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The Truth About Rice for Parrots

Have you been hiding rice from your parrot because you heard somewhere that rice is dangerous for parrots and other birds? It's a common misconception that is keeping many of our feathered friends from chowing down on a tasty, satisfying and nutritious dietary staple. Yes, parrots can eat rice! As parrot owners, we can integrate rice into a bird's diet as part of a healthy lifestyle. Take a look at the basics of rice for parrots!

Addressing the Urban Legend About Birds and Rice

A while back, a rumor took flight that rice is harmful to birds. This misconception became so widespread that many people actually stopped throwing rice at weddings out of fear that pigeons and other birds would ingest rice that would cause their stomachs to "burst." This rumor was based on faulty assertion that rice absorbs all of the water in a bird's stomach. In reality, rice will slowly expand after soaking up moisture in a bird's stomach in a way that promotes perfectly healthy digestion. Wild rice is actually a staple for birds in nature. Birds in the wild eat a wide variety of naturally sourced grains ranging from rice to barley as they flutter from branch to branch. You can recreate this nature-made medley on your parrot's plate using rice for parrots!

Is Rice Good for Birds?

We've established that rice is completely harmless for birds. However, you may be wondering if harmless is the same thing as healthy. Should you be feeding your bird rice? Absolutely! Rice can be a great way to avoid falling into a pattern of providing your bird with an all-seed diet. "A problem that is commonly seen is caused by not allowing the bird access to a variety of foods in the four basic food groups.

An example is providing only seeds. This can lead to severe nutritional deficiencies," according to Gary D. Butcher and Richard D. Miles from the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS). The researchers point to a bird needing six major categories of nutrients that cover water, proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, minerals, and vitamins for optimal physiological function. While the researchers point out that some brands of bird food do offer complete balances, they are not as "fun" for birds as meals containing "real" food. Here's a look at some of the nutrients found in rice:

  • Protein: Helps birds to regulate temperature and form feathers.
  • Iron: Important for feather pigmentation and anemia prevention.
  • Thiamine: Great for nervous system and digestion.
  • Niacin: Protection against arthritis and diabetes.
  • Magnesium: Important for bone and heart health.

Rice is a source of healthy carbs and energy for birds. That said, you'll still need to focus on moderation the same way you would with any food that you're feeding your bird. The exact amount of rice you should be giving your bird will vary based on the size and weight of your beaked beauty. A cup of cooked rice contains between 52 grams of carbohydrates (brown) and 53 grams of carbohydrates (white). Typically, grains should not account for more than 30 percent of your bird's total daily diet. You also don't want to necessarily focus the entire carbohydrate portion of your parrot's diet just on rice. Mixing things up with tasty barley, yummy quinoa and more whole grains is a great way to give your bird well-rounded nutrition and flavor.

Serving Rice to Your Bird: The Basics

When integrating rice into your bird's diet, the first big question to address is whether you should choose white or brown rice. Both are acceptable. However, brown does have more of a nutritious edge than white rice because most of its nutritional density is preserved during the production process. White rice is actually stripped of components like bran and germ during processing. If you have a bird with adventurous taste buds, you can also throw in special rice like basmati rice or jasmine rice.

Another question you might have is whether you should cook rice before serving it to your bird. Technically, both raw and cooked rice are safe for parrots. Keep in mind that your bird's ancestors would only encounter raw rice in the wild. Most birds probably won't have strong feelings about raw versus cooked when rice is presented in their meals. However, many bird owners feel more comfortable serving cooked rice simply because some birds struggle to swallow and digest raw rice. This is especially true of birds with smaller beaks. If you have concerns about raw rice causing issues due to the size of your bird, simply opt for some fluffy, cooked rice at mealtime. Parrots are known to sometimes reject raw rice once they get a taste for cooked rice.

What to Avoid When Feeding Your Parrot Rice

While bird owners have lots of freedom to experiment with different types of rice, there are some very specific rules on what to avoid when feeding your parrot rice. A bird should never be served fried rice. The reason is that fried rice contains soy sauce, oils and salt that are extremely dangerous for birds. As you may know, birds are essentially intolerant to salt. Foods like fried rice can actually be deadly for birds because excess salt leads to hardening of the arteries and heart distress.

No, a bird won't necessarily exhibit symptoms after one meal of fried rice. However, serious heart problems can develop if a bird is fed fried rice over time. It's best not to even introduce the idea of feeding a bird fried rice when there are so many other healthy and satisfying alternatives that won't cause your bird harm! Fried rice isn't the only thing to watch out for. Never feed your bird rice from rice mixes that contain any additives, flavorings of extra ingredients. Only pure rice without any additives is considered nutritionally acceptable for birds.

Rice Is Back on the Menu: Don't Let an Urban Legend Keep You From Giving Your Bird a Delicious, Nutritious Staple

While nobody is quite sure how the myth about rice hurting birds got started, it's time for parrot owners to embrace rice as a tasty option! The only way that rice can harm a bird is if it's given in excess in a way that prevents your bird from getting a well-rounded diet consisting of other nutrients. Plain rice is a fun way to let your bird get a taste for something its ancestors loved in the wild!

2 comments

  • I give my 16 birds(which includes 3 Button Quail and a 1 1/2 year old Blue Jay) rice daily. I mix it up by adding it to different things each day. One day may be Quinoa and brown rice with veggies and fruit, another day they will have Bird Street Bistro Hearty Veggies, brown rice and veggies, and at least 2 or 3 times a week they get scrambled or hardboiled eggs(with the shell of course) thrown into the mix. I also give them Brown Rice and Sweet Potato at least once a week. Giving my birds a variety of flavors keeps them interested in their food. Once I pass out all the dishes in the morning you can hear a pin drop in their room. They also have my homemade Birdie Bread for desert(I don’t put rice in that but I do add Quinoa on occasion as well as any left over BSB, Walnuts, sliced Almonds, several different fruits(fresh and dried), mixed veggies, sweet potato, pumpkin and even organic red Lentils. I started using whole wheat flour with the Jiffy Corn Bread baking mix and to my surprise my Yellow Crown Amazon, Castiel and my Yellow Nape Amazon Rocky started eating it. Those two girls are very picky for Amazons who are usually garbage disposals. As a result, the Whole Wheat flour is here to stay.

    Amy Jo Joyce
  • Even when I feed Bird Street Bistro to all 16 of my birds which include 3 Button Quail and a Blue Jay I stretch it by adding brown rice and veggies to it. I have several Parakeets that will not eat their food unless it includes rice. I also feed fresh fruits and veggies along with their BSB chop and birdie bread for desert. If I have a small amount of BSB left over that isn’t enough to go around, it too goes into the birdie bread as well as some of the wonderful new Rising Phoenix Parrot Tea.

    Amy Jo Joyce

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