Transitioning parakeets to new food

One of the first things you will likely purchase as a new budgie owner is a supply of food for your new friend. Depending on where your budgie came from, you may want to change his food pretty quickly from a low quality seed mix to something with added dried vegetables, fruits and herbs. Transitioning parakeets to new food is not as easy as making a swap and crossing your fingers, there are some considerations and warnings.

  • I don’t think it’s fair to call parakeets “stubborn”, but they will starve to death rather than eat something they don’t see as a safe food, or as food at all. This is not out of willfulness but because they literally may not view something like a pellet as food, particularly if it’s nothing like what they are used to eating. Please don’t ever totally change your parakeet from one food to another with no transition period. Particularly don’t ever abruptly change from a seed mix to pellets.
  • Instead, start with what they are used to eating and slowly mix in what you are switching them to, increasing the ratio of the new food over several days or weeks. Even if you’re just changing to a new seed blend, this is a helpful way to make sure your parakeet still has something they feel safe eating and won’t starve.
  • This does particularly apply if you are transitioning to pellets, which, I’m just going to be honest, I don’t recommend as a primary source of nutrition. I’ve written about seeds vs. pellets in this post, but in brief, I don’t think that pellets have been proven to be nutritionally complete and they are not mentally stimulating enough. Additionally, budgies are designed to eat seeds.
  • I’ve focused a bit on transitioning from seed to seed or seed to pellet, but you may also need to do some work to get your parakeet trying vegetables and fruits. A great way to start is by chopping a vegetable up very finely and mixing it with millet or your parakeet’s preferred seed mix. Offer that as the only food source for a couple hours and even if they just pick out the millet they are sure to accidentally eat some vegetables too. Make sure not to leave fresh vegetables and fruits in your parakeet’s cage for too long, especially in warmer months as rotting vegetables aren’t anyone’s idea of a good meal!
  • The bottom line is that most budgies should transition fairly easily to a good quality seed mix, no matter what quality the pet store or breeder was feeding. Just take your time and make sure you’re seeing seed hulls in your food cups every day and good healthy poops, which indicate your parakeet is eating.

Hopefully there’s at least some food for thought here (haha!). Healthy feeding is always top of mind for parakeet parents and transitioning parakeets to a new food can be one of the most nerve-wracking hurdles to overcome. But, with a little sly work to transition them to a new food, you’ll have healthy-eating babies in no time.

A blue parakeet foraging in some seed on a plate
Toby loves foraging through her regular seed mix on a plate
Two parakeets trying some sprouts
We did not care for these. Which is too bad, since they were expensive!

 

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Breaking news – Toby and Kelly are overweight!

When our new boy Kevin came home I started worrying immediately that he was too skinny. After we starting working on stepping up in particular, I remarked to Patrick that he felt like nothing on my finger compared to Toby or Kelly. I didn’t think that an already freaked out Kevin would appreciate hopping on a Food Scale for a weigh in, so I decided to weigh Toby and Kelly instead for a baseline. I haven’t weighed them in several months and was horrified to find that I have fat parakeets!

Toby is just a little bit into the obese range, but Kelly weighs so much that it’s almost unbelievable. In true parenting-denial style, I found myself moaning, “but she’s big-boned”!  And then had to have a good laugh at myself!

Here’s how I think this happened, even though they are technically only getting two tablespoons of seed mix each per day. One, at the beginning of summer I got a new job and started working late and generally exhausting myself trying to get up to speed. When I would get home from work I would let the parakeets out and basically collapse on the couch, trying to cool my over-heated brain. This meant way fewer days where Toby and Kelly got their afternoon fruit or vegetable supper.

Two, I ran out of Roudybush Daily Maintenance Bird Food, Nibles and for some reason didn’t buy another bag. So that meant that our bird mix went from 1/4 pellets to half Dr. Harvey’s Our Best Blend Natural Food for Parakeets and half Volkman Avian Science Super Parakeet. Neither of these are “bad”, they are both high quality mixes with a lot of good stuff in them. But, I do think that increasing seed intake, eliminating pellet intake and reducing vegetable availability all at the same time was a recipe for fat parakeets.

