What do my birds eat and drink? – Free Range Parrots (2023)

What do my birds eat and drink? – Free Range Parrots (1)

Knowing that I don’t believe in processed (pelleted) diets, people ask me what I feed my birds. So I thought I’d share. It’s very elaborate but maybe you’ll find in it two interesting things to try.

First, note that I have a mixed flock 21 of the following bird species:

  • Cockatiel
  • Rosella
  • Red-rumped parrot
  • Elegant parrot
  • Bourke’s parrot
  • Budgie

Since many live in an aviary, separate mixes are not particularly practical. However, my mix percentages remain the same but I may use only budgie mix for a cage only containing budgies, but a mix containing cockatiel and budgie mix for an aviary.

Fresh food

Everyone gets fresh food every morning. Only a few birds are fruit eaters, but everyone gets veggies.


Apples, pineapple guava, grapes. And sometimes things we buy for ourselves.


Fresh or frozen corn, sweet potato, celery, kale, dill, dandelion, mustard, parsley, basil, collards, cilantro, thyme, watercress, beans, chard, beet greens. Pretty much any leafy green or yellow/orange vegetable or sometimes things we buy for ourselves.


Eggs are a good addition, although frowned up by vets and other bird keepers. The mix of fat and protein as well as low carbohydrates is an excellent combination. Read more about this in all the articles on diet.

Food mixes

I use 2-3 products mixed together, none of which contain any processed (artificial) vitamins. The use of these products are based on the research above.

The first is an excellent product from Christine’s Chop Shop, which contains dehydrated fruit, vegetables, and sprouted seeds, as well as spices, legumes, nuts, cereals, and coconut.

#1 Christine’s Chop Shop Daily Maintenance for Small Birds

Dehydrated chop, sprouted sunflower seeds, star anise, sprouted lentils, sprouted quinoa, buckwheat, hemp seed, sesame seeds, millet, finely diced dried fruit mix, shredded coconut, pecan pieces, walnut pieces, crumbled date pieces, dried greens, crumbled ceylon cinnamon sticks, unsweetened ancient grain cereals, goji berries, cranberries, sprouted pumpkin seeds, and Birdie Brittle.

Dehydrated chop contains:

We start with a 15-20% base of barley, quinoa, cooked dried beans, chia and flax seed, we then add no more than 10% fresh seasonal fruits, and finally, 70-75% fresh, seasonal vegetables. Ingredients may include; kale and other greens, cabbages, bok choy, carrots, corn, peas, string beans, zucchini and yellow squash, cooked sweet potatoes, beets,broccoli, cauliflower, bell and chili peppers, jicama, radish, snow peas, brussel sprouts, assorted apples, papaya, assorted, seasonal berries and other seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Birdie Brittle contains:

Made with sweet potato and baked apple puree, popped amaranth and quinoa, pepitas, almonds, walnuts, pecans, red palm oil, chamomile and Ceylon cinnamon.

For cockatiels or larger birds I use this food mix:

#2 Dr Harvey’s Colossal Cockatiel

Canary Grass Seed, White Millet, Safflower Seed, Canola Seed, Oat Groats, Sesame Seed, Sunflower Seed, Caraway Seed, Flaxseed, Coconut, Raisins, Bananas, Carrots, Hemp Seed, Apples, Macadamia Nuts, Walnuts, Almonds, Pine Nuts, Pistachios, Cashews, Filberts, Pecans, Brazil Nuts, Soybeans, Cranberries, Mangos, Orange Peels, Green Beans, Peas, Spinach, Green Bell Pepper, Red Bell Pepper, Celery, Parsley, Broccoli, Zucchini

For budgies and small parakeets, I use this food mix:

#3 Dr Harvey’s Our Best Parakeet Blend

White Millet, Canola Seed, Niger Seed, Canary Grass Seed, Oat Groats, Red Millet, Apple, Coconut, Carrot, Mango Dices, Hemp Seed, Sesame Seed, Flaxseed, Anise Seed, Poppy Seed, Caraway Seed, Banana, Orange Peel, Macadamia Nuts, Brazil Nuts, Filbert, Cashews, Almonds, Pine Nuts, Pecans, Walnuts, Pistachios, Soybeans, Broccoli, Zucchini, Green Beans, Green Bell Peppers, Red Bell Peppers, Freeze-Dried Peas, Spinach, Celery, Parsley

One thing all three have in common is there are whole, unprocessed foods. I use a different mix depending on the mix of birds.

