How To Convert To Pellets

You know that offering a healthy and balanced diet to your bird contributes to your beloved friend living a long, happy, and fulfilling life. Seed alone simply is not enough for most parrots. It is deficient in many vitamins and minerals, like vitamin A and calcium. Seeds can also be deficient in certain proteins and have excessive fat.

The adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” certainly applies to many health problems in birds when it comes to diet. It is of utmost importance that you get your pet bird to eat healthy food. This task may be a challenge for some birds, yet simple for others.

So, what is the perfect diet? Not all pellets are created equal. Choosing a high-quality, premium formula that avoids the use of artificial colors, sweeteners, and preservatives can offer the highest level of nutrition. Proper nutrition and creative feeding methods help improve your bird’s quality of life, feather appearance, energy, life span, and immune system. Explore our conversion page to learn more about how Lafeber can help you achieve a healthy and balanced diet that your pet bird deserves!

 

All birds love Lafeber!

Feeding Goals

When converting your bird from a seed-only diet to a pelleted diet, use the below as a general guide. Always consult your veterinarian before changing your bird’s diet to determine whether any special considerations are necessary:

For cockatiels, lovebirds, budgies, canaries, and finches:

  • 60% good quality pellets
  • 20% Nutri-Berries and/or Avi-Cakes or a high-quality seed mix
  • 20% vegetables plus a small amount of fruit

For other parrot species:

  • 80% good quality pellets
  • 20% vegetables plus a small amount of fruit and nuts

Before Getting Started

Before you get started converting your bird, it’s important to follow the steps below.

  • Always get a health evaluation of your feathered friend prior to starting a diet change.
  • Use a weight chart to track your bird’s weight daily throughout the conversion. If your bird loses more than 10% of his or her starting body weight during the conversion to pellets, consult your veterinarian.
  • If you have never weighed your bird before, watch this video to learn how to weigh your bird
  • Observe your bird’s preferred eating locations in the cage. The reason for this is that some of the feeding methods will require that you introduce new foods in their favorite eating spots.
  • If you have new items you wish to introduce, such as new bowls or perches, allow your bird time to adjust to them before starting the conversion process.
  • Determine the amount of old food your bird is consuming before starting a conversion. First, weigh the amount of food given each day with a scale that measures in grams. At the end of the day, blow off the seed husks and weigh the amount of food that is left. Repeat this for a week. Add up the amounts for all days and divide by seven to determine the average amount your bird eats each day. This information can be used when deciding how much to feed in conversion method one. It also provides you with a baseline food amount to compare to if at any time you are unsure if your bird’s appetite has decreased.
  • Use a substrate that allows you to easily monitor your bird’s droppings. If you cannot evaluate your bird’s droppings on the current substrate, consider switching. You will need to check the consistency and color of your bird’s droppings to monitor their health. Check out the chart below for tips on how to properly monitor your bird’s droppings.

Mixing Old Food and New Food

pellets
Although the goal is to get your bird switched over to pellets, introduce them gradually and slowly decrease the seeds you offer.

Method One: Gradual Mixture

One simple way to transition a bird onto a new diet is to mix the old food and the new food together at an initial percentage of 75% old to 25% new food. For this to succeed, offer your feathered buddy only the amount of food he or she needs for one day. This prevents your bird from picking through the food to eat only the old diet.

Expect your bird to eat all the parts of the food he or she likes first. As the day goes on and only the new pellets are left to eat, birds often start to investigate and become gradually more acquainted with the new food. Once your bird begins consuming some of the new food, the percentage that is the old food can start to be reduced and the new food portion can increase. Depending on your bird’s acceptance, this change in percentages of food offered can occur over several days to weeks until the final desired amount of new food is reached.

  • Tip: When adding the new food to the bowl, place it on top of the old food so that the bird must pick through it to get to the seeds.

Method Two: Location, Location, Location!

Many birds prefer to eat from the higher option offered. Place your bird’s old food in a familiar bowl lower in the cage and the new food in a similar bowl in a higher location. As your bird eats more of the new food from the higher bowl, gradually decrease the volume of old food placed in the lower location. Once the offer of old food is down to 25% for more than a week, increase the new food to 100% and try removing the lower dish completely.

  • Tip: If needed, apply a small sprinkle of old food on the new pellets in the higher location when you first offer the pellets. This sprinkle can spark your pet’s interest in the new food.

Method Three: Offer New Food in the Morning

Another option to get your bird to eat pellets is to offer only the new food in the morning. Why? Because morning is a common time when birds like to eat. A bird who is hungry may be more willing to try something new. This approach takes advantage of your bird’s desire to eat first thing in the morning.

