DIET CONVERSION TIPS FOR STUBBORN BIRDS
By Dr Corrie Pinkster BVSc
Sometimes we see a bird that has been on an all seed diet all of their life that is extremely difficult to convert to a healthy diet. A lot of the time, these are birds which have or will become ill due to chronic malnutrition. It is understandable that these birds won’t recognise new foods as something edible if they haven’t seen it before. It is our job to not give up, have lots of patience and creatively find ways to encourage healthy eating. Below are some tips for improving your birds’ diet, but remember all birds are different and you may have to come up with individual solutions for your feathered friend.
Limit Seed Access:
You will find that even a bird on the best diet would prefer to eat seeds as they are fatty and tasty. For a healthy bird, providing seed for 15 minutes twice a day will allow them to eat enough to survive.
• This means that for the majority of the day, we can leave pellets, fruit and vegetables as the only option for grazing.
• Get into the habit of feeding your bird on a daily basis, not having a huge bowl of seed.
• Only give him half of his usual allowance of seed in the morning, along with a selection of fresh foods and pellets. If he hasn’t eaten anything else, give him access to feed again in the evening.
• If possible, only give pellets, fruit and vegies first thing in the morning when he is hungry, then add seed a few hours later.
• If your bird is sick, do NOT limit access to foods the bird will eat for more than 2-3 hours.
Trying new foods:
If your bird has a food that he really likes, this can be mixed in with the new foods to gain his attention and start him off on the new food. Putting something new with a favourite food is telling your bird “Look at this, it is food and safe to eat”.
• Make a paste out of pellets and stir through some seeds for your bird to pick at.
• If she likes a vegie mash you can try mixing pellets and new vegies in with that. (No butter or milk please!)
• Chop a selection of vegetables up and mix them in a bowl with pellets and seeds – as your bird searches for the seeds, she should discover that some of these other things taste good as well. Try wedging a sunflower seed within a piece of vegetable where she can see it.
• Position the new food next to her favourite perch so it is easy to get to.
Make the most of your bond:
If your bird is very well bonded to people, or a particular person, they will often want to eat the things that their owners are eating. If you have a good diet, this is a great way to get your bird eating vegies.
• Try raw, cooked and even mashed vegies to start with.
• Pretend to eat pellets and vegies that he should be eating
• Spend lots of time hand feeding the new foods; make it fun for you and your bird to make him think it’s a treat. Do NOT try to force a new food, the bad experience will put him off it.
Use foraging toys:
• Refer to foraging in captivity handout – presenting the foods in a playful way can increase the attraction. Fruit sticks / Bird kebabs are a great way to present vegies.
• It is likely that your bird will throw around and waste alot of food at first, persist with your efforts and eventually you will succeed. Most birds will take 4-6 weeks to completely convert.