Three, I introduced those darn food silos. Not only did they increase mess by 100% but they also made eating both extremely fun and a competitive sport. They are no longer being filled but I’m keeping the food silo on hand because I still think it would be a good back-up food source when we are on vacation.

Knowing how it happened is good I think, so that I can avoid making the same mistakes in the future. Keeping parakeets at a healthy weight is critical to health and longevity, and I want to keep these guys around for as long as possible!

The first order of business was to break out my OXO Good Grips Grater and starting making fruits and vegetables a regular diet staple again. This is the one thing that I never should have let slip, and I’m committed to doing better by them going forward. Particularly seeing how they dive into a plate of good food, made me feel pretty guilty for leaving it off the menu.

Next on the list is getting pellets back into their daily diet. We’ve always used Roudybush pellets, but I’ve heard some amazing stuff about Harrison’s, and this seems like a good time to switch. We are going to try Harrison’s High Potency Super Fine, and I’m sure I’ll be reporting back with a review, and maybe another Amazon gift card giveaway, in January.

Eliminating food silos, keeping up with regular fruit and vegetables offerings, and putting pellets back into the seed mix should be enough to shed some of those pesky ounces!

Toby and Kelly’s Christmas wish list

Toby and Kelly have been working feverishly on their Christmas wish list for parakeet-Santa.  They are cutting it a little close to the wire, but here’s their parakeet gift list full of their secret and most closely held desires!

Toby really wants to try having Nutriberries as a treat! She has heard that if I crumble them up for her she will be in a heretofore unknown ecstasy of foraging.

Kelly’s wants are a bit more basic. She plows through a cuttlebone every week, so she would like a never-ending supply of essential calcium as well as beak-exercising destruction.

Kelly snuck in a second want in a row! She loves the smaller version of this toy so much that she wants to try out the one for big birds! Since the single cupcake style is destroyed in a single day, we’re hoping that Santa brings one that lasts for three days!

Both Toby and Kelly are dreaming of a new play gym. They acknowledge that they previously had a very similar gym and totally ignored it, but they feel that since they both have flat top flight cages now they will get a lot more use of out of a play gym if it’s on top of the cage.

You’re probably wondering what poor new kid Kevin would like for Christmas. He’s just dreaming of getting out of quarantine and spending some time with his “sisters”.

He has been using the java tree as his personal play stand, so we all hope he comes out of quarantine in time for us to use his play tree as our Christmas tree like we did last year!

Speaking of which, Santa better bring us some new Christmas-themed bird toys to load up our “tree”.  Seems like some human “Santas” may need to start adding things to their carts before we run out of time!  I hope everybirdy out there finds exactly what they most want and need under their trees this year!

Back to mixing up parakeet food – and a $10 Amazon gift card giveaway!

A while back I said that having found Dr. Harvey’s Parakeet Food I was all done mixing up my own blends of various seeds and pellets.  It turns out I was a bit hasty when I made that grand statement and feeding parakeets is a moving target. The first couple of bags we got of Dr. Harvey’s Parakeet Food were perfect, and then over time they started being more heavily full of sesame seeds, which Toby and Kelly will not touch with a 10 foot pole.  Initially I thought that they would get over it and learn to eat them, but instead they started fighting way more viciously over their food bowls.

I thought that perhaps they were feeling more defensive about the food because there was less of it they found tolerable, so I quickly ordered a bag of Volkman Avian Science Super Parakeet and was glad of the reasonable price and my Amazon prime two day shipping.  If you are shopping on Amazon then I definitely recommend you Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial, it’s magical being able to think I desperately need a new toy, perch, or food and have it show up just a couple of days later.  (The link to the free trial there, like every other Amazon link on homekeethome is an affiliate link).

