I’ve recently been doing a lot of research into diets for our birds. As we know, all seed diets are very bad for your birds as they can cause fatty liver disease, as our pet birds don’t get enough exercise to burn off the high energy seeds provide. All pellet diets are also bad as they can cause kidney failure due to too much protein. And most people will tell you that fresh foods are a necessary part of your parrot’s diet, but how can you get them to eat their veg? All in all, the best diet seems to be one with as much variety as possible.
Our birds have had their diet altered last week. They now get a layered salad in the morning and homemade beak appetite in the evening. During the day they also have pellets in their foraging trays and nutriberries and millet in their foraging toys.
I make up the layered salad on Sunday evenings. For our six it takes about
an hour to wash, chop and arrange all the vegetables. I fill up three boxes about a litre or so in volume for the week for them, and it keeps from Sunday to Sunday in perfect condition. The layered salad has five layers that are assembled then kept refrigerated, along with a few more ingredients that are added before feeding.
The bottom layer is chopped leafy greens. For this layer, I’m using a bag of seasonal mixed salad from Morrisons. As far as I can remember, it contains greens like baby spinach leaves, rocket, watercress, rosette bok choy and lamb’s lettuce. Don’t use watery lettuces like iceberg lettuce as the water in them far outweighs the nutritional value. This week, I also added chopped parsley into the mix. The whole bag was just enough to give me a good layer of greens on the bottom of all three boxes.
The next layer is the chopped vegetable layer. You can use any vegetables you like. I used baby corn, mange tout peas, sugar snap peas, chilli peppers – frenso and bird’s eye chillies. I use the whole pack that each of these come in at the supermarket, and mix them all up together before adding this layer to each tub.
Above this comes a layer of broccoli and carrots. I chop the tops off the broccoli and chop them into smallish pieces, then slice up the stems to go in. The carrots are left with the skin on, and are grated. We leave a couple of inches at the top of the carrots, and grow them as mentioned in a previous post. I use two carrots and a good sized head of broccoli for this layer.
Next is the first of the layers that will help keep the salad fresh. This is the citrus layer. The recipe I got this from suggests using apple, oranges and grapes, but as our birds aren’t big fruit eaters – either in the wild or in our home – we’ve just used two oranges for this layer. Slice up the oranges, then chop each slice into four or six, and create a solid layer on top of the box. This layer has resulted in a lot of yellow faced birds in our house!
The last layer is the layer of frozen veg. These super cool the salad, making it
last longer. I’ve been using mixed veg with peas, sweetcorn, green beans and carrots. This last layer completely fills the tubs – and sometimes makes it hard to get the lids on! Reducing the air like this also helps it stay fresher. Now it can go in the fridge.
Before feeding, put the days layered salad in a bowl and mix in some cooked beans, sprouted seed (this is covered in one of my previous posts), cooked grains and uncooked pasta. The uncooked pasta will absorb moisture from the mix and soften. We also add pellets into the mix. And we cooked a large amount of pasta and beans for this, then frozen them in small bags for daily servings. This way they just need to be defrosted in the morning and mixed in. The recipe also suggests adding in soft fruits, like berries, peaches, melons and plums, but again since ours aren’t naturally fruit eaters, we’ve skipped the fruit.
You don’t need to use any of the leafy greens, vegetables or citrus fruits I have. All you need to have is a layer of leafy greens, followed by a layer of vegetables, then a layer of broccoli and carrots, a citrus layer and finish with a layer of frozen vegetables.
There are a lot of benefits to the layered salad. In the fridge, layered salads
generally stay fresher than mixed salads. Juice from the citrus layer filters down through the salad and raises the acidity levels. The frozen layer super cools salad. Using a safe anti-bacterial for washing the veg will also help to keep things fresh. I use diluted apple cider vinegar to wash all my vegetables, and the oranges, since I leave the skin on them. Only the frozen veg doesn’t need to be washed.
The salad can safely stay in the cage during the day without spoiling. The pellets and pasta absorb most of the moisture from the mix, and over time it will dehydrate, rather than spoiling.
There are a lot of benefits to your parrots too – you no longer have to introduce individual vegetables anytime you offer a new one. Once your birds are comfortable with the mix, you can change any of the fruits and vegetables in it, without changing the appearance of the salad. They’ll generally accept and eat whatever is in it.
Adding different things into the mix also makes it a great foraging experience for them. They dig through it looking for rice, sprouts, pellets or particular vegetables, and you can occasionally add special treats to it, like sunflower or pumpkin seeds, pop corn, etc, to hold your birds interest.
As I mention in my introduction to Captive Foraging, it’s natural for birds to forage in the morning, and again in the afternoon/evening, with socialising, preening and napping coming in between the two. Feeding twice a day is much more natural for your birds and gets them a lot more excited about eating. And a bowl full of green, orange, red and yellow vegetables, with purple, white and brown beans, rice, sprouted seed, pasta and pellets is much more interesting than just a boring bowl of pellets or seed all the same colour the morning.
Before we started feeding this salad, Misfit would eat all vegetables we gave her, like a good girl. Gizmo would eat broccoli, baby corn and carrot tops. The two male budgies we didn’t really see eat any vegetables except their carrot tops and occasional nibbles at broccoli. The cockatiels were even worse, and wouldn’t touch any
vegetable if they could help it, other than dried corn, and Kami even runs away from the carrot tops when we put them in the cage. We started feeding the layered salad on the 2nd of November. Kami is now eating sweetcorn and peas – pulling all the mushy bits out of the skin, then throwing the skin away – broccoli and carrots, and we’ve seen both her and Lofty throwing everything around the bowl – and out of it – it’s not a tidy meal. Lofty will also eat sweetcorn now, and may eat other things, though we haven’t seen her or the budgies eating anything specific yet.
The original recipe came from Pamela Clark at the Parrot House: http://www.parrothouse.com/pamelaclark/feeding.html