People occasionally ask me how they can get their parrots to eat something that’s good for them when their parrots look at them as though they were serving them strychnine.
I always tell them the same thing. The answer lies in your refrigerator. It’s made by Wish Bone or any of the other salad dressing companies.
Yup. Salad dressing. Now I’m not saying it will work with everyone’s parrot, but it works on mine. Anytime my birds get that “up-your-bucket” look when it comes to their food, as they occasionally do, I take out the salad dressing and do a bit of a “schmear” onto their “Chop.”
I think parrots are just like us. We tend to like the rich stuff, the french fried stuff. I don’t know anyone who would pass up the jumbo shrimp at a free buffet unless they’re allergic to shellfish.
Who doesn’t like a nice, fresh doughnut? Who can pass up crab legs? Or lobster? Or really good french fries? This is all rich, not-so-good-for-you stuff. But we love it. Crave it. Gotta have it on occasion. Be as virtuous as you want, occasionally we all break down and stuff our faces with this kind of stuff.
My birds are the same way. And their diet is good but they occasionally get picky and cranky and want something other than their usual stuff. That little schmear of light blue cheese salad dressing from the back of a spoon onto their Chop isn’t going to kill them. It might get them to eat their dinner. And that’s the important thing. Don’t worry about it. If they’re eating the good stuff, that little bit of salad dressing isn’t going to do any damage every once in a while. Just like us, they need a bit of the sublime. And if you have them on a good diet in the first place, that little treat isn’t going to hurt them. And if you do it right, even salad can be fabulous.
January 19, 2011 at 8:14 pm
I maintain that even parrots don’t have fat-free diets. A certain portion of my grey’s diet involves plant-based unsaturated fats, and a smaller portion includes fats from hard (low-lactose) cheeses and meats. My grey has a finicky habit of refusing a piece of bread without a thin smudge of butter or mayo on it, too. But her weight is healthy, her bloodwork good, her feathers in top shape, and the vets all say she’s probably the best looking grey they’ve ever seen.
So I agree! Occasional forays into the fatty and flavorful side provide variety and substance.
January 19, 2011 at 8:18 pm
We all need some fat in our diets. If it’s just a thin smudge, this is not going to hurt her in the long run as long as she is getting the good stuff. It’s all a matter of balance. And if you keep them interested in a wide variety of foods, the outcome is their being more open to good food. Thanks for your input.
April 7, 2013 at 9:50 am
You could try palm kernel extract instead of salad dressing, might be better for you too… taste foul but the benefits…
January 19, 2011 at 8:15 pm
Fabulous! I always tried to do the “right” thing…and those poor birds are probably bored to death!! They’re gonna love you!!
January 19, 2011 at 8:16 pm
Note: meaning MY birds are gonna love you for the suggestion. I’m sure yours love you already! 😉
January 19, 2011 at 8:22 pm
Can you say “Jalapeno?” Can you toss some hot pepper flakes in their food? How about a topping of some noodles or rice sloshed around with some vegetable broth served warm? These are all good things you can do to add some spice, flavor and variety to their taste buds. I’d love some ideas on what people give their birds to “liven things up.” think bright, jazzy flavors. A little cilantro maybe? Some fresh basil? We love it and it’s great for them too.
January 19, 2011 at 8:19 pm
Low/no sugar peanut butter is also a great treat, and while *we* may not consider it tasty with vegetables, my grey loves when I dip a carrot spear in (so that only a little pb remains).
January 19, 2011 at 8:23 pm
Yup! That works and the carrot “goodness” essentially outweighs any bad in the peanut butter. And you got him to eat the carrot!
January 19, 2011 at 8:30 pm
You know what I like schmeared? A donut topped with peanut butter! HA! Just kidding.
A little bit of “Simply Jif” on ANYTHING is good and Mom sometimes puts cinnamon on stuff and actually cooks her version of chop with cinnamon sticks for extra flavor.
January 19, 2011 at 8:33 pm
Bart, You’re on such a great diet, you can get away with the occasional treat. Enjoy it, you deserve it!
January 19, 2011 at 8:36 pm
Don’t I KNOW it! Besides, Mom says I’m too skinny so some extra fat and calories isn’t a bad thing sometimes. I love good stuff too though!
