The Problem With An All Seed Diet
Don’t let your feathered friend become a seed junkie. Mass-produced bird seed has 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)
Mass-produced dry seed parakeet food should constitute no more than about 20 percent of your budgie’s diet. If offered dry seeds as a free-choice diet component, budgies and other parrots will usually eat it to the exclusion of everything else offered. In other words, don’t put a dish of just dry seeds in your bird’s cage and expect them to eat their vegetables, too!
The Problem With Pellets
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 birds. Feeding pellets exclusively can lead to health problems, especially with the kidneys and liver. A diet of cooked and processed food does not contain as much nutritional value or enzymes as fresh raw foods.
So What SHOULD You Feed Your Parakeet or Parrot?
Sprouts: Sprouted seeds, grains, legumes and peas provide your bird with nutrient and enzyme-rich food as nature intended. Sprouting offers the opportunity to give birds the live food that they are biologically adapted to consume. Sprouting changes and enhances the nutritional quality of vegetable proteins, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and chlorophyll. Research at the University of Minnesota found that sprouting increases the total nutrient density of food. For example, sprouted whole wheat was found to have 315% more vitamin B2, 300% more vitamin C, 278% more folic acid, 111% more biotin, 66% more vitamin B3, 65% more vitamin B5, and 28% more thiamin than non-sprouted whole wheat. There is also a significant increase in beneficial enzymes after sprouting. And this phenomenon isn’t limited to just wheat — ALL grains are substantially transformed by sprouting!
Keep reading to learn how to make your own sprouting parakeet food (see below) or buy an organic sprouting mix from me.
Vegetables: For optimal health, organic vegetables should be offered daily. 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). Herbs and spices are excellent as well – keep reading for details.
Fruit: Offer fruit only occasionally (perhaps 1-2 times weekly) as it contains more sugar.
Keep reading for lists of safe vegetables and fruits to feed your birds (see below).
Egg Food: Once a week (or 2-3 times weekly for molting or nesting birds); see my EGG FOOD RECIPE below.
Jen’s Daily Feeding Routine
Breakfast: 1-2 teaspoons (per budgie) of an organic, sprouted mix of seeds, grains, and legumes. (Note: I provide the ingredients and directions below so you can make your own. Or for your convenience, I sell an organic sprouting mix) Add 1 tablespoon of chopped, organic vegetables and/or fruit.
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 batch to avoid spoilage or bacterial infection.
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 a dry seed or pellet mix for late night munching. Avoid products that contain color dyes, artificial flavors, chemical preservatives, and other additives. Try Kaylor of Colorado, Harrison’s, or Dr. Harvey’s. Remember to limit processed convenience foods to 20% of your parakeet’s total diet.
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 herbs and spices (see ingredients on this page below to make your own, or purchase the Organic Herb and Spice Mix from me)
- Mineral block
- Clean water
Once a week (or 2-3 times weekly for molting or nesting birds), feed this EGG FOOD RECIPE:
- Wash an organic egg.
- Drop the entire egg into a food processor or blender. The shell is a good source of calcium. Whir it all up to mince the shell into the egg.
- Cook thoroughly. DO NOT USE TEFLON OR NON-STICK COOKWARE as the fumes are toxic to birds! It’s fine to use a little vegetable oil in your skillet to prevent sticking.
- Mix in finely diced vegetables and/or herbs and diced whole grain bread cubes.
- Serve lukewarm. Remove remains from dish within 1-2 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!
Sprouts (The Main Course)
- INGREDIENTS: Below, I provide a list of suitable ingredients so you can make your own sprouting mix. For your convenience, I also make and sell an organic sprouting mix – order it directly from me here.
- CLEAN: Place 4 days worth of an organic sprouting mix into a small stainless steel fine mesh strainer. Rinse the mix with cool water until the water runs clear. (Note: 1 budgie fed twice daily will typically consume about 8 teaspoons in 4 days.)
