Why feed pellets to your Parrot

Why feed pellets to your Parrot

Posted on Thursday 14th July 2016

Categories: Articles

In captivity, people feed parrots sunflower seeds, peanuts and sometimes some fruits and vegetables. After several years this leads to severe health problems and can result in early death for the pet.

In the wild, most larger species of parrot live for 40 to 70 years.  In captivity, the average age is 15 years!!!
The majority of these parrots die young because they have been fed a bad, unhealthy diet.

Seeds and peanuts are detrimental to a parrot’s health for several reasons:

  • Vitamin A:  This type of diet is totally deficient in Vitamin A.  Vitamin A plays an important role: it contributes to the health and function of all tissues such as skin, respiratory tract & digestive tract. If vitamin A is deficient, the bird’s defense against any bacteria or virus is lowered.   Many infections are actually primarily due to a vitamin A deficiency.  Treating these infections with antibiotics alone will not cure your parrot; it will relapse and get chronically sick, unless you change its diet to a more balanced diet.
  • Fat:  Excessive amounts of fat provided by seeds and peanuts leads to fatty degeneration of the liver and ultimately liver failure.
  • Calcium:  The calcium content is low in seeds and peanuts, which lead to other health problems such as problems laying eggs and fragile bones that can break easily.

Two options are available to improve the diet:

1.  Home-made diet – this is NOT ideal

  • This diet contains various food items that are normally consumed by humans, such as vegetables, bread, corn, and some protein source such as eggs, cheese, beans and nuts.
  • However, a lot of parrots are so fussy that they will select their favorite food item (which may not be the healthiest component!) and the resultant diet will still be unbalanced. Vitamin and mineral supplements that are added to the bird’s water can alter the taste of the water and may not be consumed. 

2.  Formulated diet (pellets) + Fresh vegetables

  • We STRONGLY advise that you feed your bird a commercially prepared pelleted diet. We recommend and sell HARRISON’S bird diet. It is a complete, balanced organic diet which contains no preservatives or other chemicals.  Additionally we sell Zupreem bird diet which is brightly colored and comes in a variety of shapes and sizes.  Either of these pelleted diets are a good choice for your bird.
  • You can add variety by giving many vegetables, some fruits and occasional high quality nuts (such as almonds and walnuts) for treats and training rewards a couple of times a week.  The pellets should represent 70-80% of the diet (in weight).
  • Vegetables:  All dark green vegetables such as bak choi, choi sam, and spinach are a good source of calcium.  Fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin A are red, yellow and orange in color and include carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, mango and papaya.
  • Fruit:  Most fruits are acceptable in parrots in small quantities, but avoid avocado as it is toxic to birds. Remember to wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly before feeding to your parrot as pesticide residues are very toxic to birds.


Think of your bird as a spoiled child that has been fed ice cream for years! You will have to be firm!  The pellets will not be as tasty as the fatty seeds and peanuts but they are healthier! Let your parrot see you picking the pellets up and nibbling on them. Hand feed your parrot and praise them for even touching the new food.

  • The first step is to allow your bird to realize that the new food item is edible.  For pellets, this can be accomplished by crushing the pellets and sprinkling it over a favorite moistened food item that they currently love to eat (such as rice, pasta, any vegetable or fruit).
  • Sometimes adding small amounts of guava juice to the pellets may encourage the bird to taste the pellets. However do not leave pellets wet for more than a few hours as it will allow bacterial multiplication.
  • Once you see that the bird has tasted the pellets, mix the pellets with the seeds and peanuts.  Gradually reduce the volume of seeds and peanuts and increase the amount of pellets over two weeks.
  • If this fails, you may have to offer the new pellets for 30 minutes 2 or 3 times each day, instead of leaving food available all day.   This is best done in the morning when the bird is hungry.
  • While you are converting to a pelleted diet, it is important to monitor your bird’s feces.  Make sure that they are always producing feces.  If they are not producing feces, this means that they are not eating and they will need to be offered more of their original diet.  If your bird develops diarrhea, please stop giving the pellets and contact your veterinarian.  *Please note that if you are feeding the colored Zupreem pellets, your bird’s feces will change colors – this is normal.
  • It is sometimes good to hospitalize the bird for a few days to convert it to pellets.

If you have any problems converting your bird to the proper pelleted diet please contact your vet for further advice.  Do not give up – most birds take up to 1 month to convert. It is essential to your parrot’s good health and long life to feed the correct diet.

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