the importance of balanced nutrition

Avian nutrition is a topic that is ever-evolving; as parrot owners it is our responsibility to be informed and growing our knowledge in this area to ensure we are taking the best care of our birds. What your bird eats is so often neglected, which leads to a multitude of health issues such as moulting disorders, respiratory disease, growth abnormalities (beak, nail, tumours, etc), poor reproduction and egg binding and poor immune function. It is of utmost importance to learn and provide the most appropriate diet to our birds to keep them healthy, happy and problem free. 

 

In the wild, birds have access to literally hundreds of foods; their environment like a never ending buffet. Fruits and vegetables should be a main staple for your bird. Offering an assortment of food items will ensure your conure remains healthy throughout its life, given daily and served fresh, as spoiled fruits and vegetables will make your bird sick.

It is recommended to provide a base diet of formulated pellets, supplemented with seeds, nuts, fruit and vegetables. 

what do we feed our parrots?

We wean our baby birds onto a diet of our DIY pellet mix , cockatiel/peachface seed mix, vegetables, fruit and sprouts.

pellets

In Australia, we are quite fortunate to have such a wide variety of quality pellets. Pellets are a compact, formulated diet made from grains, seeds, vegetables, fruits, and fortified vitamins and minerals. This prevents birds from picking out preferable seeds from their dish and helps to bridge the gap to balanced nutrition. As a 'base' for a parrot diet, pellets should make up approximately 40-60% of their overall food intake. However, a pelleted diet does not provide the variety and stimulation that parrots require and would receive in a wild environment (this is where the other elements come in, like fruit, vegetables, seed and foraging toys). Offer a dish of pellets available to your bird at all times, mixing a small amount of quality seed in additionally. 

Some products we recommend are:

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VETAFARM NUTRIBLEND "MINI"

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ROUDYBUSH MAINTENANCE "CRUMBLE"

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LAUKE MILLS BLACK PARROT 15%

FRUIT AND VEGETABLES

It is extremely important that conures have access to fresh vegetables and fruit (sparingly) multiple times a week. Not only is this closer to their natural diet, but also provides hydration having a high moisture content. There are some foods, however, that are toxic to birds, so it is important to know what you can and can't give to your feathered friend. 

FRUIT

  • Apple (no seeds)

  • Banana 

  • Blueberry 

  • Cherry

  • Dates 

  • Goji berries

  • Grape 

  • Kiwifruit 

  • Lychee (no seed) 

  • Mango

  • Nectarine

  • Orange

  • Papaya

  • Passionfruit

  • Peach (no seed)

  • Pear

  • Pineapple

  • Plum (no seed)

  • Pomegranate

  • Raspberry

  • Strawberry

  • Watermelon

HERBS

  • Parsley, mint, basil, etc.

VEGETABLES

  • Beans

  • Beetroot

  • Broccoli

  • Carrot

  • Capsicum

  • Chili (birds have no heat sense)

  • Cauliflower

  • Corn

  • Cucumber

  • Celery

  • Fennel

  • Greens (bok choy, chard, endive, rocket, silver beet, kale)

  • Parsnip

  • Peas

  • Pumpkin

  • Sweet potato

  • Zucchini

BEANS & LEGUMES

  • Chickpeas (garbanzo), kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, etc.

  • Wholemeal rice, wholemeal pasta

OTHER​

  • Alternative seeds: chia seeds, flaxseed, alfalfa, barley, buckwheat, oats, sunflower, wheat berries, millet, quinoa, pepita (pumpkin seed)

  • Nuts (unsalted): Almond, Brazil, Cashew, Peanut, Hazelnut, Macadamia, Pine nut, Pecan, Pistachio

  • Cuttlefish (especially breeding hens)

  • Boiled eggs 

  • Plain/unsalted rice cakes

TOXIC

  • Alcohol

  • Avocado

  • Cheese and dairy

  • Chives

  • Chocolate

  • Coffee/tea

  • Junk foods

  • Mouldy foods/grains

  • Mushrooms

  • Iceburg Lettuce (gives diarrhoea)

  • Onion

  • Rhubarb (especially the leaves)

seed mix

It is becoming more commonly known that an all-seed diet is not nutritionally balanced. Seeds given in moderation (just like the tip of the food pyramid) is beneficial, and some species like cockatiels and corellas can handle a higher percentage of seeds in their diet. But offering only seeds to your conure would ultimately be sacrificing their health and wellbeing, and setting them up for poor quality of life and shortened lifespan. It leads to your birds ageing a lot faster than they should, making them vulnerable to respiratory diseases, obesity, fatty liver disease, bone deformities and dull brittle feathers. 

