The Parrot Challenge: Getting Your Parrot Eating Pellets & Vegetables
The Trick: Parrots Make You Think That They Are Starving!
So you offered your parrot pellets or vegetables and you were given –the stink eye! You may have been ignored and your parrot may be resolute in convincing you that they will quickly starve rather than eat pellets or vegetables!
But you can persist!
When it comes to stubborn eaters, one thing is generally true: a hungry person, child or parrot will change their mind about how food tastes. When you are accustomed to “junk food,” which seeds are like according to experts, then only junk food will do. Once you have been hungry for a little while, then your tastes start to change and Brussels sprouts become more acceptable to children.
I don’t want you to misunderstand me: I don’t starve any of my parrots to get them eating their pellets or vegetables- nor should you. On the contrary, I have food and water available to my flock 24/7. And all of my flock members, which is over 10 species of psittacines (or parrots), eat pellets.
Introducing Pellets To Your Flock
At the start of a new cycle, such as a new school year or a new job, everyone becomes a little more flexible, right? You are the ‘new guy’ on the block and, until you know whose feathers not to ruffle, you tend to go with the flow. I have found the same to be true in my flock. In the past when I have added new members to my flock, they have tended to notice that we are a flock, meaning that they hear and see other parrots. I think this makes them feel like they are in a good “parrot” place and I think this makes them more agreeable. Everyone is given pellets from the start, when pellets are appropriate to their diet.
Imagine losing all you know. In a flapping of your wing, your flock is gone, your environment changes and a new giant human is now taking you to their home. Having everything in your experience change all at once is stressful – so much so, that I’ve had avian veterinarians tell me that new baby parrots can get sick when they arrive at a new home just from the stress of getting a new home. It doesn’t always happen, but it’s not such a rare thing. (A good reason to take your new feathered fid to your avian veterinarian for a new parrot appointment).
All of a sudden, everything you knew has changed. When hunger comes, being stubborn is probably the last thing on your mind. Chances are that you are willing to eat what is offered to you. Thus, starting your parrot off on a healthy diet when you first have them is the best time to start healthy habits.
Most enamored parrot-keepers are likely going to watch their new fid to make sure that he or she eats- and I have found that it is common for a nervous, new flock member to eat little the first day. By day two your parrot should be comfortable enough to eat. This is a crucial time to make sure that they are eating. It’s only natural to offer a treat to a new parrot on their first day, but the treat can be something healthier like a carrot (popular wit almost all of my flock members), a dried chili pepper or a piece of sweet potato. A more tantalizing treat, like a seed or nut, can be offered, but if you do so sparingly, you are more likely to encourage the eating behavior you want to see later.
Smaller Parrots Require Seeds
If your new fid (feathered kid) is a Lovebird, a Budgie, a Parrotlet, Cockatiel or another similar small parrot then seeds are a required part of their diet. When I bring a new small parrot into my flock, I offer them pellets, seeds, vegetables in the morning and a millet spring. I want them to be as comfortable as possible as quickly as possible. Generally speaking, they eat the millet and the seeds, leaving the pellets. At that point, I leave the seed dish (and I tend to use no mess feeders which are a Plexiglas box they have to step into- this means droppings don’t get into them nearly as often and they can’t scratch the bowl empty) with empty seed husks. Now I watch to see if they will continue the behavior that has already started (of eating) pellets or if they don’t eat.
I find that once a parrot’s appetite has been stimulated and once they have started eating, they generally continue to eat.
I also do this for my small parrots that I’ve had for any amount of time. I know that they should be eating about 25-30% seeds, 30% vegetables and the rest pellets. So, I place seeds (a mix with no sunflower seeds – my parrots were overeating and still hungry with mixes that included sunflower seeds) and pellets in their space and I don’t replace the seed mix until I feel they have also eaten enough pellets.
Each parrot is different, of course. Some of my small parrots seem to prefer pellets, others don’t. Either way, I try to strike some sort of balance so that they are getting a fairly healthy diet, especially since I breed a couple species.
Medium & Large Parrots
With medium to large parrots the same is true. From day one I give them pellets and vegetables- parrots that require nut fat, like Macaws and African Greys, also receive nuts. I avoid giving these parrots seeds in general. They all love carrots and sweet potatoes – and peas! I find treats, like freeze-dried (salt and sugar-free) beets, that I can give them so that I have the enjoyment of giving out treats without feeling like I’m contributing to a poor diet.
I have had the rare parrot that didn’t seem to take to eating right away. In that case, I do offer anything to initially get them eating, but once they have had a few bites of anything, their appetite is stimulated and I find that I can get them to eat their pellets.
It’s really fun to see a Parrotlet parrot rush to the vegetable dish as I’m placing it in their cage or to have my Macaw or Amazon fly over and start to eat vegetables out of the vegetable dishes I’m preparing. My parrots all look forward to and get excited about their vegetables. When I’ve had them since they were babies, they are accustomed to vegetables because they have always had them. When I have adopted them as adults, it has taken time for them – and they are still picky. One of my most stubborn Amazons started looking at her vegetable dish and started to pick things out when I’d been offering food for a year; two years later she eats some — enough to make me happy. After all, changing a lifetime of bad habits is challenging. Also, she eats pellets – no seeds at all- so the veterinarian has reported a greatly-improved bill of health (compared to when I first adopted her as an adult with issues).
Think That You Are Bigger With Your Bird
Yes, parrots are good at convincing us that they need something yummy to eat (probably convince us of other things too)! But you can be bigger in your thinking. Be persistent. I have never heard of a parrot truly starving because it was only given healthy pellets (although a parrot requiring additional fat in their diet could, I suppose. So check your specific specie’s requirements for fat or a lack of).
Give your parrot lots of love and attention – plus pellets. They will come around. Pellets – to my chagrin- almost all have sugar in them. I contacted Zupreem to ask why their was sugar in the ingredients and they said that this is to get the parrots to eat the pellets! So, take comfort in knowing that the pellets are made for them. They have everything from A to Z that your parrot needs and sugar to entice them!
Keep at your parrot. Don’t let them starve, if they truly are, something is probably wrong and you may need to get to your avian veterinarian asap. Otherwise, keep at it. Pellets aren’t that bad – my parrots only get the ‘natural’ colored pellets as opposed to the colorful ones because I don’t like food coloring – and they eat them just fine. Their feathers are beautiful, they are healthy and this makes for a loving, bonding and blissful parrot.
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Hi – I keep reading on the web (and you know everything there is true, haha!) that color mutation parrotlets do not necessarily fair well long-term on a diet with a majority of pellets. Something about high uric acid and kidney/liver issues.
Obviously you have lots of color mutations, have you had any issues long-term with feeding them a majority of pellets?
I never use pellets with food coloring- some parrots can be sensitive. It depends on the species. My mutations, Parrotlets or GCC, get natural colored pellets and fresh veggies. Thanks for your question, Teri