Budgie Parakeet Food and Feeding Recommendations
In captivity, budgerigars typically live 3 to 10 years with some living 15-20 years. The maximum recorded lifespan is 26 years. Their life expectancy depends on genetics and health and is highly influenced by exercise and diet. Birds get hardening of the arteries and heart disease just like people. Obesity can decrease a bird’s lifespan by 70 percent.
Don’t let your feathered friend become a seed junkie. Seeds have too much fat and not enough vitamins, minerals and proteins. Birds 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)
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 or processed foods does not generally 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.
Dry prepackaged seeds 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!
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 Budgie Parakeet Feeding Recommendations:
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, garlic, 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 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 seed 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 tablespoonful of herb and spice mix (see ingredients on this page below; adopters can purchase some herb and spice mix from me)
- Mineral block
- Clean water
Twice a month (or 2-3 times weekly for molting or nesting birds), offer a spoonful of egg-food:
- 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! It’s fine to use a little vegetable oil to prevent sticking.
- Serve lukewarm. Remove remains from dish within 2 hours to prevent spoilage.
See itemized lists below for a variety of nutritious ideas!
Things your budgie 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?
The Main Course … Germinated (Soaked) and Sprouted Seeds
Germinating / Sprouting Directions:
- Place a day or two’s worth of mixed ingredients (see below) into a sterilized, clean glass jar. Using cold water, rinse until water runs clear.
- Soak the mix overnight (8-12 hours) at room temperature.
- The next morning, rinse several times and drain well.
- Now you can either move straight on to step #5 and feed it to your birds right away, OR you can place the jar on its side, rotate it to spread the seeds and allow air circulation, and let the sprouting progress for 8-12 hours.
- Add apple cider vinegar to your final rinse (about 1 tablespoon) and let the sprouts soak in it for 15 minutes (set your kitchen timer). 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.
- After the 15 minute apple cider vinegar soak, rinse and drain well again and serve the food immediately.
- Refrigerate any leftovers and rinse with apple cider vinegar and water daily. Use each batch within 48 hours. Taste and smell the mix 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!
… If you feel overwhelmed already, I promise it’s no big deal after you develop a routine. Or buy the sprouting mix from me.
Germinating / Sprouting Ingredients (raw or dehydrated, NOT canned):
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 aren’t willing or able to provide variety over time, you’ll need to supplement your bird’s diet with a prepared, packaged food such as those offered by Dr. Harvey’s. Alternatively, I offer my sprouting mix for sale — it contains at least 12 ingredients, all human-grade and organic.
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
Nature’s Pharmacy — Herbs and Spices
Following is a list of herbs and spices known to be beneficial in a wide variety of ways. Keep a 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.
- 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 organic and/or pesticide-free and fresh (raw) or thawed frozen, NOT cooked or canned. For optimum health, offer veggies 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 organic and/or pesticide-free and fresh (raw) or thawed frozen, NOT cooked or canned. Feed in small amounts and less often 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
- Cuttlebone: should always be available in your bird’s cage — good calcium supplement. Buy it at your feed or pet store.
- Dried Fruit: (free of sulfur dioxide) banana chips, apples, mango pieces, coconut shreds, orange peel granules
- Dried Vegetables (no sulfur dioxide)
- Hardboiled or scrambled eggs including the clean, crushed shell: (offer animal protein in smaller amounts)
- 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: (seeds and nuts are 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)
I feed (very sparingly; 1/2 to 1 teaspoon daily) “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:
Hand-fed Budgies and Parakeets available 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 Adult Budgie Parakeets: Take a peek at our gorgeous feathered friends. Lots of photos!
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 when they become available, 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!
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?
How To Care For Your Pet Budgie Parakeet: Learn about housing, cages, homemade aviaries, cleaning tips, health, safety, nutrition, exercise, playtime activities, toys, and more.
Bird Nutrition and Food Recommendations: Malnourishment is a leading cause of premature death in pet birds. We provide lists of healthy foods, and tell you how to grow your own sprouts.
Training, Talking, Tricks: Entertaining video demonstrations and informative tips.
Colors, Varieties, Mutations, Genetics: Budgie Parakeets come in a rainbow of colors. This page has beautiful photos and variety descriptions.
Bird and Parrot Playgyms, Stands and Perches for Sale: Learn 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.