Pet Connections

The Foraging Plate

Introducing New Foods in Your Bird’s Diet.

Quite often when I am consulting with pet parents regarding their bird’s nutrition, there always seems to be a series of questions that are on their minds. “How do I get my bird to try these new foods?” “Do I remove their normal diet and offer the new food?” “Do I mix new food with their current food?” Personally, I like to use their instinctive behaviors to introduce new foods. And I call this method “The Foraging Plate.” Essentially, you are encouraging a bird’s instinctive behavior for foraging to tempt them to try new foods.

As a rule, birds tend to be curious. They spend their days investigating with their beaks. From chewing toys and shredding materials, to sifting through foods offered in bowls. This is called foraging. And it is this curiosity that can be utilized to introduce new foods to your bird.

Normally, a baby bird would be taught by their parents what is safe and good to eat. This is part of fledging. However; many times, companion birds are not raised by their parents. They were hand fed by a person. The problem with hand feeding is that a baby bird is not taught by their parent’s innate behaviors that can aid in dietary choices that affect our bird’s health. Therefore, we must use their curiosity to teach and introduce new foods into the diet.

Setting Up the Foraging Plate

Setting up a Foraging Plate is quite simple. I recommend using a small to large plate. (Depending on the size of your bird.) Basically, you will be layering foods on the plate. The first layer will be the food your bird normally enjoys. Often, this is seed. Scatter the food on the bottom of the plate. Next, place a new food over the first layer. And then another food on top of that layer. And so on. After you have finished layering, place the plate on the bottom of the cage.

The concept of the Foraging Plate is that your bird will be encouraged to move the layers of food “foraging” to get to their favorite tidbits. While they are moving these new foods with their beaks, they will essentially be tasting the new foods. By encouraging the innate behavior to forage, you are manipulating your bird to try new foods. The Foraging Plate is also a good source for enrichment. Providing enrichment keeps a bird busy and they are less likely to exhibit behaviors such as screaming and feather plucking.

Other Techniques for Foraging and Enrichment

Other ways to introduce new foods and provide enrichment can be stuffing foods into a sterilized pinecone or an artichoke. Another technique used by pet parents is stuffing food into a small box. Even stuffing foods between branches encourages foraging behavior that can assist in introducing new foods to your bird’s diet. Take note of these ideas and be creative. By encouraging a bird to forage for food, you are not only transitioning them to a healthy diet naturally, you are keeping their minds busy and redirecting energy in a positive manner that will curtail behaviors.

Different foraging methods can be practiced throughout the day. Foraging is so much more stimulating to our birds than just throwing food in a bowl. I tend to use the Foraging Plate in the morning. And then place other foods in branches throughout the day to continue enrichment and foraging.

And as I have mentioned in past articles, always be cognizant that fresh fruits and vegetables can grow bacteria in a short amount of time. Fresh foods should only be offered for a few hours and then removed. This includes any uneaten morsels scattered over the bottom of the cage.

Patience is the Key

There is one last question I always seem to be asked. “How long will it take for my bird to accept the new food?” There is no particular time frame. Each bird is an individual. Some birds will immediately find their new favorite foods. While others may take time in determining what they find satisfying. The goal is to encourage your bird to sample healthy choices. The fact that you are offering these choices is half the battle. Be patient. And in time, you and your bird will be rewarded with many years of health and happiness.

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