Chop is more than just feeding vegetables to your birds. If that’s all it was, what would be the point of all of this? Why bother? I mean, doesn’t everyone do that?
In a word, “No.”
I heard a story a few years back about why people think birds eat seeds almost exclusively. I don’t know if it’s true, but it has that ring of truth to it because it makes sense. I’m not sure if this is fact. It may be just an urban legend that runs deep, right along the lines of alligators in New York City sewers and that Walt Disney’s body is cryogenically frozen. But it does seem to make sense and I have yet to come up with another fact anywhere that explains the origin of the all-seed diet.
If anyone does know the history of why parrots imported into this country decades and decades ago were told to feed seed, please let me know and I’ll post about it or you can guest blog here.
Again, I wish I had a source for this story but I do not. But the story seems to make sense and I tend to believe it.
Long before airplanes, wild caught parrots came to this country by boat. This of course, was a more lengthy trip than traveling be plane. Although if you’ve ever been on an overnight flight to Rio De Janeiro, you will think you were born, lived and passed on during the trip. It’s rather long and boring.
Anyway, I once read that the parrots were loaded onto the boats with seeds to eat during the trip. Seeds are dried, high in fat, yet they don’t spoil. I guess it was sort of an avian trail mix for parrots. They were able to subsist on this diet during the long arduous trip from Africa, South America or wherever.
Once they got off the boat, the food they had been eating was unloaded with them. And of course, when asked “what parrots eat,” the seed is what was explained that they ate.
Now is this true? You know, I don’t know and I’ve tried researching it and came up with what an old boyfriend from New York referred to as “Ugotz.” This means roughly, “nothing.” I’ve also heard it phrased as, “I went to the company Christmas party. Know what they gave me for a bonus? I got ‘Gotz!'” I even emailed Liz Wilson to ask if she knew anything about this. Liz has heard the same story and believes it to be the truth as well. Well, at least I’m not alone in my hunch.
Okay, back to the Chop thing. Go take a look around in the pet bird aisle the next time you go to a big box pet store. What do you see? Seed. Lots and lots of seed. I don’t mind seed. I like certain seed. But just as Chop is not a stand-alone diet, neither is seed. I have been told that more and more people are making Chop. I’m glad. But it simply isn’t enough. Not yet. There still so many parrots that haven’t seen anything but seed their entire lives and that’s simply not right.
I don’t mind some seed. Healthy seed. Good seed. Virtuous seed. But to be honest, my Greys wouldn’t know what to do with a sunflower seed if you held it under their beaks.
I’ve actually seen Parker spit one out. He doesn’t know what they are. Parker has taste! But as I said, it’s more than just cutting up vegetables. It’s an entire way of feeding your bird that enriches their diet and changes the family’s life. It just makes things easier.
The point to all of this is that it’s amazing how one random thing, like loading a bunch of wild caught parrots on to a boat centuries ago with some temporary traveling food would impact and change how parrots are fed in this country for so long. That’s a lot of damage. And I’m trying to undo that damage by making feeding fresh easier, more convenient and healthier.
A very special photo: The first photo of my Chop ever taken about 4 years ago It stirred things up.
We’ve made a slight dent. But we simply have to work at it some more and reach the seed-only parrots who’s families simply don’t know any better.
I think I’m going to go polish up my big-ass Chop pot and get ready for this.
September 5, 2012 at 9:42 am
Ungotz! lol!! Haven’t heard that expression in years; but the theory is plausable. Time for a new revolution in feeding and keeping our parrots healthy. Time for a Chop Revolution!!!
September 5, 2012 at 10:16 am
Billie Faye King found a couple of interesting research papers studying what parrots eat in their habitat. She posted these studies on Holistic Bird Care. FYI, the parrots do eat quite a bit of seed in the wild. Yes, it is high in fat, however they stood a better chance of working off all that fat with all the flying they did. Feed the same diet to a triathlon athlete and someone who works at a desk all day and then goes home to watch TV until bedtime…you will see quite a difference in physical condition.
September 5, 2012 at 10:21 am
Some of you know the story of Oliver, as African Grey parrot who now lives with me. Oliver was fed nothing but seed for years. Oliver has little muscle control over his toes and legs, and he has the “shakes” — rather like rickets in a human, says my vet, who, having eliminated other causes of O’s condition, diagnosed persistent, gross malnutrition. Please do not allow another beautiful bird to deteriorate like Oliver. Research at Tambopata is indicating that even Macaws eat a varied diet, not solely nuts as was previously thought.
September 5, 2012 at 10:38 am
Research on wild diets in Tambopata and elsewhere reveals that parrots do eat seeds… and buds, leaves, nuts, fruits, and veggies. Other parts/stages of the plant, if you please. Early trappers may have attempted to send all that with the birds; seed was what was left over at the end of the journey.