- SOAK: Spoon the mix into a clean glass container. Cover the mix with cool water. Soak the mix for 8-10 hours at room temperature.
- RINSE and DRAIN: After soaking for 8-10 hours, pour the soaked mix into a clean, small stainless steel fine mesh strainer. Using cold water, rinse the mix in the strainer until the water runs clear. Drain thoroughly.
- SPROUT: Place the strainer over a bowl to catch water drips. Keep the strainer at room temperature (70° is optimal), away from direct sunlight, and where air circulates (not in a cupboard). While sprouting, make sure to thoroughly rinse and drain the mix in the strainer AT LEAST TWICE DAILY (up to 4 times per day in dry climates). Let the sprouting progress for at least 8 hours and up to 4 days. Long sprout tails are NOT necessary, in fact, most birds prefer to eat them while the sprout tails or roots are barely visible.
- APPLE CIDER VINEGAR and SERVE: Adding a short apple cider vinegar soak right before serving is beneficial as it helps to guard against bacteria and fungi. Buy your apple cider vinegar from the natural food store — it should be organic, raw, and unfiltered. “Bragg” is a good brand. Right before serving each meal portion, rinse the sprouts in the strainer, then soak one meal portion of the sprouts in 1/2 cup water containing 1/2 teaspoon of organic apple cider vinegar for 10 minutes. Drain well and serve the food immediately.
- CLEANLINESS AND FRESHNESS: To avoid toxic bacterial infections, remove old food and replace with a fresh batch at least every 8 hours (feed twice daily). If you live in a hot or humid climate without air conditioning, you may need to remove the remains as soon as 1-2 hours. Scrub all feeding and sprouting utensils, strainers, 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 easy sterilization. If your cage doesn’t have a bottom grill, remove and replace the newspapers on the bottom of the cage EVERY DAY so that your birds won’t have access to old, rotting food that has fallen from their food bowl.
- REFRIGERATE: I feed the sprouted mix straight from the strainer, at room temperature, within 4 days. However, if you still have some leftovers after sprouting for 4 days, then thoroughly rinse, drain, and refrigerate the leftovers. Smell the sprouts before feeding — if it smells musty or sour, toss it out and start a new batch.
You don’t need to buy every ingredient listed below all at once. Instead, provide a variety over time. Mix a few types of ingredients from each subcategory. For example, buy 2+ herb seeds, 2+ grains, 2+ oil seeds, and 2+ legumes. The diversity and balance of seeds, grains and legumes are complementary so that by feeding a variety, the blend is capable of providing the nutrients parrots require.
The weighted ratio I typically aim for in the total mix is roughly 50-60% grains, 20-25% legumes (peas, beans, lentils), 8-12% herb seeds, and 8-12% oil seeds.
Buy seeds for sprouting from reputable sources. To take a standard mass-produced birdseed mix and attempt to sprout it may be asking for trouble. I use only human-grade, organic, vacuum-bagged seeds, legumes and grains that I buy from a natural health food grocer. If you don’t have access to a natural health store or don’t care to mix your own, I do offer my organic sprouting mix for sale — it contains a variety of at least 16 ingredients, all human-grade and organic.
Note: All sprouting ingredients need to be raw and whole or “hulless” (not hulled). Do NOT used canned or roasted ingredients.