January 19, 2011 at 8:32 pm
That’s a great tip, thanks. My Quaker, Apple, used to like his fruits and veggies but has seemed to lose interest in them much to my despair…I’ll try that.
As soon as I get some condiments in my fridge, at least…LOL 🙂
He does like Peanut Butter on celery. (I get the PB without added sugar, oils, or salt.)
January 19, 2011 at 8:50 pm
I’m going to try the salad dressing idea for King Crayon and Baby. The King will eat almost anything, but Baby is super fussy. Even Crayon will fling out leafy greens, and Baby looks at them like they are poison. I’ll bet they’ll try them with dressing! Thanks for the tip.
January 19, 2011 at 8:56 pm
Wow you make it sound so easy. Why didn’t I think of that. I’ll try that tomorrow morning.
January 20, 2011 at 12:26 pm
Same for a very small dollup of light cream cheese worked into some veggies they’re picking at (or more likely throwing). The whipped variety spreads the best unless you want to heat it for a minute in the microwave. I don’t give it to them very often, but they sure go for whatever it’s mixed with. Peanut butter is another good one for tempting them…
January 20, 2011 at 12:27 pm
Oops, on that microwave comment – only a few seconds for the heating, not a minute!
January 20, 2011 at 1:42 pm
I have a 15 year old BH Pionus that eats everything what we throw at him, but 6 months ago I bought a 2 year old Maxi Pionus and she wont eat anything but nutri berries, rare walnuts, other seeds, toast with PB and of coarse junk if given. I have stopped my kids from giving her anything but toast and cereal for breakfast. Lunch is veggies and day after day she wont eat it…I tried putting a bit of seed with it but she is smart!! Pellets are if she is desperate….wasted as well. I will try the salad dressing but if anymore ideas please……….I will try anything!!
January 20, 2011 at 8:42 pm
You got a comment! And a Suggestion!
January 20, 2011 at 8:16 pm
If Patricia’s chop isn’t doing the trick, try making some birdie bread. It’s great for getting them used to eating other things with veggies. It’s essentially cornbread with veggies of your choice mixed in, but you can substitute some of the liquid for baby food for really picky eaters. I have never seen a bird turn it down, and you can start off with small pieces of veggies and work up to larger ones.
It’s how I got my cockatiels to eat something besides pellets. I started off with mild flavors like squash and worked my way up to peppers and cilantro. Now they eat whatever I give them. You can even spread a bit of PB on it if that helps with the transition.
January 20, 2011 at 8:42 pm
Don’t forget to refrigerate it, as it has fresh veggies in it.
January 20, 2011 at 9:44 pm
Also, my previously picky eaters are convinced to eat something quite easily if I try a bit and make a big deal out of how good it is. In fact if I do that long enough, my grey will get downright snippy with me if I don’t share immediately! LOL
January 20, 2011 at 10:04 pm
Instead of making birdy bread I make birdy cookies – the basics are organic whole wheat flour, organic corn meal (not the enriched), 2 cups of any type of fruit preferably unsweetened, two eggs with shells (if you are going to share then without shells), then it is what is seasonal in your area. I actually used natural mulling spice for apple cider, I put it in a food processor with various fruits, fresh spices that are bird friendly.
then I spread it across a cookie sheet, like you are making one big cookie. I cook it cool it cut it up and freeze whatever I am not going to use and leave the balance in the refrigerator … the birds go crazy over it.
January 20, 2011 at 9:43 pm
sheri… try human baby food…the organic ones of course. They are around a dollar a jar and come in all sorts of ‘junky’ flavors like mac & cheese etc.. stage 3 foods have chunks of actual food in it …very easy to digest and highly concentrated nutrition.
January 20, 2011 at 10:57 pm
Wow, Patricia, you hit my dirty little secret!
Usually I’m a balsamic dressing sorta gal, but I do keep a bottle of Kraft Fat-Free Catalina dressing for when I’m feeling evil…and the boys go nuts as soon as I pull it out of the fridge. I swear they would eat the most vile thing in the world if it had a dab of that radioactive orangey-red goop on it!
January 20, 2011 at 11:06 pm
If it works to get them to eat vegetables, it’s worth it. Once you gradually pull back and offer it on occasion, it is a great tool to introduce vegetables. Thanks Tess.
