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Posts Tagged ‘homemade bird food’

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I’m getting ready to do a pretty big batch of Chop this coming weekend. So I have to do a little shopping.

I discovered a little store a couple of miles away from me called the World Market. One day a few months a go I decided to investigate and I’m so happy I did! It’s sort of an Eastern European food market and even though I’m a “Foodie,” I don’t know what half the stuff that’s in there. As I am always on the hunt for nutritious food for my Chop, I was happy to discover some stuff they don’t have at the  local big grocery stores. They sell buckwheat for instance. And buckwheat rocks nutritionally. It contains all 8 essential amino acids, and it contains a high-quality protein. Google it; you’ll be surprised.

What I have in this photo clockwise from the top left is Barley, (regular barley, not “pearled barley) real bulgur, not the pasta, oat groats, buckwheat flakes, oatmeal and regular buckwheat. I’ll cook the barley and the buckwheat, but the rest is going in as is. The buckwheat flakes appear to be like oatmeal, only it’s made of buckwheat instead of oats. I thought that was kind of cool.

 Let me explain something about barley. Barley is a tough little grain and it has to have the husk removed before it can be eaten. Well, that’s all fine and dandy, but when you have “pearled barley,” they also polish it to remove the bran layer. This removes a lot of the nutrition. This is not unlike the difference between brown rice and white rice. White rice is also polished to remove the nutritious brown outer layer. I also have other ingredients I’m using, of course, but those are some pretty neat little items. I’m also adding this:

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The wild rice mix is a no-brainer, but I also have unsweetened dried or desiccated coconut as it’s sometimes called, raw hemp hearts, chia seed, and in the upper right hand corner is quinoa flakes. The rice gets cooked and the rest of it goes in as is.

As always, I’ll be undercooking the rice, pastas, and other cooked ingredients so they can more easily absorb some of the moisture from the vegetables. I’ll also be coating the pastas and other grains with coconut oil to help keep the grains and other cooked items from sticking together as well as adding another layer of nutrition. I’ve used flax seed oil as well as hemp seed oil in the past.  I’ll be busy this weekend doing my hunter-gatherer thing. I’m hoping to put some very nice standards into my Chop as well as maybe some more exotic items. We’ll see what I end up with.

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I am floored. I just don’t understand how people don’t understand. I am not going to say, “I have no words.” because I do.

As you might have noticed, Parrot Nation is Land of the Cuisinart-Home of the Chop. It is where, for lack of anything else to write about, I wrote my first post about Chop. And the response was overwhelming. So I kept making it and writing about it, eventually posting several videos and running up a nice tally of informational posts about it.

That was in 2009. I had been making Chop for years before I had the blog. As many of you know, I had come up with the concept because my schedule is insane due to my flying and writing and cleaning up parrot poop. So much for pleasant, languid hours down at the pool. Now, the concept is a hit. Other people in the bird world are more sane since taking up the practice.

Their birds are healthier and they are happier for having found what I did: That making “Chop” is more than just keeping their birds in fine feather. It’s about happier people. And when you have happier people, you are inevitably going to have happier birds.

This concept fulfilled a need in my life to get Parker the vegetables, legumes and grains that he needed without having to go through the machinations of the twice a day drudgery. But I found it served another purpose: Some people have the time to chop fresh vegetables for their flock twice a day. I don’t. And I really don’t think most other people do either.

So as I was happily writing and shooting videos and snapping photos, something began to stir. I was unaware of it until quite recently. And it upset me clear through to the core. In short, it was irritation. It was mind-boggling confusion. And the criticism comes from two fronts. Both are ridiculous.

One is that I am claiming I came up with the idea of making a huge batch of food and freezing it. Nothing could be further from the truth. I simply said it was a great way to feed your birds.

I’m just the one that has publicized it as widely and wildly as I did. I have yet to see a video on the process of making mash or any other type of bulk homemade food for parrots.

If they are out there, great! Let me know! But I never came across any in 2003 when I was a frustrated parrot person trying to come up with an efficient way to feed Parker.  It sure as hell would have saved me a LOT of time doing research if there was.

It was said in a Facebook group thread that I’m claiming I came up with it and that they’d been doing this for 15 years. Which of course begged my question, “Well, then why didn’t you share it, make a video about it, publicize it, blog about it and do some demos?” No response.

Apparently, there has also been some nit-picking going on about the Chop Concept as a diet. These are people that have absolutely no idea what’s going on over here and can’t see the forest for the trees.

People have been talking about how Chop is a “kitchen sink” concept and that it will fail the birds nutritionally. It was even told to me that if parrots were fed chop, they would become malnourished. What? Huh?

