Written by Emi, birdpalace
I hope you noticed something unusual about the title of this article! Yes, I did repeat the title three times to serve a purpose. Getting your bird adjusted to pellets can be difficult, but with repetition, persistence, and the right knowledge, you can get your birds eating healthy in no time. There are a few keys to success: getting the right pellet brand, knowing how to convert your bird properly, and knowing how to fit pellets into your bird's diet.
Okay, so let's start with a very VERY important key to pellet success: getting the right pellet brand. Although this may seem like a very trivial detail, this is actually the most important part of converting your bird to pellets. Each brand has a certain taste and certain ingredients, and each tiny difference means your bird will either hate it or love it.
A good brand will:
- Not contain any preservatives.
- Not contain any artificial flavorings or colorings.
- Not contain sugar.
The brand I recommend the most is Harrison's (http://harrisonsbirdfoods.com), because most people I know have had success with it. Another good brand is Foundation Formula (http://www.organicbirdfood.com). Both of these brands have something in common: they are 100% organic. They are also both available to be ordered online.
Brands to be avoided are: Kaytee and Lafeber. These brands contain preservatives, specifically ethoxyquin, and also contain artificial preservatives and colorings. Kaytee is also infamously known for overloading their pellets with sugar! These are the most common in pet shops, but also ZuPreem (preferably ZuPreem Natural) can be found in the normal pet shop and it is probably the best you can get from a pet shop. I used it to convert my birds, but it took awhile.
Now that you've unlocked your first key, we can move onto converting your bird properly to pellets. There are many methods to conversion, and some work better than others. The most commonly used one is mixing pellets gradually into the dish with the seeds. This has worked for some, but the problem is that the bird can still completely avoid the pellets and continue to eat the seed.
Another method is to serve pellets in a different form. For example, soaking it in water and creating a mash out of it. (Duddles' note: when pellets or mash are mixed with water, they cannot be left all day, since they start to spoil quickly. Maximum: 1 hour.) Many birds might try this, but here's the catch: not all pellets are in a mashed form. Harrison's brand, however, does have a mashed form made primarily for finches that is also good for converting picky birds if you find this is the only way to get your bird to try pellets.
Another very common method is to put a seed dish in the cage in the morning (with a separate dish for pellets), then take the seed dish out in the afternoon leaving just the pellet dish, then put the seed dish back in the cage for the evening and night. Since birds primarily eat in the morning and night, they are able to eat their normal diet, but if they want an afternoon snack their only choice is to eat pellets. This is my favorite method and has worked for many.
During the conversion period, keep a very close eye on your bird's weight. (Duddles' note: It is best to use a gram scale and a good one at that. An old, out of calibre kitchen scale may not be good enough to detect a couple of grams, which is actually a huge amount of weight, for example, to a budgie that only weighs 25-35 grams to begin with.) Weigh your bird before you begin conversion and continue to weigh your bird twice or more a week during the conversion period (you may want to weigh him every day if you feel its necessary). If you bird appears to be losing weight, make sure you aren't limiting his normal seed intake. This is sometimes a problem if you are using the gradual mix-in method.
Even after your bird appears to be converted, continue to watch his weight for at least a month after the apparent conversion. In most birds, the color of his dropping may change (typically from green to a brown) once he has been converted to a pelleted diet.
Conversion will without a doubt be the most difficult part of feeding your bird pellets, but fitting pellets into your bird's diet properly and healthily is just as important. Just as an all-seed diet isn't good for your bird, neither is an all-pellet diet. Seeds are a natural part of your bird's diet in the wild, and should continue to be a small part of your bird's domesticated diet as well.
With your pellets there should be a chart saying how much pellets you should feed your bird daily. For the Harrison's brand, this can be found on their website. For each breed of bird, there are directions as to how much pellets to give them.
According the chart at Harrison's website for the Adult Lifetime Fine pellets (http://harrisonsbirdfoods.com/al.cfm), one should feed a budgie 1-2 tsp of pellets, and then feed him approximately 1 tsp of fruits or vegetables. It also says on the list that such feeding of fruits and vegetables isn't required, but it is certainly best for your bird. Without fresh foods in his diet, a bird lacks a vital part of his varied diet.
Then, in addition to this amount of pellets and fruits, a bird would require a small amount of seed, keeping with his natural diet. Allowing him a small amount of seed early in the day will keep him in tune with his natural system.
For more information about pellets and purchasing pellets, go to these websites: www.harrisonsbirdfoods.com and www.organicbirdfood.com. Also, there are many valuable posts at the Tailfeathers Community detailing members' attempts at the switch. They may be very helpful to you.