Food and Nutrition
One of the most important aspect of parrotlet keeping is their diet. It directly affects the health of your parrotlets, and on this page we will try to share what experience we had over the years in terms of diet, and what worked for us and what didn’t.
DISCLAIMER: Please do not take this as the gospel, as these are just meant to be guidelines and what worked for us. Read up more from various sources, observe and decide what would work best for you!
What makes up a parrot diet?
The typical parrotlet diet consists of:
- Mixed seeds
- Fresh fruits
- Fresh vegetables
The greatest part of any parrotlet would be a good seed mix. As parrotlets only came onto the scene recently, you will find that most commercial seed mix will usually not have any that are made specifically for parrotlets. However, we have found that a seed mix made for lovebirds, budgies or cockatiels will work fine too. It should have a mix of various millets, hulled oats, different oil seeds, and a portion of sunflower or safflower seeds.
Despite their small size, we have found that cockatiel seed mixes works best for parrotlets.
When selecting a seed mix, it is good to check the manufactured date, to ensure that you get the freshest seed mix possible. If possible, visually check the seeds for mold, pest larvae or generally unhealthy stale looking seeds. Mold in a seed mix is toxic to your parrotlets.
Millet sprays can be given to your parrotlets as an occasional treat, and they absolutely love them, like how many of us love burgers. However, do give them in moderation as they might binge on it and affect their health. We do use them as a motivator and reward during training.
Other than their staple of dry seeds, parrotlets will need their daily fresh produce to stay healthy and at their peak. Most fruits are safe for them, provided they are properly washed and clean from pesticides.
Some examples of fruits they love:
- Berries. Raspberries, blueberries, elderberries, strawberries.
- Peaches, plums, prunes (to be pitted)
- Apple, pears (cored)
When giving fruits, here are some of the precautions you will need to take:
- NO Avocados. This is serious.
- Avoid giving them the core of apples and pears, as the seeds are toxic if broken.
- Peaches, cherries, prunes and plums to be given pitted.
- Citrus fruits are fine if given sparingly.
Vegetables are the other component of the fresh produce diet your parrotlet needs. Especially dark leafy vegetables for the vitamins and minerals.
Before I go into the top favorites, one fresh produce I would strongly recommend to parrotlet keepers would be wheat grass. They can be bought very cheaply at 2-3 dollars at the local supermarket for a sizable amount. To keep the wheat grass fresh, you will most likely share it with your darling birds. It’ll benefit you along with your parrotlets! It’s been known to boost health and fertility in parrotlets and even stimulate breeding.
And here are some top favorite vegetables!
- Broccoli and Cauliflower. They love picking out the little buds. Perfect for weaning babies.
- Carrots. Be prepared to see the carrot sticks get reduced to tiny bits!
- Corn (on a cob if possible)
- Red and green peppers
- Pea pods
- Chilies. They can handle the spice, but make sure you don’t rub your eyes!
As with most pets, do avoid the following plants:
- Onions, garlics, spring onions, leek or any other plants in the family
- Dill, fennel
When fed a varied diet of dry mixed seeds and fresh produce, there is usually little need to provide additional vitamin supplements.
Calcium and Minerals
However, one important supplement your parrotlets should have access to would be a calcium source.
This usually comes in the form of a cuttlefish bone, sold at most pet stores for pet birds. It can be hung at the side of the cage, where your parrotlets will nibble when they want to. If you have a particular enthusiastic parrotlet who destroys the entire cuttlefish bone in minutes, you may want to offer this supplement to it in chunks each time.
We have also tried offering a bird clay mineral block to our flock. They seem to love it, and the clay and minerals provided by the block would be close to what they get in the wild. Parrots in their natural habitat often congregate at clay pits to nibble at the clay, which helps them to absorb toxins in their gut. The sodium is also a good mineral source.
Vitamin supplements to be given in water are usually ineffective. The water spoils fast, and a parrotlet does not drink enough water in a day to get any benefits from the supplement.
Look for powdered supplements, which you can sprinkle on the dry food mix. You can also coat the fresh foods with the supplement, but be sure to clear it often.
Another good supplement you can indulge your parrotlets in is good quality finely ground spirulina powder. It also improves health and fertility in parrotlets. In the wild, when parrots drink from the lakes, they also consume a bit of fresh algae in their diet. A portion of the spirulina powder can placed in a salt/pepper shaker and sprinkled over their food occasionally. The remaining of the spirulina powder may then be kept chilled for freshness.
There are many literature around on the internet regarding a pellet based diet. Some had great success, and some not so much. So do try it out and decide for yourself.
It does take quite some time to get your parrotlets to get used to eating pellets, and the easiest will be to get them accustomed as they are getting weaned.
Pellets usually come in either the natural colored or colorful types. As pellets are made to contain the nutrition your parrotlets need, you may worry less about them being fussy with their food and not getting a balanced diet.
With a pellet-based diet, fresh produce is still compulsory to make the diet complete!
My parrotlet is being picky!
Parrots can be quite stubborn in their ways once they’ve set their preferences, especially with regards to being fussy about their food.
It is very important that patience is taken to slowly introduce and convert your parrotlets to eat a complete diet, as parrotlets who are picky about their food tend to be malnourished and fall ill easily.
The easiest way to do so is to introduce a variety of foods to the babies as they’re weaning and highly receptive to new foods. Once they are grown, it becomes much harder to change a parrotlet from a diet that it’s accustomed to.
We recognize the importance of starting right with a good diet, that’s why all our weaned babies take on seeds, pellets, fruits and vegetables readily!