The Importance of Fresh Food in Parrot Diet
- Food plays a large role in the sensory stimulation and enrichment parrots experience daily
- Providing a fresh food component in the diet can have additional nutrition benefit
- Fresh food mixes should be designed with intention to prevent nutritional deficiencies
- Providing fresh food does require more nutritional knowledge and labor from the owner
- Bird Street Bistro strives to create products that support owners and make it easier to provide their parrots with a balanced fresh mix
The single most important aspect of your parrot’s long term health is their nutrition. The food that they consume is what makes up all the parts of their body and a high quality diet is an integral part of maintaining a parrot’s health for the long term.
In this article we will cover (1) what is fresh food and (2) why it is important to provide it in the parrot’s diet.
For this article, the term “fresh food” is usually referring to the non-pellet portion of the diet, usually an unprocessed or minimally processed whole food item such as seeds/grains (soaked/sprouted/cooked), fresh produce (fruits and vegetables), as well as some herbs and flowers.
The Benefits of Fresh Food
By providing fresh food to our parrots, we are able to provide two major benefits. (1) We can add to the enrichment they experience each day and (2) we can customize their fresh food mix to meet their individual needs.
Food is Stimulation. Food is Enrichment.
In the wild, parrots spend a huge amount of their waking hours foraging for food. Food is not presented to them on a plate and many species have to go to great lengths simply to acquire a small amount of their staple food. Many parrots fly vast distances in search of valuable food sources. The food they eat often also requires additional effort to break open and access the edible portions. They are using their beaks, their feet and their senses to gain access to the food. All in all, they are spending a huge portion of their day working to eat and interacting with their environment and their food.
In captivity, they live a completely different life. Their food is provided in a bowl and is often very uniform and unchanging. It takes them only a few minutes to eat their food and leaves the rest of their day empty, being confined to a limited space (inside an enclosure of some kind, cage or home or aviary). Now with all of this extra time and not enough to occupy themselves with, we see a higher risk of boredom and subsequent behavioral problems.
By providing a portion of their diet as an intentionally prepared fresh food mix, we can introduce a variety of tastes, textures, and experiences to their food, which is an integral part of their daily life. We can provide fresh foods in various formats both raw and cooked, chopped or whole and allow them the opportunity to work at the food with their beaks and their feet, inspect it and pick through it and spend more than a few minutes eating the food. While this is still a long way from what they experience in the wild, it is a step closer by adding enrichment to such an important part of their life.
Fresh Food Can Be Customized
One of the major advantages of adding a fresh food portion to a diet is the ability to customize that food to the individual bird. There are roughly 400 species of parrots, many of which are found in captivity. These parrots range from small grass parakeets to lovebirds to african greys or macaws, all of which come from very different places and eat very different foods and hence have very different nutritional needs. By providing a portion of the diet as fresh food, we can rotate and customize these mixes to best fit the individual bird eating that diet. For example, the fresh mix of a budgie is going to look vastly different from the fresh mix of an eclectus or a macaw because each has very different nutritional needs.
Things to Keep in Mind
There are two main things that are important to keep in mind when feeding fresh food. (1) Fresh food mixes are not a random assortment of vegetables. They are a very intentionally chosen group of ingredients in specific proportions made to meet a parrot’s nutritional requirements. As a result, it requires quite a bit of nutritional knowledge in order to achieve mixes that can be fed regularly and do not have major deficiencies.
(2) It does take a little more effort to maintain a fresh food component in a diet. Fresh food is not as shelf stable and therefore needs to be prepped every day or every few days in order to be safe. This will require more time and intention on the part of the owner.
We know that these obstacles sometimes make it hard for owners to add fresh food to their parrot’s diet despite the enrichment and nutritional benefits adding fresh food can provide. This is where Bird Street Bistro comes in. We offer and continue to develop products that help owners like you incorporate and offer balanced fresh mixes to your parrots consistently and easily.
How to Add Fresh Food to Your Parrot’s Diet
To start introducing fresh food to your parrot, cook one of our Bird Street Bistro
mixes and mix in some chopped dark leafy greens or orange/yellow veggies. Let cool to room temperature and serve!
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