Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Parrot Feeding Strategies - Part 1: Free Feed

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...
  1. Free Feed: Where food is freely available in bowls. This feed strategy represents `low behavioural criteria' for access.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

CWS Companion Parrot Workshop 2011

Long time no post!!! Well - I've been kinda too busy to get some posts up but hopefully over the summer months I'll have time to resume the ramblings here :-) To re-start things I just wanted to give a big thankyou to the participants at the 2011 Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary Companion Parrot Workshop. This is an annual experience that I coordinate each year and last Saturday our 2011 class had an absolutely fantastic day of bird nerd immersion in all things parrot related. This particular class seemed to really take up the opportunity to acquire some enrichment products that we have available on the day courtesy of The Parrot Rescue Centre (www.parrotrescuecentre.com). I took home a few things myself (thanks Zarita ;-) and I think I've finally found the ultimate `lasting' chewable toy for my Macaws. Zarita's partner Jamie Carpenter is the man behind the tools behind the `Natural Toys' that are made by PRC and one particular product - the `Natural Boing Large' has been a hit with Bonita and Maya since I placed it in their aviary on Monday. Nothing overly special about the Macaws getting something to chew up - the difference here is that it's Wednesday and it's still there! My Macaws generally work on the principle of `the more expensive it is - the quicker we can destroy it'. I sometimes kinda feel like I may as well open up my wallet and just give them a few 50's to chew up and get it over and done with (not that I ever really have 50's in my wallet these days). The Natural Boing though has been a winner - both for maintaining their destructive perseverance (a good thing!) and it's longevity thus far. Compared to the $25 bag of various foot toys that they turned into wood chip in less than an hour (seriously) these boings are better bang for the buck. If you are keen to get your parrots some enrichment products for Christmas then definitely go and check out the PRC Shop - they've got everything a parrot wants to see under their tree. Thanks to Zarita and Bella for the set up of the enrichment stand at the workshop!!!
Bonita getting stuck into her PRC Natural Boing Large - a ripper of an enrichment item for large macaws!!!