Copyright © Lisa McManus. Previously published in International Conure Association newsletters. Used with
Copyright © Lisa McManus. Previously published in International Conure Association newsletters. Used with permission.
What a subject! Doesn't it seem daunting? Let's take a look and see if we can't simplify it. Two old cliches will be good to
remember when thinking of good nutrition: "Moderation in all things" and "Variety is the spice of life."
Our feathered friends need a balanced diet as much as we do. If we want to keep them healthy and live as long as
possible we need to make sure they get the foods they need. Just like us, they are drawn to the things they like the best,
but that isn't always what's best for them. By now we all have heard that an all-seed diet is not good. It deprives them of
necessary nutrients and can lower their resistance to disease.
So along came pellets. Pellets are made from vegetables, grains, seeds, fruits and proteins. These are valuable parts of
the balanced diet for our little guys. So, do we stop there? Heck, no!! While pellets do deliver a very good diet and we
are seeing healthier birds because of them, they still need more. Since no one yet knows exactly what a nutritionally
balanced diet is for a bird, no single food source is adequate. Not only from a nutritional standpoint, but from a
psychological one as well. In the wild, birds spend a big portion of their day searching for food and eating it. Our
domestic friends still have this need and they enjoy cracking seeds, searching through the food bowl and deciding what
to eat next.
Birds are omnivorous. According to Webster this means, "1. feeding on both animals and plants. 2. eating all kinds of
foods indiscriminately. 3. taking in everything." We do know our guys can't eat everything indiscriminately - no avocado,
no chocolate, very little caffeine, sugar, salt. But they do need a correct balance of nutrients. This balance includes
protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, minerals and water. Water moves nutrients and removes waste.
We'll start with protein. Protein can be found in beans, vegetables, nuts, eggs, meat, and dairy products. Chicken or
eggs can be very beneficial, but be sure any meats or egg products are well cooked. Beans and veggies are brightly
colored and can be fun to play with, which means they will eventually make it into the mouth and be swallowed. Other
possibilities are bits of tofu, cottage cheese, and water-packed tuna. Remember to give dairy products sparingly; these
are hard for birds to digest when given often or in large quantities. Protein, made from amino acids, is essential in
helping the birds produce feathers, strong bones, healthy skin and functioning organs.
Carbohydrates help the body produce energy and heat. Foods supplying carbohydrates are breads, pasta, rice and
starchy veggies like potatoes. For active birds, like conures, carbohydrates are an important part of the diet. But
remember the cliché, moderation in all things. Following on the heels of carbohydrates, are fats. Fats are also
necessary in producing energy and heat, as well as aiding the body's use of vitamins.
Now we come to vitamins and minerals. Yes, they are very necessary, but once again we find moderation is needed.
Too much can be as bad as too little. Fruits and vegetables provide lots of vitamins and minerals. Vitamin A aids in
maintaining healthy eyes, mouth, skin, feathers, gastrointestinal and reproductive tracts, and respiratory system. Foods
high in Vitamin A are the dark orange and dark green veggies and fruits, such as apricots, corn, squash, carrots, yams,
sweet potatoes (yes, there is a difference), broccoli, spinach, parsley, dried red peppers and dandelion greens. It's a
good idea to check with your avian vet before giving your little guy any vitamin supplements.
What is a balanced diet? Looking back over the categories the foods include: beans, veggies, nuts, eggs, a little chicken
and well cooked lean meats, pasta, potatoes, rice, some bread, fruits, seeds and pellets. Once you know the basics it's
easy to feed a balanced diet. A good soft food mixture can be used as a base. This can include different beans, giving a
variety of shapes and colors, such as black beans, pinto beans, lima beans, red beans, garbanzo beans, navy beans
and black-eyed peas. Then add barley, rice, lentils, popping corn, split peas, and other grains preferred by your bird. It's
simple to cook these from the dry products, freeze and store. Canned products loose their nutrients and have too much
added salt. Add veggies and pasta to this mixture, spoon and serve. The variety can be changed to add interest and
stave off boredom.
Birdie breads are another way to serve up a good meal. Take a box of corn bread mix, follow the directions on the box,
but add things like veggies or fruit, nuts, peppers, etc. Be creative and have fun. Your guys will love it! Another idea is a
whole grain munchie mixture. Mix equal amounts of the following ingredients and store in an air-tight container - be sure
all ingredients are not the sugar coated variety: Chex cereals (corn, rice, bran, wheat, graham), Shredded Wheat,
Puffed cereals (wheat, rice), unbuttered and unsalted pop corn, Cheerios, granola, Mueslix Cereal, and uncooked
pastas (different shapes and colors.)
Those are the basics of a balanced diet. Following these simple guidelines good nutrition can be relatively easy for even
the busiest schedule. Mealtime can become as much fun as play time, and just as healthy!