Diet conversion is one of the trickiest topics in parrot husbandry, especially since it’s one of the first challenges new parrot owners often have to face.
What is diet conversion?
Diet conversion is the process of changing an animal’s regular diet to something different.
This includes changing major components of the food and introducing completely new food items. Many owners try to perform diet conversions after adopting birds that were eating nutritionally deficient all-seed diets in their previous home.
Unfortunately, the concept of diet conversion shouldn’t really exist in the first place. In an ideal world, all breeders would heed the decades of research showing that all-seed diets are insufficient to meet a parrot’s nutritional needs, and would feed their birds diverse, wholesome diets. Sadly, this isn’t the case, and many parrots go to new homes having only ever eaten low-quality food.
Why don't we just switch the food? Why is it a "process"?
It takes time for budgies to learn that these new items are food.
By observing their parents and other birds around them, budgies learn to discriminate between edible and inedible objects at a very young age. If a budgie is not introduced to various food items (e.g., high-quality pellets or fresh produce) when young, they will likely not think of these items as edible when they are adults. This is why budgies could end up starving if switched to a new food without warning.
What isn’t diet conversion?
Diet conversion doesn’t mean completely eliminating seed from your parrot’s diet.
Although all-seed diets cause severe health problems, we shouldn’t throw seeds out completely. In performing a diet conversion, we’re simply trying to teach our parrots to recognize more items as food. This allows us to offer them enriching, diverse mixtures that meet their nutritional requirements and keep them healthy.
Is diet conversion hard?
Diet conversion doesn't have to be hard, if you understand the biology of the bird.
You’ll often hear people talk about how hard diet conversion is. Some people even claim converting budgies off seed is completely impossible. The process is not impossible and should not be difficult for the animal at all, if we are presenting that food in the right order and preparing it correctly. This is why we developed our signature diet conversion methods that follow the biology of the animal and efficiently introduce new foods to budgies who only recognize seeds.
What if I only have one budgie?
Converting single budgies is very doable with the correct conversion method.
Most owners find diet conversion and food introduction difficult, especially with a single budgie. When a new budgie is added to a flock, they observe what the others eat and follow suit, learning quickly to eat what they eat. This is how budgies have evolved to identify new foods in a flock setting. With a single budgie, they lack this advantage and so many owners struggle with the diet conversion process.
However, even if a budgie is alone, a diet conversion or food introduction is not impossible. By understanding how our budgies view these new food items and what their base instincts are, we can present foods in ways that make sense to them and successfully add new items to their diet. In fact, all of the flock members that join our flock have come in as single birds and generally complete their diet conversions while still in quarantine, prior to being introduced to the rest of the flock.
Now that you know what diet conversion is, you’re probably wondering how to do it. The next entries in our diet conversion series will go over guidelines and real-life strategies.
We also have a deep-dive on why budgies sometimes don’t want to eat anything but seed, and a practical guide to introducing pellets for owners already in the early stages of diet conversion.