Pet birds become part of the family. It is only natural to want to include them in mealtime. Not every food that people eat is safe for pet birds, although many are.
In this article, we will tell you which foods are OK to share with your bird, and which foods are for humans only.
But before we get started, we want you to know this one simple rule about sharing human food with your pet birds:
Make human food a special treat for your pet bird. Don’t make a habit of giving your pet bird food intended for humans.
Birds need their own diets, which generally don’t overlap very much with the food people eat.
Small amounts of human food are usually OK, but a steady diet of food people eat will make your bird sick.
10 Tasty Human Foods that are Treats for Pet Birds
Sharing a tasty meal with your pet bird can be a great bonding experience. It can also be a way to make sure that your bird gets needed vitamins and minerals.
Feeding your pet bird special treats does not have to be time-consuming or expensive. Just set aside a tiny portion of these popular foods for your pet bird.
Do you like to add mung bean sprouts to your stir-fries? What about adding alfalfa sprouts to your salad?
Birds like sprouts, too. You can feed sprouts to your birds one by one, or add them to their daily rations of birdseed, bird pellets, and other conventional bird foods.
Take the same precautions for health and hygiene when you are preparing sprouts for your pet bird that you follow when you are preparing sprouts for your human family.
Give sprouts you buy in bulk at the grocery store a good rinsing to wash off any accumulated bacteria, fungi, or chemicals leached off from other produce.
Store dry sprouts for up to 3 days in plastic bags in the vegetable crisper of your refrigerator.
Just as you would never serve spoiled, oozy sprouts to your family, don’t serve them to your pet bird, either.
Need to save money?
It is easy to grow your own alfalfa or mung bean sprouts. Just be sure to start with fresh water and to change the water daily as the sprouts grow.
If you have a garden, you have probably discovered that wild birds like fresh vegetables.
Leafy greens, ripening tomatoes, and even tender young carrots and beets are culinary treats for visiting birds.
Your pet bird probably enjoys vegetables, too.
Offer your bird a variety of washed, sliced, fresh, colorful vegetables like carrots, squash, and pumpkin for the beta-carotene that powers their immune systems.
Or give them trimmings and tops that you don’t want to eat, like carrot tops, the tough outer leaves of cabbage.
Let birds enjoy blemished bell pepper and tomatoes you don’t want to serve your guests.
Birds love greens, like chopped collards, kale, and baby spinach. Some birds, however, will not care for the spicier greens like mustard greens.
Find a vegetable that has a bug attached? Serve your bird the vegetable and the bug, too.
There are very few raw vegetables that you should not offer your pet bird.
Green potato peels are toxic to both birds and people. Uncooked rhubarb contains high doses of oxalates that can interfere with avian kidney function. And raw bean seeds sometimes contain lectins that can interfere with digestion, in both birds and people.
Cooked Beans, Peas, and Lentils
Soaking and then boiling beans and lentils leaches out the toxic lectins that are part of the plant’s natural defenses against the animals (and humans) that want to eat it.
Once they have been cooked, beans and lentils are a wonderful supplemental source of protein for your pet bird, as long as you serve them without added salt, fat, or spicy seasonings.
The best way to introduce your pet bird to beans is to give them a scoop of a 13-bean or 15-bean soup, like Hambeens, only without the ham, and before you add the seasoning packet.
Birds like their beans al dente, giving them the pleasurable sensation of eating a bean without the toxic potential of the uncooked, dry form.
The exception to the rule for cooking beans, peas, and lentils is snap peas. These tasty pods of tender green peas are fine served raw.
They provide a crispy crunch and an intense flavor that most birds enjoy.
Birds love raw pasta. Birds love cooked pasta. Serve raw pasta with nuts or peanuts, or maybe with some peanut butter for a tasty snack.
Try boiling bowtie pasta with some slices of vegetables to give your bird in addition to its regular bird food.
Birds love cooked and uncooked popcorn.
If you are giving your bird unpopped popcorn, it can help to boil it for a few minutes first, and then allow it to cool down for a few minutes before giving it to your bird.
This way, it will not hurt your pet bird’s beak.
Or pop popcorn the old-fashioned way, in a skillet. Coconut oil adds nutrition for your bird. Avoid giving your bird microwaved popcorn, because it contains too much salt.
Whole Grain Cereals
Ask grain farmers, and they will tell you that birds like cereal.
Pet birds love whole grain cereals like corn grits or polenta, steel-cut oats, wheat berries, quinoa, and more exotic cereals such as millet, sorghum, and teff.
Birds prefer their grains whole and raw.
Plopping down a blob of cooked oatmeal into the bottom of your bird’s cage is not appetizing for them or for you, but adding a little whole-grain cereal to your bird’s feeding dish can be a special treat.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts aren’t just food for your pet bird. Unshelled nuts also become toys.
Don’t expect your bird to be able to crack hard nuts like black walnuts or hazelnuts. At least crack their shells first.
On the other hand, your bird should be able to figure out what to do with an unshelled raw peanut.
Avoid giving birds roasted, salted, or sugar-coated nuts. These can cause digestive issues.
Make sure any nuts you give your bird are clean. Dirty shells can harbor fungi that cause breathing problems for your pet bird. Frozen nuts are OK.
No bird should be on an all-seed diet. If your pet bird mostly eats seeds day in and day out, there is no need to load up on sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, or sesame seeds from the kitchen.
However, they are OK as an occasional change of pace.
Keep in mind that you will have to remove husks from sunflower seeds or pumpkin seeds you give your bird unshelled.
Pet birds love strips of yellow, green, red, and orange bell peppers.
Colorful sweet peppers are a great source of beta-carotene and other antioxidant plant compounds that a bird’s body can transform into the vitamin A it needs for healthy eyes and strong feathers.
Birds also love fresh and dried peppers. No need to remove the seeds first. Birds can stand the heat.
Birds don’t have the facial nerves that humans do that convey the sensation of capsaicin to the human eyes and nose.
However, in birds as in humans, the capsaicin that makes hot peppers hot kills disease-causing bacteria in the gut.
Fruit and Berries
We saved the favorite treat of most pet birds for last: Fruit! Most birds love all kinds of fruit and berries.
They love fruit and berries more at their height of sugary sweetness, but even unripe fruit and berries can be a hit with your pet bird.
Just be sure to remove any leftovers from your bird’s cage after a couple of hours, so they do not spoil.
What About Sharing Kitchen Scraps with Pet Birds?
Small amounts (think about a tablespoon, or 15 grams) of kitchen scraps up to once a week are OK for most pet birds.
However, any leftovers will need a little processing before you give them to your bird.
- Whole-grain bread in small amounts is a nice treat for most birds. Remember, your bird needs just a tiny piece, just a little sliver or crust or part of a slice. Crackers, cookies, bread, and doughnuts are OK for birds, if you break them up into small pieces and soak them in water first. Uncooked pie and pastry dough are OK, too. Don’t feed your bird pie filling, frosting, or icing from cookies or doughnuts.
- Small bits of hard cheese provide protein for birds, but soft cheeses are not acceptable. Never give birds moldy or intensely odorous cheeses. When in doubt, don’t give cheese to your bird.
- Meat scraps provide protein for pet birds that eat insects, such as canaries, finches, and mynas. Never give a bird a meat scrap that you would not eat yourself.
- Ground eggshell is a good source of calcium for birds, in tiny amounts. About one-eighth of a teaspoon (less than 1 gram) once a week is helpful for bird health.
Kitchen scraps and leftovers are never acceptable as the sole diet for any pet bird.
It is important to clean up uneaten food within two hours of putting it out, so your Moet bird is not exposed to E. coli or Salmonella.
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