Two parakeets foraging in a floor foraging bowl filled with ground foraging loving bird foods.

Feeding Your Parrot for Mental and Physical Health

Feeding Your Parrot for Mental and Physical Health

Feeding a parrot is more than a bowl filled with requirements. Considering your parrot’s natural state, you’ll soon find answers to why they act the way they do. A cockatoo’s audacity around food, for example. The hunt itself is their social structure explained. Food foraging, selection, dissemination and consumption is their pastime. Cockatoos are bodacious in every move they make around and towards a food source. They are destruction with purpose and joy.

A bowl does not serve their social and mental expectations.

Cockatiels, a type of cockatoo, are ground foraging armies. Exploding groups of song, communication, and flight patterns, establishing their groups for landing. Once a flight of cockatiels lands, the real communication starts. Some are watchers, some are gatherers, some are hunting for the next excellent collection of seeds, grasses, and flowerings. Once located, they call out to cause an explosion of flock members to shoot straight up into the sky and make their way to the next location. The rolls between flock members change with each landing and takeoff. It’s an amazing cloud of communication making its way down a swath of grassy lands and patches. Once satiated and slightly tired. Nearby trees and bushes will allow rest and safety. In those places, a flock chatter reminds each member they are safe and together.

A bowl does not serve their social and instinctive expectations.

Macaws are systematic flockers with micro flocks in each larger group. They gather and separate during specific times of day for specific food and safety requirements. Large, small, and large again, the group changes for the individual or paired needs throughout the day. Food is shared, argued over, inspected, and notated for location and quality. Young parrots are loud, energetic, demanding, while their elders save energy and time with specific choices. They are loud, messy, and always thinking one morsel ahead of the morsel in their mouth.

A bowl does not serve their work expectations.

Feeding our companions isn’t just a nutritional question, it’s a question of project management and immersive food experiences. In the wild, there are simple and complex food foraging events. Some foods are easy, some are hard, and some are so difficult, but so virtuous, a parrot may spend all day revisiting that morsel trying to figure out how to get to it.

Companion parrots that always seem to be unsettled, getting into things or flock calling mercilessly can benefit from retooling how they find and eat their daily nutrition.

How do you feed your parrot naturally?

  • Foraging boxes, filled with dry snacks.
  • Edible hanging toys offer shredding and foraging in a one two punch.
  • Hanging stainless steel baskets, filled with whole vegetables and fruits.
  • Multiple locations. Multiple food bowls containing varied items in different locations, in varied states of preparation. From whole to chopped, freeze-dried, dehydrated, nuts in shells, seeds on stems. All this requires flight time and investigation time. Then dismantling time.
  • The bigger the parrot, the less the processing. They need things to think about and manipulate. Their project needs are based on mechanics of destruction.
  • Smaller parrot’s project needs are based on mechanics of location and travel/foraging

Consider your parrot’s natural tendencies in the wild.

  • Our cockatiels prefer wandering the floors and the floor of their aviary discovering hays, grasses, straw and small edibles of pellets, ground nuts and pieces, seeds and flowers than pulling apart a small foraging box. They are more like lawn mowers in action than a lawnmower mechanic.
  • Our macaws prefer mechanical options of destruction and deconstruction for their food sources. Things inside things. Wood blocks for beak conditioning are staple toys. The longer their day in the cage is, the more whole options I leave behind. They have their mix bowls of food in their cage as well. Because parrots choose to be lazy like a human.
  • Ground foragers like parakeets, cockatiels, grass keets, parrotlets, and some conures will love a box or glass pie plate of timothy hay at the bottom of their cage. First cuttings that still have the seed top will be a favorite.
  • Clean, live branches from trees (not sprayed with pesticides of course). Freshly harvested after a rain is always appreciated.

Water bowls or water bottles?

Water bowls versus water bottles spark debates. I understand the value of bottles securing healthy water. Somewhat. The water lick itself can become contaminated and defeat the stance of that argument, but there is no arguing the convenience of the human. And there is no arguing the mental health gains of parrots having access to water bowl baths.

  • I prefer water bowls because every bird is a water source seeker. They will go from drinking to bathing to soaking food in the same spot. They may sit next to a water source for the humidity. They may lie in the water, drop things in the water, grab things out of the water, and most definitely rinse things in that water. Water sources offer an enormous mental and physical impact for a companion parrot. Snickers must have at least one bowl of water for sheer play and food/cup manipulation. He prefers drinking water from a cup he filled in his water bowl. I cannot imagine the frustration he would feel about not having a water source.
  • A water bottle removes all natural instinctive actions and reactions created from a water source. Food and water are more than bowls of obligation and requirements. Bowls are the invention of the human in the room for convenience. Humans created pellets for human convenience needs. Our convenience is rarely their true nature.

Once you find yourself settled in what foods you will feed your parrot, it’s time to consider the mechanism and project management you’ll use to enrich not only their body but their minds. You’ll find their nature and your imagination meet in the most amazing ways.

You'll find parrot specific answers in my curated collections. Parrots | Cockatiels | Parakeets

Kathy LaFollett is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to


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