Converting Your Bird From Seeds to Pellets



Why do I need to change my bird’s diet?

A diet that is predominantly seed is nutritionally inadequate. No matter what is claimed in advertising campaigns or on the back of packaging, seed diets lack the nutrients your bird needs to stay healthy. Birds on seed diets have substantially reduced life spans, and weakened immune systems that make the likelihood of costly medical bills much greater.

There is no doubt that birds like the taste of seeds. Seeds taste yummy for the same reason French fries taste yummy; they are high in fat. Parrots are like young children in that, when given a choice, they will eat what tastes best rather than what is best for them. It is up to you, their caregiver, to make sure that what they eat is healthy and nutritious.

Note: we do not recommend pellets for budgies and cockatiels as pellets are too much of a concentrated dry matter for these desert dwelling species. Instead, we recommend Lafeber’s Nutri-An Foraging and Weight Management cakes and the conversion process is similar.

Is it more effective to change diet gradually or suddenly?

In our experience, gradual diet changes don’t work well. Birds are creatures of habit, and if given a choice they would rather eat familiar foods than try something new. In addition, gradual diet changes can take a long time, and many owners lose patience and give up before their birds are converted. Breakfast is a perfect time to change diet when your bird will be most hungry and ready to try a new food. In the morning, give your bird the new diet and make sure they do not have access to other food or snacking options. It is also best to keep your bird caged during this period. 

How can I encourage my bird to try the new diet?

In the wild, birds learn which foods are safe to eat from watching their parents. In the home, birds look to their owners for guidance regarding new foods. If you make an excited fuss about your bird’s new diet, and show your bird that you think it’s yummy ( if you’re feeding Harrisons it’s okay for you to eat it too), he/she is much more likely to accept it readily. On the other hand, if you frown and look apprehensive about his/her new diet, he/she will be much more reluctant to try it. Some birds can be enticed by breaking up the coarse pellets into smaller bites or topping them with yummy applesauce.

Nutri-An cakes can be 

How long will it take for my bird to eat the new diet?

Some birds will begin eating a pelleted diet immediately. while more stubborn birds may take a few weeks. The important thing is not how quickly it happens, but that your bird is ultimately converted to a nutritious, balanced diet. The major reason people don’t succeed in changing their bird’s diet is lack of patience; don’t let this happen to you. The benefits will last a lifetime.

What if my bird throws a temper tantrum when I offer him/her the new diet?

Some birds will engage in screaming and food throwing fits. Macaws and cockatoos are particularly guilty of this type of manipulative behavior. The best way to nip temper tantrums in the bud is to ignore them. Be patient; your bird will eventually cease and desist.

How do I know if my bird is eating his/her new diet?

The best methods of evaluating whether your bird is eating his/her new food are direct observation, and monitoring the amount and character of the droppings he/she produces. If the bird won’t eat pellets in front of you, look for ground up pellets in the food dish or the floor of the cage. Change the cage papers each morning, so that each day’s droppings can be evaluated. The number of droppings a normal bird should produce in 24 hours varies with the size of the bird; a budgie will produce 25-50 stools per day, while a macaw will produce only 8-15 stools per day.

Normal droppings consist of three parts: the urine portion (clear liquid), urates (chalky white material), and feces (green to brown and formed). If your bird’s droppings do not contain the fecal portion, then it is likely your bird is not eating.

If my bird won’t eat the new diet, should I starve him/her into it?

Under no circumstances should you let your bird starve. Birds have very high metabolic rates, and will become ill if they go without food for prolonged periods. If your bird has refused to eat his/her new diet all day, and there is no feces in his/her droppings try offering a small amount of their food and try again tomorrow. Reintroducing seeds does tend to lengthen the conversion process. 

If your bird is particularly stubborn about trying his/her new food, or you are finding the conversion process nerve-wracking, your veterinarian can convert your bird for you. Most birds convert to a new diet much more quickly when placed in a novel environment, such as a veterinary office.

Which pelleted diet is best for my bird?

The best diet for your bird will depend on a number of factors, including his/her species, body condition, age, and health. Advertising and packaging information can be misleading, and cause you to purchase the wrong food. Breeders and bird hobbyists, while well intentioned, may lack the medical knowledge needed to understand avian nutrition. Since the wrong diet can put your bird’s health at stake, it is best to rely on your veterinarian for dietary recommendations. 

Should I feed my bird fruits and vegetables as well as pellets?

Fresh raw fruits and vegetables can add interest and diversion to your bird’s mealtime. Concentrate on offering colorful fruits and vegetables that are high in vitamin A, such as dark leafy greens, berries, sweet bell pepper, and carrots. Refer to the handout in your new client folder for the vitamin A content in common fruits and vegetables.