Don’t let your feathered friend become a seed junkie. Seeds have too much fat and not enough vitamins, minerals and proteins. Budgie parakeets fed seed-only diets have a much shorter life span — in fact, malnourishment is a leading cause of premature death in pet birds! Furthermore, “Avian veterinarians estimate that poor nourishment is the underlying cause of about 75 to 80 percent of the medical problems they see.” (Source: Bird Talk April 2010)
Prepackaged parakeet food should constitute no more than about 20 percent of your budgie’s diet. If offered seeds as a free-choice diet component, budgies will usually eat the seed to the exclusion of everything else offered. In other words, don’t put a dish of just seeds in your bird’s cage and expect them to eat their vegetables, too!
So if a seed-only diet is lacking in nutrition, should you feed those “complete nutrition” pelleted diets instead? In a word, NO. Avoid processed foods whenever possible and feed “live”, enzyme-rich whole foods as nature intended. Heck, I don’t feed my family a daily diet of processed meal bars or bowls of boxed cereal just because they’re packed full of synthetic vitamins! I feed my family whole, natural, enzyme-rich, unprocessed foods. Likewise with my budgies.
A diet of cooked and processed food does not contain as much nutritional value or enzymes as fresh raw foods. It has been estimated that approximately 85% of the original nutrients are destroyed after cooking. Soaked and sprouted seeds, nuts, grains, legumes and peas provide your bird with nutrient and enzyme-rich food as nature intended.
Vegetables are best fed raw. For the biggest nutritional punch, focus mostly on dark green leafy vegetables (some favorites are dandelion leaves, parsley, cilantro, kale, spinach) and orange veggies (carrots, sweet potatoes, yams, pumpkin). For optimal health, vegetables can be fed daily. Offer fruit only occasionally (perhaps 1-2 times weekly) as it contains more sugar.
How to encourage your budgie parakeet to eat new foods:
- If your budgie has eaten little except prepackaged dry seed before, she will need time to get used to something different. Sometimes it takes weeks but don’t give up! Her life and good health are at stake.
- Offer the new food items as a appetizer — BEFORE breakfast when she is most hungry.
- Lightly sprinkle her favorite seeds on top of the new food. After this initial introduction, mix a small amount of the seeds into the new food to encourage exploration.
- Many budgies will be encouraged to try new foods by peer pressure — observing another bird eating the food. Lacking another bird, try placing the new food on a mirror.
- Try moistening leafy green vegetables before offering as budgies often like to bathe on them, then eat them.
- Try serving large chunks of veggies for them to chew pieces off, as well as finely grated and mixed into their sprouts.
- If your budgie continues to pick out her favorite ingredients and leaves the rest, try coarsely grinding a mixture of her normal food with the new food items (right before serving) to make it difficult for her to be picky. A coffee bean/spice grinder works well for small batches; a food processor for large batches. But you will need to remove uneaten ground-up foods from the cage within 1-4 hours (depending on climate) because it will spoil much faster than whole foods and sprouts will.
Jen’s Daily Feeding Routine:
Breakfast: Remove overnight food remains. In a clean bowl, put 1-2 teaspoons (per budgie) of an organic, soaked, germinated and rinsed mix of seeds, grains, legumes and peas. (Note: I sell an organic sprouting mix; I also provide the ingredients and directions below so you can make it yourself.) Mix in 1 tablespoon of finely chopped, organic, fresh or frozen vegetables and/or fruit. Optional: Sprinkle with cinnamon, ginger or cayenne pepper.
Afternoon Meal: Throw away breakfast meal remains and wash the food dish with soap and hot water. This meal is identical to the breakfast meal however it is important to offer a fresh (or refrigerated) new batch to avoid spoilage and bacterial infections.
Bedtime: An hour before you tuck your budgie(s) in for the night, remove the afternoon meal remains and wash the dish. Provide 1 scant teaspoon (per budgie) of Kaylor of Colorado seed mix, Harrison’s pellets, or Dr. Harvey’s dry food for late night munching.
Note: Parakeets hull their seeds, which means they take the “skin” off the outside of the seed before eating it. This “skin” normally drops back into the dish, so it may look like their dish is full. Don’t be fooled by a dish of empty seed hulls!
