Most new bird owners are confused and baffled by all the foods out there for their birds to eat. New bird owners and some of us that have been doing this for awhile are still hesitant to feed our birds new things if we are unsure of the out come. We tend to stick with the basics (ex: carrots, bananas, lettuce, grapes, apples, etc.); not many people experiment with things such as dragon fruit, pumpkin, mango, fresh coconut, etc. and did you know that herbs and spices can put a new spin on an old favourite. I’ve been doing some reading lately on herbal and holistic remedies for people and birds. There are some great ways to keep your birds healthy and introduce new things into their diets using items found in your kitchen or at your nearest grocery store. If you are unsure of an herb or spice consult a holistic veterinarian. According to my reading some safe herbs and spices are:

•ALOE VERA: If you have a bird that is plucking or chewing its feathers adding liquid aloe to the water in your spray bottle baths is a great and less stressful way to curb the problem. The aloe has a bitter taste that will stop most birds from chewing or plucking themselves. (Of course some plucking and chewing problems aren’t this simple to stop). Aloe Vera has an added bonus in that it moisturizes the skin making reducing skin itch and irritability.

•CAYENNE: This is an overall digestive aid containing Vitamins A, C, B-complex, calcium, phosphorous and iron. It is also an anti-inflammatory and helps arthritic conditions. Parrots love the fiery taste of cayenne. It’s a great way of getting them to try new foods.

•CHAMOMILE: These are tiny, daisy-like flowers that are especially helpful to parrots that need a calming influence. Chamomile is one of nature's safest and mildest sedatives, and it can be offered as flowers, fresh or dried, or as herbal tea to calm birds in stressful situations.(My rescued goffin cockatoo is a very high strung and nervous bird. Chamomile has been helping him to calm down and relax ).

•CINNAMON: A personal favourite of mine is cinnamon sticks. These sticks can also be used as "food toys" for parrot and while your bird is picking away at the stick it is releasing the smell of cinnamon into the room and freshening up the smell of your bird’s cage. Cinnamon also has a mild anti-bacterial effect. Ground cinnamon can be sprinkled on fresh foods in hot weather to help prevent the growth of pathogens on bird food.

•DANDELION: The flowers and greens are nutritious foods as well as liver cleansers. They are useful for restoring health to birds that have been maintained on a diet of processed foods. Used in their natural form as food, it is almost impossible to overdose. (I have found this to be great for a few of the birds that have come through the rescue on all seed diets with a lot of sunflower seeds. For those who are unaware sunflower seeds can cause fatty liver disease and should be used only infrequently as a treat).

•GARLIC: This is rich in sulfur and potassium, and it kills fungus, bacteria, and intestinal parasites. Fresh garlic cloves can be offered to parrots in moderation. Measured by the drop, Kyolic liquid garlic is often used to treat fungal and bacterial problems of parrots. Garlic can cause anemia in some animals if given for long periods of time, but to date, there is no documented evidence of harm to parrots.

•GINGER: Is an excellent motion sickness remedy for parrots that travel. A few slices of fresh ginger in the carrier can prevent regurgitation during car trips or airline flights in parrots prone to motion sickness. (My macaw “Sugar Ray” gets motion sickness sometimes in the car and it has helped).

•HERB FLOWERS: The tiny flowering blooms of the following spices are edible and beneficial to the health of parrots: anise, basil, bee balm, chives, coriander (cilantro), dill, fennel, garlic, oregano, rosemary, sage and thyme.

•ROSE HIP: This is a natural blood purifier and infection fighter. Although parrots manufacture their own vitamin C, the fruit of the rose benefits the immune system. There are many other flowers that can be given to parrots for specific treatment purposes and for enjoyment.

Hope everyone’s birds enjoy these new tastes as much as mine have.