by Heike Ewing Ott
Converting a parrot from a seed diet over to pellets can be a challenging endeavor for any parrot owner, and this is especially true for new owners. However, the benefits of a healthier diet make it truly worthwhile. This article discusses several tips and ideas that have worked successfully for others in getting birds to make the switch to a pellet diet.
How Can I Get My Bird to Eat Pellets/Vegetables?
I see a lot of questions about how to convert birds to pellets, or how to get them to eat vegetables and fruits. Actually, I have converted most birds with the instructions on the pellet package, but there are always those picky ones that you have to be more creative with….. Here are some of the things that have worked for me:
At night before going to bed, take ALL food out of your bird’s cage. When you get up in the morning, give the bird only the food you want it to start eating. After a couple of hours, give the bird the food it usually eats, but give it either for a limited time (20 minutes or so) or give a limited amount.
If you are trying to convert to pellets, leave them in the cage all day. If you’re trying to get the bird to eat fresh foods, give them again in the evening for an hour or two. Then, in the evening, about an hour or so before bedtime, again give the bird’s usual food and let it eat what it wants. Then take all food out of the cage before putting it to bed and start over. Eventually you should see the bird start eating the desired food. It won’t starve, but it will experience some hunger at those critical times that should encourage it to eat the new food.
If you are trying to get a very stubborn bird to sample greens, take its water away for 2 or 3 hours, then soak the greens in water and put them in the cage. You may have to do it more than once, but usually the bird will “accidentally” sample the greens while getting the water off of them and discover that they really are food.
The Pellet Sneak: Start giving your bird a few fruit loops as a treat daily. (yes, the nasty sugary cereal – the end justfies the means in this case.) After a few days, start mixing colored pellets in with the fruit loops. The bird will, sooner or later, accidentally eat some pellets. Then gradually start reducing the number of fruit loops and adding more pellets.
Hopefully the bird will continue to eat the pellets once it has realized they are food, as the fact that the bird -doesn’t- recognize pellets as food is usually the reason they don’t eat them. If you want to go to the “natural” (not colored) pellets later, just start adding them in and gradually reduce the amount of colored ones that are in the mix.
The Reducing Diet: This one has always worked for me, but it has taken as long as eight months. To begin, measure the amount of food you give your bird. After the bird has eaten, figure the amount it has eaten as best you can, taking into account what spilled. Do it for a week until you’re sure you have a pretty good idea of how much your bird eats daily.
Now give the bird a separate dish of pellets, and always keep it filled. For the first week, give the bird 10% less than it normally eats in a day of its usual food that it has been eating. If it still doesn’t start eating the pellets, give it only 80% of what it normally eats for one week, and if it still doesn’t eat the pellets do 70% for one week. After that week, give the bird its usual food for two weeks, unlimited, to allow it to gain back any weight it may have lost. Then start over from the beginning with 90%, 80%, 70%. Keep repeating this pattern, always giving two weeks in between for the bird to recover any weight loss, until the bird starts eating the pellets.
Eat some pellets in front of your bird and pretend it can’t have any. 🙂 John says they really aren’t bad. According to him, Zupreem and Hagen taste the best, followed by Roudybush and Harrison’s, and Exact in last place.
Try Hagen Gourmet mix. Both my Quakers love it, and it has very little seed in it, but lots of other good stuff.