Converting Your Bird to A Better Diet

Converting a bird to a better diet can be one of the best things an owner can do to provide a healthy life for their pet bird. The act of converting a bird though can sometimes be challenging. Birds that have been eating one type of diet for years may be reluctant to switch over to a healthier one. Especially if they have been eating a high fat diet like seeds. There are many tips and tricks for diet conversion. What worked well for one bird may not work well for another. Some birds will transition rapidly within a few days, while others can take months. Some owners become frustrated with diet conversion if they aren’t seeing results quickly and end up allowing the bird to just eat whatever it wants. This would be like allowing a child to eat pizza for dinner all the time instead of a more balanced meal. Birds may be stubborn, but being persistent and patient will eventually get you the results you are looking for. One of the most important things an owner needs to know about diet conversion is to not give up! 

Below is a list of various techniques you can try at home:

  • Begin by mixing the old diet and new diet together. Starting off with a ratio of 75% old diet to 25% new diet can be used. At first a bird will likely ignore the new diet but gradually as it sees the new diet more it should start to pick up and at least sample the new food. Once the bird is observed sampling the new food, gradually reduce the amount of old diet and increase the new diet in the ratio. This type of transition may be done over several days to weeks

  • Reduce the overall amount of food that is offered to the bird and only offer what is needed for the day. People have a tendency to fill up the bowl with food. Dishes in bird cages are often larger than is necessary and as a result, much more food is offered than what is consumed in a day. Different species require different amounts of food. In general on a daily basis, macaws and cockatoos eat 4-5 tbsp, Amazons and African greys eat 2-3 tbsp, conures eat 3-5 tsp, cockatiels eat 2-3tsp, budgerigars eat 1-2 tsp and finches eat 1-1.5 tsp.

  • Eat with your bird. Birds learn what is safe to eat by watching their flock members. As their flock, we a can teach them that eating a healthy diet of pellets is ok! This means you should set aside some time to sit down with your bird, lay out some pellets and pretend like you are eating them yourself.

  • Offer a mirror for your bird to see is reflection in. Lay the mirror down on the ground and sprinkle some pellets on it. When the bird sees another bird near the pellets it may be more interested in going towards it and picking some up. Seeing the other bird in the mirror pick up the pellets can reinforce that its ok to eat them. This technique works better for the small birds like cockatiels, budgerigars and finches.

  • Allow your bird to observe a bird who already knows how to eat pellets. Most birds are social and want to do things with a flock. If another bird of the same species is eating the pellets then it can encourage that individual to eat them as well.

  • Try bird breads or chop mixes to mix pellets into. There are a few different brands of bird breads available, one of which is made by Harrison’s. You can offer just this bird bread or mix in seeds to first get them interested, then pellets later to get them trying new things

  • Offer the new diet first thing in the morning with none of the old diet. Leave it out for several hours. If they bird has not consumed anything by mid-day, give them some of their old diet.

  • Warnings about diet conversion

  • Don’t attempt diet conversion while a bird is sick.

  • Observe your bird CLOSELY. If the new diet is not being consumed at all and it’s been a period of time where the bird should have consumed something, offer the bird what it is used to and call a veterinarian for suggestions.

  • Weighing your bird daily can be helpful to make sure they are not losing much weight during the conversion process. If you bird is losing more weight than is appropriate as determined by your veterinarian get them seen for an examination.

  • Additional information on transitioning birds to a pelleted diet can be found at Roudybush.com and HarrisonsBirdFoods.com