Parrot Food: Seeds and Nuts
Most people think pet bird food consists of a diet of seeds. Seeds, however, are usually eaten by birds bulking up for the coming mating season. It bulks them up and gives them a layer of fat for that all too important process of reproduction and raising their young. It takes a lot of work to carve out a nest, lay eggs, lay on them to keep them warm, to go back and forth constantly more often than normal to not only feed oneself, but to feed the new babies, and so on. But in captivity, birds don't have to worry about being too active to raise their young. Giving a rich food like seeds is going to go straight to their keel.
Also, keep in mind that as seeds usually signal spring, a pet bird may start to show nesting behavior. Keep in mind that nesting birds will be protective of their eggs. A bird who was never aggressive towards their owner or other birds may begin to hiss at or bite their owners, or chase their cage mates around in an attempt to get them away from their nest. And nesting birds also smell horrible. When a nesting bird is sitting on their eggs (whether they are fertile or not), they tend to poop less often and in greater quantity. Not only that, but some birds will let out a stream of poop once they get off the nest. It's very unpleasant to have to deal with, can stain your walls, and just hinders the enjoyment of having a pet bird. Then if those eggs were fertile and they hatch, there are more mouths to feed and more vet bills to worry about. Also, it can cause complications in female birds if they become egg bound, which is a medical emergency.
Nesting birds are not very fun to keep, and this behavior can be triggered by offering birds plentiful seeds. So limiting the amount of seeds a bird gets is advisable. Seeds should be considered a supplement to their diet, not their mainstay, or simply given as a treat.
That being said, if your going to give your pet birds seeds, the best treat to give them is probably not what is sold in the pet stores. Rather, you can give your bird human grade seeds from the organic store. Consider them your parrot food bulk bins. Hulled millet from your local, organic grocery is much better for your bird as it's human grade food, not the throw away seeds sold in pet stores. Also, I stress the foods ideally should be organic. Birds have very sensitive systems. That's why they are an excellent indicator species for the environment at large. Consider the canary in the coal mine. Their bodies are more sensitive to environmental conditions than most mammals. So organic assures that your bird is not consuming pesticides, fungicides, or chemical fertilizers.
For larger species, you'll want to apply the same idea to large nuts. If you have a large bird with the beak strength to open nuts, like Macaws and Cockatoos, then give it to them whole. Some birds don't have the break strength to open a nut themselves, so a nut cracker might be needed to get them started.
The following is a list of seeds that are excellent for bird health! Small seeds are good for smaller bird species; big seeds and nuts are meant for larger species. Know your bird species as to whether they would be able to crack it themselves or need assistance, Bird hulling their own seeds is preferred unless otherwise stated, even if you have to crack it a little to begin with for them.
- Brazil nut
- Cracked corn
- Chia seeds
- Flax seed
- Hulled oats
- Pine nuts
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Unsalted peanuts in shell
- Unsalted pistachios
Seeds are also great to put in foraging toys and anywhere you would let the bird out to forage, as freshness is not as big of an issue as it would be for fresh fruits and vegetables. Hiding seeds in toys make for good mental stimulation for your birds. Combining this natural parrot food with natural bird behavior can only mean good things for your companion bird.
Of course, if you don't want to buy seeds at the grocery store every time you go there, you CAN buy them from the pet store. Just keep an eye out for quality. Maybe even order pet food online on specialty bird sites, such as Foster's and Smith. Buying pet food online also means that you can save yourself a trip to the pet store while assuring you get the best quality food for your pet. You might even have more choice over organic parrot food when shopping online.
Seeds can be a wonderful addition to your birds diet! But remember to use it sparingly. Make your bird earn it if they have it as a treat by placing it in a foraging toy or using them as rewards for teaching them tricks. As long as it doesn't make up the majority of their diets when they are a species that eats a varied diet, then you should be fine and have a hopefully healthy parrot!
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