If you’re an aspiring bird owner, one of the most important things to learn is what they can and shouldn’t eat. Yes, there is the classic diet of seeds, but can there be more to it? In this article, I’ll be talking specifically about parakeets.
What are foods that parakeets can and cannot eat? Parakeets are capable of eating a large variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. They can also eat some foods that humans eat, like eggs and chicken. Foods to avoid for parakeets include chocolate, fruit pits, apple seeds, avocado, and foods that are high in fat, sodium, and sugars.
Parakeets are not limited to just seeds! Parakeets, after all, are tropical birds, and their diet shows it. Just like humans need a diet with a variety of foods to keep us healthy and give us essential vitamins, parakeets can and need to eat a diet filled with variety.
There are a plethora of foods that they can eat, as they contain great sources of vitamins. Of course, there are so many more fruits that are acceptable and unacceptable for a parakeet to eat than my little short answer can give and explain.
Fruits and Their Benefits for Parakeets
Fruits are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
- Apricots: apricots and mangos are both loaded with beta carotene, which is converted into vitamin A.
- Strawberries: the seeds in strawberries are safe for birds to eat, so you won’t need to worry about removing them.
Remember that birds should only be fed fresh fruits. Added preservatives and dyes that are found in dried or packaged fruits can be bad for your bird, so you and your friend would be better off if you avoided those altogether.
Vegetables for Parakeets
Parakeets are granivores, which means their staple diets consist of seeds or grain. But a typical store-bought seed diet doesn’t give all these necessary vitamins, so vegetables are a very important part of their diet.
Fresh vegetables give parakeets essential vitamins, like vitamin A, B, C, and calcium, such as broccoli. Spinach and alfalfa sprouts are rich in vitamin A, E, and K.
Other great vegetables to feed your parakeet include:
- Leafy vegetables, like kale, romaine lettuce, sprouted seeds, and dandelion leaves. These vegetables are packed with vitamins K and C, fiber, calcium, and iron. Just be sure to rinse them well before!
- Cooked Beans: they have a wonderful source of protein, and the high amount of fiber will keep your parakeet’s digestive system running smoothly. MAKE SURE that the beans are cooked; raw beans are toxic to birds.
Just like fruits, make sure you are feeding your birdie buddy fresh vegetables!
It’s recommended that a parakeet should eat about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of fresh fruits and vegetables every day.
Nuts for Parakeets
Parakeets are full of nutrients that your parakeet probably isn’t getting anywhere else. Plus, they love nuts!
Before you feed nuts to your bird, make sure they’re chopped; their throats are incredibly small, and all of these nuts are as big as their heads, so there’s no way they can swallow them whole. Make sure also that shells are not included, as your parakeet won’t bother with them.
Other Foods Appropriate for Pet Parakeets
Parakeets are able to enjoy a lot of foods that humans can eat, even some that you probably never thought of before:
- Pellets: pellets are another main staple in a parakeet’s diet. Get a high-quality bird pellet from a pet store or from your vet; grocery store varieties have artificial coloring, flavors, and preservatives that aren’t so healthy for a bird.
- Protein: While protein can be obtained through a parakeet’s seed mixtures, other sources of protein that are good for birds include hard-boiled eggs, tuna packed in water, and other cooked meats like chicken- make sure the meat is thoroughly cooked before you feed it to your feathery friend. Corn, raw or cooked, is another good source of protein. If you want to supplement protein to your bird through these ways, keep in mind that fresh protein should be limited for parakeets (about a fingertip’s amount) every two weeks.
Remember that if your parakeet were still in the wild, they would be snacking on protein-rich foods like bugs and worms. Giving it small amounts of protein along with their seed diet will make up for it.
- Baby food: Crazy, right?! Feeding an animal baby food? Well, some parakeet owners can opt to implement baby food into their bird’s diet (as long as it is made from all natural ingredients and they contain vegetables). It’s convenient if you don’t have fresh vegetables on hand.
- Bread: Whole grain bread can be broken up into small bits and fed to your bird. Try to stick to simple whole grain bread, as sweet bread may contain ingredients that are harmful to parakeets. Some fun variations of bread can be through dried rolls or rusks (twice-baked bread).
- Cuttlebone: cuttlebones are those flat, oval-shaped discs you see in the bird section at the pet store. Like its name, it’s the internal skeleton of a cephalopod called the cuttlefish. Not only can it keep your bird’s beak and claws trimmed, its a good source of calcium and other minerals, which are difficult for them to get otherwise; just hang it in their cage and let them gnaw away.
Snacks and Treats for Parakeets
Like any person or animal, parakeets love getting occasional treats. There are a lot of different ways that you can treat your parakeet:
- Peanut butter: Another great source of protein, and it’s a super tasty treat for parakeets. Try smearing some on a celery stick and feeding it to your feathered friend.
- Pasta: Whether raw or cooked, birds love pasta! They’re full of carbohydrates, which enhance a bird’s energy levels. Try mixing pasta with your parakeet’s favorite vegetables. For birds that like a crunch, you can give them some raw macaroni noodles filled with nut butter. Make sure that any cooked pasta that’s fed is cool.
- Honey: Honey is a very sweet treat that parakeets will like. Keep in mind that honey has a lot of calories, so it should be saved for special occasions.
- Millet: Millets are small seed grasses. They’ve been a staple to birds and animals for ages. I would recommend spray millet (it looks like corn on the cob or a stick with a bump of mock strawberries all over) or white proso millet, which are a favorite among most birds. Spray millet can cause a bit of a mess if clipped to the inside of the cage; one way to fix this is by hanging it from the ceiling of the cage.
