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Pellets: Bird Term of the Day

Definitions of words used by pet bird enthusiasts with the pet bird slant.

By Angie Hendrickson

 
There are many types of pellets out on the market.

Pellets are a complete formulated diet for pet birds that provides all vitamins and nutrients necessary for a bird’s health. They are usually in the form of small biscuits and require little-to-no supplementation with other vitamins or minerals.

Pellets became popular in the 1990s. Veterinarians were increasingly concerned with the health of pet birds, as little was known about birds’ diets in the wild and how best to replicate them in captivity. Scientists and veterinarians researched birds’ nutritional needs and developed pellets, attempting to create a healthy, complete diet much like dog food or cat food. Pellet manufacturers typically use a variety of ingredients often found in more traditional bird food, such as millet, sunflower seeds, barley, rice and corn, as well as vitamin supplements, to ensure a complete, balanced diet.

There is some debate about feeding pellets. Many veterinarians, owners and bird breeders agree that pellets are an excellent way of ensuring your bird receives balanced nutrition. With pellets, your bird can’t pick out the foods it doesn’t like, and pellet formulas were created with this in mind. However, some argue that because so little is known about wild parrots’ diets, it’s impossible to claim that pellets alone can be a complete diet. In addition, some bird owners have trouble transitioning their birds to pellets, which creates additional problems.

Avian veterinarian Scott Echols, DVM, deals with this debate by splitting the difference. He recommends a diet of 50- to 70-percent pellets and the rest vegetables and fruit. “Since we do not know the nutritional requirements for most avian species, we do not recommend feeding any one food item,” said Echols. “In other words, all pellet diets are not ideal, just as is true with all seed diets.” Echols' main piece of advice for bird owners is to use common sense. “If the food you offer is not good for you, it is probably not good for your bird.”

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