I like meeting birds that are picky eaters (of which there are many), since I am even pickier. Especially in terms of nutritional health. Working with wild captured birds, rescue birds, and hand fed infants for the last 25 years has given me the opportunity to create some effective strategies and tricks for getting birds to eat better. When someone tells to me in one of my nutrition lectures, “I’ve tried everything, but she’ll only eat seed, so I’ve given up!” “If I were your doctor and your kid just ate french fries and Big Macs, would you tell me that’s all the child wanted so “Oh, well?” is my normal reaction. Most likely not! You, on the other hand, have an equal obligation to your feathered offspring to offer healthful food while not caving to their fussy preferences. Birds do not know what is best for them, therefore they need your expertise and direction. If you’re too busy to devote time to improving your bird’s nutrition, you definitely shouldn’t have one – it’s as simple as that! I’ve already said that nutrition is the most important component in your bird’s lifespan, and you have complete control over what goes in his food bowl, therefore NO EXCUSES!!
First, you must restrict your bird’s food options. We’re not talking about starving a bird to force it to eat anything, but rather about providing various foods at different times. Guess what order your three-year-old will eat broccoli, brown rice, chicken, potato chips, and chocolate cake if you put them on a plate? That’s accurate, he’ll probably start with the cake and chips and never get around to the broccoli or rice. Birds are the same, so as long as there are seeds in his dish, he will never eat the vegetables, cooked grains, legumes, or pellets. As a result, I “stage” that dish. Most birds are most hungry in the morning, so I suggest introducing new items then. If your schedule does not permit it, you may reverse the order. I remove the seed/pellet dish first thing in the morning and only provide prepared items, fresh vegetables, and fruit. If you can’t cook fresh every day, prepare 3-4 days worth and then microwave the day’s portion for a few seconds before serving. However, keep an eye out for “hot patches” and stir well.
Allow no longer than 3-4 hours since the meal will “sour” and become a breeding ground for germs. Serve pellets for the day after eliminating the morning meal. Add the seed part to the pellets about mid-afternoon (or when you get home from work). Mix things up or place the seed underneath the pellets so he has to go through the pellets to get to the seed. A large part of encouraging a bird to consume a new meal is familiarity, thus the more the bird sees something, the more responsive he gets.
Serve a large enough seed amount so the bird can eat on seed alone, or he’ll wait all day knowing he can pig out on seed later. Also, dump any remaining seeds/pellets on a regular basis. (Yes, you will squander a lot at first.) Why would he desire stale pellets tomorrow if he hadn’t eaten them today?
Experiment with various methods to serve vegetables, such as raw or cooked (sweet potatoes and winter squash should always be cooked to make the carotene more accessible to the body), chopped, diced, bars, and so on. Give whatever method you’re using a week or two before attempting anything new. I know it seems like a waste of time preparing and chopping just to toss 95% of it out each day, but if you keep going and don’t give up, he will eventually try it. Budgies, Cockatiels, and Amazons are famously obstinate, taking months or even years to even nibble on new food.
If you know what your bird’s favorite meal is (for example, peas), use it frequently to urge him to try other things. In other words, mix peas with the shredded carrots so he needs to come into contact with them in order to get to his peas. Flavorings may be beneficial. Almost every bird like the flavor of cinnamon or peanut butter. Small men like anise. Cook with a lot of cinnamon or anise, and then add peanut butter afterward.
Look for a food mentor. Birds are flock animals, thus they turn to the flock, particularly the flock leader, for information on what to eat. If you have a bird who is open to different meals, place him in the center of the bird room so that everyone can watch him eat. My own birds serve as excellent role models for some of my boarders who do not eat healthily. Is there no mentor bird? Then you demonstrate to him! Consume (or appear to consume) the meal in front of him. Make delicious noises and exclaim how wonderful it is. Offer him some by hand, or place a dish on the dining table or a nearby playstand. For couples, sit at opposite ends of the dining table and place the bird on a T-stand in between you. In front of the bird, you and your spouse exchange food and feed each other. Make wonderful noises once again. Ignore the bird at first and concentrate only on each other (especially useful in damaged marriages!) The bird will be clamoring to be included shortly, so go for it!
Be sneaky if you’ve tried EVERYTHING for a long time and still can’t get anywhere! Puree vegetables and incorporate them into something he will eat, such as combining pureed vegetables with a dollop of peanut butter and serving on whole grain bread. Or make a recipe for Birdie Bread with pureed vegetables, carrot juice, and ground up pellets and give it to him every day. Almost all birds enjoy Birdie Bread, and there are numerous recipes available.
My ultimate goal is to consume 50% cooked whole grains/legumes/vegetables/fruit, 30% natural pellets, and 20% quality seed mix and nuts. It may appear to be an impossible task, but persevere—don’t give up 5 minutes before the miracle!
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