It’s important to make sure your parakeet is eating regular food; they may want to substitute seed for treats, which won’t be good for them. A kid who eats too much candy can get hyper and crash with an upset stomach later on, and the calories can cause weight gain.
Some of these treats, like honey and millet, are all sweets and calories with little nutritional value- feeding them too much can cause weight gain and other health problems.
Most Toxic Foods for Parakeets
- Chocolate: just like you’ve been told that chocolate is dangerous for dogs, it’s the same for parakeets. Chocolate contains theobromine and caffeine, which can cause hyperactivity, increased heart rate, tremors, possibly seizures, and even death in pets if it’s ingested at a toxic dose. The darker and more bitter chocolate is, the more toxic it is to your pet.
- Onion/Garlic: Onions and garlic contain an ingredient called thiosulphate, which is toxic to animals. Ingestion of these foods can cause a condition called hemolytic anemia, where red blood cell’s in a pet’s body burst, and gastroenteritis, or inflammation of the stomach and intestines.
- Comfrey: Comfrey is a plant that can be identified by its small, purple or magenta-colored, bell-like flowers. Studies of human medicine trace this plant to cause liver damage.
- Avocado: The avocado plant contains
persin, which is a fungicidal toxin that is very toxic for birds, especially smaller birds. When ingested, the persinmay cause heart damage, respiratory difficulty, weakness, and even death.
- Fruit Pits and Apple Seeds: While the fruit of an apple is safe for pet birds, the seeds contain cyanide and should always be removed prior to feeding the apple to a bird. Cyanide is also contained in cherry pits, plum pits, apricot pits, and peach pits, so you should never allow your bird to chew on them.
- High-Fat, High-Sodium, High-Sugar Foods: While table foods with these high concentrations aren’t toxic, they can cause serious health problems for birds. Too much salt can upset a bird’s electrolyte and fluid balance, leading to excessive thirst, dehydration, kidney failure, and death. For example, if you’re going to roast some carrots or potatoes in the oven, give your bird one that hasn’t been seasoned.
- Sugar-Free Candy: these sweets contain xylitol, which is associated with severe hypoglycemia and liver damage.
- Certain plants: Potatoes, peppers, and eggplants are foods that are safe for birds to eat, but the plants themselves are toxic. The leaves of the rhubarb plant contain oxalate crystals, which can cause kidney problems.
Non-Toxic, but Not Recommended, Foods Parakeets Should Avoid
The following foods aren’t technically toxic to a bird, but they should still be avoided or fed in very small quantities:
- Peanuts: avoid moldy peanuts or peanut products, since they can be contaminated by a toxin-producing fungus.
- Dairy: Birds lack an enzyme that’s responsible for the fragmentation of lactose. While dairy is technically non-toxic, including a lot of dairy in a bird’s diet can give them diarrhea. Some cheese and yogurts contain little or no lactose, such as lean curd cheese, but still, these foods should be fed occasionally and in small amounts.
- Mushrooms: Mushrooms that can be eaten by people are also considered safe for pets. But do not feed false morel (or Gyromitra) mushrooms to your bird, let alone eat them yourself; cooking can make these mushrooms less toxic, but it doesn’t completely rid their danger of death.
- Grit: Parakeets might consume large amounts of grits when they’re not feeling well, which puts them at risk of intestinal blockage.
- Crackers: Yes, some crackers have grain in them, which is 90% of a parakeet’s diet, but they don’t offer any nutritional value to humans or birds. There are plenty of other things that would be better to feed your bird.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes have a high acidic content, so they are not recommended for your parakeet. There are acceptions, such as dried tomatoes and spaghetti sauce, as the acid is removed in the process of making these foods.
Tips for Feeding Your Pet Parakeet
Every parakeet is different with their food preferences, so try and experiment with different types of foods to see what they like, what they don’t like, and what their favorite foods are.
Remember to keep whatever food you feed your bird bite-size. Parakeets are very small, incredibly light creatures- their average weight ranges between 25 to 35 grams or 0.8 to 1 ounce!
If you give them an entire head of broccoli or even an apple slice, they’re going to have a hard time breaking it apart and eating it. Save them the trouble and chop up their food so they can eat it with ease.
One way to find out what types of foods your bird likes is to give them a bowl filled with a variety of different fruits. At the end of the day, remove any uneaten fruit so they don’t go bad inside the cage. If they eat certain pieces while ignoring others, give them what they like.
Your parakeet might get bored from getting the same meal every day, so mix things up with a fruit kabob or dangle them inside their cage to make eating more exciting.
Parakeets are also big fans of warm fruit, so pop their meal in the microwave before giving it to them.
Make sure that if you feed your bird any cooked food to wait for it to cool first before serving it to them; human food is served hot, and while we can tolerate a certain heat, parakeets can get seriously burned.
To avoid your bird snacking on anything that they probably shouldn’t keep them away from your plate. If you like to eat with your bird, you can get them used to eating out of their own little plate, so they won’t feel tempted to take something from yours.
Are there any foods that are normally healthy that become do-not-feed for birds in certain conditions? Pet birds that suffer from candidiasis should not consume any sugar during their treatment because the yeast nourishes on it. Fructose is the same as sugar, so fruit is not allowed.
Birds with avian gastric yeast may vary in whether they can eat fruit depending on the treatment they are given. It’s important to discuss the proper bird diet with your vet to make sure you don’t accidentally feed them the wrong thing.
How often do parakeets eat? Parakeets tend to eat about a pound of birdseed each month. This is around 3 teaspoons a day. However, this can be different depending on their age and their overall health. If you think your parakeet is over or under eating, you might want to consult a veterinarian.