How to Feed Parakeet




Feeding Your Parakeet

Parakeets can live to be 40 years old, but many pet birds do not live past age 15. In the past, when most pet parakeets were caught in the wild and imported, they rarely survived past the age of 10 due to their inadequate diet. Besides shortening a bird’s life span, a poor diet causes a number of health problems, including respiratory infections, poor feather condition, flaky skin, and reproductive problems.

The good news for parakeet owners is that these birds are not known to be particularly fussy when it comes to food. They eat a wide variety of things and are not as shy about trying new foods as other parrot species may be.

A Balanced Diet for Parakeet


According to avian veterinarian Gary Gallerstein, birds require vitamins A, D, E, K, B1, B2, niacin, B6, B12, pantothenic acid, biotin, folic acid, and choline to stay healthy, but they can only partially manufacture vitamin D3 and niacin in their bodies. A balanced diet can help provide the rest.

Pet birds also need trace amounts of some minerals to maintain good health.

These minerals are calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chlorine, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, sulphur, iodine, and manganese. They can be provided with a well-balanced diet and a supplemental mineral block or cuttlebone.

Ideally, your parakeet’s diet should contain about equal parts of seeds, grains, and legumes, and dark green or dark orange vegetables and fruits. You can supplement these with small amounts of well-cooked meat or eggs or dairy products. Let’s look at each part of this diet in a little more detail.

Seeds, Grains, and Legumes


This portion of your bird’s diet can include clean, fresh seed from your local pet supply store. Try to buy your birdseed from a store where stock turns over quickly. The dusty box on the bottom shelf isn’t as nutritious for your pet as a bulk purchase of seeds from a freshly filled bin. When you bring the seeds home, refrigerate them to keep them from becoming infested with bugs.

To ensure your bird is receiving the proper nutrients from her diet, you need to know whether the seed you’re serving is fresh. One way to do this is to try sprouting some of the seeds. Sprouted seeds can also tempt a finicky eater to broaden her diet.

To sprout seeds, you will need to soak them overnight in lukewarm water.

Drain the water off and let the seeds sit in a closed cupboard or other out-of-the- way place for twenty-four hours. Rinse the sprouted seeds thoroughly before offering them to your bird. If the seeds don’t sprout, they aren’t fresh and you’ll need to find another source for your bird’s food.

Be sure, too, that your pet has an adequate supply of seeds in her dish at all times. Some parakeets drop the empty seed hulls back into their dishes. This seemingly full dish can lead to a very hungry parakeet if you aren’t observant enough to check the dish carefully. Rather than just looking in the dish while it’s in the cage, I suggest that you take the dish out and inspect it over the trash can so you can empty the seed hulls and refill the dish easily.

Other items in the bread group that you can offer your pet include unsweetened breakfast cereals, whole-wheat bread, cooked beans, cooked rice and pasta.

Offer a few flakes of cereal at a time, serve small bread cubes, and parakeet-size portions of rice, beans, or pasta.

One foodstuff that is quite popular with many parakeets is mung beans. Ask for them at your pet supply store and, if you’re unsuccessful, check with a health food store or an Asian grocery in your area.

Fruits and Vegetables for Parakeet


Dark green or dark orange vegetables and fruits contain vitamin A, an important part of a bird’s diet that is missing from seeds, grains, and legumes. This vitamin helps fight off infection and keeps a bird’s eyes, mouth, and respiratory system healthy. Some vitamin A-rich foods are carrots, yams, sweet potatoes, broccoli, dried red peppers, and dandelion greens.

You may be wondering whether to offer frozen or canned vegetables and fruits to your bird. Some birds will eat them, while others turn their beaks up at the somewhat mushy texture of these defrosted foodstuffs. The high sodium content in some canned foods may make them unhealthy for your parakeet.

Frozen and canned foods will do in an emergency, but I would offer only fresh foods as a regular part of her diet.

Protein for Parakeet


Along with small portions of well-cooked meat, you can also offer your bird bits of tofu, water-packed tuna, fully cooked scrambled eggs, cottage cheese, unsweetened yogurt, or low-fat cheese. Don’t overdo the dairy products, though, because a bird’s digestive system lacks the enzyme lactase, which means she is unable to fully process dairy foods.