September 6, 2012 at 4:44 pm
When you said, “other parts/stages of the plant, if you please…..” Were you describing the vegetables as being the other parts/stages of the plant?
September 6, 2012 at 7:50 pm
I was thinking in terms of the life cycle of any generic plant, from a seed. The seed sprouts, and grows into a stalk. The stalk produces buds that turn into leaves or blooms, which mature into the seed-bearing form of that particular plant: a seed pod, a nut, a pulpy fruit, or a vegetable, thus producing more seed. Birds are known to eat all these parts of a plant.
It makes sense to offer them to our birds, and Chop is a great way to do so.
September 5, 2012 at 11:04 am
@Cara: It sounds like your vet has diagnosed hypocalcemia. Low calcium levels affect muscles. “Rickets” is associated with abnormal bone formation.
“Natural sunlight” in this article: http://www.birdchannel.com/sponsors/species-nutrition-information-center/snic-qa-food-africangrey_answers.aspx refers to light not filtered through window glass (which is designed to block UV rays.)
September 5, 2012 at 11:10 am
As far as I know, first research on parrots was done on parakeets, mostly Australian parakeets, who are ground foragers and do, in deed, eat seed as a part of their diet. Seed that they do eat is mostly, if not almost exclusively, different types of grass seeds. They made a similar conclusion while observing quakers, who most likely deprived of more types of food in the region they were studied, did eat seed as a part of their diet, too. After that a parallel between pigeons and parrots were made and the rest is history as they say.
September 5, 2012 at 11:52 am
What with the way the food industry treats food for humans- chemicals, over-processing and genetically modifying tomatos for sturdier shipping over taste- why should the pet industry be any different?
September 5, 2012 at 12:57 pm
The shipping story sounds about right to me. If you think it was cruel that they fed the birds seed, consider that the crews were often eating an even worse diet — look up “hard tack” some time. I’ll guess that larger parrots shared some of the hard tack with the crew and benefited from the insect pests that famously infested the diet in old time ships so at least they were getting some protein. Heck, hardtack plus maggots might be close to the right carb/protein balance for some parrots…unfortunate as it might be for the human sailors. I very much doubt that early trappers tried to intentionally send a complete diet for animals, when complete diets were not even provided to the men.
Also: The most popular birds in the early modern days of aviculture were, in fact, very often birds that do very well on a diet that’s based on the seeding heads of grasses — cockatiels and budgies, the top two parrots, being a prime example. Some of the popular finches that eat the seeding heads of grasses would be another example. Now, why anyone would assume that all 300-plus species of parrots would do well on seed just because some Australian parrots were evolved to eating seeding grassheads is quite another question.
September 7, 2012 at 9:12 am
hardtack – very hard unsalted biscuit or bread; eaten esp. by sailors as a staple aboard ship; also called pilot biscuit, ship’s biscuit, sea biscuit
September 6, 2012 at 4:48 pm
I am wondering what vegetables you are using, in the chop, that our parrots would be eating, if in the wild….
September 6, 2012 at 7:54 pm
Different species favor different foods. What particular bird do you have in mind?
September 7, 2012 at 8:15 pm
The best bird food should always include a variety of seed, pellets, fresh fruit and fresh vegetables and I guess how you accomplish this depends on how much time you have to prepare, serve and clean up. Some people think the best bird toys are just for chewing when in fact there are many different toys to encourage foraging and intellectual challenges. Anyone who wishes to have the best parrots should consistently read good blogs like Parrot Nation.
March 1, 2013 at 5:23 pm
Not to disregard your theory, but seed is the predominant food of caged parrots in my country too, Australia. And they didn’t come on a boat. It’s the easy, cheap, lazy way and most people just think wild parrots eat nothing but seed. Even when those wild parrots are right in front of their eyes eating other things.
March 1, 2013 at 5:30 pm
Rebecca, we’re talking about hundreds of years ago when parrots were initially brought into the USA. What is being discussed is how it was originally thought that birds ate simply seed. You might know that I am a hardline “Anti-All-Seed Diet” person. This is a theory. Nobody knows for sure. My point was to explain how a simple thing changed the way people have continued to feed birds for centuries.
March 1, 2013 at 8:26 pm
I know what you meant 🙂 I’m just saying, what’s people’s excuse here I wonder. They can easily see (if they open their eyes) that parrots eat much more than seed yet continue feeding seed only to those very same species in cages in their home. I still believe it’s due to humans putting convenience before what would be have been/is best for the birds, and I suspect that was the case there too. Parrots lived for long enough on seeds so it’s “good enough”. Interesting subject anyway. My galah was all sunflower seed for 10 years (so easy just to fill that bowl up with seed) and it’s still a struggle 4+ years later getting him to change.
March 1, 2013 at 8:10 pm
But “We’ve Always Done It That Way” (feeding seed only). And the caged birds — when not offered anything other than seeds— didn’t eat their vegetables, well! That settled it!