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Bird Food for Thought: Pellets vs. Seeds

Updated on October 8, 2012
Yellow parakeets
Yellow parakeets

Deciding Between Pellets and Seeds

It's important when choosing which diet to feed your pet bird. After all, many birds can live to be over 70 years old with good care. So you may be asking yourself which is better - pellets or seeds? The answer is pellets and here is why.


Why Are Pellets the Best Choice?

Avian doctors recommend that birds eat a healthy diet of pellets. They provide all of the vitamins, nutrients, and minerals that your bird needs to live a long and healthy life. Pellets are a well-balanced diet for your bird.

So what is so bad about seeds? Seeds are deficient in most vitamins and minerals that birds need, causing diet related illness later on in life. You may argue that the label on the bag of seeds say that it is fortified with nutrients essential to your bird's health, which is true but consider the following: seed mix diets are are fortified by coating the outside of the seeds with nutrients. Does your bird actually eat the hull of the seed? No. And although many seed mixes include pellets, most birds do not eat that part of the mix. What would you rather eat - a delicious cheeseburger or a salad? Most birds eat what they think is tastiest.

Zupreem and Harrison's are two great brands that make quality pellets for your bird. Both offer organic products.


Diseases Associated With Poor Diet in Birds

The number one cause of poor health in pet birds is caused by poor diet! Most of the time, these birds are fed a seed only diet. Here are some common diseases that poor diet can cause:

  • Vitamin A deficiency - This causes birds to be more susceptible to infections.
  • Egg binding - Birds are unable to lay eggs due to a poor Vitamin D3/phosphorous ratio. There are other reasons why egg binding can occur as well.
  • Fatty Liver Disease - This disease is thought to be connected to vitamin deficiency in birds. Liver tissue is replaced with fat.
  • Obesity - Seeds are fattening! Don't let your bird become fat.

More Healthy Foods

Bird diet can be a very controversial subject, and many bird enthusiasts will argue that birds need more than just pellets in their diets. It is true that birds, such as cockatiels, still need some seed in their diet. I recommend giving them one or two nutri-berries daily. This way, they get a good amount of seed in their diet for the day plus a tasty treat!

There are also many healthy fruits and vegetables that you can offer to your bird. They may not like them at first, but be patient and one day they may love them! Here is a list of good foods that you can offer your bird.

  • Fruit - grapes, melon, apple, oranges, bananas, strawberries, pears, etc.
  • Vegetables - Peas, carrots, broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, sweet potato, etc.
  • Beans - kidney beans, black beans, pinto beans, etc.
  • Pasta - Try whole wheat pastas
  • Peppers - jalapenos, banana peppers, bell peppers, etc.


Toxic Foods for Birds

Make sure you know the list of foods that you should never give your bird. Steer clear of these toxic food items.

  • Chocolate
  • Avocado
  • Apple seeds
  • Alcohol
  • Peanuts (in excess)
  • Caffeine
  • Dry beans
  • Mushrooms
  • Salt
  • Onion

Sun Conure
Sun Conure

Tips for Pellet Conversion

Many bird owners simply cannot get their seed junkies to eat pellets no matter how hard they try. Here are a few tips to try. Remember that you shouldn't give up! Your bird's health may be at stake!

First of all, you should never take away your pet bird's seed cold turkey. They will starve themselves to death. Instead try slowly adding more and more pellets and less seeds to the diet. You can also put pellets only in their cage for limited times throughout the day.

Birds love to forage. Try some foraging games with your bird with their new pellets. Place some pellets on a flat surface and let your bird play with them. Many birds like the colors that are offered in the Zupreem pelleted diet.

One extreme method of converting birds to pellets is with the help of a veterinarian. Basically, you leave your bird at the vet hospital for however long it takes for them to start eating pellets. The only food offered to your bird at the hospital will be pellets. The staff will weigh and record your bird's weight daily. If your bird is not eating his or her pellets, then the vet will tube feed him. This will continue until your bird decides to eat on their own.

Most importantly, don't give up! Birds are stubborn creatures, but show them that you can be just as stubborn as them! Help them to live a long and healthy life by offering a well-balanced and nutritious diet.


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