Q: I have two cockatiels and two budgies. I feed them bread and veggies, and I like cooking for my pet birds. Is there food I can prepare for my birds so they can enjoy other meals?
A: Preparing food is a great way to interact with our pet birds as well as a way for them to enjoy healthy snacks. Many of the foods that we fix don’t fall into the category of “cooking.” More often, we chop vegetables or hide a treat in a toy.
Courtesy Kathie Garrison, California
A white-bellied caique nibbles on corn kernels for a healthy and tasty treat.
When offering snacks to your cockatiels and budgies, don’t upset the balance of their main diet. Offer snacks in limited amounts, preferably low-calorie foods such as vegetables or light, whole-grain items. Choose nutritious foods high in vitamin A, such as sweet potatoes, parsley, winter squash, dried papaya, carrots and broccoli.
Food prepared in a variety of ways keeps your bird interested in it. For example, cook, mash or quickly microwave sweet potato for a warm, soft treat. On another day, add oatmeal to the sweet potato mash. On the next day, thread parsley through cage bars near a bird’s favorite perch and watch it shred the greens.
With all its little flowerets to pick, broccoli makes for a nutritious toy; serve it warm or cold, cut into pieces or whole. Cut raw carrots into a variety of shapes and sizes until you find the one that your bird likes. Some pet birds prefer diced, cooked carrot for food, too.
Unlike most larger parrots, cockatiels and budgies usually don’t appreciate fruit, although they appreciate a small piece of apple from time to time. Instead, they seem to prefer fresh vegetables: green beans, kale, spinach leaves, winter squash and zucchini. If you’re pressed for time, try frozen corn, peas or even beans; thaw a small amount under running hot water and pat dry before serving. Sprouted seeds and legumes also make nutritious snacks.
Many pet birds enjoy an occasional treat of cooked pasta, rice or whole grains. Do not offer food that’s high in fat, sugar or salt. Never offer food that contains caffeine or chocolate. It’s OK for birds to eat some prepared or packaged foods such as toasted oat cereal, plain rice cakes, whole-grain cereal and whole-wheat bread, but again, these carbohydrates should be a limited part of the diet.