Thursday, 26 August 2010

Four Components of Parrot Diet. Pellets

A Healthy parrot diet can be divided into four components: pellets, fresh foods, cooked foods, dry seed and nuts.
Let's start with pellets.
There are many different views on pelleted diets, some people love them, some hate them, but the majority agrees that a pelleted diet must form the basis of any parrot's diet, apart perhaps from smaller species, like budgies and cockatiels who do better on a diet, with a larger proportion of seed mix compared to that of pellets.
Pellets is a very convenient food to feed. It is dry, so don't spoil easily. It is uniform so the picking is eliminated. It doesn't have hulls, so there is little waste. For these reasons, it is easy to leave the daily ratio of pellets in a bowl for a parrot during the day to snack on, unlike fresh foods, which have to be removed in 2 - 3 hours to prevent a parrot consuming spoilt foods.
Pellets come in all shapes and sizes, and even colours. It is best to stick to the natural, uncoloured pellets to avoid any possible allergies or other problems the dyes in pellets can cause. Artificial preservatives is another thing which you don't want to find in the ingredient list for the pellets you feed your bird. Choose the size appropriate for your bird.
Pellets should make up around 50% of your parrot's diet. Once your parrot accepts a pelleted diet, no vitamin/mineral supplementation is going to be required, and in fact, can cause more harm than good, because such fat-soluble vitamins as A, D, K and E can build up in liver if consumed in excess amounts and cause liver toxicity.
Conversion methods. The problem which many parrot owners face is the reluctance of their beloved birds to try pelleted foods, especially if they are trying to convert an adult parrot who was raised on a seed mix.
There are a few different conversion methods which are well worth trying. But before you start, remember, that you don't want to starve your parrot, you just want him/her to get a little hungry to actually go and try the new food you are offering. If possible, weigh your parrot on digital scales the day before conversion and then continue to weigh him/her daily to make sure the bird is not loosing much weight. Slight weight loss is possible, but no drastic weight loss should occur. If it does, return to feeding a regular diet and try the conversion again when the weight has gone back to normal.
Don't try to convert an ill parrot to a pelleted diet or in fact any new diet, before consulting your avian vet!
So here are some methods to try:
1. First thing in the morning place a bowl with a regular seed mix in the cage and let your parrot have some of the seed. Remove the bowl with the seed mix in about an hour and replace it with a bowl with pellets. Start by placing just about a tablespoon of pellets in the bowl. No need to fill the bowl up to the brim with pellets just to throw it all away later on when it is left uneaten. Remove the bowl with the pellets late afternoon and return already familiar food, like seed mix, back to the cage. Repeat until you see your parrot sampling and nibbling on his pellets. Once the process has began, increase the amount of time the bowl with pellets is left in the cage. Gradually eliminate the bowl with seeds completely. However, it doesn't mean that you shouldn't give a seed mix to your parrot ever again. More about it later.
2. Start by mixing already familiar seed mix with an equal amount of pellets in one bowl. Serve a mix of 50% pellets and 50% seeds for a week. If you notice that your parrot started nibbling on pellets, gradually increase the proportion of pellets and reduce that of the seed down to 0%. This conversion can take anywhere from a week or two to a couple of months.
3. Crush pellets with a rolling pin into smaller chunks, mix them with your parrot's favourite fresh wet foods, like corn kernels, peas, pomegranate seeds, etc. and serve. The pellet crumbs should get stuck to the wet foods and hopefully the parrot will try them this way and get to enjoy them with time.
4. Soak a tablespoon of pellets in a small amount of warm water or unsweetened apple or orange juice. Serve from a spoon or in a bowl. Remove from the cage in about 2 - 3 hours. Once the parrot starts eating soft moist pellets, just before serving, mix them with a few dry pellets. If the parrot is picking out only moist soft pellets leaving dry ones behind, pulverise dry pellets in a coffee grinder and mix dry crumbs into moist mixture. Continue offering a mix of moist and dry pellets until your parrot starts eating the dry pellets well. Then gradually eliminate the moist pellets replacing them with the dry ones.
5. Eat the pellets in front of your parrot. As weird as it sounds, this is something which might just work. Your bird doesn't recognise pellets as a food straightaway, especially if he/she never saw them before. You should be the one who will show him/her that pellets is a type of food and a tasty one too (yes, you will have to act it out here, but it is worth it!).
6. If no other method works after a month or so, try offering a different brand of pellets. Different brands have different textures, flavours and colour variations, even if they don't contain any artificial dyes, which might just be more attractive to your bird, than the brand tried before.
No matter which method you choose have patience and stick with it for at least a few weeks. If you see that it is not working at all even after a couple of weeks then move on to another method.
Below you will find a list of recommended pellets and what to expect when you open a bag of pellets (African Grey/Amazon parrot size):
Harrison's lifetime coarse

Hard square shapes of brown-grey colour. They don't really have any smell or taste and are quite bland, therefore not very eagerly accepted by the majority of parrots.

