Diet Adjustment Process In Birds

An overabundance of food; foods high in fat and calories; and too many food choices can all lead to the perception of a "land of plenty." This perception can lead to overconsumption, obesity, hyperactivity, reproductive stimulation, as well as a decline in desire of your bird to interact with you or its flock and a decrease in your ability to use food rewards for training and positive behavioral reinforcement. Here are some things to adjust in your bird's diet.

  • Conversion to a pelletized or formulated diet (medium and large parrots): with the bird sharing time with you from its training perch, eat (or act like you are eating) the food in front of your bird. Make sure you really enjoy the food item and show your enjoyment of it to your bird. Offer some to your bird, but do not necessarily try to force the issue, give them a limited time to accept the offer (a few seconds). If they don't take it, keep "eating" the food and make it obvious you are enjoying it. Once your bird is eating the pellets during these "foraging sessions," you can then begin to offer pellets as the primary food choice in your bird's dish. This will open up many opportunities for "treats" to be used as positive reinforcement and training tools in the future. Once the bird is regularly consuming a pellet diet, you will notice changes in the droppings they pass; they will generally be larger and lighter in color than when on seed.
  • Conversion to pelletized or formulated diet (cockatiels, budgies, and lovebirds): Unless your birds are tame, it may be important to have your bird's wings clipped, in order to allow for any foraging activity training into a new diet. Spread a variety of pellet choices out on a table surface covered by towel, and then set your bird down on the table. Use your hand to simulate a scratching and pecking flock member. Pick at the pellets, crunch them in your fingernails, and flick them about. Once your bird begins to eat the pellets consistently, you can replace its old diet. You may want to simulate foraging, using your fingers in the cage’s food bowl as a final conversion training method as well. Since these species are ground feeders, it may help to offer the pellets on the cage floor or in a flat dish instead of in a bowl. Even then, be sure to monitor your bird's droppings to ensure they are eating well. Once the birds are regularly consuming a pellet diet, you will notice changes in the droppings they pass; they will generally be larger and lighter in color than when on seed. If you only see scanty, dark green feces or black feces, your bird may not be eating and need to be offered its old diet again.
  • Offer vegetables: These should be restricted to two or three types of vegetables at a time in order to avoid the perception of abundance. A frozen vegetable mix (e.g., corn; diced carrots; and peas or beans) is a convenient way to accomplish this. Thaw out a small amount each day. Select items from the refrigerator can also be used, but they do not all have to be provided every day.
  • Restrict other foods: Regularly offering softened or warm foods can simulate regurgitation, which is a pair-bonding activity. As such, this activity needs to be curtailed in most settings. For the good tasting things that your bird likes, let the bird work to earn them through training positive reinforcement or foraging activities.