January 21, 2011 at 10:42 am
I share my lives with two cockatiels and a military macaw. None of them like raw veggies. The way I get around that to provide overall good nutrition is my husband and I dehydrate the veggies. The birds love their crunchy veggies, even my tiels who would rather starve to death than eat their veggies. Dehydration leaves all the nutrients in the veggies but gives them the crunch they love.
I don’t feed any pelleted diets. My birds get a whole grain mixture as a staple diet in their cages which includes nuts and dehydrated veggies. My husband and I make the staple diet for their cage. They also get fresh foods throughout the day, which I usually top with dehydrated veggies. They’ll eat it all as the dehydrated veg usually sticks if it is moist.
Dehydrated veggies also are great in birdie breads, soups, etc.
To make sure they get plenty of calcuim, we add shredded/grated cuttle bones to all their foods. None of my birds will touch a cuttle bone. Another trick to get them their calcuim.
January 21, 2011 at 9:32 pm
I am fostering an r2 who was a breeder, she is very sweet and cudly but she was only fed a seed diet 😦 I have literally given her almost every type of veggie and fruit available but she turns up her beak at everything. I was so frustrated i was at the point where i was about to start dipping veggies in ranch but i figured out how to out smart her. I figured out she loves hot organic, no surgar added oatmeal and couscous, so i will mash up fresh berries and fruit and mix it in with the oatmeal, or couscous, my friend also told me about the orgainic babyfood, no color, sugar, preservatives just pure pureed veggies, i will also mix some of this in to her special concoction. and she loves it, i have also stared mixing the oatmeal with mashed sweetpotato. Obviously delisious secretly nutritious. I do think i will still try some ranch and see how that goes. It is litterally like having to outsmart a small child into eating their veggies
January 21, 2011 at 10:31 pm
Ooooo. Charlie thanks you! I never would have considered salad dressing. 🙂
January 24, 2011 at 11:54 am
I add a sprinkle of my “condiment mix” to the top of our parrots’ fresh food. I have a jar full of all kinds of goodies for this mix – celery seeds, cayenne pepper, mustard seeds, cumin, flax seeds, sesame seeds, walnut meal, anise seeds, fennel seeds, cinnamon, crushed red pepper, poppy seeds, and whatever else I find. Our red belly parrot LOVES fennel and anise. She goes nuts for this mix.
Also, to convert a bird to pellets, I pour a little apple juice over them. Day by day, I dilute the juice. Then I reduce it. It takes about two weeks tops to get a parrot to eat pellets this way. Also, I make sure the pellets with juice are fed first, making them wait for fresh food and treats.
Another thing to do to get a parrot to try new foods is to chop it up and sprinkle it on top of the food the bird likes. Show them that you eat it, too. And don’t give up!
January 28, 2011 at 11:50 am
Hello Patricia from Canada !
I just found your blog, my god you are full of information and you are a joy to read. I absolutly love your idea for the chop. My self, I prepare once a week a “mash” wich is exactly the same thing as your chop, takes up a lot of time and I did not want to freeze it because of the texture of the greens and vegetables gets when they defrost, don’t they get all mushy with water when you let them defrost, if not, I would really appreciate if you could tell me how to freeze them without them getting mushy after defrosting.
February 2, 2011 at 1:50 pm
Have a look there:
January 28, 2011 at 3:11 pm
Lately, I have been offering Scout, my CAG, more of the Sund chop and she just will not take it. I tried adding a schmear of Hidden Valley (the only dressing I have), and she looked at me like I was trying to poison her. So I tried a rather LARGE schmear of peanut butter the next night. She liked it. I have since started cutting back on the amount of peanut butter in it, and I am considering switching to almond butter. Hooray for a schmear!
July 2, 2013 at 12:06 pm
So many good ideas here! Mango will have fun with some of these…
October 27, 2013 at 6:20 pm
Patricia, I am so glad you posted this article because I have a lot of days when my parrot won’t eat veggies unless I rub a little dressing on it. Like red pepper, I always try to get it in his diet for the vitamin A but he is terrible about eating it and every now and then a little blue cheese dressing gets him to gobble it up. My vet told me that parrots have little taste buds and they will eat anything you put in front of them but I have found that so NOT true. My parrot LOVES certain foods just like I love certain foods and he gets bored with the same stuff. Great topic. I would love to hear other peoples tips on how they were able to get their parrot to eat foods with a little creativity to spice up their routine!