local pet stores or direct from a pet food company. Specialized magazines contain advertisements for suppliers and stores for most articles. Lumberyards are a good source for wooden blocks to be used as toys or as roosts. A poor diet too often is a cause of diseases among parrots kept at home. If you don't have the time to prepare a varied and interesting meal, you should wonder if you have enough time to keep a parrot.

Parrot's needs are no different to any other creature. For them to thrive, they need to eat a healthy, yet varied diet. If your parrot lives in-doors then variety is even more important. People's opinion, on what should or should not be eaten, varies as much as food itself. This article is intended to give you an idea of what they should be eating on a regular basis and why. It is also written in layman's terms, so as to be understood by all, and not just nutritional experts and vets. The article is not just based on findings from one or two pet parrots but is based on information on hundreds of parrots that have been in both the sanctuary and pet environments. Your parrot does not have to eat everything that is shown in the list below since availability may be a problem. However, the more varied the diet, the better they will absorb the different minerals and vitamins needed along with adding natural stimulus to their daily routine.

First of all, it is wise to understand just what a parrot needs and why. Parrots, like most flying creatures, burn up calories very quickly since their metabolism works at high speed. Therefore, they need foods that will give them energy as and when it is needed. Carbohydrates must be available in high quantities as they convert to energy very easily.

Parrots are often fed leftovers from their owners plates which they rarely refuse. Why? Well they need quite similar vitamins and minerals as us humans do and, in my experience, parrots will eat anything and everything. They seem to have the ability to know what they are lacking, in dietary terms, and will tend to eat more of the food that contains essential nutrients that they are deficient in.

So give variety and feed at the correct times to give your birds the choice. I know a lot of people will be saying, "I can't get my bird to eat anything other than sunflower seeds" or something similar. This is where feeding regimes come into play. Believe me, your parrot will be eating all sorts of foods very quickly if it is fed at the correct times. A little tip here; parrots in the wild never get the option of cold foods because, where they live, it's always very warm and humid, so the food, be it vegetable matter or meat, never has chance to cool down. There are no fridges in the jungle!! Therefore, when you're trying to get new food into your bird, try warming it for a few seconds in the microwave. You'll be amazed at how many birds will eat it almost instantly. (NOTE: Make sure that you leave it for a few moments before offering it to make sure it has stopped cooking.) Don't worry about how much your bird eats. He may throw the food away the first time it is offered or he may just take a small bite. Keep on offering it and he will soon take as much as he needs.

I am not going to go into what vitamins and minerals they need here. That subject is covered in more detail in its own section on this site. However, I will say why they need certain foods and how they will benefit from them. Feather growth, although we take it for granted, is a big strain on a parrot's body and if they do not take in the correct nutrients to assist the growth then the bird may suffer severe induced stress which can lead to all kinds of problems. These problems may include Amino Acid deficiency. Amino Acids, such as methionine and lysine, are required to manufacture the proteins necessary for feather growth. Large quantities will be needed when the bird is moulting. Vegetable protein, as a source of these amino acids, is not as efficient as animal protein. Adding cheese, cooked egg, chicken or fish to the diet will be helpful.

When do you feed your parrot?
I have done extensive research in this area. The results are based on watching parrots in a pet situation living in a house and parrots living in a semi-natural lifestyle in a colony system outside.

Pet parrots tend to have a food bowl offered to them in the morning. Usually, it's the same bowl, in the same location and it is left there all day, with a few titbits offered now and then. This is no good for either your parrot or your pocket as you will find yourself throwing just as much food away as what the parrot actually eats.

Only giving the parrot one meal a day, containing a variety of mixed parrot seed or pellets, whichever you use, will cause the parrots to become very selective and picky, trashing what they don't need, and eating only what they want. The fact that there are always plenty of unopened seeds, and uneaten pellets, means that you must be giving far more food than is necessary. The result? He can pick out what he wants and leaves the rest.

Parrots in the wild and in colony aviaries will fill their crops to bursting point in the morning, which will then slowly release into their system throughout the day. In the evening they will go and do the same, taking them through the night. You would be amazed at how much food it takes to fill the crop, of say, an African Grey. Definitely not the bucket full most owners will give their birds. In fact, the amount of a good quality parrot mix offered, should be approx 30/35g or a level serving-spoonful. It is up to you what you feed in which order but, here at the sanctuary, we offer the seed mix with a little fruit and veg in the morning and the animal matter with fruit and veg in the evening. We never have any waste and all the birds are of good weight. The birds inside the house weigh only a fraction more than the birds outside.

The mainstay of the diet should consist of mixed fruit and vegetables with some form of animal protein. The remaining part can be of a good mixed parrot food or a pelleted mix. When feeding fruit and veg, just think a little about what your parrot has to do to eat it. If it is all cut up into little chunks, it looks lovely to us, but it is not very stimulating to your bird. Give it a full apple or a full carrot, hanging on a string, to make life a little more interesting and make the bird work for his dinner. This all adds up to your parrot having to think a little more about what it's doing and therefore fills in a little more of his day. It may sound simple but this kind of food activity can keep your parrot sane.

When feeding parrot mix, choose one that has a good variety of seeds in it and not a cheap mix that is 75% sunflower. Make sure that it has a good variety of dried fruit and vegetables. If you're using pelleted diets, make sure your bird has free access to fresh water because, in tests, we have noticed a considerable increase in water consumption. If at all possible, move the feeding pots to different locations of the cage each day. Forget about the "move anything in his cage and he will freak" idea. He'll get upset because he has been spoilt and has got himself into a rut. Don't worry about this and just move things about only moderately initially. Then, once he is used to a little furniture moving, make it a bit more radical.

Now for a long list of foods that he can, and should, be eating on a regular basis. Don't worry about when and what. Just try to make sure he is offered something from each list each day. Also take into consideration that, no matter how good and varied your offering is, many vitamins and minerals only work effectively when the bird has some exposure to natural sunlight (not through glass). For example, sunlight is a very important vehicle for calcium to be absorbed at the correct rate. Try to make it possible, in nice weather, for your bird to have at least 30 minutes sunshine each day. It will do him the world of good.

When feeding grown food, such as nuts, please make sure they are prepared for human consumption as some nuts that are grown wild have a toxic quality that can kill you parrot. This is the reason that Macaws will find Kale in the wild. Nuts should only be fed in very small quantities.

VEGETABLES: Broccolis, Carrot, Celery, Potato (cooked), Turnip, Sweet corn, Beans/Peas, Sweet Potato.
FRUITS: Apple, Banana, Plum, Melon, Apricot, Pomegranate, Grapes, Orange, Mango.
ANIMAL PROTEIN: Cheese, Chicken bones (cooked), hard boiled eggs.
NUTS: (in small quantities!) Peanuts, Hazelnuts, Brazil.

As you can see, there are many types of food to keep your parrot not only well nourished but also occupied in keeping himself fed. There are however some dangers lurking around in food so please take note of these following items which should never be offered as they can cause severe problems and even death. Avocado Pear, Chocolate, Tea, Coffee, Salt, Alcohol, Uncooked Potato. If you can offer him a good diet and split in to 2 feeds this will keep his stress levels low.

Children aren't usually the best things to keep a parrots stress levels low, try to keep their activities to a minimum around the cage.

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