The Twelve Days of Holiday Treats for Parrots (and Other Birds)

1. Nuts – Most nuts are high in fats, and should not be a steady diet for any bird. However, the bigger the beak, the more likely the bird can handle big nuts like walnuts and Brazil nuts. My Amazon loves almonds, the African greys love peanuts, and all of the hook bills like sunflower seeds. Look for unsalted, raw when possible. Nut butters also can be a fun food, a little in a toy, just like for dogs, will keep a hook bill busy for hours. There is good nutrition in nuts, but they should never be more than an occasional treat.
2. Breads – I have yet to meet a parrot or finch who didn’t love bread. One of my tricks when raising finches, to be sure the parents had enough food for the chicks, was to put a slice of whole wheat bread in the cage. But people bread is not the best for parrots. There are a ton of recipes out on the web for various bird breads, using corn meal and lots of other good things. If your parrot doesn’t particularly care for veggies, breads are a great way to get a few into his or her diet. Oh, and the recipe may call for eggs, shells and all. The calcium in egg shells is very good for parrots. You can microwave the empty shells for a half minute or so to sterilize them, and to make them easier to crunch up in the mix. (http://www.theparrotboard.net/Forums/showthread.php?3329-Bird-Bread-Recipes)
3. Millet – For my small birds and small hook bills, millet makes a great holiday treat. A little festive ribbon that can double as a toy adds a nice touch, but be sure the length of the ribbon is about an inch or so. You can purchase millet in just about any pet store that carries supplies for birds, but be sure to look it over a bit. You want large clusters on the sprays. Foraging for millet off the sprays is an important part of the treat, so don’t get millet by the bag, get it on the stalk. This link will give you good information on the nutritional value of millet. (http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=53)
4. Honey Sticks – Sure, you might find these pre-made at the same pet stores where you can buy millet and nuts, but wouldn’t you love to make something instead? Making the treats is way cheaper, and you can add all the love you want. This page is a forum for budgie people, but the recipes are awesome. (http://talkbudgies.com/showthread.php?t=12223) And this site has a wide variety, not just honey sticks. (http://www.birdsnways.com/birds/rtreats.htm)
5. Apples and Oranges and Pears, oh my! – Some birds eat more fruit in the wild than others. Research your bird to make sure you can feed him or her some of the fruit readily available where you live. Fruit is high in sugar, so be stingy with it in most cases. My bigger birds get a quarter of an apple about every two weeks, with more veggies and greens in between. They would regard grapes, oranges, and pears as true treats on special days. This site talks about the danger in letting your parrot eat the pits or seeds of some fruit. If it isn’t an issue for you to take out the pits, then be on the safe side. However with apples, it’s not a big deal. I stopped coring the apples that I give to the parrots, and have had no ill effects. (http://www.sweetacrebirdfarm.com/fruits.htm)
6. Cookies – People cookies are way too high in fats and sugar, so cross that right off your list. However, I found a site with a recipe for a breakfast cookie for people and birds that has me salivating. (http://parrot123blog.wordpress.com/2013/11/17/fall-cookies-for-parrots-and-people/) I especially love that the cookies are made in two different sizes, and there’s a photo of the blogger’s pionus eating one. This site has pre-made cookies for sale, but it bothers me that they have to state not for human consumption. If it only indicates they haven’t had their facility rated for health standards so that the items can be eaten by people, I still have to question the quality of the item. (http://www.ovenfreshbites.com/munchingredients.html)
7. Chips – Right, not people chips, in spite of the fact Mike has been trying to win Maynard over by giving him a tortilla chip now and then. A baked chip that is also low fat and unsalted or very low salt would be acceptable. That’s going to be a challenge, because this site shows Lay’s Baked Potato Chips as being 80% carbs and pretty darn salty. (http://www.fatsecret.com/calories-nutrition/frito-lay/baked-potato-chips) But while not a real food treat, yucca chips are very cool for a parrot to chew on, and not very expensive. Again, found in most pet stores that carry bird supplies. Or you can buy them online (http://www.amazon.com/Bird-Kabob-Yucca-Parrot-Chips/dp/B004TS2KP2)
8. Crackers – Stop me if you’ve heard this one. When our crazy half moon conure arrived at our house, the woman who was rehoming him said he loved goldfish. Mike and I exchanged looks. I didn’t know of any parrots who were normally fish eaters. We pieced together from what else she told us that she meant the Goldfish crackers! Now and then, we do give Goldfish to the parrots, and they aren’t that bad for them (http://www.pepperidgefarm.com/PopNutrition.aspx?prdID=120276) but a better choice we just discovered is the Wasa brand crackers. (http://www.wasa-usa.com/products/crispbread/whole-grain/) These can be part of the daily diet of your birds, they are that good.
9. Eggnog – Really? Well, no alcohol, and drop the sugar and salt. And maybe make it more like scrambled eggs. But you can call it eggnog and the parrots probably won’t know the difference. Here’s a basic eggnog recipe followed by lots of ways to make it good for people, for certain values of good. (http://www.rmrv.com/Portals/41/Basic%20Eggnog.pdf) Scrambled eggs are a great treat now and then for parrots and finches, especially any breeding birds. The nutrients in the eggs are exactly what they are manufacturing for the eggs. And if you are feeding this just to the birds, you can add in the egg shells, see above for microwaving the shells. I would add some veggies to the eggs, and also set a timer for the eggs in the food dishes. Eggs go bad quickly no matter what the weather. After two hours, pull all the uneaten egg, clean the dishes thoroughly, and clean the cage of any bits where the bird might get to them. (http://trainedparrot.com/Scrambled_Eggs/)
10. Cheerios ® – Low sugar, whole grains, the only cereal I let my kids eat, pretty much, and the only cereal I would give to my birds. The fun thing about Cheerios is the ring shape. With a safe rope or twine, thread as many on as you wish, tie it in a loop, and hang it in the cage. Good treat and foraging fun as well. (http://www.birdchannel.com/media/bird-diet-and-health/bird-nutrition/feeding-cereal-to-pet-birds.aspx.pdf)
11. Soak and cook – Soaked seeds and soak and cook are two different things. Soaked seeds are usually a step in sprouted seeds. Sprouts should not be a treat, sprouts should be given regularly. (http://thehappycockatoo.wordpress.com/soaks-and-sprouts-a-nutritional-powerhouse-for-parrots/) Soak and cook, however, is a yummy mix of beans and legumes and sometimes Bulgar wheat, that you soak over night, drain and rinse in a colander, put in a pot and cover with water about an inch over the beans. Once the water boils, reduce heat to a simmer and set a timer for an hour or whatever it says on the package. This treat is a simple one to throw together if you shop at health-type stores where you can get the stuff in bulk, or you can order it online or get it at the pet stores. (http://slyparrot.com/supplies/soak_and_cook)
12. Pasta – Whole wheat pasta, spinach pasta, tomato pasta, there are some great choices in the regular markets today. Cook it up with no oil or salt, drain and cool, and add fresh veggies and maybe some sesame seeds or hemp seeds. Even chia seeds would be tasty. And you can share this treat with your bird!

Have fun shopping and cooking. Next week we’ll have Twelve Days of Toys for Parrots!

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