Don't Let Your Bird's Diet Go To Seed

Gina Spadafori’s Pet Connection: Don’t let your bird’s diet go to seed

By Gina Spadafori
Published Monday, December 23, 2002 Sacramento Bee, Sacramento, California

One of my best friends doesn’t practice preventive care with her dogs. She also lets her cats roam the neighborhood (disappearing at the rate of about one a year). She does just about everything with her pets contrary to current advice, right down to feeding her cockatiel nothing but sunflower seeds.

She truly loves her pets, but she insists on following pet-care standards that are at least 20 years out of date.

The bird likes seeds, she says, so what’s the harm? Children like candy, I tell her, but you don’t let them eat it all day. And then, we agree to disagree, on this point as on all others pet related.

Sometimes you not only can’t change the world, but you can’t even influence your friends.

If birds love seeds—and most crave them—doesn’t it follow that they should be eating what they want? Avian veterinarians are pretty consistent in arguing against seeds these days. An all seed diet will make most birds sick over time, the experts say, denying the pets the nutrients they need for long term survival and weakening them to the point where other diseases might be able to take hold.

The trend in recent years has been toward pelleted diets, and pet birds are healthier as a result. Pelleted diets are readily available from many reputable manufacturers and can be purchased from any bird shop or from many veterinarians who work with birds.

Pelleted food is a blend of grains, seeds vegetables, fruits and various other protein sources. Manufacturers mix the ingredients and then either bake and crumble them or extrude them, ending up with pellets of a proper size for any given species (large pellets for large birds, small pellets for small birds).

This process produces a food that is superior to the “smorgasbord” way of feeding—the bird cannot pick out his favorite foods and ignore the rest. Pellets also are convenient for birds’ owners. These commercially prepared diets are easy to buy, relatively inexpensive and store nicely in a cool, dry place.

Pelleted foods should be the foundation of your bird’s diet—some 70 percent to 80 percent—but they’re not a good diet on their own. Your bird also needs a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with other “people foods” such as pasta, eggs, breads, rice and unsalted nuts in their shells. Excessively fatty foods or over processed foods should be avoided, since many pet birds are perch potatoes, prone to obesity. A good rule of thumb: If it’s healthy for you, it’s good for your bird, too. Do keep pellets and fresh, clean water available at all times.

In addition to rounding out a commercial diet, fruits, nuts and other people foods give your bird something to keep him occupied and entertained. To that end, leave fresh food in as natural a form as possible. Clean it, of course, but make your bird work some to eat it. Corn left on the cob is a great example of good food that also offers a fun challenge to eat.

Do you really need to deny your bird a treat as appreciated as seeds? The phrase “all thing in moderation” definitely applies when it comes to seeds. Given in small amounts, seeds are a wonderful way to help teach your bird tricks or to reward him for good behavior. But seeds should be a treat, not a staple, to ensure proper nutrition for your bird.

Birds love seeds, and its fine to give them now and then. But as a diet for these pets, they are strictly not for the birds at all.


1820 Arnold Industrial Way, Suite N
Concord, CA 94520 (Map It)

From HWY 4 Exit Solano Way
We're Located Just Across From The Drive In Theatre

New Store Hours

Now Open 7 Days a Week

11AM to 6PM

Sign Up for Newsletter