Diet Conversion: Rules of Thumb

In this second part of our diet conversion series, we go over the rules of thumb that keep things safe and streamlined.

In the first part of our diet conversion series, we provided a broad overview of the diet conversion process. In this article, we’ll go over a few fundamental guidelines that help ensure safety and efficacy when introducing our birds to new foods. 


Diet conversion can be nervewracking. It can seem like the wild west of parrot husbandry, with everyone giving different advice and doing things in different ways! But there is a defined set of guidelines I’ve used to great success. As always, these guidelines are not arbitrary rules; they are extensions of the biology of the animal and work with, not against, their instincts to help us achieve our goals. 


While it’s true that there’s no one defined cookie cutter method that works for every bird, we can use overarching principles of budgie biology to help guide us and our flock through the process. 


1.) Never starve your bird

Making your bird go hungry is both dangerous and ineffective.

Most parrots would rather starve than eat something they don’t recognize. This doesn’t have anything to do with them being “picky!” If a new food is sufficiently different from what they usually eat, a parrot may not understand that the item is edible at all. 


Trying to force a parrot to eat a new food by simply not giving it anything else will result in them going hungry, becoming malnourished, and potentially starving to death. Sadly, this is not an uncommon occurrence.


2.) Measure your food

Measuring your budgie’s food will help you know how much they are eating.

In diet conversion, it’s very important to know whether your bird is actually eating or not. If you provide your parrots with a huge bowl overflowing with food, it can be difficult to tell how much (if anything) has been eaten. Measuring out the food your offer is crucial to tell if you are making progress.


With my own flock, I usually measure out a bit more than I know they can finish. This way, they have plenty to eat, but I can clearly tell if the food is mostly gone versus untouched. 


3.) Pacing and presentation are key

A huge part of diet conversion is presenting things in the right order, in the right way.

If your bird takes one look at a new food and won’t even attempt to try it, you’re probably offering something too different from what they recognize, or have gone a bit too fast. Our signature diet conversion method was developed with this obstacle in mind, and emphasizes the gradual introduction of new foods to ease our parrots through the transition.


4.) Species matters

Small birds tend to like small bites!

Budgies are small parrots, so offering food at the right particle size can make a big difference. Your budgie might not be willing to take a bite of a whole mung bean, but would happily eat it if it was chopped finely and mixed with other foods. The same goes for hardness: some foods may be more palatable soaked or cooked.


5.) Think outside the bowl

Offering food on other surfaces may feel more natural for your budgie.

Bowls are made by people, for people. For budgies, they aren’t the most comfortable things to eat from. I prefer to offer food on a flat, open surface, like a plate, so my birds can eat in a position that is more natural to them. Food can also be offered as enrichment and decoration! Don’t be afraid to stick some greens in their toys or hang them in their cage.


Wrapping up

Now that you know what diet conversion is and what rules of thumb to keep in mind, you’re ready to get into the details! The next entry in our series will go over specific strategies.


Don’t forget to check out our pieces on how to keep seed-mixes fresh, and why budgies sometimes don’t want to eat anything but seed. 


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