Keep in the cage at all times:
- 1 teaspoonful of herb and spice mix (see ingredients on this page below and make your own, or purchase the herb and spice mix from me)
- Mineral block
- Clean water
Once a week (or 2-3 times weekly for molting or nesting birds):
- Wash an organic egg.
- Drop the entire egg into a food processor or blender. The shell is a good source of calcium. Add finely diced vegetables and/or herbs and a slice of whole grain bread. Whir it all up to mince the shell and blend ingredients together.
- Cook thoroughly in the microwave or skillet. DO NOT USE TEFLON OR NON-STICK COOKWARE as it is toxic to birds! It’s fine to use a little vegetable oil to prevent sticking.
- Serve lukewarm. Remove remains from dish within 2 hours to prevent spoilage.
One of my favorite treats to use during handling and training is organic hulled millet. Using hulled seeds means there’s no shell mess to clean up afterward, yay!
Food your parakeet should NOT eat:
- Conventionally grown produce: Stick to organic products because the bird’s body is too small to handle even small doses of pesticides and herbicides. I once made the mistake of feeding our pet gerbils conventionally-grown (non-organic) mixed greens and within 12 hours, they were dead!
- Spoiled or Soiled Food: Remove all uneaten food and replace with a fresh batch at least twice daily to avoid deadly internal bacterial infections.
- Grit: It has been known to cause impaction. Parrots don’t need grit because they don’t eat hard seed hulls that need to be broken down by the digestive system; they hull their seeds with their beaks before eating them.
- Supplements in their water: Your bird should have fresh water every day. Don’t add supplements unless your veterinarian tells you to; they can be a medium for bacteria to grow and can cause a bird to turn up his nose at his water bowl, leading to decreased water intake and kidney damage.
- ANY food that has been in your mouth: Human saliva contains many toxic and bacterial substances that can be deadly to your bird.
- Avocado, including guacamole. It’s deadly to some birds.
- Raw meat and poultry: May carry salmonella and other bacteria.
- Deli foods: Too many additives and preservatives like sulfites, sulfates, nitrites, nitrates, etc.
- Milk or raw-milk (non-pasteurized) cheese: Parrots do not digest dairy products containing lactose (the type of sugar contained in milk). Parrots are not mammals and so are not fed milk as babies — they feed their young by regurgitating food to them. Yogurts or low-fat cheese in very small amounts are okay because their initial lactose has been transformed.
- Potatoes: Potatoes are not toxic in themselves, but certain parts of them are: the skin as well as the green parts you sometimes see on their flesh. These green bits contain solanine, a toxic alkaloid that forms when potatoes are overexposed to light. This alkaloid can affect the central nervous system if ingested in significant quantity. It also is necessary to remove the germinated parts and potato eyes, since these also contain solanine.
- Eggplants: Another member of the solanaceae family (with the potato), eggplants contain toxic solanine.
- GREEN tomatoes: Contain tomatine, a substance like solanine. The plants and the leaves of GREEN tomatoes are toxic.
- Apple seeds or pear, plum, cherry, apricot and peach pits: Contain cyanhydric acid (cyanide).
- Honey: Can contain a toxic bacterium that produces the neurotoxin botulin: clostridium botulinum.
- Chocolate: It’s toxic to many animals, birds included.
- Junk Food: Ritz crackers, chips, Cheetos, candy, etc.
- Alcohol, Caffeine Tobacco, Soda: Duh, right?
Sprouted Seeds (The Main Course)
- SOAK: Place a day or two’s worth of mixed ingredients (see below for ingredients) into a clean glass container. Pour cool water over the mix. Soak the mix overnight (8-10 hours) at room temperature.
- RINSE and DRAIN: The next morning, pour the soaked mix into a small stainless steel fine mesh strainer. Using cold water, rinse the mix in the strainer until the water runs clear. Drain thoroughly.
- GERMINATE or SPROUT: Now you can either feed it to your birds right away (germinated), OR better yet, you can place the strainer over a bowl (to catch water drips) and let the sprouting progress for 8-72 hours. While sprouting, make sure to rinse and drain the mix in the strainer every 8-12 hours.
