For many (potential) new parrot owners, it comes as a bit of a shock that seeds don’t constitute a proper parrot diet. They’re still commonly fed, but as you can read in the full article on parrot diet, dry seed mixes are just too high in calories and too low in nutrients. So what does a parrot eat then, if not seed?
One great option to help supply your parrot with the varied, nutritious diet it needs is to make chop. Let’s go into what this is and how to make your own parrot chop at home.
What does a parrot eat? Chop!
One of the classic ways to make sure your parrot gets a varied base diet is to use chop. This is a mixture of all sorts of veggies, grains, legumes and more, chopped into bite-sized bits.
I personally don’t use chop exclusively (I also feed pellets, sprouts, seeds, foraged grasses and whole bits of fruit/veg) but it really is such an easy option. Make a big batch and freeze it so you don’t have to worry about prepping parrot food for weeks or months to come!
Why should you feed chop?
As mentioned in the intro, chop can pack a big nutritious punch. By chopping up a wide range of veggies, leafy greens, fruits and legumes and mixing it with stuff like grains and sprouted seeds, you’re really combining pretty much everything your parrot needs.
The nice thing about chop is that if you use the right ingredients, it can be frozen. It’s easy to make a big batch at once, making it the perfect option for the busy parrot parent! By emphasizing vegetables (low-sugar ones, preferably) you help ensure the prevention of obesity, a very common and potentially life-threatening problem in domestic parrots (Schoemaker, Lumeij, Dorrestein & Beynen, 1999; Matson & Koutsos, 2006).
Another advantage is that chop makes it easy to introduce new foods. You just mix ’em in with the familiar stuff and hopefully your bird won’t even notice it’s there, getting used to the taste in the process.
Note: Some parrot owners don’t feed chop (anymore), citing the fact that they prefer giving their birds whole foods. I’m all for that, but I do like feeding a varied diet, and chop is such an easy way to pack a whole bunch of good stuff into one mixture!
How to make chop
Now, everyone has their own preferences when it comes to making chop and we can’t exactly call this a recipe. Think of it more like a guideline!
In the end it all comes down to what you happen to have in the house at any given time.
Pick your chop ingredients! Try a mix of the following…
- 2x dry ingredients (chia seeds, flax seeds, amaranth, brown rice, hemp seeds, raw oatmeal)
- 2x cooked ingredients (lentils, split peas, wild rice, couscous, quinoa, whole wheat pasta)
- 2x leafy greens (Swiss chard, beet leaves, dandelion leaves, collard greens, carrot tops)
- 2x vegetable (red/green/yellow/hot pepper, peas, broccoli, carrots, corn, squash)
- 1x fruit (apple, strawberry, mango, coconut, banana, fig)
- 1x sprouts (mung bean sprouts, sprouted birdseed, sprouted lentils, microgreens)
- 1x toppings (coconut flakes, almond slivers, (freeze) dried fruit, firm tofu)
Tip: If you’d like to freeze your chop, make sure you’ve got a good ratio of dry to wet. Too many wet ingredients and you’ll just get mush. Don’t add too much stuff that doesn’t freeze too well, like sprouts or watery veggies.
Once you’ve collected all your ingredients, chop preparation is super quick. Cook the ingredients that need it, remove tops, cores and seeds from veggies if need be and you’re ready to chop.
As the name suggests, you can chop all this stuff on a cutting board. If you have a kitchen machine, though, that’ll make your life a whole lot easier. Just toss everything in there and give it a quick blitz; no need to make it super fine.
If your flock is large, you can place the chop into ziploc baggies and pop those into the freezer. Once a baggie runs out, place the next one in the fridge to thaw and use it over the next couple of days. If your flock is small, using an ice cube mold might work better (just bag it so it doesn’t catch any freezer gunk).
How to get your parrot to eat chop
If you have a picky eater, you’ll be thinking right now that this is all fine and dandy, but your bird is never going to accept it. It’s true: some parrots are pretty iffy about new foods and this especially applies to those who have been on a seed-only diet all their lives.
If your parrot is currently eating seeds, it’s probably best to try and switch it over to a high-quality first. This can already take weeks of months, but ensures a proper base diet and might even get your bird in the mood for trying new things.
As for chop, it can be frustrating to slave away in the kitchen, only for your parrot to turn up its nose at the end result. Don’t give up! Below are a few things you can try. Often, once the first bite has been taken, a parrot will quickly take to new foods. It’s just that the initial bite can sometimes take a while to occur.
- Serve chop in a familiar bowl. Place it in your parrot’s regular feeder so it knows it’s dealing with something edible.
- Mix your parrots favorite food into the chop. If I wanted to get my parrots used to something new, I’d mix it with some seeds or the pellets they adore. Sure, they’ll mostly pick out their preferred food, but at least they’re coming into contact with the new stuff.
- Pretend to eat the food yourself. A lot of parrot owners swear by this, which makes sense, as parrots do very much learn by watching their flock members (including you) do things.
- Offer chop bits from your hand. If you tend to hand-feed treats to your parrot, there’s a chance it’ll accept foods more easily from your fingers or palm.
What does a parrot eat other than chop?
Regular Psittacology readers are probably tired of hearing this, but obesity, fatty liver disease and malnutrition are rampant among pet parrots. Part of preventing these problems is by stimulating exercise, but it’s also extremely important to inform yourself about parrot diet.
Although a seed-based diet is not recommendable, there are still plenty of things your parrot can eat. Too many to list here, in fact! Head over to the full parrot diet guide for everything you need to know.
If you have any more questions about parrot diet and feeding chop or if you want to share your own experiences, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.
Cover photo: © Linda Bestwick on Adobe Stock