Seed Me, Seymore!
Ok, that is funny if you are familiar with “Little Shop of Horrors” – if not, it’s a great movie/play; a musical comedy that I love.
Parrots Can Be Very Stubborn, Especially About Seeds!
They will look at you definitely and shroud you with guilt because you are withholding their seeds, starving them! Squawk!
They are demanding!
However, seeds are like a drug. They are addicting to parrots, especially sunflower seeds, and they lack the true nutrition a parrot requires.
Worse still, seeds inhibit the absorption of calcium!
I would -incorrectly- say that “A parrot is calcium converted!”
You would then say, “What?!”
I’m glad you asked-
Calcium Makes A Feather & A Fid
Parrots use calcium not only for their beak, feathers and bones (did you know that their feathers require calcium? I was surprised to learn that – and they have a lot of feathers! Plus, their bones are -special, if you ask me- because they are hollow or what-not, to facilitate flight. Parrots are amazing, don’t you agree?)-
– Believe it or not, parrots also rely on calcium to run EVERY system in their body. Frankly, I don’t really know what that means, but I get the idea. I found this when I was researching and then asked my mentor, Tony Silva, to confirm this fact. He said it was correct. I really should have asked him what that really means –
But, I get it: calcium is imperative for a parrot.
Seeds, therefore, should be given to a parrot in moderation so that their bodies have a chance to eat and take advantage of the calcium – to benefit their ability to function well.
I like to say that you should become a Pez-seed dispenser, the only source of seeds as a treat or for training. This limits their seeds and makes you *special*! Yes, you become the one and only place where they get their favorite treat! Now YOU have another desirable attribute that will add to their interest and love for you!
A Seed-based Diet Causes Calcium Deficiency
I understand, from one of my avian vets, that without the proper nutrition – meaning on a seed or seed-mix diet – parrots (she was specifically talking about Amazons, but it applies to many) can develop very weak and brittle bones (to the point to where she can hardly handle patients that come to her in this condition for fear of breaking their bones) and their beaks and nails can show improper growth. Parrots are beautiful; a lack of calcium sounds like it deforms them on the inside (bone issues) and the outside (beak and nail issues, probably feathers too).
Keep your parrot beautiful! Change their diet 🦜.
So, HOW DO YOU GET YOUR PARROT OFF A SEEDED DIET?
It’s not easy, but it can be simple.
First, realize that you are at the ‘top of the pecking order.’ Your parrot doesn’t have the upper hand, even though their stubborn and demanding ways try to convince you otherwise.
Monitor & Trick’m!
Begin by placing pellets in your parrot’s cage. Pellets and water – in my book – should always be available to your parrot.
Make sure that you are giving them fresh foods every morning: vegetables mostly. Find the veggies your 🦜 likes to eat. Stubborn eaters often eat things like carrots or sweet potato because they are sweet. These offer your parrot beta carotene, which parrots also have a high need for, so it’s find to use these as a temporary crutch.
Once you find something healthy you can get your parrot to eat, then you can offer no seeds or very few. This way you know that your parrot is getting food and not starving. They will eat their pellets once they are hungry.
I’ve brought many parrots into my home – some were babies and some were adults. They ALL eat pellets. It can be done: this includes my stubborn Yellow-naped Amazon, Lorenza. I adopted her as an adult not knowing that she had (I think) FLD, or Fatty Liver Disease. The vet never called it FLD because technically, it seems, part of the liver needs to be biopsied to determine the label “FLD.” In any case, my vet said that the first time I brought Lorenza to her, Lorenza’s markers were so high they didn’t register on the scale. Lorenza had so much bile, which is measured in the bloodwork) that my vet though she was at death’s door. Fortunately, my vet didn’t tell me so at the time. I had already switched Lorenza to a pelleted diet with no seeds – which can be dangerous. You do have to make sure that you are motioning or tricking your parrot into eating something if you completely remove their seeds. I wasn’t even giving her seeds as treats!
