Switching your parrot from seed-based food to a healthy pelleted bird food requires patience, but it is one of the best things for your bird’s long-term health and emotional disposition. Your parrot will be happier because it feels nourished so you'll probably notice an improved mood and plumage.
Consult With Your Vet First
Talk with your avian veterinarian before making any major changes in your bird’s diet. You’ll want to make sure you’re your bird is healthy enough to tolerate the dietary change and you'll need to get a baseline weight so that you know if your bird is in fact eating the new diet. You’ll want to know if your bird is overweight from a fatty seed diet, too. Talk with your vet about whether your particular parrot species has special dietary requirements, such as fat intake, higher need for calcium or whether it can tolerate additives and colors in some bird foods.
Purchase a reliable bird scale and weigh and record it’s weight in grams each week.
Get Your Parrots Baseline Weight
Many parrots are hesitant to change their diet on their own and they may refuse to eat at all if are only offered pellets. You’ll want to make sure that your bird doesn’t starve itself. The best way to tell if your bird is eating is to monitor its weight at least a few times a week with an accurate bird scale that weighs in grams. The Redmon Bird Scale is an affordable, reliable choice.
Create a graph to record your parrots weight . There is a new iPhone App called Pets+ that helps, but you’ll have to record the weight in pounds knowing full well that your bird doesn’t weight 129 lb. but instead, grams. Graphing your birds weight helps you recognize normal weight fluctuations. As you make the switch to pellet bird food, start monitoring your parrots weight on a daily basis. Censor the weight to insure that your parrot does not lose more than 1-2% of his body weight per week. For a 29 gram Parrotlet that would be 2 grams while it would be 18 grams for a926 gram Cockatoo. If your bird loses more than 1-2% of its weight, contact your veterinarian.
Choose A Well-balanced, Premium Pellet
Formulated pellets come in various sizes to accommodate any sized bird. Very reputable brands include Harrison's Bird Food, Golden’obles, Zupreem, and Roudybush. There are different blends for different species. For instance, some pelleted bird foods offer higher fat levels that many Macaws and Golden Conures need for optimum health, whereas other blends may be lower in fat and higher in protein to provide better nutrition for Cockatoos and Amazons. Flavored and colored pellets may help you convert your parrot more quickly. Harrison's Bird Food makes a pepper flavored pellet while Zupreem makes a fruit flavored pellet. Ask your veterinarian if you are unsure of which pelleted diet is best for your parrot.
Second, Learn About Various Methods To Change Your Bird To Pellets
There are several methods to convert a parrot from a seed to a pelleted diet. You may need to try several different pellets before you find one that your bird likes. Some parrots convert to a new diet quickly while others are more suspicious and averse to changing bird food. After all, it is a big change. Think about how difficult it is for you to go on a diet or how hard it would be to change to a healthy diet if you're used to junk food.
Keep in mind, the ultimate goal is the change itself not how long it takes. And, don’t be too proud to use bird psychology!
Converting small ground foraging birds to pelleted bird food
Cockatiels, budgies, and other birds that normally forage on the ground in the wild can often be converted using the following technique. Use this method with hand-tamed pets.
Simulate foraging to convert small birds to pelleted bird food
- Place your bird in a quiet, flat area such as the kitchen table.
- Spread 2-3 different brands of pellet bird food on paper towels and sit down near your bird.
- Look attentively at the pellets, pecking at them with your fingers. Rather than trying to entice your bird to eat the pellets, ignore him. Act as though you are so excited and interested in the pellets that you don’t want to share them.
- Occasionally, click your fingernails together, reproducing the sound of food being eaten. If possible, have another family member join in showing your parrot that food is safe. Have a pleasant conversation while you are foraging for bird food. Give your bird minimal attention if it is ignoring the food.
- Once your bird “joins the flock fun” bring it into the conversation and offer attention.
Make Bird Mash to convert to pelleted bird food
Converting larger parrots to pelleted bird food
- Grind pellets in a blender or use Harrison's Bird Food in the Mash Size.
- Mix millet seeds with the small pellets and enough warm water to make a mash.
Serve a small amount of the warm mash to your parrot. It will have to forage through the mas to get to the stro
ngly desired millet.
- This method works well with smaller parrots such as budgies, lovebirds and cockatiels.
It is much easier to train a bird to eat pellets if the bird is bonded to you. If your bird isn’t bonded with we’d suggest using bird training DVD’s such as those developed by Good Bird, Inc. Practice simple bird training exercises such as “step up” to develop a bond with your bird.
Use Bird Psychology To Switch Your Bird To Pellets
- Place your parrot on a T Style Bird Stand and set bowl of pellets nearby.
- Pretend that you are eating the pellets acting as though they are really good! Use the same coo’s that your bird uses when it is content and happy. Tell your parrot how pellets are "soooo good" that you don’t even want to share them!
- Once your bonded parrot shows a strong interest in joining the dinner party, offer him only one pellet. Reward him for accepting it with scritches and proud words. As his interest grows, give him more pellets. DO this several times until your bird is eating pellet or more if it is interested.
- Your goal is to demonstrate that the pelleted bird food is safe and desired by “the flock.”
- Practice this exercise daily for 5 to 10 minutes. You want to keep the training fun.
Coaxing your parrot to eat pelleted bird food
- Mix up some of your parrots favorite fruits and vegetables.
- Sprinkle a small amount of crunched up pellets on the food so that your bird begins consuming pellets.
- Progress to increasing the size of the crunched up food until you are serving full sized pellets.
- Always moist bird food after 4-6 hours so it does not spoil.
Tips for converting parrots to pelleted bird food
- Don’t be above using parrot psychology to convert your bird to pellets. We have to use tricks and reverse psychology with our kids all the time!
- Place foraging bowls in different locations around the bird cage and bird stand to use the drive to forage to convert. Hide healthy pellets in crinkled paper, dried nut shells (no nuts inside) or inside foraging bird toys.
- Show your parrot other parrots eating a healthy diet, if possible.
- After your parrot begins eating a few pellets, give it pelleted bird food first thing in the morning when it is at its hungriest. Provide seed later in the day to insure that your parrot is receiving nutrition throughout the day. All birds need regular access of food throughout the day.
- Grind pellets a blender, add warm water, and mix tasty seeds such as millet to make a bird mash. Your parrot will need to forage through the mash of pellets to get to the desired seeds. Remember to remove the moist mash after a few hours to prevent your bird from eating spoiled food. Provide pellets when your parrot is outside of it's cage. He may start correlating pellets to having fun!
- Mix pellets with crinkled paper or foot toys in a foraging bucket to encourage foraging behavior.
- Be sure to provide fresh water and pellets daily.
Learn More About Feeding Birds
Hint: Once a bird begins eating pellets, it's droppings will usually change from green to a brownish color. They may also become a little looser due to the extra water the bird drinks while eating a pelleted diet.