Mixed flock

  • 1/3 Christine’s Chop
  • 1/3 Cockatiel Mix
  • 1/3 Parakeet Mix

NOTE! The mixed flock mix is based on the proportion of different birds.

Budgies and parakeets

  • 1/2 Christine’s Chop
  • 1/2 Parakeet mix


  • 1/3 Christine’s Chop
  • 2/3 Cockatiel mix

My goal is to gradually transition to the chop food, but it’s tricky in an aviary. Are some birds just going to eat the stuff they like and leave the less pushy birds with nothing?

Added to food

Many of my birds suffer from PTSD so I add some calming things to my food mix as well as things that have been proven to improve animal health. As a reference I use 45 cups of food in a container. Here’s what I add:

Unruffled Rx Premium Parrot Calming Herbs

That’s a mouthful. This contains a long list of dried herbs, each of which can contain a small amount of essential oils. Essential oils have been scientifically proven to improve health and fight against pathogens.

The herbs contained in this mix are:

Alfalfa Leaf, Ashwagandha Root, Astragalus Root, Chickweed Herb, Dandelion Leaf, Echinacea Purpurea Root, Kelp Granules, Lavender Flowers, Lemon Balm, Licorice Root, Marshmallow Root, Olive Leaf, Pau ‘d Arco Bark, Spirulina Powder, Thyme Leaf, Wheatgrass Powder

I add a half cup of this herb mix to my container of food. You can also just give your birds the fresh equivalents of any of these herbs.

Avi-Culture-2-PLUS Probiotics

I sprinkle a very light amount of some probiotic powder to the food mix every morning and then lightly mix it up with my hands or a bamboo skewer. It sticks to the seeds and some gets in their mouths. There is a lot of research, especially on poultry that supports their efficacy.

The administration of the probiotic at the commercially recommended dose promotes better results in the performance, carcass yield and parts, and behavior and well-being of the birds.

Productivity and Well-Being of Broiler Chickens Supplemented With Probiotic

The probiotics come from a 50 year veteran in the avian probiotic industry. Despite a somewhat terrible website, it’s the only proven product of its kind.

Diatomaceous earth (I am not an Amazon affiliate)

I add a quarter cup of diatomaceous earth to my food mix container. This is controversial but there’s legitimate science behind it. There are proven health benefits and it also protects the food mix from critters roaming around inside.

Added to water

I also add calming and antimicrobial things to my water, but the preparation is much more difficult. Here’s what I add:

UnruffledRx Parrot Calming Formula

I have 22 birds and it recommends 1/8 teaspoon for one small bird, so I use 2 tsps daily in a liter of water.

I wrote an article about the research to support the active ingredient in this product, L-Theanine.

Essential oils

For research, I’ll requote what I did above. Essential oils have been scientifically proven to improve health and fight against pathogens.

I use one drop of Thyme Oil and Tea Tree Oil in a liter of water. Given birds drink a very small fraction of water, I’m personally not concerned with overdose. If you are, don’t do it.


I use 1 tsp of Apple Cider Vinegar in 1 liter of water. There’s some shockingly good research on ACV. This one from the poultry world is eye popping.

In the vinegar group, no clinical signs of coccidiosis were observed. Concentrations of total antioxidants and catalase enzyme activity significantly increased (p≤0.05); while malondialdehyde concentration significantly decreased (p≤0.05).

Anticoccidial Effect of Apple Cider Vinegar on Broiler Chicken: An Organic Treatment to Measure Anti-oxidant Effect


So, there’s a trick to getting essential oils to mix with water. So, here’s what I mix together with a hand blender (I am not an Amazon affiliate).

