CONVERTING YOUR BIRD
TO A HEALTHIER DIET
Most avian veterinarians agree that over 85% of captive birds’ health problems are caused by dietary deficiencies.
Unfortunately, the great majority of captive birds are fed either a 100% seed and/or pellet diet with no fresh produce. There are a few ‘lucky’ ones that get a very small selection of fruits and vegetables and/or healthy people food. The all-seed or all-pellet diet kills them. It’s as simple as that and no two ways about it. And a diet limited to a few extras is simply not enough because, as non-specialized canopy eaters, their natural diet consists of mostly organic raw green vegetable matter. The lack of a large variety of fresh greens, vegetables and fruits creates all kinds of health problems like bad plumage, obesity, rickets, respiratory infections, propensity to fungal infection and parasitic infestation, and a low immune system.
Converting your bird to a healthy diet is the single, most important step in giving your bird a long and happy life.
This chapter of our diet section will deal with converting a seed junkie to gloop and/or pellets, and adding fresh fruits, vegetables and greens to their diet. This is not an impossible task and all it requires is time, patience, persistence and a bit of forethought.
Converting to gloop
This is a proven method and there is nothing to it. And I do mean nothing to it. All birds like gloop. It’s not only that they like the taste and texture of the concoction, it’s also that it’s offered warm which they associate with parent feeding. Warm food is comfort food for them.
You should always make sure that the bird is in good health and of normal weight before you start because you can’t afford for a sick or an under-weight bird to go hungry. Their metabolisms are too fast and their weight would plummet too easily.
All you need to do is:
- The evening before you start, take the seeds away from them once the sun sets
- In the morning, put warm (be careful that it feels lukewarm to the touch and not hot) first stage transition gloop on a piece of white paper at the bottom of the cage (if the species is a ground feeding one –and most pet species of psittacines are, at least, partial ground feeders- if not, put it in a bowl that has a wide mouth) and sprinkle a few of his favorite seeds on it.
- In the evening of the same day, take the gloop away and give the bird a small portion of seeds for dinner (to give you an idea, you would feed a parakeet a level teaspoonful of seeds; a cockatiel would get a shallow tablespoon; an Amazon or Gray, about 1/5 of a cup; an umbrella cockatoo; a quarter cup). It is very important that you do not feed the bird more than these quantities because the idea is for the bird not to starve but to be hungry in the morning so he will start eating the gloop. If you feed him too much, he won’t feel the need to try it and the whole exercise will be futile.
- Continue doing this until you see that the bird is eating the gloop (it has never taken me longer than a week to get to this point and, on several occasions just a couple of days) and once he is, eliminate the sprinkled seeds and offer only the gloop
- Once he is eating it regularly, start him on the second stage gloop; and, once he is eating this one regularly, the third stage gloop will be a breeze and you can already start experimenting with flavors and recipes.
Variety of flavors is very important because parrots get tired of the same food every day so, in order to maintain his interest, you will need to provide him with variety. I alternate spicy and sweet of different flavors every day of the week plus I always try to come up with a different recipe every now and then just to surprise the