Probably the most common disease of caged exotic birds is malnutrition. You have heard that these birds can live 50-70 years, but surprisingly they often don’t last much longer than 25-30 years in captivity. This is mainly due to the poor quality, mostly seed, diets that are too readily available at most pet stores. Unbalanced diets lead to obesity, hypocalcemia, egg binding, thyroid dysfunction, respiratory disease, heart disease and more. The most important thing that a bird owner can do for their bird is to provide a well balanced and varied diet.
Many commercially available foods claim to be “complete” but aren’t. Your best bet is a combination of several types of foods. A pelleted diet should be used as the staple. Pelleted diets can be convenient as they do not spoil quickly, can be stored easily, and are ready for use. Supplement pelleted diets with lots of fresh vegetables. The best vegetables are the dark greens, yellows, and reds. The more colorful the vegetables, the more vitamins and minerals are present. Examples of these are collard greens, mustard greens, beet greens, dandelion greens, endive, zucchini, broccoli (in small amounts), alfalfa sprouts, carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, and raw beets. You should also supplement this diet with lean proteins. Examples of lean proteins are cooked chicken breast, canned chicken, tofu, eggs (scrambled or boiled), corn, pasta, grains, a limited amount of cooked red meat, and fish. And finally, add a small amount of fruits (oranges, bananas with the skin, pineapple, mango, cored apples and pears, plums, peaches), nuts and seeds. Do not buy a diet mostly made of seeds and nuts. Seed and nuts should constitute only about 15% of your bird’s diet. Most seed mixes are high in protein, but also, unfortunately, very high in fat and salt, and devoid of most vitamins and minerals. Also, avoid lettuce, cabbage, spinach (may deplete calcium), peanuts (high in moldy toxins) and tomatoes.
So, you say you have a “seed junkie”?
Some birds, unfortunately, are “seed junkies” and refuse to eat anything other than seeds. One of the best ways to switch your bird off of seeds is to hide the seed in bread mixes. Here is a recipe that may help…
2 cups of cornmeal
1/4 cup ground pelleted diet
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 eggs, with shells
1/2 cup of the birds regular seed diet
A small amount of pureed vegetables (increase the amount gradually with each week)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Blend eggs (with shells) until the shell pieces are small. Pour rest of the ingredients and blend for about 20 seconds. Pour ingredients into greased 8 by 8 by 2-inch baking pan. Bake until golden brown. Cool completely and cut into squares. Freeze the rest. As the bird removes the seeds from the bread, it will develop a taste for the vegetables and pelleted diet used in the mixture. As the weeks go by, carefully increase the amount and the particle sizes of the chosen vegetables until larger pieces are actually consumed by the bird. Also, increase the amount of pelleted diet as you decrease the amount of cornmeal used in the recipe. If at any time the bird refuses the bread, go back to the prior recipe that was working and proceed more slowly. You might add commercially available bird vitamin/mineral supplements to the bread after it has cooled. It is best to wait until the bread has cooled as some vitamins are destroyed by heat.