Avian Formulated Foods: Introducing Pellets
Many birds don't recognize pellets as food when first presented with a generous bowl full. If you're lucky, yours will be an exception and dive right in. But if not, read on to guide your bird onto the path to better health.
In General: Start with a healthy bird in good weight. If you're unsure whether this describes your bird, see your avian veterinarian for a checkup. You should monitor your bird's weight on a regular basis, specially when you are making dietary changes.
If you don't already, start observing your bird's droppings. Change to newspaper in the bottom of the cage so you can see them clearly. Learn what they normally look like during the course of the day.
Choose an appropriate type and size of pellet for your bird. You may want to try several different brands at first to see if one kind is more attractive to your bird. If one seems favored over another, use that kind for your introduction to formulated foods.
Be patient, persistent and creative. All birds can learn to enjoy pellets and some take more time and effort than others to learn about them.
The Plan: Choose a time to start when you'll be free to monitor your bird's progress, such as a weekend. Offer the pellets by mixing them with your bird's accustomed seed in a 50/50 ratio. This way he will at least have to look at them and touch them to get to the seed. Give him a generous bowl full at normal feeding times and observe his behavior. Don't be discouraged if he tosses them out of the bowl. At least he's touching them and he may accidentally bite into one and discover it is food.
Depending on your bird's response, offer this mixture for several weeks until you are sure your bird is eating some of the pellets. Evidence of this will be a change in the color of the fecal part of the dropping from green to reflect the color of the pellet, crumbled pellets in the bowl or bottom of the cage, or actually seeing him eat one.
Once you are sure he's trying them, gradually decrease the proportion of seed and increase the proportion of formulated food. When you're really sure he's eating them you can try offering pellets only for 48 hours, carefully watching his droppings. If they start to look sparse (smaller amount and decreased fecal matter) back up in the program to the pellet/seed mixture and go slower in the changes.
There is no set timetable for this. Your bird's response to this new food will determine how slow or fast it goes. Observe carefully.
Additional Offerings: Some birds enjoy pellets soaked in a favorite juice or warm water. Remember, as with all soft foods, to remove the uneaten portion after several hours or it becomes a cozy place for bacteria to grow. Sprinkle pellets over favorite fruits, veggies or table foods. Eat some with your bird!
Always provide plenty of fresh water in a clean bowl.
Several decades ago there was little variety in the companion bird's diet and the limited offerings were often not the healthiest choices.
Today, we know offering a variety of healthy foods and including pellets formulated for specific species is important for their good health.
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