Ingredients: Ground Yellow Corn, Ground Hulless Barley, Ground Soybeans, Ground Shelled Peanuts, Ground Shelled Sunflower Seeds, Ground Lentils, Ground Green Peas, Ground Rice, Ground Toasted Oat Groats, Sun Dried Alfalfa, Calcium Carbonate, Psyllium, Montmorillonite Clay, Spirulina, Ground Dried Sea Kelp, Vitamin E Supplement, Sea Salt, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Riboflavin Supplement, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, d-Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Sodium Selenite. CERTIFIED ORGANIC INGREDIENT
Benefits: All organic ingredients, no artificial colours or preservatives.

Round granules of brown and green-ish colour with a pleasant bubble gum type of smell (from banana and orange oil, no artificial flavourings are added). These granules are much smaller than Harrison's so easier to eat for slightly smaller parrots, like Timneh Greys for example. They are quite hard too.

Ingredients: Fruits - Orange oil, banana oil (for flavour) - Seeds - Corn, wheat, rice, sunflower kernal, flaxseed, oat groats - Vegetables - Tomato - Legumes - Soybean, peanut kernal - Others - Spirulina, rosemary extract, vitamins and minerals.
Benefits: No artificial colours or preservatives, each batch is tested for quality, often well accepted.
An oval-shaped pellet, hard, slightly textured. Zupreem pellets come in different varieties including coloured pellets, which have a strong smell (of fruit if using FruitBlend, or veggies if using AvianEntrees).

Ingredients (for Zupreem Avian Maintenance): Ground corn, soybean meal, cracked wheat, wheat germ meal, vegetable oil, sucrose, dicalcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, iodized salt, DL-Methionine, choline chloride, ascorbic acid, natural and artificial colors, artificial flavors, ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, copper sulfate, manganous oxide, calcium iodate, sodium selenite, vitamin a supplement, vitamin e supplement, vitamin d3 supplement, vitamin b12, thiamine, niacin, calcium pantothenate, riboflavin, folic acid, biotin.
Benefits: no artificial colours or preservatives, generally well-accepted.
Totally Organic Pellets

These look like elongated green sticks, smell and taste of herbs and of a softer, crumblier texture than the pellets mentioned above. Made of entirely natural ingredients with no artificial colours, preservatives or even synthetic vitamins/minerals added. The only drawback is that they don't contain vitamin D, so if the bird does not go outside for a regular dose of sunlight, then it is best to mix them with any other brand of pellets.

Ingredients: rice, barley, sunflower seeds hulled, alfalfa leaf, sesame seeds unhulled, amaranth whole, quinoa whole, buckwheat hulled, millet hulled, dandelion leaf powder, carrot powder, spinach leaf powder, purple dulse, rose hips powder, rose hips crushed, orange peel powder, lemon peel powder, rosemary whole leaf, cayenne ground, crushed red chili peppers, wheat grass powder, barley grass powder.
Benefits: all natural, no artificial colours, preservatives, salts or sugar. Don't contain soya, peanuts or corn which can cause sensitivity issues and allergies, especially in eclectus parrots.

Elongated, brownish sticks, soft and crumbly without any special smell.

Ingredients: ground corn, ground wheat, peanut meal, soy oil, soy meal, calcium carbonate, sodium lignin sulfonate, dicalcium phosphate, salt, L-Lysine hydrochloride, DL-Methionine, Yeast Cell Wall Extract, Niacin, Mixed Tocopherols, Rosemary Extract, Ascorbic Acid, Citric Acid, Lecithin, Silicon Dioxide, Alpha Tocopherol Acetate, Ascorbic Acid, Manganese Sulfate, Yucca Shidigen extract, Biotin, Calcium Panthothenate, Zinc Oxide, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin A Acetate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Cyanocobalamin, Sodium Selenite, Propionic Acid, Ammonioum Hydroxide, Acetic Acid, Sorbic Acid, Tartaric Acid, and natural apple flavouring.
Benefits: no artificial colours or preservatives, softer texture, well-accepted and well-researched pellet.
All the above mentioned pellet brands laid out together for comparison:

Left to Right: Totally Organics, Zupreem Fruity, Zupreem Natural, Harrisons (top), Hagen (bottom), Roudybush
There is no need to stick with just one brand of pellets. You can mix a few different types for variety, or feed one brand for a couple of months and then gradually switch to another brand. If your bird will eat only one certain brand then just stick with it. You can get a different brand of pellet and bake a loaf of birdie bread with it for variety.
The brands I do NOT recommend:
Pretty Bird. Contains BHT (Butylated hydroxytoluene), a preservative which has almost been eliminated from human foods industry and is believed to increase the risk of cancer and can produce hyperactivity in children.
Kaytee pellets and hand-feeding formulas contain Ethoxyquin, a commonly used preservative in pet foods which is believed to cause a range of health problem, including liver damage.

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