- OPTIONAL and BENEFICIAL: Soak the sprout mix in water with 1 teaspoon organic apple cider vinegar for 15 minutes. After the 15 minute apple cider vinegar soak, drain well and serve the food immediately. Adding apple cider vinegar helps to guard against bacteria and fungi, aids in digestion, and provides enzymes and important minerals. Buy your apple cider vinegar from the natural food store, not the grocery store — it should be organic, raw, unfiltered, and have sediment on the bottom of the container. Bragg with the “Mother” is a good brand.
- REFRIGERATE: After sprouting for up to 72 hours (see #3 above), rinse, drain, and refrigerate any leftovers. Before serving, rinse with cool water (and apple cider vinegar if desired) and drain thoroughly. Smell and taste the sprouts before feeding — if it smells musty or sour, toss it out and start a new batch.
CLEANLINESS AND FRESHNESS ARE CRITICAL! To avoid toxic, deadly bacterial infections, remove old uneaten food and replace with a fresh batch at least every 8 hours (feed twice daily). Scrub all feeding and sprouting utensils, dishes and jars with hot, soapy water after each use. I keep twice as many feeding dishes as I have cages so that I can run the used ones through the dishwasher for sterilization. I also remove and replace the newspapers on the bottom of my cages EVERY DAY so that my birds won’t have access to any old, rotting food that has found it’s way to the bottom of the cage.
Wash out your bird’s water dish twice daily, too. Rule of thumb — if you wouldn’t want to drink out of their dish, they shouldn’t have to, either. When feces and food particles fall into their water, it becomes poop soup — yuck!
Safe Sprouting Ingredients:
You don’t need to buy every ingredient listed on this page all at once. Instead, try to provide a variety over time. Mix a couple types of ingredients from each subcategory. For example, buy 2 or 3 seeds, 2 or 3 grains, 2 or 3 oil seeds, and 2 or 3 legumes. Choose from those that are currently on sale or offered in bulk at your local natural health food store. The diversity and balance of seeds, grains and legumes are complementary so that by feeding a variety, the blend alone is capable of providing the nutrients parrots require. If you don’t have access to a natural health store or care to mix your own, I do offer my sprouting mix for sale — it contains at least 12 ingredients, all human-grade and organic.
Note: All sprouting ingredients should be raw or dehydrated — NOT canned.
Herb seeds — pick 2 or more from this subcategory:
- Bishop’s weed seeds
- Mustard seeds (yellow, red, and black)
- Radish seeds
- Red clover seeds
Grain seeds — pick 2 or more from this subcategory:
- Brown rice
- Buckwheat (whole)
- Hemp seed
- Millets (yellow, red, white)
- Oat (whole)
- Rye berries
- Spring rye
- Wheat berries (winter)
- Whole kernel corn
Oil seeds — pick 2 or more from this subcategory:
- Flax seeds
- Pumpkin seeds (raw; not roasted)
- Sesame seeds (black, white, or brown)
- Sunflower seeds (raw; not roasted)
Legumes: Beans and Peas — pick 2 or more from this subcategory:
- Adzuki beans
- Black-eyed peas
- Black turtle beans
- Chick peas
- Garbanzo (yellow and brown)
- Green whole peas
- Lentils (french, red, green)
- Mung beans
- Soy beans
- Yellow trapper peas
Herbs and Spices (Nature’s Pharmacy)
Following is a list of herbs and spices known to be beneficial in a wide variety of ways. Keep a mixed spoonful available in your budige’s cage, in a separate dish, and refill with a fresh spoonful once weekly. Your budgie will select the ingredients it needs at the time. Make your own or purchase an herb and spice mix from me.
- Alfalfa Leaf
- Barley Grass
- Bee Pollen Granules
- Calendula Flowers
- Chili Flakes
- Dandelion Leaf
- Dulse Leaf
- Eucalyptus Leaf
- Fennel Seed
- Milk Thistle
- Olive leaf
- Papaya leaf
- Parsley Flakes
- Pau d’arco
- Peppermint Leaf
- Red Clover Blossoms and Leaf
- Red Raspberry Leaf
- Rosemary Leaf
- Thyme Leaf
- Wheat Grass
Buy fresh or frozen organic, pesticide-free produce. Do NOT used cooked or canned vegetables. For optimum health, feed your budgie parakeets vegetables daily.
