The Problem with Feeding Corn to Parrots

The Problem with Feeding Corn to Parrots

Last Updated on by Mitch Rezman

Hello Catherine and Mitch,
Thank you for your ongoing interesting, informative and helpful narratives. I have one question that has yet to be answered. Today’s writing has a sentence (below) Offer corn only as a treat (popcorn’s a favourite) as it’s used to fatten animals. 

Corn is always the #1 ingredient in every single bird pellet food that I have seen. I interpret that to mean that corn is the most prevalent ingredient in the pellet. As stated above, I also view corn as a high carb (not to mention GMO) food that would not seemingly be one’s best choice for a cherished family bird!
You have access to much more info that I do. Please advise me (and all your other fans) why corn is the #1 ingredient in all pellet foods. Or maybe there are other brands I am not aware of that do not have corn as the #1 ingredient!
Cynthia T.
Hi Cynthia
Actually, corn is usually the first ingredient in low-cost bird food, which you can see through the bags on the shelves the stores like Walmart. You’ll see far less corn proportionately in a quality engineered product like Harrisons or Hagen Tropican.
That said, the difference between the corn going into packaged bird food and the corn coming in your table is the manufactured bird food corn is tested with tests like the Charm Rosa test which can check for aflatoxin, fumonisin, and DON (vomitoxin) levels in finished pet bird food pellets.
Unfortunately, the “corn on the cob” coming to your kitchen table comes directly from the farm never having been tested by the USDA. 
The issue is mold which translates to toxins (mycotoxins, aflatoxins) that can have negative impacts on you and your pet bird. What’s interesting is these ghost poisons that you can’t smell nor taste, will appear on one farmer’s crop of corn but not his neighbors.
The fungus can present itself in huge amounts but doesn’t produce any toxins, and sometimes strangely enough just the opposite happens. These toxins sometimes are found before the harvest but they may not manifest themselves until the corn is stored. No amount of cooking heat can destroy these insidious poisons.
If you check with the US government you will find that they allow a maximum of 20 ppb (parts per billion) of combined aflatoxins in human food which is much more generous than Canada and Europe allow. Birds being birds are less resistant to these poisons than most mammals.
When US corn exceeds 20 PBB you’ll find it in bags of wild feed for deers or on ships heading for ports outside of the US. Generally speaking, we haven’t seen a problem with corn but we just want to make you aware of the downsides.
If you are thinking of getting away from corn totally, the pellet you would like is Hagen Hari Tropican Alternative Formula. It’s soy and corn-free. No high-fructose corn syrup and no artificial flavors. 
Best Regards
Hello Mitch
Thank you for such an informative answer. I had no idea that corn is a possible killer for my pair of cockatiels. (They are 15 1/2 years old).
You delivered the cage I bought from you years ago on your motorcycle! And then assembled it! I was very impressed with your customer service. You have conducted a repeat performance now! Thank you!!
Corn on the cob is one of their favorite treats in the summer. I have also given them frozen corn which they also love. Lately, I became aware that most USA-grown corn is GMO, hence my concern at its presence in pelleted bird food.
Thank you and Catherine for your speedy and very useful replies.
addendum 1/30/20

From a reader


Corn in the diet.


I have owned parrots and all sorts of farm animals for 50+years.


Most feeds are corn-based and the largest ingredient.


Now, most of it is GMO.


Through years of research I discovered that corn shuts down the production of the calming chemicals in the brain.

I have horses and know corn is feed to race horses to make them hot, excitable and it makes them a little crazy.


I quit feeding corn to all my animals 30 years ago.


My horses are calm.


My parrots are calm.


I have an African Grey female 13 yrs old and a male Medium Sulfur Crested Cockatoo 29 yrs old.


I got both birds very young and finished the hand feeding.


Both my birds are completely feathered.


I don’t have any feather plucking.


Years ago I had an African Grey that feather picked when I was still feeding corn in the diet.

When I switched to a corn free diet she stopped plucking her feathers completely.


I wanted to share this with you and your readers.


I feed TOP’s pellets, Caitec Large parrot Oven Fresh Bites, Goldenfeast Goldn’obles, seed mix, fruits and vegetables.


I believe corn increases feather picking.


Since corn makes racehorses nervous and excited and shuts down the calming chemicals in the brain.


I hope this is helpful.


Sincerely, Dana F

Mitch Rezman

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