1. Eat the new food in front of the bird, acting like it is delicious!
Parrots learn by example, just like humans do. If a Parrot sees you eating something and enjoying it, it is more likely to try it.
If you have another bird, they can learn from each other, so the more adventurous eater can encourage the other bird to taste something new.
2. Refuse to share a food you are eating and obviously enjoying.
Better yet, my colleague Hilla Nieman suggests you forbid the bird a taste, but leave a bit of the food within the bird’s reach as you turn away and don’t look.
This enables the bird to “steal” the new food, something many Parrots simply cannot resist!
3. Mix the new food with something the bird really likes.
For example, mix a favourite fruit juice with pellets you are trying to get the bird to try, and serve it warm or room temperature.
4. Mash the new food up and cook it in something the bird really likes
Many Parrot owners find their birds like things cooked into “birdie bread” or Sally Blanchard’s “Glop.” (See the recipe at the end of this article) When the new food is thoroughly mixed in, the bird cannot pick it out and throw it away.
5. Hang the new food in the bird’s cage.
You can hang a whole carrot (complete with tops) from the side of the cage with a clip, or hang it from a Parrot food skewer. If you hang something the Parrot already likes with a new food, you are likely to get the bird to come over to investigate.
So you could, for example, skewer a grape with a small piece of broccoli. Small birds like Budgerigars and Cockatiels tend to like food clipped to the side of the cage instead of cut up in a bowl.
PLEASE NOTE: Make certain the clip or skewer is made of wood (like a clothes peg) or stainless steel if you are going to clip up something acidic like tomato or citrus fruits, or you could expose your bird to toxic zinc!
6. Hide the new food and make the bird forage for it.
Kashmir Csaky suggests putting small pieces of the new food in tiny paper cups and tucking them between the cage bars. Make sure some are empty or have toys in them, just to make things more interesting.
Mattie Sue Athan suggests folding paper to make a fan, and hide bits of the new food in the folds. My own Blue and Yellow Macaw loves to shred small cardboard boxes that are skewered and hung in her cage, in hopes of a hidden food treat. Other birds enjoy a paper bag hung in the cage, filled with unsalted popcorn and other food treats.
7. Make leafy foods into part of the bird’s habitat.
Weave healthy leafy greens like parsley, kale, dandelion and collard greens in and out of the cage bars for the bird to chew. Get the greens wet and pile them on top of the cage and your Parrot might leaf bathe in them – which is great fun to watch and often leads to a nibble here and there.
8. Offer the new food prepared in a variety of ways.
Some Parrots like their fresh foods grated and some like them sliced. Others preferred raw foods and still others like them steamed. My Macaw much prefers her veggies slightly cooked and offered either warm or room temperature – never cold.
9. Finger feed the new food to the bird’s favourite human in front of the Parrot.
This technique can be especially effective with larger Parrots. Make certain the favourite human knows to make happy, lip-smacking noises of enjoyment.
10. Lavishly praise the bird for even touching the new food.
Make certain your Parrot knows you are pleased when it so much as touches a new foodstuff. Touching is the first step to eating, after all – even if all the bird is doing is lobbing it out of its bowl.
Most importantly, be creative and NEVER GIVE UP. The number 1 obstacle to a Parrot learning to eat new foods is the owner giving up and never offering it again.
Paediatricians tell parents to offer new foods to their children at least FIFTEEN TIMES before concluding the kids really do not like it. So offer the new food over and over again.
The only thing that is guaranteed is your Parrot won’t learn to eat something if you never offer it again! My own Macaw took several summers of being offered sweet peppers from my garden before finally trying them – and then she loved them!
Sally Blanchard’s Glop: Mix well-cooked mashed fresh yams or sweet potatoes (or baby food when you are in a rush) with cubed whole wheat bread. Serve warm.