Not with a formulated pelleted diet, sprouts, nuts and healthy table food. Apparently there is a misunderstanding about what Chop is, what’s in it and there is a thought that I do not include legumes.

Apparently people seem to think it’s nothing but grains. Some do not realize I use a Cuisinart. I’m sorry, but how could you miss it? I actually put my cuisinart to music in this video. I thought it was kind of cool, actually:

Obviously, they haven’t seen my videos or haven’t read my posts or even have an inkling about what I’m doing over here. Here is a quote from a thread on Facebook:

“Birds need protein and it cannot come from a willy nilly mix of just grains. If people can pour grains into a bowl, they can pour legumes. Not a lot needs to be changed, the ratio and the soaking and the omegas and that will feed them nutritiously. They aren’t getting what they need from a random batch of stuff. People are very willing to feed more nutrient rich food if they know how. It’s not difficult. Folks can soak grains in a given proportion, it’s not hard to do… people can add some chia seeds for the omegas, it’s not difficult. Just give them the ratio and then move forward with more information. I don’t understand why you are against doing this. You already have them chopping and that’s the hard part.”

This is from a woman who told me a year ago that she couldn’t get her birds to eat fresh anything. Now she is jumping into my mess kit about how I’m completely wrong about how I feed my birds.

Oh my God! It’s a legume!

Obviously, this woman doesn’t realize that beans go into every batch or are served alongside as a separate dish. Chia seed does go into Chop. The beans are soaked and cooked first.  This criticism isn’t warrented and due to the accusations, makes these criticisms outrageously uninformed.

It isn’t just grains. Haven’t they even seen the videos? Let’s see, I did a video called Teenie Weenie Beanies.  Was it Teenie Weenie Grains? No, it wasn’t. Can someone tell me what these are? Anyone? Anyone?

I see several hands! That’s right! Those are Beans.  Are beans, grains? No.

Does this mess look like grains to you? Why, no. It’s beans!

I did not ever claim Chop was to be a replacement for a formulated pelleted diet, nuts, sprouts and healthy table food. Never.

I do not want people to add fruit into the Chop to freeze because it doesn’t freeze well. And as far as the fact that I have everyone making Chop, well, that’s just not true. Not yet anyway.  I did a presentation to a club in Raleigh-Durham and some people had no idea they could feed vegetables to their birds.

Here’s the deal on Chop: If you make it too hard or too demanding, people aren’t going to make it.

If they are missing one simple thing, they aren’t going to make it. If it’s too complicated, they aren’t going to make it.

If they can’t get the suggested vegetables in Taiwan, they aren’t going to make it. (I got a question once from someone in a Asian country who didn’t know what a very common vegetable was sitting on the demo table in a photo taken when I did a presentation at Phoenix Landing.)

It’s simple. I believe that you are caring and intelligent people. I believe you will figure out what is fresh, in season, and good for your birds.

I want you to use your judgement with your flock on what they need. Greys have a different dietary need than Hyacinths. Budgie needs are different from an Eclectus. I’m sorry, but I just don’t believe that “One Size Fits All.”

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Due to the popularity of this post and requests to repost, I’m reposting it!

Vegetable display

Well, the “Chop” has hit the fan and it’s flying all over the place like feathers in a windstorm. I’ve gotten so many questions about it and it seems as if the concept is catching on. Terrific! Any more mail on this and I’m renaming this blog “The Chop Blog.”

If you have any more questions about it, feel free to let me know, but I’ll go over this as thoroughly as I can. “Chop” is a feeding concept. It is like you’re making two lasagnas and you cook one for dinner that night, and put the other in the freezer because you’ll be able to pull it out some evening when you don’t have time to cook. Or maybe your Aunt Ellen is coming over with her family.  You know what a pain in the keester her family is. But you remember you already have the lasagna prepared in the freezer and all you have to do is slam it in the oven. It’s one less thing you have to worry about because her kids are little juvenile delinquents. They’ll tear up the house and try to flush the dog down the toilet if you don’t watch them every second, so who has time to cook a big meal? And Aunt Ellen doesn’t give a damn because she already knows where you keep the Scotch. So thank God for that lasagna lying in the freezer and aren’t you glad you took the time to make two?

