We use a varied diet. It includes a mash of fresh foods, which was developed by nutritionist Alicia McWatters. The ingredients are put through a food processor, so the birds aren't able to eat the parts they prefer and throw away the rest. Among other things, we also use Goldenfeast mixes, fresh home-grown sprouts, birdie bread, home grown wheat grass, lemon verbena, peppermint and (every bird's favorite) hot peppers.
There are several good pelleted diets on the market. Harrison's, for example, is an excellent product. However, it is designed to be fed alone. Although we do use Harrison's occasionally, I can't imagine anything more boring than eating the same food, day after day. That's why I have come to prefer Scenic Bird Food, which is produced by Marion Zoological. It is the only diet which is formulated to be fed with fresh foods.
My baby feeding story… Scenic makes a product called "Scenic Hand Weaning Pellets". The pellets were developed by Phoebe Greene Linden, as part of her "abundance weaning" process. They are little hot dog shaped gizmos, which are soaked in warm water and fed, literally, "by hand". There are no syringes or other equipment involved.
Many years ago, when I first started using hand weaning pellets, experienced breeders told me not to do it. They were concerned that impacted crop would result. Even my avian vet was skeptical.
I became confident (albeit secretively) because of the gradual process by which I began using them. When I was raising Cockatiels, I first used Scenic Hand Weaning Pellets as I thought they were intended to be used -- as a transition food between formula and dry pellets. With each subsequent clutch of babies, I moved the transition back, earlier and earlier. As I did so, I noticed that the babies became increasingly gentle.
Eventually, I stopped using the syringes and formula altogether. I was also able to leave the babies with their natural parents for longer periods of time. I have come to believe that extended time with the natural parents and siblings is essential to the physical and emotional well being of parrots.
Although I had been doing this for years, I had been called "irresponsible" often enough, that I became reluctant to "admit" it to other breeders.
Finally, I went to a conference, where Phoebe Greene Linden was one of the guest speakers. When I explained my experience to her, she laughed heartily and said, "I had the same problem, even with my vet. Take some of the pellets to your vet's office and show him how they work."
I heaved a great sigh of relief and did as she suggested. Since that time, Phoebe Linden has become increasingly well respected for her progressive and thoughtful approach to raising parrots. Now, other breeders actually ask me about the hand weaning pellets, rather than looking at me sternly and shaking their heads in disapproval. Phoebe's success has done wonders for my self-confidence. I've actually become an outspoken proponent of the process I used to use in secret.
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