How to Make Homemade Bird Food

Three Parts:Providing Basic Nutrition for Your BirdsPreparing a Homemade Mash MixtureEnriching Your Birds' Diet

Making your own bird food is an excellent way to provide better nutrition for your pet birds. The dietary needs of pet birds vary, but there are a variety of ways you can provide appealing food and good nutrition for your bird without spending extra money on expensive pet-store products. Making your own bird food also allows you to showcase your creativity and express your affection for your feathered friends.

Part 1
Providing Basic Nutrition for Your Birds

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    Understand your bird's basic needs. Most pet birds require broadly similar diets of seeds or pellets, fruits, and vegetables, with other foods providing extra enrichment. Some birds, however, are more prone to obesity than others, and understanding your breed's distinct needs will help you provide the proper amount and variety of nutrition.
    • African gray parrots typically thrive on a diet of 70 percent pellets or other basic nutrition and 30 percent other foods (seed mix, fruits, nuts, vegetables).
    • Amazon parrots have varying needs depending upon their size and activity level. Experts recommend using a gram scale to carefully weigh and adjust both birds and their food. Typical Amazon diets are 30 percent pellets or other basic nutrition, 20 percent whole-dried foods (seeds, nuts, fruit, vegetables), and 40 percent fresh vegetables and fruits. Cockatiels are more prone to obesity than many breeds, so keep a careful eye upon your bird and watch for signs of excess weight.
    • Canaries typically need a breed-specific seed mix, pelleted mix, and song mix, with vegetables provided about twice a week.
    • Cockatiels thrive upon 60 percent pellets or other basic nutrition and 40 percent breed-specific seed mix, plus vegetables for added nutrition. Like Amazons, cockatiels are more prone to obesity than many breeds, so keep a careful eye upon your bird and watch for signs of excess weight.
    • Conures are such active birds that they rarely experience weight problems. Conures thrive on a base diet of pellets with rotating additions of vegetables, soaked seeds, dried fruit, and enrichment treats.
    • Eclectus parrots' diets should be weighted heavily toward fresh foods. One expert recommends 25 percent pellet and seed mix and 75 percent fresh foods, including grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables.
    • Macaw diets should be composed of approximately 70 percent pellets or other basic nutrition, 20 percent vegetables, and 10 percent nuts, seeds, and treats. Macaws are also prone to obesity.
    • Quaker parakeets benefit from roughly equal parts pellets, vegetables, and whole-grain mush or other grain based-treats.[1]
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    Provide a wide variety of nuts, fruits, and vegetables for your bird. Birds benefit from nutritional variety just as humans do, and preparing fresh foods is an easy way to make a homemade contribution to your bird's diet. Consider the following breed favorites:
    • African grey parrots need more calcium than many pet birds, so calcium-rich foods such as kale, mustard greens, broccoli, carrots, dandelion greens, apricots, endive, figs and okra are especially important. Also consider baked eggshells, walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds.[2]
    • Amazon parrots benefit from vitamin A-rich foods such as carrots, pumpkin, squash, sweet potatoes, papaya, bell peppers, cantaloupe and mango. The calcium present in peas, broccoli, almonds and Brazil nuts is also important.[3]
    • Canaries tend to enjoy greens, broccoli, shredded carrot or peas. [4]
    • Cockatiels benefit most from dark green or orange vegetables. They aren't as enthusiastic about fruit as many birds. [5]
    • Conures tend to enjoy a wide variety of vegetables and fruits, with apples often a notable favorite (be sure to remove all seeds). These birds also enjoy cooked brown rice, pasta, and boiled, shredded potatoes or yams.
    • Eclectus enjoy cooked legumes, whole-grains, cucumber, papaya and watermelon with seeds, various in-season berries, broccoli, endive, celery and more greens.[6]
    • Macaws eat a high volume of leafy vegetables and fruits in the wild, so reproducing these habits for your pet is a good idea. Macaws also tend to like oranges, apples, melon, broccoli, spinach, kale, carrots, and celery. [7]
    • Quaker parakeets enjoy bananas, grapes, apples, oranges, pears and strawberries. These birds can also benefit from occasional consumption of dairy products such as low-fat yogurt or cheese.[8]
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    Vary the foods you provide for your birds to ensure proper nutrition. Just as humans need a wide variety of nutrients, your bird needs the benefit of variety in its diet. Avoid the pitfall of the tried and true; rather, learn how to prepare different foods for your pet. A varied diet also provides the mental stimulation these intelligent pets need to stay healthy.
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    Avoid feeding your birds avocado, celery, tomatoes, garlic, onions, mushrooms, coffee, or chocolate. Avocado pits contain a substance toxic to birds, while onions and garlic can cause a form of anemia. The acid in tomatoes can give pet birds ulcers, and fungi such as mushrooms have been known to cause digestive problems or even liver failure. The nutritional content of celery isn't a problem, but the strings it contains can cause crop impaction. Remove the stringy parts if you would like to feed your bird celery.[9] Coffee and chocolate are both toxic to birds.[10]