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My Mother used to buy a huge load of cooking apples in the fall, (usually green Granny Smith apples) and then she would make dozens of apple pies. She wouldn’t bake them, she would simply cover the unbaked pies with aluminum foil and place them in the freezer. Over the winter, we would have pies to take out of the freezer, bake and my family would have hot, fresh-baked pie all winter. This is one of the reasons why I don’t eat much pie now. I ate so much damned apple pie when I was a kid, I got tired of it.  I think the only reason she never made cakes was because she couldn’t freeze them. Her apple pie was considered the quintessential home made pie and it was worshipped far and wide. I was simply tired of it. “Oh good God, no. Apple pie again?” I know, I know. But I digress…

Well, “Chop” is based on the same idea. If you’ve ever heard of “Once-a-month-cooking”, or “OAMC” as it’s called, making chop is the same thing. You are making a HUGE batch of a fresh and frozen vegetable mix for your birds and then packaging it up in baggies or plastic containers in an amount that will feed ALL your birds for one meal. My baggies contain about 6 tablespoons of chop. Each bird gets about two tablespoons for breakfast along with other various items. (Nyla gets more because she is a complete and utter hog.) You simply take out two baggies the night before you are going to serve them; one for breakfast, one for dinner and let them thaw overnight in the fridge. The next day they’re ready to rock and serve up to your little dudes. This lowers the daily “PITA factor” (pain in the ass factor)  in your daily routine. “Chop” can consist of absolutely anything that is good for your birds. But the base is primarily fresh and frozen vegetables which is what the little feathered gangsters should be eating anyway.

I have to point out that for once in your life there is a concept that is not about the birds,  it’s about you and the time you have to take care of them properly on a daily basis. You don’t have to cut corners with chop because you ran out of time or your kid is throwing up all over the brand new carpeting, and isn’t it unfortunate that he had Hawaiian Punch and fruit loops for breakfast? So you have a mess on your hands that you need to clean up before you end up with a “Jackson Pollock” splatter effect on the dining room floor and  you have to get him to a doctor. Just open the fridge, grab the bag of “chop,” toss it in their bowls and run the kid to the clinic. The birds still get a healthy meal and it didn’t take any time at all. So I guess it really IS about the birds again. (You know, they do tend to rule the household, don’t they?)

Colorful vegetables and fruits

In the day-to-day, “Chop” is easy, fast, convenient and consistently good for your guys. It is as good as the stuff you put in it. The trick is to take the initial time to make a big batch of it, bag it, freeze it and you’re off the hook for as long as it lasts. If I had a chest freezer, I’d probably make about  five gallons of the stuff and only have to make it about twice a year. It’s easier if you have a few people to get together with and make it. It’s more fun that way and there are extra sets of hands to snap open the baggies while you’re filling them and someone else can refresh the cocktails. When you’re done, and it’s in the freezer, it looks like this:

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Now people have inquired as to what I put in it. EVERYTHING! I use bags of frozen mixed vegetables without any sauce. Fresh vegetables go in there as well. The last batch I made had the following fresh items in it: dandelion greens, beet greens, carrots, celery, and jalapeno peppers. The frozen vegetables it contained were mixed bags of vegetables containing asparagus, broccoli, corn, carrots, cauliflower, squash, zucchini, peas, green beans, snow peas, red peppers, green peppers, yellow peppers, chopped kale, lima beans, wax beans and a whole peeled yam. All of this gets cut up a bit if necessary and thrown into a food processor. Chop it to the consistency your birds prefer and throw in a big bowl, (or in my case this time, a big-ass stock pot. The recipe got a little out of hand and the amount just kept getting bigger, so I resorted to the stock pot.)

I threw in a little bit of seed, about three tablespoons each of flax seed, hemp seed and rape seed. I put in a couple of cups of uncooked dry oatmeal. I added about two cups of cooked quinoa, and two cups of cooked brown rice. I also cooked up and added about two cups of cooked, whole-grain, “fancy-schmancy”  corkscrew vegetable pasta because I was in a squirrely mood when I was at Whole Foods and thought they’d get a kick out of the shape and color. I cooked up some spelt and that went in. I threw in about a tablespoon of celery seed and a good shot of dried pepper flakes, probably two or three tablespoons.

Higgins makes a product called “Snack Attack Leafy Greens and Herbs”. It is a dried green product that looks like orgeano or any dried herb which is essentially what it is. It contains alfalfa petals, basil leaves, bee pollen, chamomile, chives, leeks, parsley flakes, rosemary and cinnamon powder. I threw in about a half a bag of that. Sometimes I add whole cranberries that I buy in season and freeze. Sometimes I add fresh radishes for flavor and color. I also add dried unsweetened coconut, about a cup or so.

This flipping batch got so big I had to pull out the big guns and use my stock pot to mix it up in. It was like “The Blob”; it just kept growing and growing:

Parker on my Stock Pot. It's a big pot!

