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YOUR BIRD, YOUR MONEY:Observe A Bird’s Food Portions

Ask your vet to help you figure out the right ratio for your bird’s daily meal portions

By Susan Chamberlain

Orange-winged Amazon parrot, parrot diet, bird nutrition
Reduce the portion size of the foods you feed your parrot to cut down on waste. Courtesy Rebekah Butter, Minnesota

Most of us want to give our birds the best quality bird food possible without going broke. You can feed your bird a healthy, enriched diet and still get the most for your money by maximizing value and reducing waste.

One of the best ways to save money on bird food is simply to reduce waste. There’s no need to fill your bird’s food dish to the brim. Most birds only eat the top few layers of seed or pellets, and the food on the bottom goes to waste. Make sure you’re feeding the appropriate proportion for your species of bird. Invest in a gravity feeder, which dispenses food as needed, to further reduce waste. (Note: Do not allow a base diet such as seed or pellets to sit more than a couple of days.)

Storage Tips
Store your bird’s food in sealed, airtight moisture-resistant containers. Purchase only as much as you will feed within a reasonable amount of time. A 30-day supply of food should stay fresh under climate-controlled conditions. If you freeze or refrigerate your bird’s provisions, prevent mold caused by dampness — make sure they’re packaged so that moisture does not condense on the seed or pellets.

For maximum value, purchase only as much as you will use within a month or two, and store them according to manufacturer’s instructions. Most packaging instructions recommend storing food in a cool, dry place, so avoid keeping food containers by a sunny windowsill or in the cabinet under the kitchen sink.

Freshness counts
Many manufacturers mark their packages with a “best-by” date so consumers can determine the freshness and shelf-life of a product.

Trial Sizes
Some bird food companies provide veterinarians, retailers and even bird clubs with trial samples of food so customers and members can let their birds try new formulas. Pet shop proprietors sometimes create their own sample packets or smaller-sized retail packages for customers to try new foods with little financial risk.

Ursula Berg and her husband, Karl, own Fancy Feathers Exotic Birds in New Jersey. Their store sells various avian diets, and she advises trying a small amount of a new food before committing to the large-sized package. “Some companies provide trial sizes. With other companies, we buy small-sized packages or make up our own samples for customers. We also educate people about switching their birds to pellets and trying new foods.”

Today’s bird food packaging has greatly improved. Canisters, jars and resealable bags all help keep food fresh and bug-free. However, you may want to rethink buying in bulk if it takes your bird months to consume it. Large-sized packages are priced less per pound, but they may not always be a bargain if you keep a single bird. Smaller-sized packages allow your bird to go through portions while the food is at its freshest.

A little homework can result in big savings. Look for coupons and rebates on food packages, in magazines, in bird show programs and on online. Compare prices while shopping. If purchasing food online, make sure it’s from a reputable company and the food stays fresh. Take shipping costs into account when buying online or from mail-order sources. Some online stores offer free shipping.

Watch The Portions!
Bird boarder Donna Garrou, co-owner of birdStuff in Orange, California, has been working with birds for 25 years. Specifications vary among species, older and younger birds, but Garrou recommends watching your bird’s weight to help determine portions.

Feeding the right portions significantly reduces waste and provides your bird the diet it needs to thrive:

Offer enough food that will be eaten in three hours, twice a day.

Small birds typically need 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon of a base diet, while larger birds typically need up to a 1⁄4-cup of their formulated diet.
Portion Sizes:

  • Pellets or a formulated diet – 85 percent
  • Fresh vegetables – 10 percent
  • Treats – 5 pecent

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YOUR BIRD, YOUR MONEY:Observe A Bird’s Food Portions

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Reader Comments
Good info
Zady, Loxahatchee, FL
Posted: 10/21/2011 6:59:19 PM
great info. thanks.
Carol, Silver Spring, MD
Posted: 6/9/2010 8:42:00 AM
DAVID, gretna, LA
Posted: 3/1/2008 6:41:39 PM
Great article. Highly informative.
J, E, CT
Posted: 2/29/2008 8:43:46 PM
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