Learning how to get a parrot to eat veg is one of the biggest problems bird owners face. Thankfully more and more people are realising the importance of giving parrots a healthy and varied diet but the reality of this can sometimes be far more difficult than it sounds, however a lot of the time the owner just isn't giving the parrot the chance to learn to enjoy the new food. Let's discuss how to get a parrot to eat healthy food.
Like humans, parrots who have had a life time of eating junk food may reject healthy foods for various reasons. 'Junk food' for parrots consists of larger volumes of seeds and nuts, with little else in the way of variety or flavour. Seeds and nuts contain high amounts of fats and protein, and a high fat diet isn't healthy for any living being, and so variety is key to ensuring health.
Parrots can be expensive pets to keep, and even more so with multiple vet visits caused by health issues related to diet. In addition to this, the majority of pet parrots rarely get enough exercise to burn the large number of calories consumed in a high seed / nut diet, leading to obesity, liver and heart issues, so for many reasons, both obvious and not so obvious, a healthy diet is key for all pet birds.
There are many reasons why a parrot will reject a healthy / new food, with just some listed here:
- The parrot doesn't recognise it as food
- The owner hasn't tried hard enough to integrate the new food into the parrot's diet, or not given the parrot a chance to learn to enjoy it
- The parrot has a fear or phobia of the new colours and textures
- The method of feeding or food preparation technique need to change
- The parrot is still getting large amount of his previous unhealthy food, and so has not got the desire to try a new food
This list is not exhaustive, and with parrots being complex and intelligent beings, there could be a never ending number of reasons for your parrot not eating healthy foods.
Your parrot doesn't recognise the new food
As prey animals, parrots are very wary of their environments, as anything new and unknown could result in death or injury. In order to ensure your parrot will at the very least try a new food, they must first recognise it as a safe and edible meal.
To do this, try offering some of the Dry Mix by hand, holding it like you would a treat. Thankfully most parrots associate hands with food, as we all share foods and treats at some point with our birds from our hands.
Another way of ensuring your parrot recognises the Dry Mix ingredients as food items is to combine it with their current diet.
How to wean a parrot onto a new diet
In order to transition a parrot onto something new, start by removing a quarter of their normal meal, and replacing that quarter with Dry Mix. You parrot should be left with the same amount of food but in a new composition. No parrots should be offered an entire bowl of food, so please ensure you are aware of how much food a parrot should be offered at each meal. Filling a bowl to the brim of food is not a correct feeding method.
Slowly, over the course of days, or even weeks, transition the new food in by replacing it with another quarter of their old food, until you have a majority combination of the healthier option.
There is no time limit on this, take your time, and if possible make the new food as interesting and exciting as possible. Dumping a bowl of Dry Mix in front of a parrot and expecting it to inhale the contents on day one is unrealistic, and has nothing to do with the food itself and everything to do with unrealistic expectations of your parrot.
Give it time!
Far too often people are just not allowing their parrot enough time to get used to a new food! These birds live for decades, and expecting an overnight change is evidence of a lack of understanding of the physiology and psychology of these intelligent animals.
If you parrot is not attempting to eat Dry Mix at the first introduction, then don't despair! That is normal! Your bird needs time, excitement, variety and patience! Unfortunately, owning parrots is slightly more complex and difficult than owning a dog or cat, and encouraging them to learn something new is going to take dedication on your part.
Start slowly, take your time, combine it with recognisable food, make it fun and try every single day! It could take months. Compare the diet change of a parrot with the diet change of a child, parents will understand the difficulties of offering healthy food to some children and it certainly doesn't happen in the space of one meal time.
Whilst you are experimenting offering your parrot Dry Mix, try making it fun and engaging. Add the Dry Mix to foraging toys, stuff socks or hessian bags combined with some exciting nuts, or sprinkle over their fresh chop. Use your imagination, there isn't a set of rules by which parrots should be fed, and in fact offering a metal bowl of food is the least engaging and most unnatural method of feeding a parrot their food.
My parrot is scared of new foods
If your parrot is showing a phobic response to a new food, due to the bright colours and various textures, then once again taking a slower method may work better for you. Offer the food by hand instead of in a bowl, and offering smaller amounts with larger ratios of recognisable foods is the best way to go.
Another way of guaranteeing to get your parrot intrigued by a new food is to eat it yourself! We all know that the second we make our selves a nice lunch, our parrots are very quickly hovering over us, harassing us for a morsel and becoming a general nuisance. They are likely to show a large amount of interest just by seeing your eat it (or pretend to eat it) yourself. Thankfully all of our Dry Mix and parrot seed mix ingredients are 100% human - grade, so you can enjoy the flavours and health benefits too!
Put some in a bowl and pick at some of the ingredients, and make a fuss of how delicious the food is, and we can almost guarantee your feathered friend will want to get involved very quickly.
Present your healthy parrot food in different ways
In a similar fashion to the above recommendations of stuffing food into foraging toys and making it fun to eat, your parrot may also prefer to eat it from certain bowls, or at certain times of the day. Smaller more frequent meals may be more appealing to your parrot than a larger single meal, or maybe they prefer their Dry Mix rehydrated. Give the dry mix a little spray with some water and it will become a highly nutritious fresh chop, with a huge variety of ingredients.
Combining our Dry Mix products with our seed mixes guarantees there will be something tasty and recognisable in the food, and also ensures the meal is more complete and has enough fats and proteins to ensure an all round healthy meal.
If your parrot is already eating pellets on a regular basis then mixing dry mix in with pellets and some seeds will encourage your bird to forage, even if at first they are not actually digesting any of the newer more colourful ingredients in the bowl.
In the wild parrots spend 90% of their day foraging, and the importance of ensuring our captive parrots have the same foraging opportunities tends to be wildly underestimated. We need to be giving our birds far more opportunity to forage for food, as their wild cousins do, and so combining as many ingredients together and allowing them to choose their own diet is as close to nature as we can possibly get.
Stop feeding all the unhealthy food!
If your parrot is still not trying the healthy food and Dry Mix, then consider carefully what they are eating throughout the day. Are you giving them a big bowl of seeds to make up for the lack of healthy food they're consuming? Have you mixed in too many seeds into the Dry Mix? Did you offer a pizza crust earlier in the day, and let your parrot nibble on your burger bun?
If your parrot has access to a larger proportion of unhealthy food for the majority of the day you will never succeed with getting your parrot to eat a healthy diet. They will stubbornly wait out until they get something they like, because they know it is coming. Use will power and stop giving your parrot tidbits off of your plate, reduce their unhealthy store bought seed mix, take their nut intake down to only for training or good behaviour, leave them with the understanding that this is their new life, and they have to get used to it!
Feeding a parrot a healthy diet is about discipline for you and understanding of parrot behaviour and psychology, and once they start eating they will adapt and look forward to their healthy meals! But don't expect the bowl to be emptied at every single meal.
This brings me onto my last point, if your parrot isn't eating everything in the bowl, then that is OK! They know what they like, they know what their body needs, and they will consume what they know they need to consume. Over time this will change, and they will opt for different ingredients as their body's needs adapt. Offering a huge variety of foods is not so that we can force them to eat absolutely every one of those ingredients, its so that they have the choice and option to choose their own food intake based on their own needs and desires. A parrot that is allowed to make his own decisions in what he consumes is a happy and far more balance parrot behaviour wise.