How To Get Your Bird to Try New Foods
Trying new anything can be difficult for a parrot. Asking a parrot to try new veggies, fruit, pellets, and mixes is asking a parrot to take chances. Instinct buried in their brain mandates no taking chances. That’s how a bird survives in the wild. Every companion parrot is different, though. The level of skepticism will vary between item, personality, time of day, and presentation. How do you get your bird to try new foods? It’s all in the presentation. How you offer your parrot new foods is how you get a bird to eat new vegetables, fruit, pellets, and mixes. Keep in mind, there will always be that one thing for every parrot. Felix, our African gray parrot, will never eat a yellow pellet. He’s made that clear by dropping them on the dog’s head. And floor. And on the other dog’s head.
How do you get a parrot to try new foods?
- Texture — Ever bite into an apple when the inside is mushy and over ripe? Did you finish the apple? No. Because the texture is off. Your brain sends a signal back, telling you this is no longer an identifiable apple. Even humans have a small bit of caveman instinct tucked away. Food and it's texture, mouthfeel, bite size, and shape all tell a story about that food to a parrot. Every parrot is looking for a different story. Ground foragers are looking for small bits of anything like seeds, grasses, small proteins of bugs, soil minerals. They are looking for smaller. If you want your smaller parrot to eat big veggies, you’ll need to chop them up small. Mix them with foraging items in a foraging plate. Their brain needs that introduction. Some parrots want a crunch, mash, certain length or size item to hold that breaks a certain way when they bite. Our Butters, blue and gold macaw, wants baked mashed sweet potato clumps. Snicker, scarlet macaw, want’s his baked, cooled, and cubed. Same sweet potato, different texture. If your parrot isn’t eating their snap peas, consider how you can change the texture, and try again. All parrots love vegetables, fruits, nuts, and good parrot mixes. All parrots don’t agree on the texture format they come in. Present different textures.
- Temperature — Anyone like cold, congealed cooked oatmeal? No? A bowl of cooked oatmeal needs to be warm, if not hot, to be a delicious wake up call. Temperature makes an enormous difference for some parrots. Snickers won’t eat mashed sweet potato, unless it’s still hot. He’ll eat that before cool and cubed. I serve warm peach tea. A moment to share with my birds. To look them in the eye, top off their hydration, and share a space in love. All parrots love warm drinks. The foods their parents fed them in the nest were warm. The temperature of the food you offer changes a parrot’s opinion about the food they’ve already said no to.
- Time — Offering new foods when a parrot is first looking for breakfast is not the time. In fact, offering new foods when a parrot is hungry is the wrong time. Why? Because instinct is driving that train. No messages make it past instinct. Introduce new foods, mixed in old foods or not, when your bird is exploring or nibbling. Never when they are filling up. The time for new things is when they are in exploration mode.
- Place — Familiarity breeds confidence for a parrot. Introduce new foods at their confident spot. Every parrot has a favorite spot to eat. The reasons are their own. The spot fits all their personal needs. Introduce the new stuff there. Let’s face it, humans don’t enjoy going to a strange restaurant for a favorite meal because their favorite restaurant isn’t opened, yet. There’s immediate skepticism. Not all Italian restaurants are the same. I would try anything new at GiGi’s. No eating spot for a parrot is the same, either.
- Partner — We are a flock member. Our parrot is wondering why we aren’t eating this new thing. Take a moment to eat alongside your bird. Bring a portion for yourself. It doesn’t have to be what you’ve offered your bird, but it has to be you eating with them for a moment. You are their partner in the flock. The puzzle parrots present normally boil down to you not participating. Time invested pays off in success.
Every bird is unique. They are kids with wings. While you’re working through the variations of temperature and texture, add patience to time, place, and partnership. It took a full year to convince my human son that toast was not a threat at lunch. I called it grilled cheese; he called it toast. Perspective is everything. I cut up the next lunch of grilled cheese into pizza slice shapes. It looked like pizza. His brain said, “Cheese pizza? Yes, please!”
Parrots or kids. They are both lifestyles.