Dot Schwarz explains how to cook for Parrots.
You Cook for Parrots?
Yes, and for my Parakeets as well. I’m used to incredulous smiles from non-Parrot people but on this forum I expect that you, rather than laugh at me, will either be in a similar position or might be tempted to try some of the following ideas.
I also grow food for the birds and I also forage for them, since they aren’t flying around outside to forage for themselves.
Why do it?
Now my children have grown and gone, my avian flock forms a substitute family that I enjoy caring for by cooking, making toys and similar activities
With the cost of high grade food stuffs, it makes sense to home cook and collect wild plants and fruits
As there are so many conflicting views on avian diet, making mash or birdy bread enables me to combine healthy ingredients at a much lower cost and incorporate some of the information of the best diets.
Old bird books used to advise feeding sponge cake. I make one using Organic ingredients, I make savoury breads and sweet ones. Stefano Salles, who breeds Parrotlets, shares this delicious recipe.
Stefano Salles’ Recipe
250 grams wholemeal flour
100 grams corn flour (polenta)
100 grams Spelt flour
1 spoon of baking powder
100 mg of plain yogurt
100 mg of vegetable oil
100 gr of mixed chopped nuts
100 gr of pre soaked raisins
150 gr of cooked pulses
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
150 gr mixture of sunflower and pumpkin seeds) keep half for sprinkling on top
2 eggs, Water
Poppy seeds for sprinkling.
Mix the flours and baking powder. Add the eggs. Mix well and add yogurt and vegetable oil. Add cold water, enough to form a sloppy cake mixture (it should be the consistency of a sponge cake mix) Add all the nuts, the cinnamon powder.
Line a round cake tin or a long loaf bread tin with baking parchment. Add the mixture and sprinkle the poppy seeds, the sunflower and pumpkin seeds on top. Bake in a pre heated oven on 180C or No 4 for 1 hour.
Stefano says, “I don’t add egg shells as I like to nibble at the bread too.’ He’s right. I eat slices of it, too. And eggshells aren’t recommended these days as they are not an easily digestible form of calcium.
Mash as a complete diet
The best mashes that I know are Shauna’s mash. Shauna Roberts described how she became interested in mash. She says, “originally the idea of breeder John Stoodley, bird mash recipes have been around for several years now. He fed his flock a mash diet for years and though the birds appeared to be gorgeous and healthy, according to some avian veterinarians, they may have had some underlying health issues such as osteoporosis.
Alicia McWatters, who has a degree in human nutrition, made some improvements on Stoodley’s recipe, and animal trainer Mike Burton continued the evolution. Using Alicia’s diet along with my own research, I developed my own mash recipe.
I became interested in mash back in 1997 when it was discovered that one of my Cockatoos wasn’t tolerating pellets. If he hadn’t been sensitive, my flock would still be eating a primarily pellet based diet.”
Shauna’s website Feeding Feathers gives precise instructions how to prepare and feed the mash. The ingredients appear daunting at first sight but they can be adapted to what you have or can easily get.
Here is a short guide to making mash. Make any amount you like and freeze. Mash doesn’t provide complete nutrition by itself. It lacks D3 which you might supplement yourself or provide sunshine and also B12 which might be provided with a little egg or yogurt at times. Fresh diets are also high in phosphorus so calcium should be added for balance. There are recipes at Feeding Feathers to help you get started.
Grains and legumes two parts grain to one part legume = 50% of the diet. Fresh mixed vegetables = 40- 45%. Fruit = 5-10%.
Natural supplements you can vary these, use sometimes and not all the time. And use them in minute amounts.
Flax seed or oil, chia or perilla seed, also Kelp in minute amounts but it is a source of iodine and should be included daily, Hemp protein powder, Herbs and spices -vary these from time to time.
Seeds and nuts, depending on what species of bird, you can add small amounts of seeds, preferably sprouted and nuts as rewards, training treats, I use nuts as a reward in training sessions.
One of the fun things about preparing your own mash or bread is that you can add such a wide variety. Mash proponents will add ingredients like fresh wheat grass, cooked egg on occasion, whole grain pasta, and non-fat organic yoghurt.
You can vary the seasonings, turmeric, cayenne (if no liver problems) grated ginger, apple cider. Red palm oil OR flax seed oil not both together.
Another perk is if you have an ill bird you may be able to mix meds into mash OR you might research various foods that may be helpful for an individual bird.
They’re the least time consuming way to feed. Buy the bag and serve out the portions not forgetting to add fresh fruit and veggies, too. But I agree with a breeder like Mike Hurley who says, “It must be boring for birds to be eating the same pellets day in and day out.” Hurley feeds a modified version of mash which is soaked grains and legumes and sprouted seeds.
He, like another successful breeder Barratt Watson, feeds on a three- day rota. Day one: soaked pulses. Then day two: – soaked pulses and fruit and vegetables. Day three: as Day two with additional egg food. He adds high protein pigeon feed to the pulses to give a wheat element and limited amounts of hulled sunflower seed.
I was first converted to sprouts when visiting Les Rance’s bird collection; they all sported such vivid plumage. Les believes firmly in sprouting seeds. It took me a long time to sprout successfully.
Now I’ve cracked the system, it’s noticeable that feather condition has improved. Also sunflower seeds which birds adore and which are frowned on as having too much fat has a reduced fat content when sprouted.
Sprouting can make nutrients in the seed more bioavailable. What I avoid are the cheap Parrot seed mixes. They’re dusty and contain too much sunflower whereas the good quality ones (sadly more costly) smell fresh and look appetising.
Find lots of great quality mixes for your Parrot here.
How green does your Parrot garden grow?
There’s nothing that you can grow that the Parrots won’t like. Almost none of my birds eat tomatoes. As this is a South American fruit originally, I’d love to know why the Amazons don’t eat them.
Our home grown favourites are sunflowers and sweet corn and then herbs. Even city dwellers can have a window box for parsley, basil, coriander and dill.
And please don’t forget weeds. Parrots love dandelion and chickweed, plantain and seeded grasses.
And adding supplements?
Majority opinion is in favour of adding calcium – particularly for Greys which seem to have a higher need for Vitamin D3 which is required for calcium absorption, so it makes sense. There is no consensus about additives. Proponents of the mash diet add natural supplements. My vet has always advised that a mixed diet should provide everything necessary.
What about Vitamin D for indoor birds? There are special lights for bird rooms and indoor flights. Fluorescent tube lights and compact bird lamps provide the correct levels of UVA and UVB which improves your Parrot’s health, appetite, feather condition and more.
Isn’t common sense your best guide here? Parrot friends can be disapproving to see my Casper drinking coke or my Artha eating biscuits. Not a practice allowed frequently and both birds have held the same weight steady for over ten years.
One drawback of giving Parrots unhealthy human food often is that it can make them reject their healthy food in favour of snacks. I follow my grandma’s advice – ‘a little of what you fancy does you good,’ and she taught her grandchildren that ‘variety is the spice of life.’
Certainly professional trainers give small pieces of food treats of the bird’s favourite which is usually a high fat protein item like peanuts or pine nuts. Raquel, who used to free fly her Grey in our garden, was embarrassed to admit that Cleopatra’s reward for flying back to her was a chocolate raisin.
So be relaxed in feeding and be adventurous as well; the birds will relish it. The new foraging toys now available are brilliant for persuading the reluctant feeder to try something new.
And of course there is lots of tasty food on the Northern Parrots website here.