By Dr. Laurie Hess, DVM, Diplomate ABVP (Avian Practice)
It would be great if you could simply offer your pet bird nutritionally complete pelleted food and immediately wean him off a high-fat, nutrient-poor seed diet. But most of the time, it doesn’t work that way. Many species of birds are stubborn and unwilling to try new things. While there are certainly some birds that will convert readily from one diet to another, others need to be encouraged. Our “Tough Love” conversion method works for nearly every species, regardless of their temperament.
Create a Routine
The idea of “Tough Love” is to create a routine your bird can follow. This method generally works for any bird, at any age, that will accept new food in his cage and enjoys eating treats. In this method, it is important to be consistent. Offer your bird his normal food in the usual place in his cage twice a day, each day. In the middle of the day, offer him a tasty treat – a small bit of table food or something else he loves to eat – that he will anticipate receiving.
Introduce the New Food
At the same time, add a bowl of the new pellets at a place in the cage where your bird likes to sit – typically at the highest point in the cage – and place an additional bowl of the new pellets near the area where the old food bowl sits. Leave the pellets in both bowls at all times to acclimate your bird to these two new bowls in the cage. Encourage him to try the new pellets by verbally praising him when he approaches the new bowls, especially if he actually touches or tastes the pellets.
Remove the Old Food
After he has accepted these new bowls in the cage, stop offering him his old food in the morning, when he is hungrier and more apt to try the pellets. Continue to actively praise him if he does. If he starts snacking on pellets in the morning, stop offering him his usual diet in the evening. Hopefully, without his usual food in the evening, he will start nibbling on pellets. Different birds will warm up to trying pellets at different rates. Some may be willing to try them in a day or two, while others may take weeks. You can encourage your bird to try pellets not only by verbally praising him, but also by pretending to eat the pellets in front of him and sharing your portion of pellets with him. The key is to not mix any of his old diet in with the new pellets. Birds offered new and old food mixed together will selectively eat out the familiar food; they will never try the new food.
While this method may involve a little “tough love” to get your bird on the new diet, the excitement he feels from the treats and the quality time with you will make it easier for him to accept the change. Getting your bird on to a healthier diet, no matter how tough, will be worth it in the end to improve his overall health and longevity.
For complete, step-by-step instructions on implementing the “Tough Love” method, check out this page.