I’m an administrator at a Facebook group called "The Parrot’s Pantry.” It was begun a few years ago by Michelle "Elle" Magnon with the thought that sharing recipes and feeding concepts in a public forum would be helpful to her friends with birds. But she never expected the overwhelming response she got.
The pantry group now has more 16,000 members and it's still growing rapidly. The posting is frequent with some incredible photographs. Those who are new to having birds in their life are getting some great coaching and the group is enthusiastic and sincere in their wish to become better educated at feeding their flocks a healthy diet.
I interviewed a few administrators at The Parrot’s Pantry group to find out some of the trends they are seeing in people creating their own foods and recipes for their flocks. I also asked them about the work involved in running this Facebook group and some of the problems they run into with such a huge number of people.
Are you surprised at the number of people who have signed up and are still clamoring to get in?
David Hull: No! People love their parrots, and most humans want to learn how to care for them better.
Linda Bestwick: I don’t think any of us knew how quickly this group would grow in the beginning. But, no, I’m not at all surprised at how it keeps growing. The group is a real inspiration, very active, and a great source of information for anyone with parrots. I’m sure word of mouth brings many new members to us.
What are the latest trends in making food for parrots?
Fran Itzazu: Oh the creativity is endless! People want to know about chop, healthy birdie breads, grain bakes, and treats. I am always amazed when I see a new post from someone who has developed a new cookie or food-related foraging opportunity.
Emily Strong: Oh, there are a lot of trends out there. Some better than others. But I think the overall trend, despite the varying philosophies and beliefs about avian nutrition, is that people are starting to care more about meeting their birds' nutritional needs. Even though none of us really know what exactly their needs are yet, more and more people are at least beginning to realize that a diet of seed and/or processed foods is most definitely not meeting those needs. So that general shift in attitude is, I would say, the overarching trend — and that's a great thing
Hull: I’m not sure that I can identify specific trends for parrot food. I only hope that the number of people who think all seed diet is OK will further diminish, and more parrots will be offered a diet including fresh raw food.
You must be pleased with this new trend of people feeding their flocks a healthier diet. Did you expect this overwhelmingly positive response to the concept?
Itzazu: I did and I didn’t. I figured some folks would look for a guideline of safe/unsafe produce. People are asking good, valid questions and getting good, valid answers in return. Everyone is learning. I never imagined how intense the research would become, opening an awareness to what and how the food industry operates, what chemicals are used and how safe or unsafe they are. A recent example of this is the use of GMO corn, and the potential problems related to the use of GMO products in foods we all eat, human and pet.
Strong: I don't think I had any expectations one way or another. When Elle asked me to become a moderator for the group, I just thought, "Sure, that sounds fun." I wasn't really thinking about how people would respond to it one way or another; I just thought it would be fun to participate in a group where we could share recipes with each other.
Sometimes people get all "Martha Stewart" on the Pantry at times. Does this amuse you?
Bestwick: I actually really like the extra effort people put into making meals look pretty and delicious. My favorites are the one's decorated with flowers or when creativity and humor combine to make something like a funny face.
I'm not sure the parrots take much notice but I certainly like them.
Hull: Eating together is an act of communion in all cultures. Making food special for the nonhumans is a loving thing (sometimes a chore), too!
Strong: I think it's great! I think the single most important thing in avian husbandry is that people find ways to make these tasks sustainable and enjoyable for themselves, too. Otherwise, people get burned out and lose interest in their birds. So for the long-term well-being of companion parrots, their caregivers need to make their care as fun for themselves as it is for their birds. When people find this joy by turning their birds' meals into 5-star gourmet cuisine, so much the better! Both the birds and the humans win, and they just might inspire other parrot caregivers to start doing the same. Everybody wins!
What was the most gratifying moment at the Pantry for you?
Strong: I don't think I have a single most gratifying moment, but the moments I find the most gratifying are when people previously felt lost, confused, overwhelmed and/or frustrated, and through participation in the group they find solutions, empowerment, inspiration and success. When people share their successes and you can feel their excitement at what they've achieved, those are the most gratifying moments.
Hull: I really can’t say: Anytime someone makes an effort to improve their parrot’s diet and shares it with us, the mission of the group is accomplished—and a bird’s life improves.
Bestwick: Every day I look in the pantry and see how many members we have I feel gratification. That’s not a sentimental response. It’s from knowing that every one of those members is probably now feeding a much better diet to one or more parrots. So, literally thousands of parrots are now enjoying a more enriching and healthy life. What could be more gratifying than that?
Thanks so much for taking the time for "Psittacine Cuisine.”
You can join the "The Parrot's Pantry" and requesting to join. It might take a day or so for them to respond to your request as the administrators lead busy lives, so be patient.
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