Remove all food from the cage at bedtime. In the morning offer only the new food for the first 2 to 4 hours, then provide your bird’s old food for the rest of the day. Remove food from the cage at bedtime again. As your bird starts tasting and eating the new food, gradually increase the time that only the new food is available.

  • Tip: If your bird prefers eating in the evening, offer the mix of old and new food as usual in the morning, but remove all of the old food 1 hour before the usual evening eating time. This leaves only the new food available during the usual eating time and overnight.

Method Four: Old Food Intervals

Place a bowl of you bird’s new pellets in a desirable feeding area in the cage. Only offer the old food for 30 minutes three times a day — morning, mid-day, and evening. Be sure to observe your pet to be sure he or she is eating during these intervals. As your bird eats more pellets, gradually decrease the intervals of seed offered until they are no longer needed.

  • Tip: For an intermediate step, reduce interval times instead of removing old food intervals completely. For example, reduce from three times a day for 30 minutes to three times a day for 20 minutes.

Ask an Expert for Help

parakeet budgie standing by millet
Always carefully monitor your bird’s food consumption and droppings during food transition. webandi/Pixabay

You might choose to get help from someone else who has experience transitioning parrots onto a new diet. Some veterinary hospitals will board a bird for an average of 3 to 7 days and transition our beloved companions onto a new diet. This method also allows the bird to be monitored closely for any signs of weight loss or problems with the transition.

Tips & Tricks

Understanding your bird’s needs and how they like their food presented can help you transition your bird from seeds to pellets. For small species who like to eat off the ground, such as budgerigars and cockatiels, offer a mixture of the old and new foods on a plate on the ground level of their cage. Tapping near the food to make it move a little can also increase your pet’s interest.

Present new foods in ways that stimulate your bird’s inquisitive nature. Put pellets inside of a favorite fruit or veggie treat, outside the cage on play stands, or near a favorite perching spot. These and other methods all present pellets in a fun way. In addition, place food into toys that the bird must investigate. This is an entertaining way to introduce some larger species to a new food.

Parrots are naturally social. Another bird who already eats the food you want your bird

two conures on a rope perch
Parrot see, parrot do? Maybe. Parrots are more likely to try a new food if they see another flock member enjoying it. BeStrongEnoughToLetGo/Pixabay

transitioned to can help with the conversion process. Often, when a bird sees another individual eating a food, this prompts the parrot to also consume that food.

For single-parrot homes or those who are more interested in human companionship, you can fill this role. Interact with your bird and the new food item by picking it up, manipulating it, and eating it (or at least pretending to eat it). If you act excited and animated about eating this new food item, it can be even more enticing to your bird to try it out. Additionally, this serves as a nice way to bond with your bird!

Offering pellets as though they are treats or rewards can be done as well and takes advantage of using a bird’s social nature to accept new food items from the person they love and trust.

Tips

   

Sprinkle

Try crushing and sprinkling pellets or Nutri-Berries onto your bird’s current food.

   

Mix

Try mixing in Avi-Cakes. They are 50% seeds and 50% pellets so make an excellent transition food to Nutri-Berries or pellets.

   

Layer

Try placing a thin layer of pellets on top of the current food and different-sized pellets. Some prefer smaller pellet sizes and others like bigger!

   

Moisten

Try to moisten the pellets to change the texture. Be sure to remove the moistened pellets after a couple hours (they can spoil).

Important

In order to ensure a smooth and safe dietary transition, do the following:

1) Monitor what your bird is consuming.
Do not allow a small bird like a budgerigar to go for more than 12 hours without eating. Do not allow a larger bird like an African grey or larger to go for more than 24 hours without eating.

2) Monitor daily weights with a gram scale during a conversion, if your bird allows.
This helps ensure your bird is not dropping weight, and he or she stays stable during the transition.

3) Observe how much stool is produced, its consistency and its color.
This might alert you should problems arise during a diet transition. There should be a small amount of stool with each dropping, and the fecal component should never look black. If there are minimal or black feces in the droppings, a visit to the veterinarian is warranted.

Bird Dropping Chart

Keep in Mind

A diet transition is different for each individual. Some parrots transition with ease while others prove to be difficult and may take some time. Go slowly if necessary, and stick to the goal of getting on a good diet. Giving up and giving in to your bird’s desire to be on a nutritionally unbalanced diet should not be allowed.

Ultimately, sticking with and working toward a balanced diet that fits the needs of your bird at the life stage he or she is in goes a long way toward helping maintain a healthy and happy life.

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