After the all seed and seed based diet are excluded
for being nutritionally deficient and unhealthy, there are 2 other types of diets for cockatiels to be considered.
Although they both include pellets, they vary in nutritional adequacy and composition.
They also vary in convenience. One of the most well known diets for cockatiels
is based on a diet developed by Tom Roudybush, co-founder
of the Psittacine Research Project. Roudybush spent 15 years conducting research on cockatiel nutrition at UC-Davis.
He has now earned his PHD in Nutrition, owns his own feed company
and is one of the most respected avian
nutritionist in the field. The
Roudybush diet has been modified here and there are several variations.
These foods are served daily and based
on about the following proportions:
Basic Mixed, Natural Food Diet
25% vitamin enriched cockatiel seed mix
25% cockatiel pellets
25% vegetables, dark leafy greens and fruit
15% cooked rice, pasta, corn and bean mixture
10% table foods, grains, cereal, bread, pasta ,cheese, eggs, meat etc.
Fresh drinking water changed 3-5 times daily.
This type of diet offers cockatiels a healthy variety of foods. However, cockatiels are once
again given the choice to pick and choose, often choosing
the less nutritious foods over the nutritious ones. Birds have neither the intelligence not the instinct to choose healthy
foods for themselves. Birds do have taste buds and they will choose what
they like the best. Foods higher in fat content taste better. You are also
responsible for preparing 50% of your cockatiel's daily food intake. If your
cockatiel is being served this type of food in his/her cage, the cage, water and
food dishes must be kept
especially clean to avoid the bird from eating spoiled or moldy food
and to prevent harmful bacterial growth. Drinking water will have to be
replaced more often each day as well. Also, 50% of your bird's daily food has the potential to become contaminated when at room temperature.
Fresh foods should be removed after 2 hours. Ideally, cockatiels should
be offered a combination of these fresh foods 3 times a day with nutritious
snacks between meals. (This is the most recent type of diet that Mama and
Cookie were switched to).
Pellet Based Diets
60%-80% pellets--(percentage varies among avian vets.)
40%-20% fruit, vegetables, nutritious table food
A small to moderate amount of seeds each day.
Cuttlebone and mineral block.
Fresh drinking water changed 2-3 times daily.
Percentages of seeds, pellets and table foods recommendations will vary
among avian vets. Some vets recommend a higher percentage of pellets while
others prefer a more natural approach with more fresh foods and equal amounts of
pellet and seeds.
UC-Davis began research on cockatiels to determine the best diets and to compare
different nutrients among them. Avian nutritionists have taken data from this
and have created pellet or formulated diets for birds. Pellets are a
manufactured mix of as many as 40 different concentrated nutrients which have
been mashed and formed into shapes. Pellets provide almost every essential
element needed by a cockatiel for a balanced diet, with the exception of a
cuttlebone for calcium and a cuttlebone. The protein content varies by brand
name but ranges between 12%-14 % with a 4%-5% fat content. Providing your bird
with fresh food, such as fruits, vegetables and a small amount of daily
seeds, will add variety to your bird's diet and it can prevent liver and kidney disease which some
birds are genetically prone to.
Your bird will also receive the benefits from the different
nutrients contained in each food and most avian veterinarians
in the USA recommend that a pellet based diet be substituted for
the all seed or a seed based diet. The
recommended ratio of pellets/fresh foods/seeds varies among individual
avian vets. Mama and Cookie received about 60% pellets and 40% fresh
vegetables, cooked grains, other nutritious table foods and a small amount of
seeds each day. Their ratio of pellets to fresh foods is different than it was 8
years ago, with less pellets and more table foods. Research on all avian diets is on-going and many avian vets now think that the inclusion of more fresh
foods provide better nutrition.
Cockatiels in maintenance (not young growing or adult breeding birds) will only
eat 15 grams of high energy food per day, regardless of the combination of
foods eaten. If your bird consumes 10 grams of pasta, then only another 5
grams of pellets will be consumed that day. Keep this in mind when serving
supplemental, high-energy foods to your cockatiel. Pack the most nutrition
that you can into that
the 20% to 40% of fresh, natural foods that your bird eats. Offer nutritious lower
energy foods such as fruits and dark leafy green vegetables. Offer smaller
portions of cooked brown rice, other cooked grains, cooked pasta,
cooked beans, meat, poultry, fish, eggs and other all natural table
food. Fresh seeds should be offered each day as well. For a list of other healthy table foods
High Protein Diets
According to research results published by UC-Davis, (Jan.2001)
healthy cockatiels on a high protein diet
do not develop kidney disease.
Cockatiels were fed high protein diets ranging between 11% to 20%.
The results indicated that "A high protein diet is
only harmful to cockatiels with underlying, (an undiagnosed) kidney disease."
Kidney disease can go unrecognized for years, without clinical signs, when a cockatiel's diet is low
in protein. Birds that already have a pre-existing kidney problem are more
likely to show symptoms of their kidney disease when fed a high protein diet.
Kidney disease is more frequently reported in
color mutation cockatiels, especially "Lines that have been developed through much inbreeding".
The report also states that the exact amount of protein required
for maintenance in adult cockatiels has not yet been
determined. Current literature suggests that it is about 12%.
Manufacturers of pellets have now adjusted and lowered protein rates in formulations to reflect this
Choosing a Diet
Changing your bird's diet should not be done without consulting your
avian vet. All birds should have a yearly check up which includes blood
testing. Your avian vet will help you choose a diet based on test results, physical
findings, factors such as your bird's current age, weight, activity level,
general health, what foods are available where
you live, how well your bird accepts new foods and how much time you can devote to meeting the nutritional needs of your
bird. According to UC-Davis, the diet of a new bird will also depend on what it was fed by the previous
owners. Cockatiels respond favorably to what is familiar.
Changing your bird's diet can be frustrating for both you and your feathered companion. You're avian vet knows this and
he/she will help you to guide your bird through the process safely.
should not be given to birds on a pellet based diet. This can cause vitamin and
mineral overdose toxicity, resulting in the same type of health problems as a
vitamin deficiency. Birds that are on seed based diets should receive vitamin
supplements. Choose a powder that you can sprinkle over food or a treat type
vitamin. Adding vitamins to a bird's drinking water causes bacteria to grow on the bottom of the dish.
That's why the water dish feels so slimy on the bottom after a few hours.
Vitamins that are put into water are also flavor enhanced. This changes the
flavor of a bird's drinking water and may cause some birds to drink less water.
Vitamins also loose their potency and disintegrate in water.