Parker on my Stock Pot. It's a big pot!

When I was done bagging it up, I had 75 baggies containing one serving for each of my Greys for one meal. That’s over a month of meals where I don’t have to stand over a chopping block every damned day cutting up vegetables for my birds. I couldn’t be happier and the birds eat this stuff like it was their last meal.

As I’ve said before, it’s quite versatile: You can put it in bird bread, mix it in with scrambled eggs for them, (don’t forget to save one of the shells, crush it up and add to the mix…It’s great calcium!) and you can put damned near anything in there that they like and even don’t like, because they’re going to end up eating it. You can spice it with herbs, you can add milk thistle seed, throw pureed squash over it, or cook it in rice pancakes for them. I’m thinking about making some kind of “birdy biscuit” with it. The possibilities are endless with this stuff.

I just counted the number of different items in this batch of chop, and if I’m not mistaken, there are 39 different items in this batch. That’s a lot of different stuff that they can get nutrition from. It makes me happy to know that not only are they getting a wide variety of different foods to benefit from, but I’m not tied to a chopping board every day.

Now you know how to make “Chop”. What I want to know is: What are you going to do with all of that free time on your hands? I don’t know what you’re going to do, but I have a suggestion! How about sitting down and watching a nice video? :                                                                             Good Bird!

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A Batch of Parker’s Pot Pourri, known around the house as “Chop”.

I just made a fresh batch of food for the Greys. I’m sorry the photo isn’t better, but if I had dragged out my camera and then dragged out everything to upload it, I never would have shot it, so I just used the camera on the computer instead. But I think you have the idea.

 I use a lot of different stuff in it including mixed bags of different combinations of frozen vegetables (plain vegetables, no sauce) I thaw overnight in the fridge and chop up in the food processor, but it also has fresh carrots, broccoli, sweet potato and Jalapeno Peppers. If I had other fresh stuff on hand, I would have used that. I throw in any healthy seed I have, flax, celery and hemp seed primarily, and cook up some Quinoa. That goes in along with some cranberries I get during the Holidays and keep in the freezer. I also put in some dry oatmeal, dried hot pepper and some unsweetened coconut. And to make things nice and green I put in some frozen chopped collard greens or kale. Whatever is healthy for them and cranks your anchor, just add to it.

I make a big batch of this stuff. I bag it up into one meal amounts for the birds, put all of the bags into a gallon zip-lock and it goes back into the freezer. Depending on the size of the batch, it’ll last a long time. The night before I’m going to use it, I pull out 2 bags and place them in the refrigerator for using the next day. This is a great system and it works like a charm. The batch I made today will last me about a week or so.

It’s kind of like a “Soup Starter” or “Meal Helper” in your freezer. From this concoction, you can add whatever your parrots like to add to their nutrition and provide variety. Add a bean mix that you made in a big batch and froze in individual bags, some sprouts and a nut or two and you have one hell of a healthy meal for your little dudes. Add dried fruit, brown rice, drizzle it with flax seed oil, or sprinkle a vitamin or calcium supplement on it and you are doing beautifully. You can use it to make “Bird Bread”, you can throw it into scrambled eggs, and you can mix it with other foods if you like. Aside from it’s ease of preparation and use, the versatility of this “Chop” is an enormous amount of its appeal. You’re only limited by your imagination.

It’s really easy to feed your birds well and with a wide variety of foods if you pre-plan. You don’t have to chop up vegetables every day to give your birds a balanced diet. If I had to do that I’d lose my mind. Who has time to do that at 5:30 in the morning? I sure don’t! The birds seem to like it and I’ve converted several birds from seed to “Chop” in very short order. With the way it is chopped in the food processor, they can’t just pick and choose as well as with huge chunks of vegetables. If they want a piece of carrot, it has a bit of broccoli or quinoa on it. Does your bird like flax seed? Well, it will invariably have some sweet potato shreds nearby and it gets scooped up along with the seed.

In time, even the most stubborn birds will usually go for this mix. But what I like about it is the fact that it takes so little time in the day-to-day to feed my birds a healthy meal. It took me about 10 minutes to put this together this morning. Once the quinoa was cooked, I just threw that into the container with the rest of it, shook the tar out of it and I’ll bag it up this afternoon. It’s easy to make, fast, convenient and it’s really good for your birds.

See? We’re all Happy Campers!

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If anyone has any suggestions as to what to add to “Parker’s Pot Pourri”, please leave me a reply. And when you make it for your birds, let me know how it goes over and what you did to make it more appealing for your flock! I’ll make sure your suggestions are posted on “Parrot Nation”.

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