Please Help Me Not Starve My Parrot

Please Help Me Not Starve My Parrot

Last Updated on by Mitch Rezman

We’ve got some feedback on our statement “50% of captive birds deaths are from malnutrition” and I’m horrified.


Dollars Mum asked some pointed nutritional questions below and I’m always glad to have this discussion.


I think that people who serve their birds “chop” I well-intentioned but very misguided. A bird living on nothing but chop is a malnourished bird.

Birds can’t and were never meant to eat people food. Birds have a standing heart rate of 200 bpm humans it’s 80.


Birds can fly – humans, not.


Humans can run on nothing bu McDonladsMcDonald’s for 30 days



Birds cannot


On to the question


[email protected] replied

6 hrs ago

Hi, I read Mitch’s blog stating 50% of captive birds deaths are from malnutrition and I’m horrified.


I know I’m not feeding my bird right and don’t know what to do about it.


He is accustomed to eating people food, and junk people food at that: pizza, pasta, burritos, hamburger helper, cabbage and noodles (mostly the noodles), and he refuses to eat his Roudy Bush pellet food.


I’ve tried a sample of Harrisons too, once and he wouldn’t touch it. I feel awful, as though I’ve lead him astray from his bird store days of eating pellet food, and he won’t even eat seed.


The most nutritious thing he’ll eat is pistachios and cashews.


I’ve heard they will go hungry rather than eat something they don’t like, and he’s now narrowed down his food groups so much that I can’t get him to eat veggies anymore–cooked or raw.


I chop up fresh kale and add it to everything he eats just to make sure he doesn’t get a Vit A deficiency again.


I’ve even thought of finding him a new home so that someone new could try to get him to eat pellet food again, because I know I’m doing him such an injustice, and he refuses to eat what he doesn’t want.


He’ll just get upset, throw fits, and squawk until I feed him something he will eat. Do you recommend I stop feeding him people food so that he gets hungry enough to eat his pellet food?


I leave him out all of the time I’m home and could imagine him getting angry enough that he’d bite me if I did that.


Another thing is he’s narrowed down what he likes as toys to just square blocks of wood, straws, and cardboard only.


All of the expensive toys I’ve gotten him to go to waste because he’ll only play with those types of toys I make for him.


It’s like he’s just as picky with his toys as he is with his food, and since he’s out of his cage, he can roam and chew up the cardboard I leave around for him and the cat boxes that are left out.


I wonder if I let him stay in the cage, as I’ve done before, for all day/evening if he’ll eventually work at one of his other toys, but he doesn’t. He just waits until he can be let out again.


What have I done to this bird? Would he be as picky as someone else as he is with me?


How am I going to change him from these destructive behaviors? I don’t want to ruin his adult life by treating him poorly as a younger, age 10, birdie. I feel awful.


I will gladly accept any feedback you may be able to offer. Your intellect is far reaching in these matters.


Thank you so much for everything you share with us. It’s much appreciated, though I don’t see how to comment on your blogs any more to thank you. Sincerely, Dollar’s Mum


Glad to meet you Dollars Mum


Please let me know of the birds’ sex (if known), species and age so I can drill down further.


Editor’s note: Why do I need this information?


A blue and gold macaw eats a lot more and has a higher need for protein than a budgie,


A female bird whose in egg-laying mode needs more protein for egg production.


We are finding that senior birds have slightly different needs than younger birds like the elimination of soy in their diet


To begin, yes you are not feeding your bird right and a parrot not eat pellets of any sort is not uncommon at all.


“The 50% of bird deaths from nutrition” is a two-parter as well because it has to do with not only an improper diet but literally starving the bird.


Many new captive bird keepers will see a dish of seeds (from the day before) or a blend that looks to be barely eaten. They figure “there’s plenty left” and try to extend the food for two to three days or more.


We have ten budgies.


You can take a dish of small birdseed at the end of the day and blow on it.


You’ll see the hulls waft into the air leaving the remaining whole seeds in the dish.


But that’s not a good indicator.


This is why we dump our bird food dishes every morning and then top them off at night regardless of how they look. That way we know that the birds getting enough of the right food.


As for the people food, for now I would stop offering it to Dollar because it’s clearly filling the bird’s crop, making it much easier to decide not to eat pellets of any sort.


Think of it as you and I choosing between pizza and unsweetened Cheerios with no milk.


Chopping up the kale is all of well and we certainly don’t want any bird to have a vitamin A deficiency but before we get into how to make your bird eat healthy foods I want to redirect your focus on protein and not vitamins.


Vitamins are important.


They assist in a myriad of physiological functions.


A small bird like a budgie has 3000 to 4000 feathers. A larger bird like an umbrella cockatoo could have 8000 feathers or more.


Many birds molt once and sometimes twice a year. African greys will molt for 18 months


Female birds can get hormonal and broody. The brain (signaled by the pineal gland) may trigger the production of eggs, increasing caloric needs..


I start with the feathers because that’s what we look at on birds – the feathers!.


Feathers are made from amino acids.


Amino acids are made from protein.


There is not a lot of protein in “pizza, pasta, burritos, hamburger helper, cabbage and noodles”.


There’s the right amount of protein in RoudyBush pellet bird food.


But when you’re full of pizza why eat a bowl of unsweetened Cheerios?


Editor’s note: of the many pellet conversion techniques out there, one of the best is Zupreem fruit flavored pellets. “Added sugar for ‘palatability’” Many African Greys don’t like the banana shape – you’ve been warned


Pellets not only don’t taste all that good, they don’t “tickle the tongue” Pellet shapes don;t offer a lot of stimulation. Parrots rely on the texture of food I think more so than the flavor because they only have 350 taste buds compared to a human’s 9000.


We want to make eating fun for your bird. I’ve said time and time again “it’s not the food, it’s the delivery system”.


Let’s start with this video which shows our daily routine for feeding five birds in two cages note that I even cover the Senegal’s food dish with a piece of romaine lettuce forcing her to work just to get to her everyday food


I do mention that I take her conventional Higgins mix which is seed fruits and some pellets then add some additional Harrisons extra-fine pellets which I see her eat.


The Higgins safflower gold that she is eating contains Higgins intune pellets and I do see here on occasion holding one of the pellets in her zygodactyl foot so I know that she is getting the benefit of the pellets but has not been cheated on all the other flavors and textures that a parrot it deserves



I don’t think I mentioned it in this video but I put almonds, chunks of walnuts, and nutriberries between the business cards so there’s always a fun treat rewarding her for all of her hard work


This video “How to solve feather plucking and screaming in parrots” speaks volumes about the “getting a bird to eat healthy” issue.


Keeping Dollar in the cage will fix nothing.


He’s will not understand the message you think you are trying to send.


In conclusion: please stop serving people food except perhaps for a small dish of mixed vegetables for breakfast.


You’ll have to find out if Dollar likes them warm or cold birds do have preferences.


Then pick a blend like Higgins safflower gold or Hagen Tropimix.

Both are well-rounded bird foods with seeds nuts fruits and pellets which is much more interesting than just plain Cheerios.


Hope that helps – please let us know how it goes with this transition]






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Written by Mitch Rezman
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