I was reflecting on my recent workshop day and probably the session that generates the most interest is when I discuss diet management for enrichment and training. One thing I love about this time of year is the abundance of seasonal fruits and vegies on offer for the birds. I thought this might be a good time share a few images and insights into how I feed my flock of birds. Basically I look at managing the daily food intake of my parrots in three different contexts...
- Free Feed: Where food is freely available in bowls. This feed strategy represents `low behavioural criteria' for access.
- Enrichment Feed: Where food is presented away from bowls and in contexts such as foraging toys, F&V kebabs, or scatter feed throughout the enclosure. This feed strategy represents `high behavioural criteria' for access.
- Training Feed: Where food that is isolated from free feed access is offered during hands-on training or handling sessions.
For this post I just wanted to touch on my `Free Feed' approach. A few tips to share...
- I cut all of my fruit and vegetables that are delivered as free feed into pieces no larger than pea size. This is very successful in not only getting the birds to feed for longer durations (rather than the `taste and waste' result when feeding large chunks) but also in being better able to work out exactly how much F&V they are consuming and to work their daily intake down to the point where I am not wasting large amounts of fresh food.
- Chillis are great for parrots! A lot of parrot owners aren't aware that parrots lack the capsaicin receptors in their tongue therefore they feel no heat sensation from eating peppers. Packed with Vitamin A - these are a great addition to the feed out.
- I `shave' the head of broccoli and mix it through the salad as I find it's the only way to get some consumption of broccoli. Most parrots ignore it if you place it in as a chunk with the stem.
- The peas and corn are just from a frozen pack - I thaw them out with warm water for a few seconds and they're good to go.
To make free feed a little more variable always place 4 to 6 different bowl holders in the enclosure to give you options each day to change the position of where they need to go to access their food bowl.
Basically my aim is for my parrots (non-lorikeets) to be consuming about 50% fresh produce, 30% formulated pellets and 20% seeds and nuts as their daily food intake.
The selection for today - Mango, Banana, Kiwi Fruit, Apple, Pear, Pomegranate, Rockmelon, HoneyDew Melon, Watermelon, Lychee, Snow Peas, Brocolli, Chillis, Peas & Corn. My parrots pretty much get this mix each day as part of their Free Feed.
My fruit and vegetable mix is always cut up into `pea' size portions and mixed into a salad for their Free Feed. This helps with monitoring intake, increasing feeding duration and reducing waste.