Combine 2 or more from this subcategory:
- Mustard Seeds (yellow, red, black)
- Radish Seeds
- Red Clover Seeds
Combine 2 or more from this subcategory:
- Barley (whole; NOT unhulled or pearl)
- Brown Rice (short grain is best as the seed is more likely to be intact/unbroken)
- Buckwheat (whole; NOT toasted)
- Hemp Seed
- Millets (yellow, red, white)
- Oat (whole; NOT rolled or groat)
- Rye Berries
- Spring Rye
- Wheatberries (winter)
- Whole kernel corn (popcorn)
Combine 2 or more from this subcategory:
- Flax Seeds (brown, golden)
- Sesame Seeds (black, white, brown; NOT toasted)
- Sunflower Seeds (raw, hulled or unhulled; NOT roasted or salted)
Legumes (Beans, Peas, Lentils)
Combine 2 or more from this subcategory:
- Adzuki Beans
- Black-eyed Peas
- Garbanzo / Chick Peas (yellow, brown, black)
- Green Whole Peas
- Lentils (french, red, green)
- Mung Beans
- Speckled Peas
- Yellow Whole Peas
Herbs and Spices (Nature’s Pharmacy)
Following is a list of antioxidant-rich herbs and spices known to be beneficial in a wide variety of ways. Keep a mixed teaspoonful available in your bird’s cage, in a separate dish, and refill with a fresh spoonful once or twice weekly. Your budgie will select the ingredients it wants or needs at the time. It’s as close to foraging nature’s pharmacy our captive birds will experience!
Make your own from the ingredients listed below or purchase the organic Herb and Spice Mix from me.
- Alfalfa Leaf
- Barley Grass
- Bee Balm
- Bee Pollen Granules
- Calendula Flowers
- Chili Flakes
- Cumin Seeds
- Dandelion Leaf
- Dulse Leaf
- Eucalyptus Leaf
- Fennel Seed
- Hibiscus Blossoms
- 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
For optimum health, feed your budgie parakeets vegetables daily. Buy fresh or frozen organic, pesticide-free produce. Do NOT use cooked or canned vegetables.
- Collard Greens
- Dandelion Greens
- Dark Green Lettuce (not Iceberg)
- Green Beans
- Mustard Greens
- Peppers (any color; spicy is fine, even jalapenos)
- Sweet Potatoes
- Turnip Greens
Feed fruit in small amounts and less often than vegetables because fruit contains mostly sugar and water. Buy fresh or frozen organic, pesticide-free produce. Do NOT used cooked or canned fruit. Don’t include the fruit seeds or pits because they contain trace amounts of Cyanide.
- Berries (Blackberry, Blueberry, Cranberry, Raspberry, Strawberry)
- Dried fruit (unsulfured)
- Grapes (half a grape per day per parakeet maximum)
- Passion Fruit
- 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, 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, almond, filbert, cashew, pecan, pistachio, pignolia, walnut
- Pasta: preferably whole grain
- Pumpkin Seeds: Soak “naked” or hulled raw pumpkin seeds for an hour, during which time they turn into a nutrition packed living food.
UNSAFE Foods For Parakeets and Other Parrots
- 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.
- Mushrooms: Mushrooms are a fungus and some species are toxic.
- Onion: Excessive amounts can cause digestive discomfort and anemia.
- Garlic: Garlic has many health benefits, however overindulgence can reportedly cause anemia. I choose to feed my birds a little garlic occasionally and haven’t had any problems.
- 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?
How To Encourage Your Budgie Parakeet To Eat New Foods
The key to optimum parakeet nutrition is variety, however if your parakeet has eaten little except prepackaged mass-produced dry seed before, she will need time to get used to different foods. Sometimes the transition to a new, better diet takes many weeks, but don’t give up — keep her longterm nutritional health in mind. Don’t change foods suddenly; do so gradually and make certain that she is eating the new food before removing all of the old. Here are some tips on encouraging your parakeet to eat new foods:
- For the first week or two, 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.
- Offer the new food items as an appetizer — BEFORE breakfast when she is most hungry.
- 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. If your bird is bonded with you, be his role model.
- 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 after several weeks 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 or 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 30-60 minutes (depending on your climate) because it will spoil much faster than whole foods and sprouts will.
Thank you for reading this far, and for your investment in helping your feathered friend enjoy a healthy, long life! I realize I’ve provided a lot of information to absorb, but I promise you, once you establish a daily feeding routine, it is easy. I’ve been told that the most difficult part is shopping for such a wide variety of ingredients — but I can do the leg work for you! Order my organic and homemade bird food mixes.
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!