  • 1 drop Tea Tree oil
  • 1 drop Thyme oil
  • 2 Tsp UnruffledRx Parrot calming formula
  • 1/2 Tbsp Sunflower Lecithin (I am not an Amazon affiliate)
  • 1 Liter water

I mix that all up with my hand blender or any blender. The lecithin gives it a slightly brown color, but the birds seem to drink as much as normal. It can also get some foam on top depending on how vigorously you blend it.

What if I don’t have much time

It takes an hour for me to prepare and serve this every day for 22 birds. That’s a lot of time. There are some things you can do to cut out a lot of time.

If you don’t need any of the calming help, you can use plain old water. The essential oils they can get from the dried herbs in the food and the fresh herbs you feed them.

The beauty of adding to the seed mixture is that the DE and the herb mix can be pre-mixed and then you just serve it daily. The only thing that you’d have to add daily is probiotic, which is quite quick.


I wanted to share my regimen and the science to back it up. The difficult part is dosing. Everything I have is either based on poultry research or on human research. Then I just scale it down to bird scale.

For example, they may recommend a tablespoon of ACV twice a day, so I scale that down to bird weight and then take into account that birds drink a very small amount of what you give them (1% maybe?).


What does a parrot eat and drink? ›

Think You Can? Parrots eat plants, flowers, grains, nuts, seeds, and insects for much of their diet. Parrots are omnivores in most cases, enjoying a mix of plant and animal foods. They love vegetables, fruit, and nectar, but certain fruit varieties have toxic pits or stones that parrots shouldn't consume.

What is a parrots favorite food? ›

The majority of parrot breeds enjoy vegetables such as kale, zucchini and shredded carrot, while their favourite fruits are papaya, banana and rockmelon. Never give your parrot chocolate, caffeine, avocados, fruit seeds, mushrooms, peanuts, onions or garlic. Your parrot's species will dictate how often they'll eat.

What food should be in my parrots cage? ›

The best foods for your pet parrot to eat are fresh vegetables, fruit and either pellets or seed mixes. I try to ensure that at least around 40% of my birds diet is fresh fruit and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables provide an extensive array of vitamins and minerals. Additionally, they are low in fats.

What fruits and vegetables can parrots eat? ›

Healthy fruits and vegetables include the following – peas in the pod, bean sprouts, leeks, artichokes, zucchini, green beans, okra, beets, tomato, potato, apples, banana, dark berries, pomegranate, oranges or tangerines, kiwi, cranberries, etc.

Can parrots drink tap water? ›

In most situations, ordinary tap water is fine. “I don't think every bird needs to have bottled water imported from France in his cage,” says Florida veterinarian Dr. Gregory Harrison, DVM. “If you feel comfortable drinking the water, then it's probably OK for your bird.”

What juice can parrots drink? ›

He recommends selecting a parrot's favorite fruit or vegetable for juicing. He says that apples are always a good choice for juicing, and he also recommends carrots, kale, spinach and other healthful fruits and vegetables. Dr.

What food do parrots not like? ›

Toxic foods and foods to avoid giving parrots
  • Alcohol.
  • Avocado.
  • Cassava (tapioca)
  • Caffeine.
  • Dairy products.
  • Onion, garlic, scallions.
  • Meat.
  • Mushrooms.
Dec 4, 2018

What calms parrots? ›

When you're trying to calm your parrot down, make it a special point to always generously reward desired, calm behavior. Toss a treat in his dish as a reward. Or, stop and talk to your bird, whistle and dance with it. Jingle a toy or play directly with the bird.

What do parrots like to play with? ›

Pieces of wood, leather, thick rope or safe children's toys all count as good foot toys. Along with beaks, feet are a parrots means of exploring its environment, and interesting new textures on new objects will always hold his attention.

What do parrots eat for breakfast? ›

The base diet, whether it's Nutri-Berries, Avi-Cakes, Pellet-Berries, or Premium Daily Diet Pellets — or a combination of these, should be offered in the morning when your pet bird is hungriest to ensure that he fills up on balanced nutrition first.

