Nutrition

Bird

Feeding your pet bird

Diet is one of the most important aspects of your feathered friend’s health. And thanks to decades of research on bird nutrition, there are now a number of commercial mixtures that can help better meet their needs!

But remember: The term “diet” encompasses not only which foods we feed our birds, but also how we feed it to them. Keep this in mind at all times.

The foundation of a good diet

Experts agree: a varied diet makes for healthy birds. Like humans, birds must consume a balanced diet incorporating fats, protein, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fibres. We therefore recommend a diet composed of these nutrients, while keeping in mind the specific needs of each individual species.

Formulated diets

Formulated diets come in many forms, from powder preparations all the way to extruded pellets of varying sizes and shaped like lozenges, sticks and more. These mixtures bring the advantage of extruded foods: each morsel contains exactly the same thing, as per a formula commonly referred to as “complete,”

supposedly sufficient for responding to birds’ basic needs. Formulated diets low in fat and sugar and free of artificial colourants are recommended.

Fresh foods

Vegetables (raw or cooked), fruits, grains, and cooked legumes can break the monotony of a pellet diet and help avoid deficiencies. That’s an entire range of foods — not to mention vibrant colours, textures and tastes! With such variety, you’ll have no trouble keeping your bird coming back for more. You can even feed them leftover pasta, bread, cereal, yoghurt, and cheese, among other foods — as long as they don’t contain too much sugar, salt or toxic elements.

Nuts and grains

Like formulated diets, there are a number of grain mixtures available on the market that may or may not contain dried or dehydrated fruits and vegetables, nuts, vitamins and minerals. While a number of bird species are known to be granivores, feeding them only grains is not recommended, since their fat levels are much too high for the sedentary lifestyles of most domestic birds. It is thus recommended that grains be given to pet birds in small quantities and in keeping with their level of activity. Nuts should only be given to large-size birds.

Water

Domestic birds must have access to fresh water at all times.

On the market: everything but the kitchen sink!

In addition to the foods described above, there is an entire range of species-specific products on the market that take your bird’s health to heart!

Among them are hand-rearing food, insect food and live insects, vitamin and mineral supplements, and many forms of treats from honey sticks to egg biscuits. That said, a bird whose diet is balanced should never have to take supplements, save during periods of reproduction, mating or sickness. So, before

giving them “everything but the kitchen sink,” be sure to consult a veterinarian well-versed in all things aviary!

Harmful and toxic substances

Eggplant, avocados, mushrooms, raw potato, rhubarb, alcohol, chocolate, caffeine, drugs and tobacco, seeds and nuts from fruit, not to mention a number of common household plants, can all be toxic for birds. (In the references below you’ll find a more exhaustive list.)

Delivering merchandise

Pouring food into a bucket that your bird stares at all day long does nothing to break the boredom of being locked in a cage, but there are a number of fun ways in which you can give your feathered friend their daily rations! Giving them food on a silver platter will nourish your little wingman, but it won’t keep them stimulated too much.

Food as a tool for training

Positive reinforcement is a common technique used nowadays, and is often extolled when trying to instill and teach proper behaviour. But do we still really need to have a strong incentive to motivate our pets? The need to eat is innate, and we tend in that direction when it comes to rewarding our furry friends. (You guessed it — treats!) Find out which ones Coco loves best, and use it to reward her good behaviour. Make it even more effective by keeping that treat out of their daily diet, using it only for training!

A time to forage

In nature, birds spend most of their waking hours searching for food. They are therefore more inclined to become bored or morose when trapped in a cage. To counter this, giving them an opportunity to forage will fill them with wonder and challenge their brains! There are many products available that will help them rediscover their need to forage, from the simple forage tank to the problems of size that must be solved to obtain the coveted food.

In closing, you can keep your pet bird healthy by following these two easy steps:

1) Give them a varied diet that incorporates all food groups; and

2) Make them work for it!

Other than food, make sure your bird has everything it needs, from treats, to cage and toys!

 

References:

Desjardins, Valérie, DVM. “L’Alimentation des oiseaux de compagnie – Partie 1, les Psittaciformes” / “Partie 2, les Passériformes et les Colombiformes”.

Hébert, Julie, DVM. “Nutrition des psittaciformes”.

Hébert, Julie, DVM, and Maccolini, Édouard, DMV. “Nutrition des passériformes”.

Keelty, Lisa. “Basic Nutrition” / “Pellets vs Seeds: A Quick Look at the Pros and Cons”.

Langlois, Isabelle, DVM. “Nutrition des oiseaux”.

Vaillancourt, Johanne. “Les aliments dangereux pour son perroquet” / “Plantes toxiques pour les perroquets”.

 

 

Video Illustrations:

Recipe: Well-Fed Budgie Li’l Babi (Recipe for).

Treat reserved for training: Highly Composed Budgies in Training.

Foraging opportunities: Shrewd Parrot Bidule: All Screwed Up / Foraging Mozambicus.

Coopérative de solidarité d'entraide pour la survie des perroquets

Keep soaring!

Danyèle Vachon and Claire Versailles

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