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The Importance of Fresh Food

Updated: Sep 18, 2023

Across the board the most common nutritional problem that we see at MBVC is birds being fed all seed diets. This can be harmful in itself as an all seed diet is low in vitamin A & a range of other vitamins and trace elements; it can also lower a bird’s immunity and overall ability to fight other diseases.


To ensure your bird is getting enough vitamins, minerals, and nutrients, they should be provided with fresh, clean vegetables daily. Feed a range of vegetables across the year to ensure a balanced and interesting diet for your companion. Vegetables that have a high vitamin A content will be most useful to balance a seed or grain diet.


SOME SAFE VEGETABLES, FRUITS & HERBS


FOOD TO AVOID

As a general rule it is good to avoid feeding food that is manufactured for humans. Some processed and flavoured food or homecooked meals contain ingredients that are undigestible or toxic for your pet bird, others are just not nutritious.


Here is a list of some foods that your bird should avoid:

  • Alcohol

  • Soft Drinks

  • Caffeine

  • Avocado

  • Onion

  • Rhubarb

  • Chocolate

  • Milk (lactose)

  • Salted Nuts/Food

  • Raw legumes/beans

  • Nightshade plants

  • Mushrooms

  • Sweetener (especially Xylitol)

  • Iceberg and other light coloured lettuce (no nutrients) Please note that this does not list every consumable that is to be avoided, if you are ever in doubt, please consult one of our avian veterinarians.


BASIC CHOP

The most important thing about feeding is to ensure that your bird is getting a balanced diet, using chop alongside seed and/or pellets helps to ensure your bird is getting a range of nutrients and not just the more appealing foods. Chop is basically chopped up bird safe ingredients, it can be frozen or made fresh daily.



A beginner chop includes:

  • 2-3 leafy greens

  • 2-3 coloured veg

  • 2 fruits

  • 1-2 herbs/flowers

  • Extra add ins: a tsp of nuts, flax seeds, cooked quinoa, organic dried unsweetened coconut and/or chia seeds (per batch)

Example:

Blueberries, Chopped: Mango, Kale, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Capsicum, Pumpkin, Beetroot, Mint, Organic Dried Chamomile, a tsp of almonds, tsp of chia seeds & a handful of coconut



Making and Feeding “Chop” mix to your bird


What is Chop?

Chop refers to a finely chopped or processed mix of fresh and cooked foods to be fed to birds. Breeders have been making mixes like this for many years but popularity has recently increased in pet birds.


Why Chop?

Chop mixes are a great way to introduce new foods to birds who are fussy about what they eat. It is an easy way to offer a wide variety of foods daily, as mixes can be made in a big batch and frozen, thawing a daily amount as needed.


What goes in Chop?

There are endless lists of ingredients and combinations that can be put into a chop mix. The general idea is to have everything finely chopped, but not mash, so that birds can pick through. Initially, I would make the mix so that about 1/3 of the mix is food your bird is familiar with and enjoys eating. The mix will be moist but you don’t want it too watery. All vegetables (except onion, avocado and rhubarb) can be used and raw is fine. I usually rinse, coarsely cut and then do small batches in a food processor on low speed before mixing it all together in a bowl. As a rough guide, I would aim for 50% vegetables, 40% cooked grains/legumes and 10% dry ingredients. Chop mixes can be as simple or complicated as you want. I have included a simple recipe on the next page as well as a list of possible ingredients.


How to feed Chop

Chop mix may look very unfamiliar to your bird when first introduced so they might need some help to realize that it is in fact food. For birds with a favorite fruit or vegetable, this can be cut into coarse pieces and mixed into the mix prior to feeding. If they pick out these favourite pieces, then they will likely put their beak on and get a taste for other ingredients. Always throw out uneaten chop after 24 hours. For birds who do not eat fruit or vegetables yet, their seed mix can be mixed in with the chop. How much will depend on the bird. For really fussy birds, 3 parts seed: 1 part chop might be a starting point. Once they are familiar with the new diet, gradually reduce how much seed you are adding and increase the chop as they eat that. You will probably find they do not eat all of it initially, but with time, become more adventurous. You can also add fresh sprouts to the chop mix before feeding, a favourite for many birds. Do not give excessive amounts where your bird can exclusively pick out favourites and not be hungry for the new foods.


Ingredients:


Cooked grains and legumes

Quinoa, oats, barley, rye, spelt, whole grain pasta or rice, chickpeas, lentils, beans – all cooked as per label directions.


Dry Ingredients

Rolled oats, barley flakes, millet, chia seeds, flaxseeds, amaranth flakes, sesame seeds, crushed nuts (almonds, walnuts). Try to keep nuts and seeds as a low proportion of the mix.


Chopped raw vegetables

Kale, bok choy, parsley, broccoli, brussel sprouts, carrots, fennel, beetroot, pumpkin, sweet potato, capsicum, snow or sugar snap peas, parsnips, cauliflower, beans, corn, chillies, pomegranate, paw paw, tomato, passionfruit, kiwi fruit, melons.


Finely chop all ingredients or put in food processor until very finely chopped. I find that processing in small batches and with low settings are the best to avoid creating a soggy mess. Mix it all together in a mixing bowl.


Example Recipe:

1 cup dry quinoa (makes about 2 cups when cooked), 2 carrots, 1 broccoli, 1 medium beetroot, 6 chillies, ¼ cup flaked almonds, ½ cup rolled oats. Cook quinoa, chop all other ingredients and mix everything together.


Once made, refrigerate enough for 3 days. Freeze the rest in portions big enough for 1-2 days. Depending on the size of your bird, you may do this in an ice-cube tray, small Tupperware containers or freezer bags. A convenient freezer method is to scoop the mix into the cups of an egg carton, pressing firmly down. The cups can then be fed frozen in foraging toys.


Quantities to feed:

Depends on your bird, but as a rough guide.

Budgerigar: 1-2 teaspoons

Cockatiel/Conure/Ringneck: 1 – 2 tablespoons

Eclectus/Galah/Cockatoo/Amazon: 2-4 tablespoons

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