Should parrots have food all day? ›

In the wild, Parrots feed in the morning, rest in the daytime and feed in the late afternoon before roosting. That means they have at least 12 hours with no food available. Domestic Parrots in cages often have two bowls filled or sometimes the whole diet mixed up in one bowl. This means they might snack all day long.

How often should you change birds water? ›

A water cup or bowl is the best way to offer water. It needs to be washed out daily and replaced with clean water. A slimy film will form after 24 hours, so again, daily washing is recommended and if they soil the water, an extra change will be needed.

Can parrots eat oatmeal? ›

Grains: Cooked grains can include barley, brown rice and quinoa. Other grains that your parrot may like include oatmeal.

What fruits do parrots love the most? ›

Fruit and Vegetables – all fresh fruit and vegetables are generally safe for parrot consumption but the favourite ones we have found are carrot, beetroot, peas, sweetcorn, apple, banana, grapes, orange, papaya and pomegranates.

Do parrots eat cucumber? ›

Can parrots eat cucumber? Yes, cucumber is fine for your bird. It's not very nutritious and it contains a lot of water (which can cause loose poops), but many parrots do like it.

How often should you bathe your parrot? ›

Birds should be encouraged to bathe often, as their feathers and skin will look healthier if they bathe frequently. Start by offering a bath to your bird once or twice weekly. You may notice that your bird has a preference about the time of day it likes to bathe.

Is it OK to spray a parrot with water? ›

Birds prefer cool water for their bathing pleasure. Many pet birds enjoy a nice misting with a spray bottle. You can also spray the mist upward so it falls on your bird like rain. Give your pet bird a shower with the watering can that you use to water your houseplants.

Do you have to shower parrots? ›

Yes! Similar to people, parrots get dirty, and they need to keep clean to feel comfortable and promote good health. Most of our companion parrots are just a few generations out of the wild. A good bathing program can satisfy many of their natural needs, wants and desires.

Is Gatorade good for parrots? ›

Weak or injured birds usually need rehydrating. They can slowly be given sips of Gatorade or a sugar water mixture which can then be given by dipping your finger in the liquid and running your finger along its beak so the liquid can slowly seep inside.

What can parrots not drink? ›

Caffeinated drinks such as coffee, tea and soda are tempting to share with your bird, but even a few sips of these beverages can be extremely hazardous to your feathered pal. Caffeine may cause increased heart rate, arrhythmias, hyperactivity and even cardiac arrest in birds.

Is Cranberry Juice OK for parrots? ›

No On Juice

Patt doesn't recommend offering cranberry juice to birds, as it is very concentrated. “It creates an imbalance in the diet,” she said, if birds are offered cranberry juice over a regular cranberry.

What sounds do parrots hate? ›

3 Sounds that Scare Birds
  • High-frequency, ultrasonic sounds. One of the best sounds to get birds to scatter (and perhaps not to return) are synthetic sounds such as high-frequency, ultrasonic sounds. ...
  • Ultrasonic bird repellers. ...
  • Sonic bird repellers.

What fruits are poisonous to parrots? ›

Fruit Pits & Apple Seeds

While diced apple is OK for pet birds, the apple seeds contain cyanide and should always be removed prior to feeding apple to your bird. Pits from cherries, plums, apricots, and peaches also contain cyanide, so never allow your bird to chew on them.

How do you know if a bird doesn't like you? ›

How to Tell if Your Bird is Unhappy or Stressed – And What to Do
  1. 1.Biting. While many bird owners misinterpret birds' biting as an act of aggression, this behavior is often a sign of stress and fear. ...
  2. 2.Screaming. ...
  3. 3.Decreased vocalization. ...
  4. 4.Feather picking. ...
  5. 5.Self-mutilation. ...
  6. 6.Stereotypical behaviors. ...
  7. 7.Decreased appetite.
Jun 16, 2017

How do I know if my parrot is happy? ›

Singing, Talking or Whistling These are clear signs that your bird is in a happy mood and is healthy and content. Some birds may show off and do this more when near people. Chatter Soft chatter is another sign of contentment, or can just be your bird attempting and learning to talk.