I found something that Lorenza liked eating, scrambled eggs. I limited how many she could have because eggs can be too high in cholesterol for parrots. I chose eggs because she liked them and because the research I’d done said that eggs are good for healing a -human- liver. So, it may not apply to a parrot’s liver, but I needed something, so I tried this. I spent a lot of time with Lorenza, which I think encouraged her and made her want to eat; she wanted to spend time with me.
The next time we went to the vet for blood work (a year later), Lorenza’s levels were normal, to my vet’s surprise. Lorenza is a stubborn eater. She almost eats pellets only now. She still has a bite or two of scrambled egg in the mornings because it gives me something to put her prescribed calcium and glucosamine supplement on to get her to eat these. The avian veterinarian prescribed these because Lorenza’s X-ray shows weak bones and clogged arteries – from having been fed a seed-based diet. We are trying to provide her, therefore, with extra calcium and bone/joint support.
It has taken Lorenza a couple years to start to eat other things, like carrots. Be persistent. Your parrot will come around and eat other foods including fresh foods and certainly pellets.
I researched as many pellets as I could to choose what brand I’d give my flock. I was disappointed to find that they all put sugar in their pellets – there may be one or two exceptions. I contacted the brand I chose and asked why they put sugar in there and they told me that it is done to get parrots to eat the pellets.
Well, it’s worth it. I still don’t like that there is sugar in the pellets and a couple other things, but I like the results. A few weeks after I’d bring a parrot home, their feathers would often start to take on a nicer sheen, which I attributed to diet. Experts tell me that the incidents of parrot illness have decreased drastically since pellets were introduced.
That’s good enough for me. Keeping my parrots healthy is a top priority, so pellets work.
Transition Off The Seed Diet
So, give your parrot something he or she likes in the morning; be sure to do some training or treat-giving so that you deliver some seeds, if you think you need to. Watch your parrot and either weigh them or feel for their breast bone to make sure that they don’t get thin. If need be, do provide some pellets, but weight the amount you give them or measure it and cut back a little each week.
Your parrot is stubborn like a young child who wants desert and not dinner, but, like that child, they will eat dinner when you insist.
Feed Me Seeds! About My Picture
Just so that you know, the picture of my baby Parrotlet parrots is just them squawking for food, which is what they always do when the see ‘mom.’ I try to keep a baby from the previous clutch to be a big sister to the current clutch because she then teaches them how to feed themselves, so the fresh food in their is for her. I just thought that it was a great picture for making it look like they are rejecting the food and demanding seeds! Truth is, the oldest Parrotlet baby was starting to nibble on the fresh veggies.
It goes without saying, the earlier you start a parrot on fresh foods and pellets, the more readily they take to them. I have another Amazon, Urusuls, a Mexican Red-headed Amazon, who I raised and who LOVES his fresh veggies and readily eats his pellets. Of course, should seeds or nuts cross his path… he does not pass them up! So, I have to keep them far away from him!
Note: Some Parrots Require Seeds In Their Diet
You should note, generally speaking medium and large-sized parrots do not require seeds in their diet, nor should seeds be a part of their regular diet, but they can be a treat.
There are large parrots, like Macaws and African Greys, who require nuts for additional fat in their diet. For these parrots either nuts need to be provided or their food (pellets or fresh foods) can be sprayed with oils (generally speaking, Macaws benefit from coconut and olive oils – but no red palm oil. African Greys benefit from coconut, olive and red palm oil — and either can do some of other nut-oils.
Small parrots, like Parrotlets, Budies and Cockatiels, require some seeds in their diet. In their natural habitats, they would have access to more of these and rely on them.
Please be sure to research the appropriate diet for your parrot and go over it with your avian veterinarian to make sure that you are providing the intended healthy diet for your fid.
Have a questions about parrots?
As the author of “The Parrot Bliss Bond,” I love and welcome questions about having a parrot and creating one of the best experiences of your life!
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