Part 2
Preparing a Homemade Mash Mixture

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    Understand the advantages of preparing mash. As noted above, pellets compose a significant, if varying, percentage of each pet bird breed's diet. Part of the reason for pellets' popularity is that they provide better nutrition and involve less waste than seed-based diets. Birds are savvy creatures; they will pick and choose their favorites from among a collection of mixed seeds. This practice often results in nutritional deficiencies.[11] A similar principle applies when considering the rest of your bird's diet. Mash mixture is a homemade supplement to store-bought pellets and is especially popular with parrots. Biologically, birds are best adapted to raw foods. Mash allows you to provide the complex carbohydrates, fats, and protein your bird needs in raw form.[12] Because it is mixed, your bird will be "forced" to consume a full range of nutrients.
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    Select from the following ingredient categories. Take note of the provided ratios to ensure the balanced nutrition of your mash.
    • 25 percent cooked mixed beans such as mung, adzuki, or garbanzo beans
    • 25 percent cooked grains including quinoa and amaranth
    • 25 percent high-calcium greens such as kale, chard, mustard greens, collard greens, or dandelion greens
    • 15 percent high-vitamin A fruits and vegetables such as cooked sweet potatoes or squash, carrots, papaya, and mangoes
    • 10 percent miscellaneous additions -- any bird-safe vegetable or fruit that catches your eye at the store [13]
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    Combine the following ingredients in a food processor and mix roughly. You'll want the mash to retain a chunky texture.
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    Feed your birds. Medium-sized parrots will typically consume about 1/4 cup of the mash mixture per day; adjust the quantity for smaller or larger birds.[14]
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    Plan ahead and prepare in bulk. Making mash isn't a speedy process given the variety of foods involved, but preparing and freezing large quantities will help you maximize your time and effort.
    • Determine how much mash your bird will eat each day and then freeze in serving-size quantities for easy defrosting.
    • Make defrosting a regular part of your daily routine so you don't find yourself facing a hungry bird and a frozen block of mash.

Part 3
Enriching Your Birds' Diet

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    Use food for mental enrichment. Try one of the following recipes to provide food enrichment that will provide mental stimulation -- and fun! -- for your bird.
    • Punch a hole through a rice cake and hang from a string. Parrot breeds especially enjoy pecking and foraging their way through this treat.[15]
    • Fill a paper lunch sack with nuts, pellets, dried pasta, and/or dried fruit. Tie the sack with a piece of ribbon or string and hang in your bird's cage. Especially eager foragers might enjoy the challenge of a double-bagged sack.[16]
    • Combine chopped walnuts, sunflower seeds, diced pears and apples, and granola and add enough honey and peanut butter to create a sticky mixture. Slather a clean pine cone with the mixture, then roll in millet seeds. Hang in your bird's cage. This enrichment treat is especially popular with parakeets.[17]
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    Watch which foods attract your bird. Just as humans have preferences, your bird will gravitate toward particular flavors and textures. While the list of treat recipes is almost endless, considering categories is helpful. Use your observations to craft homemade bird treats that will delight your pet.
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    Trick picky eaters by altering the shape or temperature of their food. If your bird refuses to eat raw vegetables, try feeding it cooked versions. Offer nutritious foods in different shapes. Many birds enjoy peeling their own fruits and vegetables, so offer peas in the pod, oranges with rind, or apples with skin.[18]
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    Make grain-based treats for birds who are grain enthusiasts. Quinoa-based treats provide a wonderful source of avian nutrition.[19] Many pet lovers have developed recipes for "birdie bread"; a quick Web search will reveal a wide variety of options.
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    Prepare smoothies and other fruit-based treats for birds who love sweet flavors. Blend fruit mixtures with ice or fruit juice. Human baby food is also a handy ingredient.
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    Assemble nut, seed, and dried-fruit treats to suit a variety of birds' needs. Try mixing 1/2 cup sunflower seeds, 1 cup mixed walnuts and peanuts, 1/2 dried fruit, and 1 T. dry, hard corn kernels. Store in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry place.


  • Human food such as pasta or whole grains is a fine occasional treat for most birds. Consult your veterinarian if you have questions or concerns pertaining to your breed.
  • Keep in mind the size of your bird as you prepare treats or enrichment food. Avoid waste by adapting recipes to produce sensible amounts of food.


  • While many birds need seeds in their diet, wholly seed-based diets are no longer considered healthy. Your bird needs a variety of nutrients to flourish.
  • Monitor your bird carefully while making any dietary changes. Consult your veterinarian if you have concerns about your pet's health.

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Categories: Feeding Birds