Introduce young parakeets to healthy people food early so that they learn to appreciate a varied diet. Some adult birds cling tenaciously to seed-only diets, which aren’t healthy for them. Offer adult birds fresh foods, too, in the hope that they may try something new.

Whatever fresh foods you offer your pet, be sure to remove food from the cage promptly to prevent spoiling and to help keep your bird healthy. Ideally, you should change the food in your bird’s cage every two to four hours (about every thirty minutes in warm weather), so a parakeet should be all right with a tray of food to pick through in the morning, another to select from during the afternoon, and a third fresh salad to nibble on for dinner.

Supplements for Parakeet


You may be concerned about whether your bird is receiving enough vitamins and minerals in her diet. If your parakeet's diet is mostly seeds and fresh foods, you may want to sprinkle a good-quality vitamin and mineral powder onto the fresh foods, where it has the best chance of sticking to the food and being eaten.

Vitamin-enriched seed diets may provide some supplementation, but some of them add the vitamins and minerals to the seed hulls, which your pet will discard while she’s eating. Don’t add vitamin and mineral supplements to your bird’s water dish, because they can act as a growth medium for bacteria. They may also cause the water to taste different, which might discourage your bird from drinking.

Water


You will need to provide your parakeet with fresh, clean water twice a day to maintain her good health. You may want to give your bird water in a shallow dish, or you may find that a water bottle does the trick. If you are considering a water bottle, be aware that some clever parakeets have been known to stuff a seed into the drinking tube, which lets all the water drain out of the bottle. This creates a thirsty bird and a soggy cage, neither of which are ideal.

Off Limits


Now that we’ve looked at foods that are good for your bird, let’s look briefly at those that aren’t. Among those foods considered harmful to pet birds are alcohol, rhubarb, avocado (the skin and the area around the pit can be toxic), as well as highly salted, sweetened, and fatty foods. You also want to avoid giving your bird seeds or pits from apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, pears, and plums, because they can be harmful.

Chocolate can kill your parakeet, so resist the temptation to share this snack with her. It contains the chemical theobromine, which birds cannot digest as completely as people can.

Let common sense be your guide in choosing which foods can be offered to your bird: If it’s healthy for you, it’s probably okay to share. However, remember to reduce the size of the portion.

While sharing healthy people food with your bird is completely acceptable, sharing something that you’ve already taken a bite of is not. Human saliva has bacteria in it that are perfectly normal for people but that are potentially toxic to birds, so please don’t share partially eaten food with your pet. For your bird’s health and your peace of mind, give her a portion of her own, on her own plate.

CAUTION

Diet Taboos
Here’s a little list to help you remember what foods to avoid:

• Alcohol

• Avocado

• Candy

• Chocolate

• Potato chips

• Pretzels

• Rhubarb

Seeds or pits from apples, apricots, cherries, peaches, pears, and plums. (alert-passed)


Parakeet Pelleted Diet Option


Pelleted diets are created by mixing as many as forty different nutrients into a mash and then forcing the hot mixture through a machine to form various shapes. Some pelleted diets have colors and flavors added, while others are fairly plain.

These formulated diets provide balanced nutrition for your pet bird in an easy-to-serve form that reduces the amount of wasted food and eliminates the chance for a bird to pick through a smorgasbord of healthy foods to find her favorites and reject the foods she isn’t particularly fond of. Some parakeets accept pelleted diets quickly, while others require some persuading.

To convert your pet to a pelleted diet, offer pellets alongside of or mixed in with her current diet.

Once you see that your bird is eat- ing the pellets, begin to gradually increase the amount of pellets you offer at mealtime while decreasing the amount of other food you serve.

Within a couple of weeks, your bird should be eating her pellets with gusto !

Although most parakeets aren’t shy about trying new foods, yours may be hesitant to accept pellets. If your parakeet seems a bit finicky about trying pellets, another bird in the house may show your parakeet how yummy pellets can be, or you may have to act as if you are enjoying the pellets as a snack in front of your pet.

Really play up your apparent enjoyment of this new food because it will pique your bird’s curiosity and make the pellets seem exceedingly interesting.

Whatever you do, don’t starve your bird into trying a new food. Offer new foods along with familiar favorites. This will ensure that your bird is eating and will also encourage her to try new foods. Don’t be discouraged if your parakeet doesn’t dive right in to a new food. Be patient, keep offering new foods to your bird, and praise her enthusiastically when she samples something new !
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