Do parrots need to be covered at night? ›

As long as a dark, quiet and somewhat secluded area is provided for a bird to sleep in, most will be fine without being covered at night. Remember, however, that sleep is vital to a bird's well-being. If you are in doubt about your pet's reaction to being uncovered, play it safe and resume covering the cage at night.

Do parrots get bored in cages? ›

Getting a bigger cage or aviary might make a huge difference for your parrot. If your cage is too small, your parrot might get bored very easily and, as a result, develop some signs of destructive behaviour like feather plucking. You should always get a cage of the proper size to keep your parrots happy and healthy.

Can parrots eat Cheerios? ›

Parrots often accept Cheerios or Grape Nuts (cockatiels seem to love them!) instead of seed, and they then seem more willing to try other things, like pellets,” Muscarella says. “If one is concerned about additives, there are organic cereals on the market.

Are Cheerios good for birds? ›

Birds can eat Cheerios and often love to do so. But that does not mean that they are the healthiest choice for birds (or even for us!). Their high sugar content and salt content mean that they are not the best option if you are looking for foods to share with the birds.

Are scrambled eggs good for parrots? ›

Can parrots eat scrambled eggs? Parrots can feed on scrambled eggs without issues, as long as you use minimal or no oil.

How do I know if my parrot is hungry? ›

Just like babies, birds make fussy noises, including squawks and screeches, when they are hungry. This is similar to the behavior of young wild nestlings, which make noises to get their parents' attention and receive more food. A hungry bird will keep visiting its food bowl, hoping for tidbits to appear.

How much attention do parrots need a day? ›

Indirect Attention (recommended minimum 2 hours per day) - Parrots love to observe other flock members and their daily routines while quietly amusing themselves with a toy on their T-stand. Just taking a few minutes to talk or hand out a treat will help remind your bird he is an integral part of the family.

What is the best thing to put in the bottom of a bird cage? ›

The bottom of the cage should be lined with disposable paper such as newspaper or paper towels that can be thrown away every day. Newsprint is now free of lead, so it is non-toxic to birds, even if they chew on it.

Should birds drink tap water? ›

What type of water is safe for birds? We are often asked whether tap water is safe for birds. The short answer is yes - generally speaking, if your tap water can be consumed by humans, it can be used in a bird bath. However, if you're still not sure, bottled spring water or filtered tap water will work too.

How often should you clean bird poop? ›

Cleaning seed feeders

Bird droppings and other contaminants may also spread infectious bird diseases. Clean your feeders about once every two weeks, more often during times of heavy use or wet weather or if there have been reports of salmonella in your area or you have seen sick birds in your yard.

Why do you spray birds with water? ›

Aside from the fact that many birds enjoy a good spritz, misting can promote healthy preening of the feathers, leading to reduced instances of feather picking and plucking, as well as helping to invigorate your bird's skin.

Are apples good for parrots? ›

Apples are safe for parrots to eat. They generally do not contain any harmful elements that could harm your bird, except for their seeds, which contain a toxic substance known as cyanide. Apple peels might contain pesticides if not properly washed as well.

Can parrots eat rice? ›

Technically, both raw and cooked rice are safe for parrots. Keep in mind that your bird's ancestors would only encounter raw rice in the wild. Most birds probably won't have strong feelings about raw versus cooked when rice is presented in their meals.

Can parrots eat lettuce? ›

Spinach and other types of leafy green vegetables such as romaine lettuce and kale are also wonderful additions to any pet bird's healthy diet. 2 Not only do most birds love to eat these healthy veggies, but they are also full of nutrients and antioxidants that can boost your bird's immune system.

Is popcorn OK for birds? ›

Can I Feed Popcorn to Birds? It's not the worst food you can give to birds. It's not toxic like chocolate or honey; a small amount probably won't cause significant problems. However, it's best to avoid feeding popcorn to birds in large quantities.

