January/February 2003 Magazine
A frequent concern heard from bird owners is the inability to get birds interested in eating vegetables. Because vegetables contain vitamins and nutrients considered essential to a bird's health, refusal to eat such foods can be very frustrating for bird owners.
I had never had to deal with such a situation until this last spring, when Piper came to live in my home. Piper is my 'foster tiel', meaning that I am keeping and caring for her until her owner is able to resume providing for her.
Piper is a sweet and lovable cockatiel who had no desire, whatsoever, to eat any of the fresh vegetables I offered her. Even the standard favorites of my other birds - broccoli, kale and corn - were completely ignored. She simply turned up her beak and waddled away
It was then that I hatched a plan. My other birds sometimes enjoyed their vegetables chopped up and tossed together like a salad. To do this, I would place various vegetables into my little hand held food chopper and chop away. The manual chopper would quickly and conveniently reduce veggies into cockatiel and budgie bite-sized pieces, which I would then separate onto plates to go into each bird cage.
I decided to try adding some millet and some sunflower-free fresh seed mixture to some of this salad preparation to see if I could get Piper a little more interested in trying some vegetables. It was an immediate hit with my whole flock, not just my foster tiel.
Once Piper dug into the seed, she began getting a 'taste' for the vegetables surrounding it. It wasn't long before I was able to cut down on the amount of seed I was adding to her salad mixture, and still get the same level of excitement and anticipation from her at mealtime. Now she'll even nibble on her favorite vegetables whether or not they have any added seed or millet at all. It's been an amazing transformation for a bird who, only a few months ago, wouldn't give veggies the time of day.
I have six birds for whom I care, so the quantities shown in the pictures accompanying this article will have to be varied for the number and size of birds with which you are dealing. For one cockatiel, I might suggest starting with something akin to a broccoli floret, a palm sized piece of kale, a baby carrot, and a couple of pieces of cilantro, with about a teaspoon of fresh seed mixed in. The amount of each ingredient can be adjusted for your individual needs.
The hand held chopper can be found in the kitchen departments of many different large retail stores. I've even heard of them being advertised on television. I bought my particular chopper through Pampered Chef, and like it because it is very easy to clean thoroughly.
I vary the vegetables on a daily basis to provide variety and nutritional balance. As a general rule, dark leafy greens are a high nutrient source, so I try to include some of those ingredients everyday. Try to buy organically grown veggies, and be sure to wash all of your vegetables thoroughly. When I use carrots, I sometimes run them over a cheese grater to produce paper thin bits. I've found that my birds prefer carrots offered in that manner over simply being chopped in the chopper. Remember to avoid using any onions or avocados, because they can be toxic to birds.
Using this method, you may find that you are quickly and easily able to convert a seed-junkie bird into a vegetable-loving ball of feathers. It certainly worked for me!
Ingredients: Fresh organic veggies - kale, carrots, Italian parsley, broccoli, spinach, cilantro (varies each day - I find cilantro counteracts unpleasant broccoli odors) and a little fresh seed mix. I then chop all of the veggies in my food chopper. Mine is from Pampered Chef, but I've seen many other types available. I use the cup to hold the chopper when it's time to add the seed mixture. I use an eighth to a quarter cup of fresh seed mixture (no sunflower seeds), and place it in the chopper. I commence chopping a bit more, tapping the chopper on the side occasionally to help blend the seeds and veggies. When finished blending, I pour the mixture out onto the awaiting trays. These trays will be placed in the birds' cages for about two hours and will then be removed (to keep from encouraging bacteria growth on the food).
Winged Wisdom Note: Deena lives in Oregon with her husband and three children. She shares her home and her heart with four cockatiels and two budgies, among a number of other beloved pets. She also serves as a moderator for Birds n Ways' internet forum, Tiel Talk.
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