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by Diane Burroughs February 13, 2022 5 min read

It's a known fact that an unhealthy diet can cause neurodegenerative diseases in people. But what about our birds? Do the same rules apply?

It may surprise you to learn that, yes, birds are susceptible to neurodegenerative diseases and other disorders as well.  But, their diets can be optimized for health!

Here's how to keep your bird's brain working like it should so it doesn't have any behavioral issues...

Why is my parrot so moody?

Parrots are very intelligent and emotional creatures. In fact, they’re capable of experiencing true happiness, sorrow, depression, frustration and anger. Just like us, parrots can get into a bad mood if they’re lacking in certain vitamins or minerals, so it’s important to be aware of what you feed your bird every day.

While your parrot’s diet is one of its biggest indicators of how it’ll behave, it isn’t their only factor. Parrots can be affected by environmental factors like moody neighbors or rude family members, so check for signs that your bird is struggling to adjust to a new lifestyle before assuming that you need to supplement its diet.

What does a moody parrot look like?

If your parrot is perpetually hyper, acts pretty miserable, is persistently agitated or aggressive, or shows signs of anxiety, they may need a few diet changes.

The number one sign of a parrot that’s not feeling 100% is moodiness. If your bird is constantly hyper or angry or if it is listless and sad, something is wrong with it's mood. A happy, health bird wakes up rested and enjoys staying busy throughout the day. It enjoys foraging for food, climbing around and exploring its environment, and playing with a variety of toys.

A healthy parrot should also sleep well at night; check for over-stimulation from too much TV or other exposure to artificial light (like lamps) before bedtime. These are just a few tips on how to spot health problems early—the sooner you address them, they better chance you have at treating them successfully.

Pay attention to how energetic your bird appears to be; if you notice major changes in its behavior, do an extensive vet checkup to ensure nothing is medically wrong with it. You can find an avian vet here. If there are no avian vets within a reasonable driving distance, opt for an exotic pet specialist.

8 nutrients that help bird brain health

Omega-3 fatty acids - These healthy fats are a must for your bird’s diet. They promote healthy nerve function and support brain development in young birds. Proper brain functioning wards off both depression and anxiety. Consider. feeding your bird walnuts and other nuts, pumpkin seeds, wheat germ, chia seeds.

Selenium - This trace mineral is important for proper thyroid function, which is responsible for energy metabolism. Plus, it plays a role in cognitive functions. Your bird may benefit from spinach, tomatoes, and boiled lentils.

Lycopene is found in tomatoes, apricots, red peppers and watermelons. Lycopene boosts your bird’s antioxidant levels to protect against oxidative stress on cells. Cell oxidation can cause lesions in the brain.

Vitamin B12 - Deficiency of Vitamin B12 leads to some unpleasant effects like depression, anxiety and fearfulness. Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep nerve cells healthy in brain and throughout the body. If your bird is acting tired and weak, low vitamin B12 may be the culprit. Banana's, apples, and berries are great sources of vitamin B12.

Vitamin C - This vitamin has been known for its anti-stress effect when it comes to humans but did you know that birds need Vitamin C too? Some studies show that vitamin C may lower the stress hormone cortisol in the body.

Vitamin D - is crucial for your bird’s overall health, including their mental and emotional state. Although most birds get vitamin D from spending time in sunlight, during certain times of year or in certain climates, it’s important to make sure your bird gets a supplement such as UnRuffledRx Bird Calcium, magnesium and D3.

Magnesium also plays a role in reducing bird anxiety. Some of your bird’s favorite foods are sources of magnesium: whole grains and greens such as spinach, carrots, beans and peas are good sources of magnesium. Try adding them to his meals to help alleviate stress-related behavior like feather plucking and vocalization.

Calcium - Similar to magnesium, calcium is another mineral that can have a calming effect on birds, especially during stressful times like molting, hormone season, thunderstorms, or vet visits. Calcium can be found naturally in many leafy, green vegetables.

Bird Chop

You know what they say. Birds of a feather flock together. That’s why it’s important to offer your feathered friend a variety of plant-based foods. Chop is a finely chopped mix of fresh, raw foods that your bird will love. It’s 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.

You might think bird chop is just a mix of seeds and pellets. But there's so much more to it than that! Try a variety of foods including fruits, vegetables, grains and even proteins like lean chicken. Mix it up with different textures - some crunchy, some smooth. You never know what your bird might like best!

There are endless varieties to bird chop. The idea is to get your bird used to eating a variety of nutrient dense foods. Try mixing 15 to 20 different foods. Start off with about 1/3 of the mix being foods that your bird already eats. That way your bird is much more apt to try the new stuff!

But what if your bird doesn't eat fruit or vegetables yet? No worries. You can add your birds usual seed mix into the chop and slowly taper it off.


Clean and coarsely cut the foods and then run them through a a food processor on low to chop them up. If the pieces are rice sized, your bird is more apt to each a larger variety of foods.

As a rough guide, I would aim for 50% vegetables, 40% cooked grains/legumes and 10% dry ingredients.



1cup dry quinoa 
2 carrots
1 broccoli
1 cup green leafy greens
1/2 cup berries
1/2 cup red pepper 
¼ cup almonds
¼ cup pepita seeds
1/2 T. tumeric

Try feeding the chop first thing in the morning when your bird is most hungry and more apt to try new foods. A little goes a long way.

Small Birds: 1 - 2 Teaspoons
Medium Birds: 1 - 2 Tablespoons
Large Birds: 3 Tablespoons

Refrigerate 2 servings and freeze the rest in 1-2 day sized portions. Silicone ice cube trays work well.  Defrost in the microwave. 

Make it a point to change ingredients with subsequent batches.

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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.

TAGS: #BirdChop #BirdChopRecipe


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