By Eleanor McCaffrey,
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Tips on How to Offer New Foods to Seed Junkies

Cockatiels are flocking birds and they will eat when their human companions are eating. They may fly to you and start nibbling on your lips trying to get at your food. Eating or pretending that you are eating may help your cockatiel to accept a new food. Allowing your bird to see you prepare food and put it in their dish may also help. I mince Mama's vegetables and foods next to her cage, or I let her walk around the table while preparing them. If I start eating a food, she heads over to the dish to have a look.  The more I say "Ummmm, good" the more likely she is to try it. Make a big fuss over new foods and show your bird how much you are enjoying them. Try offering new foods by hand or serve them on a little plate next to your own.

  Hand-feed your cockatiel  1 or 2 pieces of cornflakes, cheerios or other dry cereal before starting the transition to pellets. The crunching sound will help make pellets seem more familiar because pellets make the same crunching sound. Many cold cereals contain zinc. Although birds do need a very small amount of zinc in their diet, zinc is a toxic substance.  Do not go overboard feeding your bird cold cereals or purchase brands that do not contain zinc. 

  Cockatiels are very intelligent. Before starting your bird on pellets, teach it a word associated with eating. When Mama started eating pellets, I made a big fuss praising her and repeating the words "Eat Something." Now when I give her a new food, I say "Eat Something." She will go to her food dish and take a nibble. She may not like the food, but she samples it.

  Your bird may be more receptive to new, foods if they are offered outside of the cage on a saucer or different food cup. Let your bird "Dine Out" for a change. Once your bird is eating new foods, you can start placing them inside of  the cage in food dish. Have a few extra food cups on hand for fresh foods. I prefer using stoneware, china or porcelain dishes so I can put them right inside of the dishwasher to kill bacteria.

  Put a vinyl or cloth placemat in an area where your bird likes to play. Sprinkle some pellets or tiny pieces of vegetables on the placemat. Since cockatiels are always foraging for food, your bird may start nibbling on the little pieces while searching for other things to chew on. Vinyl and cloth placemats will keep fresh veggies from becoming contaminated with any bacteria. Vinyl can be wiped clean with a disinfecting wipe then rinsed. Cloth can be tossed in the washer and drier. You can use white paper towels instead, but if your bird is a paper chewer, it will be more interested in chewing on that instead of the new food you are trying to introduce.


  Another factor that influences a bird's acceptance of a new food is the size of the pieces. Everything that I serve Mama, with the exception of breads  and baked sweet potatoes must be minced into very tiny pieces the size of a small seed. Try different ways of cutting fresh vegetables into different sizes and shapes. If your bird won't eat cockatiel pellets, try using the parakeet sized ones. The formulation and proportions are identical. The only difference is the size. If this doesn't work, try using Roudybush Crumbles. Some birds like the crumbles better.

  To shred fresh vegetables and fruits into very soft tiny pieces, scrape them with a sharp knife. This works well with birds that prefer softer, moist foods. Also try cutting them this way. First slice or use a potato peeler to slice pieces into long, paper thin strips. Next, hold the stack of slices together and cut lengthwise into sticks about the size of a toothpick. Hold the stack of sticks together and cut a third time, across the sticks to make super thin, tiny pieces for your bird. Carrots, broccoli, apples, pears, celery green peppers and green beans work very well.

  One method of getting your bird to eat vegetables is to give your bird a choice of at least 3 or more different types, all mixed together or in separate sections on a small plate. A colorful  variety of food can perk up a bird's interest more than a dish with just 1 color in it. Birds like to forage for food. When I gave Mama and Cookie a combination  plate of at least 3 choices from the following: carrots, broccoli, green beans, celery, green peppers, parsley, romaine lettuce, corn , peas and apples, they both started eating all of the vegetables  immediately. Broccoli, carrots, green beans and green peppers are their favorites. Another method of introducing fruits and vegetables suggests that you try only 1 new food at a time and don't introduce another one until your bird is eating the first one. This method did not work with Mama, even after a year.

