Saturday, August 20, 2011

All About Pellets (Guest Post)

Extruded pellets

In the US, most folks are becoming aware that bird nutrition is more than a sunflower-laden seed mix. Pet food manufacturers (including some who are avian vets) have stepped in and created pelleted/formulated diets to fill the gap. This is happening mainly in the US, but other countries (Germany and Hagen, Sweden and EcoBird) have their own brands as well.

But what exactly are pellets, and are they right for your bird? I hope to answer some basic questions on what they are, how to determine if you should incorporate them into your bird’s diet, and how to pick a good one of you do.

What are pellets?

Red Sided Eclectus like these need a special diet- and that
includes a special pellet, if you choose to use them.
Pellets are either compressed (looks like a rabbit or guinea pig pellet) or extruded (like Zupreem or Harrison’s) ingredient blends that are supposedly formulated for optimum nutrition for your bird. They vary widely in their quality. Not all pellets are created equal.

Some species should most likely NOT be served pellets, and just have higher maintenance diets that humans must cater to if they want to keep that species. Species such as:

Eclectus. For information on what to feed an Ekkie, visit Land of Vos.

Toucans, Aricaris, and Toucanets need a low iron diet that many pellet manufacturers do not meet well. Even many low iron formulas specifically marketed to be fed to these birds are too high. Be sure and check with your avian vet before choosing a pellet diet for them.

Lories and Lorikeets need a nectar based diet and pellets would be a small supplement to their diet, not a mainstay.

Corn, wheat, and soy should be in your parrot's diet in limited amounts- if at all. And only human grade, non-GMO versions!
Other individuals in other species there are plenty of other individual birds within species that I did not mention that should not eat pellets, or only eat specific kinds. Many birds have shown to be sensitive or allergic to artificial colors, synthetic vitamins, toxic preservatives used in many common brands, and ingredients that may or may not be GMO, or non-human grade (corn, soy, and wheat being the most common culprits).

At my flock's house, I do feed pellets to every one of my birds (along with a fresh diet), even the small Aussie birds that most people feed a seed-based diet to. And I have to brag that my birds are healthy, happy, are not obese and are quite athletic. Their feathers are glowing and their skin is not overly dry. My vet is always pleased when we come in for annuals. I am highly selective about what I feed my birds.

How to incorporate pellets into your bird’s diet

Pellets and other dried foods (which resist bacteria growth) are great as bird cage foods and food for playgym cups, and that’s how I use them at home. My birds eat the bulk of their food at “flock meals” twice a day, and that’s when they get fresh or cooked foods that make up the bulk of their diet.

When introducing any new food, try one new element at a time, not a bunch of new things. Wean slowly but deliberately- I offer pellets and other dried foods all day in cages & on gyms for when birds want a nibble.

Guest post by Danielle Eurynome, founder of Squawk and Howl. She is a parrot behaviorist, consultant, rescuer, and sitter.

Stay tuned for a new brand of pellets- Momma is looking to create an organic, soy-free, pellet without all those cheap fillers!

Coupon Code: humangrade for 20% off any foraging toy in the store! Now through August 27th!

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