giving bird supplements

How To Train Your Bird To Take Medicine and Supplements

Unlock the art of training birds to take medicine effortlessly, transforming potential struggles into harmonious bonding experiences. Teach these techniques now, and when the time comes to administer medications, you'll have a handy skillset ready to ensure your feathered friend's health and well-being. With patience and a tailored approach, discover how simple it can be to nurture your bird's health while strengthening your bond.
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Revised April 7, 2024


In 2013, my dear Peachy suffered a severe illness from a foot injury and Mega Bacteria. Navigating months of extensive medication was daunting. This experience underscored the importance of preemptive medication training for birds, before a crisis happens.

Unexpectedly shoving a syringe into their mouths or trying to sneak a powder on their food can lead to panic and stress for them. They may even turn up their beak as if to say, "Get that S*#% away from me!"   So what do you do?


Birds can be taught to take medicine or eat supplements through positive reinforcement, gradually accepting the medicine without a fuss.

First and foremost, it's crucial to understand that birds aren't necessarily picky eaters; rather, they're following their natural instincts. In the wild, baby birds learn what's safe to eat by observing and eating alongside older birds and flock-mates, helping them avoid potentially harmful foods. It's fascinating to note that birds rely more on visual recognition than taste buds when choosing their meals.

I'll address three techniques to help your bird take supplements effortlessly. Firstly, you can serve water-soluble, clear supplements in water, making it easier for your bird to consume. Secondly, you can sprinkle the supplements directly on their food, ensuring they ingest it while eating. Lastly, you can consider feeding the supplements from a syringe or a spoon, providing a more controlled and direct method of administration.

Evaluating Bird Supplement Training Methods

Strategy Pros Cons
Serve in water Easy to administer. Not suitable for most medicines.

Sprinkle on food Natural way to introduce supplements. May not work if bird avoids the food.

You can't be sure that your bird gets the appropriate dose.

Serve via syringe Precise dosage delivery. May be stressful for some birds.

You should be trained on how to safely restrain your bird before administering the medicine.
Positive reinforcement Encourages desired behavior through rewards.

Force-free training is alway preferred.
Requires consistent reinforcement once trained.

How to train your parrot to take supplements

Serving Bird Supplements In Water

  • Mix the Appropriate Dose in Fresh Water: Start by measuring the recommended dosage of the supplement and mixing it thoroughly in fresh water. Ensure that the supplement dissolves completely and the water appears clear.

  • Change water twice a day: It's important to provide fresh water with the dissolved supplement twice a day. This ensures that your bird gets the full benefits of the supplement without any degradation or contamination.

  • Follow dosing instructions on the bottle: Pay close attention to the dosing instructions provided on the supplement bottle, especially when dealing with vitamins and minerals. Following the recommended dosage ensures your bird receives the right amount of nutrients.

Titrating Dose for Nutraceuticals: For nutraceutical supplements, you can titrate the dose based on your bird's response and specific needs. Titrating involves adjusting the dosage gradually to achieve the desired effect while minimizing any potential side effects. It's a personalized approach that allows you to tailor the supplement dosage to your bird's individual requirements.

Sprinkle Bird Supplements on Food

  • Work with Chop: Sprinkling supplements on chop (a mixture of fresh vegetables and fruits) is an effective way to introduce them to your bird's diet.

  • Consider Food Color: You may choose to sprinkle the supplements on food with a similar color to make them less noticeable to your bird.

  • Start Small and Build Up: Begin with a small sprinkle of the supplement and gradually increase the amount until you reach the suggested dosage. This helps your bird adjust to the new taste and ensures they consume the recommended amount over time.

Syringe Feed

syringe feed birds
  • Start with Preferred Juice or Baby Food: Begin by serving your bird's preferred juice or baby food from a syringe. This helps familiarize them with the syringe and creates a positive association.

  • Verbal Reinforcement: While feeding, verbally reinforce positive behavior with gentle and encouraging words. This reinforces the idea that the syringe and its contents are safe and enjoyable.

  • Gradually Introduce Medicine: Once your bird readily accepts the syringe, slowly add a tiny amount of the medicine to the juice or baby food. Start with a small dose and gradually increase until the whole dose is fed.

  • Reinforce About Once a Month: Periodically reinforce this positive experience by offering the syringe with preferred juice or baby food, even when not administering medicine. This maintains the positive association with the syringe.

Positive Reinforcement

Positive reinforcement: Positive reinforcement involves rewarding desired behavior to encourage its repetition.

When you reward your bird for trying new medicine, they learn that this behavior leads to something enjoyable, making them more likely to do it again. You can use positive reinforcement to get your bird to accept medicine from spoon, and ordinary creamer jar, or even a syringe.

  • Demonstrate Safety: Show your bird that the food is safe by eating (or pretending to eat) it in front of them. This simulates flock behavior, reassuring your bird that the food is okay to try.

  • Start With A Preferred Food / Juice: Start by teaching your bird to accept a preferred juice or baby food flavor from a spoon, syringe, or a creamer jar. Then, slowly add a small portion of the dose of medicine as your bird tolerates it.

  • Get Giddy: Show excitement and joy every time that your bird tries to eat from the administration device. Your positive reaction encourages them to explore and try new things.

  • Slowly Add Supplement: After your bird is comfortable trying the food, slowly add a small amount of the supplement. You may need to model eating it again to show that it's safe.

  • Routinely Reinforce: Continuously reinforce positive behavior by offering rewards or praise whenever your bird tries new foods or accepts supplements. Consistency is key to reinforcing desired behaviors.

In conclusion, training birds to take medicine and supplements can be a rewarding journey that enhances their overall well-being. By understanding their natural instincts and utilizing positive reinforcement techniques, bird owners can successfully introduce and administer supplements without stress or resistance.

Whether it's through mixing supplements in water, sprinkling them on food, or using a syringe with gentle reinforcement, the key is patience, consistency, and a deep understanding of avian behavior.

Remember, each bird is unique, so it's essential to tailor your approach to suit their individual preferences and needs. With dedication and a nurturing approach, you can create a positive and enriching experience for both you and your feathered companion.

Related Posts:

6 Tips For Choosing A Bird Calming Supplement That Will Help Your Bird Feel Better

The Do's & Don'ts of Calming Anxious Birds

10 Tips For A Calm Bird Using Positive Reinforcement

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Diane Burroughs, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist trained in ABA therapy techniques. She specializes in avian anxiety disorders and is certified in Nutrition For Mental Health. Diane has written a number of bird behavior books and she offers behavior consultations. She's developed a range of UnRuffledRx Science-backed Parrot Wellness Supplies.

Diane's products have been featured in the Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery and at Exoticscon, a conference for exotic pet veterinarians. Her bird collars & supplements are stocked in avian vet clinics and bird stores throughout the US. With over 30 years in the field of behavior, Diane has created thousands of successful individualized behavior plans that help pets thrive.

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