Pellet Conversion in Birds

Pellet Conversion in Birds

Converting your bird to a mostly pelleted diet is important, but can also be challenging. A complete diet promotes health and reduces likelihood of heart disease, hepatic lipidosis, and other medical problems; for these reasons, it is important to not become discouraged. The following are conversion guidelines with which we have had success. The number of days spent on each stage is suggested, but longer periods of time may be necessary, especially when converting adult or older birds. A good rule of thumb is to move onto the next stage only if your bird has mastered, or graduated from, the former stage. High quality bird pellets include Harrison’s, Roudybush, Lafeber’s, ZuPreem, etc.

Stage 1 (approximately 1-3 days):  MIX pellets with your bird’s regular diet in its food dish so that your pet will begin to recognize the pellets as food. Crush pellets into a fine powder and sprinkle over everything your bird eats, including table food/treats, to accustom your pet to the taste. You can also offer pellets by hand to make it a social activity. Some people have had luck with softening the pellets slightly with water or juice to make the texture/taste more interesting (replace twice daily if doing this).

Stage 2 (approximately 7-14 days; older birds may require weeks to months):  Offer the old diet in the food dish for only 30 minutes in the MORNING and 30 minutes at NIGHT. In between these limited meal times of the old diet, provide ONLY pellets (in the same dish/location to associate it with the normal meals). This provides an incentive for your pet to eat pellets when hungry in between the limited meal times. You can also offer a 30 minute midday meal of the old diet in the first few days to slow the transition further if desired. In order to be sure your pet is eating pellets and not “filling up” on other foods, do not offer human food/treats.

Closely monitor your pet’s droppings during this time to be sure feces is present (brown/green solid material in the center). If droppings are all white and/or liquid, this is a sign that your bird is not eating. Other signs to watch for include lethargy, dramatic weight loss, and a fluffed appearance. If your pet is not eating or shows any of these signs, offer some of the regular diet. This does not mean you need to stop the conversion process, but suggests that you need to proceed at a slower pace.

Stage 3 (approximately 7-14 days; older birds may require weeks to months)Offer the old diet just ONCE daily for 20-30 minutes. Continue to closely monitor for appropriate feces and for the signs described above to ensure your pet is eating. Some birds may scream or show other mild behavioral problems at this stage; as long as your pet is eating, do not give in to their demands for treats. If a bird gets “junk” food at any time, he/she will often learn to “hold out” for treats and not eat pellets. It is very similar to a child “hungry” for ice cream, but not for vegetables. This is the time when bird owners must make an effort to be strict parents.

Stage 4 (approximately 2 weeks):  Offer only the new diet for about 2 weeks to acclimate your pet to eating strictly pellets. In order to ensure that droppings are from eating pellets, do not give any treats or human food during this time. When you are sure your pet is eating its pellets well, you can begin offering other healthy foods as approximately 25% of the diet.

*Please keep in mind that while younger birds may convert to pellets relatively quickly, the process in adult and older birds may require weeks to months. If this method is unsuccessful for your pet at home, please inquire about pellet conversion in-hospital.

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