My Volkman Avian Science Super Parakeet arrived and I offered some of it to the parakeets, they fell onto it immediately as though I had been starving them!  Apparently my sense of what was going on with the Dr. Harvey’s Parakeet Food was dead on, as I immediately started mixing the two seeds blends and saw a massive reduction in food-related violence.

At about the same time, I put some Roudybush Daily Maintenance Bird Food, Nibles in the food cup on the parakeets’ play tree, not really thinking they would be into it, but Kelly went nuts for them!  She would go out to the tree and camp out on the food dish, proceeding to chow down for a solid 10 minutes without pause.

Since she liked it so much I thought I might as well start putting pellets back into their daily seed mix.  And here I am, back to mixing together three different things to get them a good base diet, and of course offering vegetables and fruits regularly as well.

On to the giveaway, which is sponsored by me out of the love I have for Amazon Prime and how much it helps me get what I need quickly without driving all over the place looking for preferred brands of food, toys and other supplies. I will contact the winner after the end of the sweepstakes, midnight, Monday 6/26 and will request the name and email address, prize will be a code emailed by Amazon.com directly.  Open to the US only this time, 18 and over.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Encouraging your budgie to work for her food by foraging

I read an article recently called “Are we killing the natural instincts of the budgerigar” which put me on notice that no matter how many stimulating toys I provide, or flight time, or any material object, I have been ignoring a major component of my parakeet’s mental and physical health. That component is foraging for food.

I recommend reading the whole article, but to condense, the experiment they are conducting in an aviary setting changed the budgies over from eating readily available seeds in shallow bowls that are refreshed every day, to serving food in deep bowls and not refreshing constantly, so the budgies would have to dig for their food. It also involved spreading the remaining seed on the aviary floor at the end of the cycle, instead of throwing it out, so that the budgies could sift through it again, simulating the ground foraging their wild cousins do, as well as getting much more use out of the provided seed.

The article inspired me to make some changes, because I am of course one of those people who feeds every day and discards every day, meaning the chances for foraging are extremely limited.

My big change was to take out the grate at the bottom of the cage. It took a couple of days, but the budgies love going down there and hunting through the seed hulls that fall out of their bowls. This also means that when I serve them vegetables they can go down to the cage floor and “forage” around in them. Like the green pepper shown above. They love ripping off all the seeds and then coming back to go through them all over again.  Right now they have a cup of torn romaine lettuce that they are digging through and throwing all over, and then going back to forage around in the lettuce leaves.

I also tried scattering what was left of their seed bowls on the ground of the cage, which would be okay a couple of times a week but really caused a mess explosion, due to the dramatically increased likelihood of hulls being blown out of the cage.

My next steps are to create more foraging opportunities. I always see foraging toys for big parrots, but I think for the little guys it may have to be a little more DIY.  Here’s a great idea for a foraging mat just made out of a doormat, and here’s another post about making a bunch of different foraging toys – some seem to be for bigger parrots, but there are some awesome easy things the the blogger suggests, even something as simple as covering the food bowl with a paper towel that the parrot has to remove before eating.

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Foraging 101

For higher up foraging, we are going to get back into using our Creative Foraging Systems Ball and Kabob Pet Feeder. If we put some shredded veggies in the ball the budgies will spend the bulk of their day pulling them out, whether they eat them or not, so at least mentally there’s the simulation of a job well done.

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The importance of foraging and digging through food also reinforces my decision to switch to a mostly seed diet, with pelleted diets a budgie would have even less opportunities for foraging.  And with Volkman Avian Science Super Parakeet there are a lot of different items in the blend to be foraged through and pushed aside to find the favorite morsels, and then throughout the day more and more of the less desirable items are consumed.

Overall, I want to be more cognizant of how I could be making it harder and more rewarding for Toby and Kelly to find food, after reading that article I’m certain I can do better at meeting their need to forage.

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Foraging for the wild cucumber

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