I’m sorry for the delayed response – I was waiting to hear back from the office as to who may have received your original message. I wasn’t sure if it was mailed or emailed and with many of our associates working from home, it takes longer to track something like this down.
All of us at Lafeber’s love birds, and most of us have pet birds. I have owned pet birds, and fed them Lafeber’s diets, long before I met Dr. Lafeber and started working for the company.
Your parrots – your Senegal, Parakeets, Lovebirds and Cockatiels – should not be too hard to convert to our foraging diets. Most seed eaters will convert fairly quickly and easily to Nutri-Berries and Avi-Cakes. But many owners, like yourself, have second thoughts and a bit of guilt, and give in too quickly. Converting to our foraging diets, which contain whole, hulled seeds, is much different from trying to convert to pellets. And the good news is that all of our foraging diets are formulated the same as pellets, but they are not ground up. You can offer any of our foraging diets alone, combined or along with pellets. Keep in mind that all pellets contain ground seeds and grains. It is not that seeds are bad, but most seeds in loose mixes are no longer fresh enough to retain most of their nutrients, and any added vitamins are lost when the bird hulls the seeds. While pellets are often not recognized as a food source at first, our foraging diets are because of the seeds. You also need to understand how birds eat in the wild. When food is abundant, the birds, especially parrot species, will take one or two select bites and then discard the rest. This is beneficial in the wild since it feeds ground dwelling creatures and re-seeds the environment. But in captivity, it is annoying and wasteful. LOL
The best way to convert to our foraging diets is to break up the Nutri-Berries and Avi-Cakes and mix them with the regular seeds. It is much more about them realizing it is food than having anything to do with the taste. Most birds will not immediately see a whole Nutri-Berry or Avi-Cake as food, but once crumbled up, they are more willing to try it. Try this and you should find that they are starting to eat the crumbled pieces along with their seeds. Once they do this, you can gradually reduce the seeds until they are only eating the Nutri-Berries or Avi-Cakes. Remember that the more food you give them, the more they will waste. So once they are eating the Nutri-Berries & Avi-Cakes as crumbles, your next step is for them to try them out intact. Your eventual goal is for them to have as many as they can eat each day, without wasting too much. While the amount can vary for each bird, the average is 6-10 Nutri-Berries per bird daily or 4-6 Avi-Cakes per bird daily, or again, a combination of both foods. Since they are 100% consumable, eventually they should eat them and only have a few crumbles left behind. So once they are eating them well, you should reduce how many you give them at a time, and then give them more once those are eaten. Birds are smart, and if they know you will just keep giving them more and more regardless of what they toss out, they will keep doing this. I make a point of picking up any whole or partly eaten berries or cakes and placing them back in the dish – this is fine as long as the food didn’t get soiled or wet on the cage floor.
As you mentioned, Dr. Lafeber’s son, also a Vet, is an avid bird lover as was his father. The son developed the foraging diets to offer more tastes and variety than pellets offer. The importance of foraging was not understood until after the original pellets were developed. All of our Nutri-Berries and Avi-cakes are available in different flavors with added fruits or veggies. Once they learn to eat them, your birds will love them and will never become bored with their food.
Regarding your doves and canaries, our foraging diets are not designed for their beaks. However, I have fed crumbled Nutri-Berries to canaries and doves in the past. Both species can also eat our pelleted food. The canaries can eat the Canary pellets and/or the finch granules. Doves will tend to do better on the finch granules. But I feel the doves still need some commercial dove seed mix. Doves and Canaries will often eat cooked brown rice mixed with frozen mixed veggies. I’ve seen doves dive into this and eat the corn, peas and chopped carrots whole.
The main thing to remember when introducing new foods is that birds do not always recognize new offerings as something to eat, and you will have a lot of waste until they do. Keep trying and don’t give up too soon. One bird might try new foods right away, while another might take months to try something new. I know that is a long time and it is also why many bird owners give up too soon. Unlike children, it is rarely a case of not liking and more a case of not trying it because of not understanding what it is. But I’ve found the more new foods you try, the better they get at trying foods out.
I hope all of this helps and good luck with your flock!