Conversion Tips

Dr. Laurie Hess, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian Practice)

What makes a good diet?

Ideally, every bird should be on a pelleted diet. Pellets are a nutritionally complete food specially formulated for birds and should make up at least 60% of your bird’s daily food program.

The other part of your bird’s diet can come from food such as fruits and vegetables. Good fruits and veggies to feed include orange, yellow and red foods which are a source of vitamins A.  These include melon, sweet potato, papaya, red and yellow peppers, carrots, mango, etc. Remember any of these foods should be fed in small portions.  

The truth about seeds

Unfortunately, while many bird owners feed their birds seed, seed is mostly fat and lacks the essential nutrients that birds need. This is equivalent to us eating junk food at every meal. While we may be able to maintain a normal weight this way, the chances are we would become overweight with all the fat and we would certainly not be very healthy over time.

Tips to help convert your bird from seeds to pellets

Getting your bird to eat pellets can be challenging and may take some time. However, don’t give up! Here are a few tips that can be used to get your bird to eat more pellets: 

  • Crush pellets into a fine powder and roll your bird’s favorite moist fruit or veggie into the powder. When feeding the powder coated fruit or vegetable, your bird has to taste the pellets. Over time, grind the pellets coarser and coarser until your bird is eating just pellets.  
  • Remember, birds generally work to gain your approval; praising your bird verbally by using his name and physically by scratching his head (if he enjoys head scratches) when he interacts with pellets positively reinforces his interaction.
  • Even when you offer a small portion of old food during the conversion process, do not take out the dishes of new food; your bird should be continuously exposed to the new food even when a small portion of old food is present.
  • Always keep old and new food separate, because birds will selectively eat familiar food when it is mixed with something new, and they will be less likely to try the new food if it is mixed with the old food.
  • Ideally, to ensure that your bird is consuming an adequate number of pellets each day, get a scale that weighs in grams, and weigh your bird each morning, before he eats; track your bird’s weight over the course of the conversion. If he loses more than 10% of his body weight, contact your avian veterinarian.
  • Always make sure your bird has access to fresh, clean water; some birds will drink more during the conversion process.

Remember, converting your bird can take some time but worth the effort for a long, happy and healthy life.