Dietary Conversion for Your Pet Bird

We would like you to begin to switch your bird over to a quality commercial pelleted diet.  There are many good quality pelleted diets available at stores like Kookaburra, Petco, Petsmart or on-line. Examples of a pelleted bird diet include Kaytee, Zupreem, Lafeber’s, and Harrison’s but there are several more. We do NOT recommend pellets/seed/nut mixes as this allows the bird to pick and choose what they will eat and they often do not chose wisely.

Pelleted diets are an important part of a balanced diet for birds. Since no pellet is likely to be complete for ALL species of parrots and since pellets can be a little boring, we recommend feeding 50-70% of the diet as pellets, 20-40% as healthy veggies/fruits/some grains, and 10% as seed/nut treats used for captive foraging (see handout on this topic) and/or trick training. To further balance out the pelleted diet, consider offering 2 different brands of pellets mixed together. Pellets should be offered in a separate bowl from the fresh foods as the fresh foods will spoil and need to be removed after a few hours.

Main Ways to Convert Your Pet to a Pelleted Bird Diet

Option 1:

In order to switch your bird to its new diet, you will first have to find out how much he/she eats.  We recommend one week of monitoring the total food intake prior to beginning a new diet.  You can start out by weighing on your gram scale (see handout on this topic) how much seed you place in the bowl in the morning; in the evening, weigh the food again. Subtract the PM weight from the AM weight and you will know the weight of the food eaten; weigh the food in grams for accuracy. Do this for 1 week and then average the weight of daily food intake. This is going to be the amount of total feed that your bird will eat daily.

Next, you are going to change your bird from the old diet to the new diet. Add 25% new diet and 75% seed diet for one week.  Since the total amount of food that he/she will get is only the total amount he/she generally eats, he/she may be motivated to try the new diet, as he/she may be hungry after you will be feeding 50% new diet to 50% old diet.  On week three you will be feeding pelleted diet with the other 25% composed of fresh fruits and vegetables and maybe a small amount of seed.

Option 2:

Offer the pellets at all times. Offer the seed diet twice daily for 15 minutes at a time to prevent your bird from starving. If your bird is hungry any other time during the day, he/she will be motivated to try the new diet.

Some other suggestions:

–Offer Lafeber’s Avicakes (a mix of seed and pellets) as a way of getting your bird to put pellets into his or her mouth (even if they don’t EAT the pellets).

–Model eating the pellets. Parrots are very social animals. If you pretend to eat the pellets and act as if they are REALLY good, your bird may be more interested. Likewise, if there is another bird in the home eating pellets the seed eater will be more motivated to try the pellets.

–For ground feeding birds like cockatiels, scattering the pellets on the table and then picking them up in your fingers and playing with them near the table top will look to the bird like you are eating the pellets. This will make the bird interested in trying them too.

–Buy ground pellets (Harrison’s makes a ground product) or grind them yourself and sprinkle them on the seed or fruits/veggies your bird likes.

–Board your bird here or at Kookaburra until the diet has been successfully changed.

It is important to make sure that your bird does not starve himself during this conversion.  Therefore, you will need to monitor his/her weight.  We recommend that you purchase a gram scale and weigh your bird daily.  Your bird should lose no more that 1-2% of his/her total body weight per week.  If he/she is losing a lot of weight, do not hesitate to give us a call.

Keep in mind that ALL birds can be converted to a pelleted diet. It just takes patience and persistence.