…and the kitchen sink!
I often tout the advantage of feeding a raw, whole food diet to our birds, using proper food combining methods. That is, learning and educating ourselves how nutrients in each, individual food play with and against nutrients in other foods so that we can feed a balanced diet.
Machelle Pacion Avian Nutrition Specialist
Rather than point to the misinformation on the internet, I would like to express the significance of “balanced nutrition.” Example: Many people understand that the types of foods we feed our parrots directly impact our parrot’s health. An improper diet can lead to liver damage, heart disease, diabetes, seizures and so many other issues. Understanding good foods versus bad foods are necessary for ensuring proper nutrition; however, it is only half of the answer. The other equally important half is familiarizing ourselves with “balanced nutrition.” A diet that is filled with good foods but lacks “balanced nutrition” can still lead to numerous health issues. It is critical that we gain an understanding of what “balanced nutrition” is so that we do not inadvertently cause harm to our parrots.
If out of lack of knowledge, we feed our birds a multitude of high calcium foods without the correct ratio of calcium-absorbing co-nutrients, our birds will end up with calcification of the soft tissues. Like all health issues, there will be a snowball effect if it goes unnoticed and untreated. In this case, the calcified soft tissue could lead to cardiovascular disease, arthritis and a host of other problems. Another example of an imbalanced nutrient profile is feeding too many Omega 6s without enough Omega 3s. This imbalance can lead to cardiovascular disease, avian diabetes and more. These are only two examples of the countless problems that an imbalanced diet can cause. What we don’t know can hurt our captive birds!
If we look at parrots in the wild, we see much longer life spans without the human-like diseases that are extremely prevalent in our captive parrots. The parrots in the wild thrive, and they intrinsically know what types of foods they need to eat and how much. Unlike the wild parrots, our companion parrots are 100% reliant on us. This makes it our responsibility to understand the nutrition they need to thrive. What we don’t know can hurt our captive birds so we cannot ignore it. Here are the three things we all must consider when mixing food and snacks for our birds. 1. What are the nutrients we are feeding them? 2. How much of these nutrients should we be feeding? 3. How do these nutrient levels impact the other nutrients that are being fed on a weekly basis (do they complement or cancel each other)?
Birds obtain their total nutrient profile on a weekly, even monthly basis, not daily. This is why it takes so long for many illnesses and disease to show up in our beloved birds. However, if we feed an imbalanced nutrient profile on a continuing daily basis, at the end of the week/month the total nutrient profile will be completely askew and thrown off. By the time the yearly avian visit occurs, the damage will have accrued, and you probably will not be happy with the blood panel.
Scientific GuidelinesVeterinary science doesn’t know the exact nutrient blood levels for exotic birds yet. The exact numbers are still out for research because the field research is not 100% complete due to the fact there are so many avian species. We may never have the concrete blood nutrient levels, but we do have general scientific guidelines for both blood nutrient levels and food nutrient profiles for most animals. As the name suggests, these blood level and nutrient profiles should be used as guidelines to help form our understanding of how to feed our birds in captivity. These guidelines are suggestive findings rather than concrete exact numbers. We must use those guidelines to our advantage, employ our common sense and also study birds in the wild to really understand how to feed our birds in captivity.
Birdelicious Tested for Nutritional Balancing This is why here at Providence Exotic Bird Sanctuary the bulk of our birds’ diets consist of BirD-elicious! Origins Wild Diet. These are diets that have been laboratory tested to ensure we are covering the already established scientific field research guidelines. In addition to the scientific guidelines, we employ our knowledge about how birds live in the wild and offer some amount of fresh foods as treats only. Origins Wild Diet makes up the bulk of their diet (about 75%), and the fresh foods make up only a small portion (about 25%). We know what the nutritional levels are in our Origins Wild Diet and so we limit the fresh foods to a small amount ensuring we do not throw off-balance any overall nutrient levels. If we reversed the feeding regimen by offering a mix of fresh foods as the main food and Origins Wild Diet as the small snack, we would completely throw off their nutritional profile, and therefore, put the entire flock’s health at risk.
CORRECT PORTIONS:If you are feeding Origins Wild Diet, you should be feeding each bird 1 to 2 pounds per month (about 1.5 pounds per 425-525 grams of bird weight) to maintain a balanced nutritional profile. We suggest that the daily diet is comprised of 75% Origins Wild Diet and 25% fresh organic foods. –The fresh organic foods should be mostly tropical fruit (mango, papaya, and green banana), tender greens (cilantro, parsley leaves) organic red bell pepper, meal worms (dried or fresh), and a variety of sprouted seeds. Sprouted legumes and grains are okay, but should be limited to only small amounts of each compared to the amount of sprouted seed. In the wild birds would probably consume more seed than legumes and grains.
Finding the Right Foods Throwing in the “whole kitchen sink” method of feeding is NOT proper food combining and doesn’t provide a scientific, laboratory balanced diet for captive birds. In the wild, birds have literally thousands of foods from which to choose, and they instinctively know how to choose their foods. In captivity, it is not possible to supply thousands of different foods to our beloved birds; therefore, we must educate ourselves on what proper food combining and balancing are. We must feed a laboratory tested food as the bulk part of our birds’ diets to ensure a balanced nutritional profile. You should do your due diligence and make sure any commercial food you are feeding is laboratory tested for nutritional balance. Also, you should find out how the food is produced. Any commercial food that is processed with high heat is completely stripped of its vital nutrients, such as digestive enzymes, fatty acids, and many naturally occurring vitamins and some of the trace minerals. The natural ingredients are then replaced with processed and synthetic ingredients that destroy a parrot’s natural gut flora in its digestive tract.
Birdelicious Vs. PelletsFortunately, OWD is not a heat and/or mechanically extruded, highly processed food. Our foods are considered a raw, whole food diet because of the manner in which our foods are produced. Our foods are literally handmade using no heat or mechanical extrusion or pressed process. The original and naturally occurring digestive enzymes are present, the original and naturally occurring fatty acids are present. The same holds true for vitamins and minerals. Protein and carbohydrate molecules are not altered.
OWD and Fresh Foods While we do not claim that our foods are a “total and complete” daily diet, because quite frankly we don’t believe such a diet exists for exotic birds, we do believe our OWD foods contain balanced nutrients according to what exotic birds require to thrive. We believe the manner in which we balance those nutrients help birds maintain a baseline of proper nutrition when a small amount of other fresh foods are fed. Customer after customer, who feeds their birds primarily OWD with only a small amount of fresh foods as side treats tell us their bird’s blood tests return perfect year after year. These are customers who feed each bird 1 to 2 pounds per month and only a small amount of truly fresh foods on the side. This is exactly how we encourage our customers to use our foods, and this is how we feed our sanctuary flock. The exception is any feather destroying bird we have in our Providence Exotic Bird Sanctuary. Those birds are placed on a very special, highly specific diet to help reduce or eliminate feather destruction before turning into self-mutilation.
I hope this clears up any confusion about how we feed here at our sanctuary. Although I tout a whole, raw food diet, I do not encourage the “whole kitchen sink” method if your mix is not laboratory tested for balanced nutrition.
Happy, healthy foraging!