Let's look at the purpose of a seed, botanically: it provides a large amount of energy (in the form of fats) to power the germination and sprouting into a new plant. It then expends that energy as it grows and changes form (ie inert seed to living plant) and changes chemically and nutritionally. So providing an all seed diet, high in fats, oils and lacking in many minerals, amino acids and vitamins; is essentially feeding small parcels of starchy, fatty calories equivalent of a life eating only hamburgers.

Seed mixes, like Avigrain Cockatiel Blue or Peachface, or a mixture of both, are a great choice. Some commercial seed mixes contain sorghum and corn, which are fillers that are not usually eaten. Alternatively, sprouting seed and giving it to your birds changes the nutritional value of them and is highly beneficial and a great, nutrient dense food.

sproutED seed

Sprouted seed has a much higher nutritional value than dry or soaked seed. As the seed, pea or bean germinates, it starts to use that stored energy and convert it to a highly bioavailable food source, more protein and less fat. It is best to allow the sprouts to grow small tails before you feed. Sprouts are great for breeding birds, making it easier for parents to feed their young a softer, palatable food, as well as the nutrients it provides for growing muscle and new feathers. A good sprouting mix will be economical, fresh, easy to germinate and fantastic fuel for your little parrots' body. Choose one with no sorghum, cracked corn and low in wheat. Avoid sprouting mixes with sorghum, as sprouting sorghum produces the toxin hydrocyanic acid (HCN) in levels which can be fatal to parrots (Sources: here, here and here).

WHAT TO USE FOR SPROUTING

A varied sprouting mix can include (but not limited to): 

  • mung beans

  • wheat

  • grey stripe sunflower (not black sunflower) 

  • dun peas

  • hulled oats 

  • safflower

 

Other optional additions can include:

  • white french millet

  • canaryseed 

  • alfalfa seed

  • faba beans

  • quinoa

  • broccoli seeds

  • adzuki beans

  • lentils (green, red, french)

  • whole corn

HOW TO SPROUT SEED

  1. Rinse: Place small amount of seed, enough for a few days' feed, in a sieve and rinse well. 

  2. Soak: Transfer to small bowl or bucket and fill with clean water. Ensure you have fully covered the seed plus extra for it to soak it up. Soak overnight or up to 24 hours (if long soaking, rinse after 12 hours)

  3. Drain: After soaking, drain out the water with a sieve and rinse well

  4. Sprout: Set into a mesh tray or sprouting container and allow it to drain and air well. Pat dry with paper towel if required. 

  5. Rinse: Rinse thoroughly with clean water every 10-12 hours for 2-3 days, as the seeds and beans sprout. 

  6. Feed: Offer to your birds when they are fresh and the tails are a few millimetres long. Store in the fridge for up to 2 days to slow growth and ensure freshness. 

Note: If at any point your sprouting mix starts to smell, become slimy or grow visible mould, throw it out immediately. Do not risk feeding this to your birds, if there is any doubt. 

TROUBLESHOOTING

Sprouting is not an easy, set-and-forget process; it has many variables that need to be carefully balanced and managed. Some issues that may hinder your success are:

  • Poor quality seed

  • Unclean equipment

  • Poor water quality: Chlorinated water or dirty tap water can make it quite difficult to sprout seeds successfully, inviting bacteria and disease to grow.  

  • Lack of drainage and ventilation: Seeds will become waterlogged if buried too deeply and not spread out enough to ensure adequate air flow. They need access to oxygen to sustain growth, and a lack can lead to bacteria and mold growth. 

  • Poor temperature control: Some seeds will do poorly when exposed to higher or lower temperatures. Optimum range is room temperature 20-25°C

  • Bacteria, mold and yeast: Often introduced by poor water quality, unclean equipment or is airborne. Causes a foul,'off' smelling odour and can make the seed mix slimy and gluggy. Do not feed to your birds. 

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