Taking care of pet birds requires more than simply pouring seed mix into a small dish regularly and closing the cage. Birds need a clean, spacious living space with plenty of fresh water, as well as physical exercise and intellectual stimulation. They're also prone to eating every half-hour or so, just as they would if they were in the wild. Diet requirements can vary based on the breed of bird, and an avian veterinarian is the best resource for determining what your particular feathered friend needs to thrive.
That said, there are some basics when it comes to feeding parakeets, also known as budgerigars or budgies. Can they eat seed mix, or do they require a more complex meal plan? Experts agree that one key to a long life for a pet parakeet is a healthy, varied diet. This species of parrot shouldn't subsist solely on seeds, like many may believe. A combination of options is important. Here we break down five categories of food and how they relate to the parakeet:
Fresh fruit is a favorite of many birds, plus it provides necessary vitamins and minerals. Give your parakeet a variety of fruit each day, but leave it in the cage for no more than an hour. What hasn't been eaten in that time frame should be tossed to avoid bacterial growth. Try oranges, apples, pears, grapes, melon, berries and kiwi, which serve as good sources of vitamins C, K and A, as well as minerals like manganese and potassium.
Like fruits, vegetables contain vitamins and minerals that help keep parakeets strong. Green, leafy vegetables like romaine, spinach, kale and dandelion leaves provide vitamins K and C, as well as fiber, calcium and iron. Root veggies like sweet potatoes, carrots and beets are also good feeding fodder, along with asparagus, cabbage and squash. You can even try cooked corn and beans, the latter of which offers a good source of protein.
When the average person thinks about what a pet bird eats, the mind likely goes immediately to seeds. And this is partially true, but a healthy bird doesn't exist solely on seed. These mixes usually provide minimal vitamins and minerals, which are imperative for a healthy, long life. They can also have a high fat content, which can wreak havoc on a feathered friend. Keep seeds in your pet's life, but ensure it only accounts for about 10 percent of your bird's daily diet.
Pellets give parakeets a great deal of variety and nutrition in one bite. Though the ingredients vary by manufacturer, pellets often contain grains, protein (like egg) and several essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Pellets are generally small enough for birds to eat without your help, but if your parakeet is picky, you can also crumble it up to make it easier or more appealing. If you can, go the extra mile and select pellets that don't contain artificial flavors or colors.
Many parakeets enjoy hard-boiled eggs, cottage cheese and yogurt as sources of protein and cuttlebones for calcium. Whole-grain breads, unsweetened cereal, tortillas and pasta are all safe for a parakeet's diet. And don't forget to keep plenty of fresh, cold water available at all times.
By Tara Hall
About the Author
Tara Hall is an animal-loving writer and editor based in Austin, Texas. Her portfolio runs the gamut from small business marketing content to travel writing, fashion editorial and national music coverage.