Can parrots eat pasta? ›

Your feathered pet can eat both the cooked and raw versions of pasta. A bit of boiled pasta can be a good addition to parrot food mixes (known as chop), especially if it's whole wheat. In order to properly boil some pasta for a bird, just cook a few pieces in plain water without salt until they're soft.

Can parrot eat grapes? ›

Grapes. These fun, bite-sized fruits are a hit with birds all over the world, and it's no wonder why. Grapes are very sweet to the taste and contain a rather high level of fructose. This means that they can work to give your bird a quick energy boost—but should be fed sparingly for that very reason.

Are tomatoes OK for parrots? ›

While fresh tomatoes are not actually toxic to birds, many vets recommend not feeding them because they are acidic and can irritate a bird's digestive system.

Can parrots eat celery? ›

Among other things, celery is a source of essential nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and potassium, all of which help to keep your feathered friends in tip-top health. There is nothing in celery stalks that is dangerous or toxic to birds.

What vegetables can parrots not eat? ›

Onions and garlic

Onions contain sulfur compounds that, when chewed, can irritate the lining of a bird's mouth, esophagus, or crop, causing ulcers, and can induce rupture of red blood cells resulting in anemia. Garlic contains allicin, another chemical that can cause anemia and weakness in birds.

What does a parrot drink water? ›

With a few exceptions, birds lack the ability to suction liquid into their throats, as horses do. Most birds drink by filling their bill with water—often from morning dew on leaves—then tilting their head back, using gravity to send the liquid into their digestive tract.

Can parrots eat bread? ›

Birding experts Kenn and Kimberly Kaufman say, “We discourage people from feeding bread to birds, as there are far too many potential risks. If moldy, bread can be dangerous to birds. Bread gets moldy quickly, and mold can pose a number of health problems for birds.

Should you give birds tap water? ›

What type of water is safe for birds? We are often asked whether tap water is safe for birds. The short answer is yes - generally speaking, if your tap water can be consumed by humans, it can be used in a bird bath. However, if you're still not sure, bottled spring water or filtered tap water will work too.

How often do you change a parrot's water? ›

A water cup or bowl is the best way to offer water. It needs to be washed out daily and replaced with clean water. A slimy film will form after 24 hours, so again, daily washing is recommended and if they soil the water, an extra change will be needed.

What annoys parrots? ›

Parrots are prey animals and can startle easily by new large objects, loud noises, and sudden movements. Keep your parrots away from the sight and sounds of predatory animals.

Where do parrots like to be touched? ›

Most parrots prefer to be touched on the head. This is similar to how many parrots interact with each other in the wild. Because parrots can't reach to preen the feathers on their own heads, they often appreciate the help of a friend for this job.

Where should my parrot sleep? ›

The sleep cage should be put in a room that's completely dark and quiet, where the bird is not going to be disturbed—such as a spare bedroom, laundry room or even a large walk-in closet.

How do parrots show affection? ›

A parrot that rapidly flips their tail is most likely happy to see you. A species like a caique might even start bopping along the perch. The more sedate, larger parrots show pleasure more discreetly. Another sign of affection is the parrot who flies straight to your arm before you have even called her.

Is peanut butter bad for parrots? ›

Peanut butter is a good high-protein food for birds, and they can eat any of the same types humans do. If you're buying it specifically for birds, look for natural or organic types with the fewest additives. Try offering crunchy peanut butter for an extra nutty treat.

Can birds eat popcorn? ›

Can I Feed Popcorn to Birds? It's not the worst food you can give to birds. It's not toxic like chocolate or honey; a small amount probably won't cause significant problems. However, it's best to avoid feeding popcorn to birds in large quantities.

Can parrots eat yogurt? ›

While there are some birds that like to have milk or cheese or yogurt in their diet, many of those things do have lactose in them. Do not feed too much dairy product to a pet bird or parrot, because they can't really digest it properly, which can lead to diarrhea.


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