By Nicolette Keen
I am NOT feeding a pellet only diet. I prefer to feed a seed based diet with a lot of vegetables, some fruit and greens and only about 10% pellets. Pellets are processed food and often contain artificial vitamin, colors and ingredients that are not found in nature- I don’t like overly processed food as a main component in my human- or feathered children’s diet. Most pellets are corn/soy based and corn is not native to Australia – therefore I think that it should not be the main staple of a cockatiel’s diet. The only pelleted diet that I am aware of that comes close to being a good replacement for seeds is “Harrisons” and “totally organic”. But why pay a company to grind down seeds and add ” natural” vitamins, press them into pellets that all look alike if you can feed a much greater variety with fresh seeds and vegetables, sprouts and offer your bird the opportunity to forage and enjoy the different textures and tastes 🙂
I have found that cockatiels do much better on seeds AND vegetables. I have been feeding this diet for at least 2 decades to cockatiels and never encountered any health issues like liver or kidney problems- my birds are exceptionally healthy, in good weight and feather condition.
I try to feed a great variety of seeds ( different kinds of millet, buckwheat, oats, wheat, safflower, nyer, hemp, flax, canary, quinoa, sesame, very little sunflower and others) and as many vegetables and greens as possible to simulate a natural diet.
Cockatiels are foraging birds from Australia – they fly great distances to find seeds, greens and probably an occasional bug. While I am not able to provide native Australian grasses I will give them native wild grasses in summer along with dandelion and such.
A seed only diet is NOT appropriate for any bird – they need vitamins and minerals that are not found in seeds alone.
I feed vegetables and greens daily. Peas, grated carrots and carrot greens, some corn, zucchini, broccoli ( leaves too), celery greens and stems, collard greens , kale, chard, parsley, arugula, peppers, cucumbers, apple, melon, pear, spinach, dandelion, wild grasses, wheat grass, sprouted seeds and sprouted lentils…
I also give boiled egg once in a while and also dried mealworms or a bug mix ( they sell those for finches) and legumes for extra protein.
And of course I offer mineral blocks and cuttlebone at all times. This is especially important for the hens.
I don’t use cooked diets or birdie bread for my birds – the cooking process kills most of the vitamins and nutritional value.
Birds can be very difficult to convert from one diet to another and will only reluctantly try new things. Sometimes it might take weeks, months or even a year until they try something new – the most important thing is not to give up. One of my pairs that I got from a different aviary took a full year to eat vegetables but they love them now… You can make it a game – cut veggies in long strips and clip them to the bars – cockatiels love stringy things to play with and might try the veggies this way- some like things grated to a mash – some prefer veggies whole – experiment and don’t get frustrated if your bird doesn’t take to a new food right away ..My birds love leafy greens in a shallow water dish- they play in the wet green and nibble on it..
I use petamin or egg food mixes, wheat germ oil, ground flaxseed and probiotics as supplements and sprinkle them over the veggies a few times a week during breeding season.
Babies that are just weaning need more calories and are fed soft foods like rice, pasta, cereals ( low sugar of course), coated with herbs, grasses and sprouts and spray millet along with their seeds and veggies – I only feed these high calorie foods as treats to older birds – spaghetti’s and cheerios are a well loved treat in my aviary and only available once a week at the most for the adult birds and in small quantities only.
And of course Birds need exercise to stay healthy just like humans – they will be healthier and happier in larger cages and they need daily flight time to stay in shape. Toys will promote activity for single birds and stimulate minds and beaks. Foraging toys are a great way to entertain birds and get them to move. If you place branches and food cups and toys, make sure the birds have to fly or climb to get around their cage – don’t make it too easy for them – they need to move around.