- Dandelion Greens
- Garlic Cloves
- Green Beans
- Leafy Greens (kale, spinach, chard, cilantro, dark green lettuce, etc; NOT Iceburg lettuce)
- Peppers (any color; spicy is fine, even jalapenos)
Buy fresh or frozen organic, pesticide-free produce. Do NOT used cooked or canned fruit. Feed fruit in small amounts and less often than vegetables because fruit contains mostly sugar and water. Don’t include the fruit seeds or pits because they contain trace amounts of Cyanide.
- Berries (Blackberry, Blueberry, Cranberry, Raspberry, Strawberry)
- Dried fruit (unsulfured)
- Passion Fruit
Safe Misc Foods
- Cuttlebone: should be available in your bird’s cage as it is a good calcium supplement. Buy it at your local feed or pet store.
- Dried Fruit (no sulfur dioxide): banana chips, apples, mango pieces, coconut shreds, orange peel granules
- Dried Vegetables (no sulfur dioxide): see list of safe vegetables above.
- Eggs: hardboiled or scrambled eggs including the clean, crushed shell. Offer animal protein in smaller amounts. See this page (above) for egg food recipe.
- Human Baby Food: containing fruits, vegetables, pasta, grains
- Mealworms: small, live, available at pet stores
- Millet Sprays: in moderation or as a training reward
- Nuts: high in fat so give them to your bird only in moderation; macadamia, brazil pieces, almond pieces, filbert pieces, cashew pieces, pecan pieces, pistachio meats, pignolia pieces, walnut pieces
- Pasta: preferably whole grain
Recommended Parakeet Seed
Very sparingly (1/2 to 1 teaspoon daily per budgie), I feed “Sweet Harvest Parakeet Vitamin Enriched Food” made by Kaylor of Colorado. Call them and ask if they sell it in your area: 1-888-317-6347. I especially like this seed mix because it doesn’t contain artificial colors or flavors.
More Budgie Parakeet Pages:
Nutrition and Food Recommendations: Birds fed seed-only diets have a much shorter life span. We provide lists of healthy foods and show you how to grow your own sprouts.
Colors, Varieties, Mutations, Genetics: Budgie Parakeets come in a rainbow of colors. This page has beautiful photos with variety and mutation descriptions.
How To Care For Your Budgie Parakeet: What is the best cage and how should I set it up? How do I keep my budgie healthy and safe? What are the best toys and playtime activities? How do I trim their wing feathers?
FAQ (frequently asked questions): What is a budgie parakeet’s personality like? What are the differences between American parakeets and English budgies? How do you tell a male from a female? Should you keep one, two or more? How long do they live? Where did the species originate?
Training, Tricks, Talking: A step-by-step guide for finger-training, trust-building, and bonding. Watch informative and entertaining video demonstrations. Find out how many words they can learn to say.
Play gyms, Stands and Perches: How to make your own (or order a custom one from us).
Homemade Aviaries and Flight Cages: How to converted used furniture into large flight cages and beautiful indoor aviaries.
Parakeet Food and Supplies Market: We offer organic, homemade bird food plus other essential bird supplies.
Budgie Parakeet Breeder in Colorado: Our family raises, hand-feeds, trains and adores budgie parakeets! Learn more about our selective breeding program and view our gorgeous, tame birds.
Inside Our Aviary: See where our birds live — flight enclosures, breeding room, play gyms.
Our Flock of Budgie Parakeets: Take a peek at our gorgeous feathered friends. Lots of photos with color mutations listed!
Adorable Pictures of Our Hand-fed Babies: Come ooh and aahh over all the cuteness and watch them grow up!
Pre-Adoption Questionnaire: If you are interested in adopting one (or more) of our parakeets, please respond to these questions.
Budgie Baby Waiting List: I know how hard it is to wait when you’re excited but I promise you, the wait is worth it!