  When trying to get your cockatiel to eat fruits and vegetables, hiding the new food under a layer of seeds or pellets can help. By picking through the top layer, your bird may get a taste of the new food and enjoy it. Discard and wash food dish after 1 hour to prevent spoilage. I put my bird's dishes right in the dishwasher to kill all bacteria

  Did you ever notice how your bird always goes to your silk flowers or plants, trying to chew on them? Try to fool your bird into chewing on something nutritious and safe. To make greens more appealing, place a few leafs of kale or another dark leafy vegetable inside of a small glass to look like a flowers in a vase. Let your bird play near it and watch him start nibbling!

  Pancakes made with finely chopped fruit,vegetables, jarred baby food or crushed pellets is a nourishing source of foods that your cockatiel may not want to eat otherwise.

  French toast can be made without the egg, by soaking the bread in baby food sweet potatoes, carrots, bananas etc. and sprinkling a bit of sugar on top.

  Some birds will eat thawed and warmed frozen mixed vegetable cubes. Warm the cubes in the microwave then dice smaller. Check for hot spots then sprinkle a bit of millet seed on top.


 If your bird won't eat fresh fruits and vegetables, try steaming them and serving them warm.  Mama loves to be hand-fed baked sweet potatoes or cooked carrots cut into 1/4 inch cubes.

  Mashed sweet potatoes are a great hiding place for finely minced chicken and other foods. Moisten the potatoes with a bit of milk and roll into balls. Cockatiels generally love the sweet taste. These can be made ahead and frozen.

 Peel and core an apple then bake in your microwave for 3-5 minutes. Cool and cut into pieces so there are no hot spots. Hand-feed the cubes to your bird.

  Baking bird breads with the addition of fruits, vegetables, nuts, cheese, high protein baby cereal, jars of baby food fruit/vegetables, pellets  and very finely ground eggshell  usually gets a cockatiel to eat new foods. Try the recipe below and experiment with new foods.

  Don't give up on a food just because your cockatiel refuses to eat it the first time. The more your bird sees the food the more familiar and appealing it will become.

Mama's Favorite Bird Bread

Mama's Bird Bread 1


1 box Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
3 tablespoons cornmeal
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 small jar-baby food sweet potatoes
3 eggs
1/2 C apple or pineapple juice
2 eggshells, finely ground to a powder
OR scrape cuttlebone with a knife- about 1 teaspoon


Prepare muffin mix as directed on package. Add the 2 additional eggs (total of 3 eggs)and all of the remaining ingredients. Mix well until peanut butter is dissolved. Pour into a greased 8x8 inch square pan. Bake at 325 for 25-30 minutes. Cut into 1 inch squares and wrap each row in plastic wrap. Put wrapped rows in large Ziploc bag and freeze. Break a piece off a row and defrost as needed.

Revised Recipe--1  packages Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix, 1/2 cup cornmeal, 1 large jar baby food sweet potatoes, 1/2 cup grated carrots, 1/2 cup cockatiel/budgie pellets, 1 and 1/2 tablespoons peanut butter, 1 and 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 3 eggs, 1/2 unsweetened apple or pineapple juice. Bake 400 F, about 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Tip from Arlene: Divide the batter into 4 portions. Add a different fruit or veggie to each portion. Spread as 4 rows in baking pan. Your will have 4 different flavors of bird bread. Tip from Lari: substitute milk with apple or pineapple juice.

--1 Package1 large jar baby food sweet potatoes, 1-1/2tablespoons peanut butter, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon baking powder. Bake 325 degrees F, 35 minutes.

Tip from Arlene: Divide the batter into 4 portions. Add a different kind of fruit or veggie to each portion. Spread as 4 rows in baking pan. Your will have 4 different flavors of bird bread. Substitute milk with apple or pineapple juice.


Adding some crushed pellets, broccoli buds, or grated carrots to the recipe, will add more vitamin A & D into your bird's diet. You can hide just about anything in bird bread. You can also heat your bird's frozen pieces of bread in the microwave for a few seconds. Mama enjoys her bread warm and fresh from the oven, just like people do. Sometimes I  omit the eggshell or scraped cuttlebone, because she eats plenty of cuttlebone each day. That way we can share!


Thank you so much Liza for sharing the photo!

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