Let's Celebrate Pet Birds!
T.J. Lafeber D.V.M.

Introducing Pet Birds to New Foods


Introducing Pet Birds to New Foods

Many owners are faced with the problem that their birds have developed bad eating habits, Trying to convert birds to eating a balanced diet is one of the most important concerns. This can be difficult.

Birds inherently resist change. They feel secure following a familiar routine. Thus, birds have an innate resistance to new foods.

Also, the suspicious nature of birds causes them to avoid any different or unusual food.

Fortunately, nature also designed methods to expand a bird's diet. Taking advantage of these will make the transition natural.

Gradual Introduction of New Food
Birds normally alter their diet with the different seasons. Available food supplies gradually undergo a change. One food source diminishes and another becomes available. Even in nature birds are given time to adjust-no sudden change. Events take place gradually. This allows them to overcome their natural inhibitions through a process of observation, mental adjustment, and testing.

Procedure: Overlay the new foods with layers of seed or their usual food. The new food will slowly be accepted.

Young birds may convert to new foods in a week's time. Older birds and those that have been in small cages without much variety in their diet may take months.

Food Familiarity
Since pet birds are attracted to seed, a seed/pellet cake-AVI-CAKES BIRD FOOD-is a natural product to use when appealing to birds' visual senses. With the seed and pellets bonded together, birds eat the pellets when consuming the seed. For most birds, seed/pellet cakes are more than a balanced diet, they are an enjoyable and fun food.

These seed/pellet cakes can be used as the sole balanced diet or a a halfway step in converting birds to a pelleted food.

Procedure: Break off one cube from the seed/pellet cakes (AVI-CAKE BIRD FOOD-Lafeber Company) and place it in the bird's feeding dish. When it has been chewed, replace with a fresh one. Repeat this until you are certain the bird has begun to eat the seed/pellet cake. Reduce the previous diet gradually and supply all the cubes that can be eaten.

Normal Hunger
Again, looking at nature's design, most birds in the wild eat mainly early in the morning and in the evening. Their morning hunger sends them searching for food until their crops are full, and their late afternoon hunger sends a message to fill their crops again. This routine protects birds from gathering food during the intense heat of the tropical day and gives them nourishment for the long overnight fast.

Duplicating nature's plan, feeding birds for a limited time in the morning and evening-and not in between-builds a hearty appetite.While in the wild, hunger motivates them to hunt for food; in captivity, appetite is the force which breaks the picky eater habits and causes them to seek new foods.

Procedure: Feed your birds two meals a day-breakfast in the morning for at least 30-60 minutes-and then remove all of the food. Feed them supper in the evening for another 30-60 minutes or longer, and then remove all the food. At the same time, gradually begin introducing new foods.

Location for Feeding
Having meals outside of the cage has a positive influence on a bird's attitude on eating.

Try feeding your bird at least one meal a day outside of the cage.

Cages have certain negative effects on birds. Normal attitudes, adaptability, and curiosity become dulled. Anything new or strange can cause mental turmoil, fear, and nervousness. The longer they live within a cage, the more permanent are the psychological effects. Even an owner's hand coming into the cage with a fresh cup of food or water becomes a hostile intruder.

Birds leaving their cage to eat is the first step to opening up a whole new world. When birds eat outside their cage, it's like wild birds leaving a territory they've staked out in the breeding season. There can be a complete change in personality. They relax and become less defensive.

Eating outside of the cage allows pet birds to become more expansive and to regain their natural attitudes.

Procedure: In order to prevent birds from flying, the flight feathers can easily be properly trimmed by the veterinarian or pet store owner. Now the cage door can be opened and the bird encouraged to eat out of your hand or dish. When birds freely leave their cage, they generally climb to the top of the cage. It is a flat surface, and can be an excellent place to put the food and water dishes. The two meals a day program is used.

Peer Pressure
Experience has shown that pet stores and aviaries find it easier to convert birds to eating pellets than owners in homes. The presence of other birds seems to be a real force in helping birds broaden their appetite.

Procedure: Competition for food and group pressure prompt birds to eat new foods quickly. If one bird in a group eats pellets, then all may readily follow. Much of a bird's behavior is social conditioning. One bird's behavior depends in part on how other birds behave. The behavior of the leader is mimicked by the others. It is not surprising that groups of birds in flight cages will begin eating new foods readily.

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