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Dear Parrots magazine,

A Healthier Diet

In response to Kristin Shay, I would just like to note that yoghurt can be given to parrots occasionally, because yoghurt contains live bacteria, which helps to digest lactose and culturing of yoghurt helps to break down the lactose too. I am aware that milk is mentioned in Wolfgang de Grahl’s book, but it was published 20 years ago. In aviculture terms even five years ago is quite a while back, as what was considered acceptable then, might not be acceptable now.

Unfortunately, it is common to think that if one certain food item doesn’t cause any immediate health problems it is not harmful at all. It is a big misconception, which leads to sad consequences. Food items, like milk and white sugar, completely alien to parrots’ digestive system, are bound to lead to health problems sooner or later.

As for Kristin’s African Grey, I deal with many African Grey Parrots daily and an owner of one myself, and I can say that it is not impossible to convert them to a healthier diet and in fact, I haven’t met a single one yet that wouldn’t eventually happily accept abundant fresh healthy foods offerings. There are plenty of foods, which can be offered to Greys. For example: cooked and/or sprouted grains and pulses, vegetables and fruit chopped, hung up on skewers, clipped to the cage bars, hidden into foraging toys, baked into bird bread, which in turn can be made of all sorts of grain flours (e.g kamut, chickpea, quinoa flours); pelleted diets, wild berries, like rowans, hawthorns and elderberries etc.

A high-fat dry seed mix, however, should really be offered, in my opinion, only as a treat, rather than a diet staple, especially to a parrot living indoors. Parrot owners tend to overfeed their birds and then get surprised why they won’t eat healthier foods. A small piece of a biscuit and a few high-fat seeds for a parrot is like a large slice of cake for a human - will your child want to eat his fresh veggie salad after eating a huge slice of chocolate cake? I very much doubt it!

The key to a healthier diet is establishing a strict feeding regime with, let’s say, two main healthy meals a day. For my birds, it is a mix made up of cooked grains and pulses, veggies, berries and sprouted mix with addition of a small amount of nuts. In addition, I also choose to offer a high-quality pellets free choice, a variety of vegetables and a small amount of fruit between the main meals with complete exclusion of human foods for the sake of my birds’ health. Such regime will certainly lead to an improvement in overall acceptance of a variety of foods overtime and as a result - to a healthier bird! It is important however to remember that if a bird has any health issues, any diet changes must be discussed with your avian vet!

Eb Cravens’ articles found in all the issues of Parrots magazine contain a lot of tips on how to introduce healthy foods to parrots’ diets and how to make it more varied too. “Incredible Edible Seeds for Parrots” is one of those articles (Parrots, March 2010). Thank you very much for this wonderful read! I wish all the best to Kristin and Moshi!

Irina (by email)




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