Birds in the wild have evolved to eat a large variety of natural foods, which vary seasonally and regionally. Unfortunately, it is not possible for us to replicate the natural diet for our parrots in captivity. A well-nourished bird will live longer, be more resistant to disease and will generally be a happier member of the family. Seed alone is NOT a balanced diet.
Seed on its own is primarily either carbohydrates (e.g. millet) and/or fat (e.g. sunflower seed) and lacks a number of vitamins and minerals, as well as protein. Although the nutritional deficits can be balanced to a certain extent by adding other foods to the diet (such as pulses, vegetables and some fruits), birds tend to select only certain items, leading to malnourishment.
Pelleted diets are a better alternative to seed-based diets, as the bird is unable to preferentially select specific items, such as a favourite type of seed. Pellets are also more nutritionally complete, with each pellet containing all essential vitamins, minerals and proteins.
Generally the darker the vegetable, the more nutritious it is. Recommended vegetables include corn, capsicum, zucchini, broccoli, squash, tomatoes, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, beans, peas, and other pulses. Vegetables should make up approximately 10-15% of the parrot diet. AVOID celery stalks, iceberg lettuce, and excessively watery fruits (these are not toxic, but are too dilute to be truly nutritious).
Recommended fruits include kiwi, strawberries, blueberries, grapes, small amounts of apple, melons and stone fruits (but remove the stones first). Fruits should make up no more than 5% of the diet.
Birds can sometimes be hesitant to try new things. The simplest method of introducing a bird to a pelleted diet is to place a container of pellets in the cage next to a favourite perch, or near the seed container. You may also wish to sprinkle some pellets over the seed. Vegetables and a small amount of fruit can be placed in the cage as well. Over time you should notice that more pellets are being consumed and less seed, and the amount of seed provided can gradually be reduced.
During the conversion process it is important to be mindful of how much your bird is eating in order to avoid excessive weight loss or other complications.
It is very important to feed a good quality formulated chicken pellet or mash as the base of the diet as it will contain the right balance of vitamins and minerals needed for egg producing hens.
Table scraps can form part of a balanced diet but should not make up the bulk of a chicken’s intake. Since scraps will vary in nutritional value from day to day it is important to provide it only in moderation. Limit the amount of carbohydrates such as pastas and potatoes being fed to the chicken as well. Chickens can consume dairy products and may be offered a small amount of yoghurt and cheese, as well as some meat. Scraps can be scattered around to encourage hens to forage and exercise.
Never feed avocado, uncooked beans or potatoes, chocolate, onion, garlic and rhubarb, as these are toxic to birds.