TIPS FOR FINICKY EATERS
by Carolyn Swicegood
Hollywood Beach, Florida
Now and then, due to illness, changing homes, weaning, and other reasons, it is necessary to tempt our birds to eat. Here are a few tips that I have found useful.
If your finicky eater likes one particular food, such as corn, mix it with whatever food you want the bird to eat. In order to get the corn, he must taste the other foods that you want him to try. Try adding a little almond butter or quality peanut butter to other nutritious foods that you want to introduce. By placing nut butter it in the hollow of a celery stalk and then slicing it into short sections to prevent choking on the celery strings, a bird that likes nut butter often discovers that the crunch of celery is enjoyable too!
Try different shapes and forms of food. If you want a bird to eat carrots, offer them both raw and cooked, as well as mashed, diced, sliced, julienned, grated, and even whole. Young weaning parrots can learn a lot about food and how to manipulate it if given a whole carrot with the nutritious green tops intact.
Make food toys. A hanging skewer of different veggies and fruits usually tempts the most finicky eater. Hiding bits of food inside a leaf of romaine lettuce secured with a tooth pick is a good way to tempt a bird into interacting with toys and perhaps into trying the hidden food.
Weave greens, millet sprays, and other pliable fruits and veggies into the bars of the cage near the perch. Kale is a nutritious leafy green food that might tempt your bird into trying green foods.
Try plumping up dry foods such as shelled sunflower seeds, millet sprays, shelled almonds, and corn. Most birds cannot resist plumped corn which can be made with whole shelled corn or popcorn, soaked overnight and cooked until it is triple the normal size. Millet sprays can be simmered for fifteen to thirty minutes to change the millet grains from dry to moist and chewy which is more like fresh millet.
If a bird simply will not try sprouts, try soaking the sprouts in a favorite flavor of juice, such as peach or pineapple, or squeeze sections of pomegranate fruit onto the sprouts. The color can sometimes get them interested and the taste of pomegranate is irresistible to most parrots.
Show me the bird that can turn down a *nut butter/applesauce/whole wheat bread* sandwich! I make these for my weaning babies and the adults consider this a favorite treat too. I use almond butter or peanut butter with the lowest sugar content, and unsweetened applesauce on Brownberry Wholewheat or Brownberry Nut bread. Any wholegrain bread is suitable. One sandwich can be cut into eighths for manageable-sized pieces.
For help with bonding or to tempt a finicky eater, hot wet foods are very important! Often when a just-weaned parrot goes to its permanent home, it reverts to begging. There is no reason to revert to formula feedings because it will be just as satisfying and nutritious to the bird to be given hot wet foods fed from your fingers. Oatmeal is excellent for this purpose, as are cream of wheat, grits, any hot cereal, polenta, warm pieces of fruit, mashed sweet potato, and whole grain bread mixed with baby food veggies or fruits.
*Mirroring* is a good technique for tempting finicky parrots, just as it is for children. If you want your bird to try a food such as scrambled egg, try letting him join you for breakfast. Often when they see you eat a food, their curiosity gets the best of them and they join right in.
Aloe Detox by Natureade can sometimes restore the appetite of a picky eater in only one or two doses. It can be ordered on line at http://www.naturade.com/products/specialty/detox.htm and added to formula or soft foods. As a last resort, B-complex vitamins can stimulate the appetite. One would need the advice of an experienced breeder or an avian vet to determine the dosage. Overdosing birds with vitamins can cause a host of problems, some of them serious. If used properly, the B-complex vitamins can make a noticeable difference in appetite.
We owe it to our captive birds to make eating fun and interesting because they have little else to entertain them. Unshelled nuts such as whole almonds can serve as food toys. There are many clever toys available that can make birds work for their food. Shish-ka-bob skewers can be used for chunks of fruits and veggies such as wheels of corn, apple and orange quarters, and bell pepper chunks. Other toys require various forms of manipulation on the part of the bird to get the food out of the toy. Whole foods are inexpensive entertainment that offer nutrition as well. Try suspending whole apples, squash, sweet potatoes and coconut halves in the cage or aviary to stimulate interest and to keep your busy beaks happy. Use your imagination to stimulate your bird's interest in its environment. One of the best ways to avoid feather destruction and other bad habits is to keep beaks busy with constructive projects.