Salt In Bird Diet

I was recently asked about bird diets and what they can/should consume.

This query was sent by a Macaw owner who read that you never feed their birds “human treats” such as potato chips, French fries, or other highly salty items. They were warned that salt is very poisonous to birds and may kill them. Was it correct?

My initial instinct was no, since if that were true, there would be a lot of dead birds in our aviary. We always share our food, even salty snacks, with them. I’m not referring about tossing a bag of chips into their dinner plate… Just a few of chips here and there.

I gave it some more thinking……

How do seabirds that live near seas survive if salt kills them? Someone is clearly mistaken here.

And practically every species on the planet need salt! Why would such an important mineral be poisonous to birds?

I took a close look at the designed food items available for birds, and sure enough, Natural Trace Mineral Salt and Sodium Selenite are listed as components. Many poultry diets include sodium selenite, which is used to enhance growth and avoid selenium deficient illness. However, both of these salts are added to Harrison’s food diet, which seems to be the de-facto diet suggested by many bird lovers.

Okay, so salt is good, right?


To manage the quantity of salt in their bodies, sea birds have developed a digestive system that incorporates their kidneys, GI tract, and unique salt glands. Their system is built to maintain complete body fluid balance, allowing them to survive on the high sea salt diet that is natural to their habitat. Unfortunately, most tropical birds are not like this. Their kidneys are responsible for removing excess salt from their system. Too much salt will also cause increased urine, leading in dehydration.

Hello there! Isn’t it the same dilemma that people have? When you consume too many salty meals, your body needs water and your urine increases significantly! But does salt harm people?

The issue is caused by the birds’ kidneys’ inability to create hypertonic urine (urine with lots of sodium). In other words, they have a more harder time eliminating large quantities of salt than Sea Birds do using their salt glands. As a result, too much salt dehydrates a bird rapidly.

So, am I now suggesting that salt is bad? No!

You will have health difficulties if you consume a diet heavy in salt or sugar. The same is true for birds! As previously stated, too much salt causes health problems….but not enough salt causes a multitude of deficits as well! A low-sodium diet causes weight loss, iodine shortages, and (for breeders) decreased egg output and a greater loss in egg size and development. A variety of skin illnesses have also been linked to salt deficiency.

The difficulties occur when excessive quantities of salt are introduced into diets! But what exactly is “excessive”? Unfortunately, many screaming the alarm are following wildly unrealistic diets. They cite to research conducted in Illinois and Maryland on birds on diets containing 4% salt! Oh my goodness! What do you expect from such a diet???

So the warnings were sent…

Bird lovers heard the sirens and concluded that too much salt meant “all salt,” so they reduced their intake of a variety of foods. Bread? Of course, salt is used in the production of bread. As a result, all bread items are now contaminated. Food that has been processed? Yes, more salt…I need to quit providing it to my birds as well!


You may feed your bird salty foods without fear of them dying in their cage. Just bear in mind that excessively salted dishes should only be served on rare occasions.

If you give your bird three to four potato chips, the salt level is similar to a person ingesting two tablespoons of salt. Any more than that would obviously result in major dehydration issues. However, that tiny quantity will not harm your bird.

It’s as though I keep preaching…

Birds’ dietary needs are same to those of humans. You are not going to consume 4-5 bags of potato chips or fatty snacks… However, a little dish will enough. As a result, 2-3 snack chips or crackers will not pose any complications for your bird. And they will appreciate the occasional treat!

Make use of your common sense! Stop listening to these apocalyptic scientists who undertake tests to identify flaws in any product. When you look at the real test findings and get over the apocalyptic news flashes, you will be able to relax and feed your birds.

I know that if I wanted to cause a birdy-riot in my aviary, I’d have to cease putting salt on their popcorn!

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