Gardening for Parrots and People: Ten Easy and Nutritious Foods to Grow for Your Flock

 April 18th, 2014
Posted By:
Sarah Stull
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My Senegal Parrot helping my garden

Gardening for parrots is not the nightmare you might imagine, and that’s coming from someone who doesn’t have a green thumb! Now that spring is here, it is the perfect time to start planting for you and your flock — or to begin planning for the summer. Start small. Anyone with a garden or little patch of grass can grow their own produce, and doing so is a great way to save money. Feeding your flock is, after all, one of the single most important components of parrot care, responsible for their longevity, health, enrichment, and behaviour. It also isn’t cheap. Please remember, though, that any food needs to be thoroughly washed… even if it is home-grown and organic.

You don’t need a lot of land or skill to start a successful veggie patch. The real battle is knowing what to plant, when, and where.

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Strawberry sprout.

The following list contains ten nutritious full OR partial sun parrot-safe fruits and vegetables for spring and summer planting:

 (Water each of these plants daily for the first two weeks after transplanting, because they don’t have a big root system yet.)

1. Bell peppers:

  • Plant them: after the weather warms, as they originate from South and Central America.
  • Water: daily to keep soil evenly moist. Too much water can cause rot.
  • Light requirement: full sun.
  • Harvest when: the peppers are full. Green is unripe (but still edible, healthy, and tasty).
  • Store: freeze, or store in the fridge for up to a week.
  • Additional tip: buy a potted pepper plant from a greenhouse, rather than starting from seeds.

2. Carrots, beets, radishes, or turnips:

  • Plant them: during the spring.
  • Water: once they start to droop.
  • Light: min. 4-5 hours of sun. These can go in a shadier spot, but will take longer to harvest.
  • Harvest: when they measure about ¾ of an inch across the top under the stem. Wiggle them up out of the soil and remove tops.
  • Store: Refrigerate for up to two weeks.
  • Additional tip: the tops of these plants are highly nutritious and edible, and well worth saving.

3. Kale:

  • Plant them: before the last frost date in your area for maximum tenderness and flavour. You want it to get frost bitten!
  • Water: when it starts to droop.
  • Light: full or partial sun.
  • Harvest: when the leaves are about the size of your hand.
  • Store: you can freeze it, dehydrate it, or keep it in the fridge for fresh eating.
  • Additional tip: leafy greens like kale, lettuce, and spinach can get away with more shade than some plants, but still need some sun.

4. Strawberries

  • Plant them: in the spring.
  • Water: every other day after established. The watering amount affects their flavour! (More water decreases it.)
  • Light: full sun.
  • Harvest: when the fruits come in, full and red.
  • Store: refrigerate.
  • Additional tip: buy these plants pre-potted from your local greenhouse.

5. Cucumber, Butternut/Winter Squash, Yellow Squash, Zucchini, Pumpkin:

  • Plant: in summer.
  • Water: as soon as they droop slightly.
  • Light: Full sun.
  • Harvest: cucumbers and zucchinis before they turn yellow; pumpkin and squashes after their vines dry out and rinds toughen. If you want seeds, fruits should be larger, and if you don’t, they should be smaller.
  • Store: pumpkin can also be frozen, and the seeds can be saved, baked, and served as a treat for both people and parrots. Other squashes can sit out at room temp short term.
  • Additional tip: if you plant more than one kind of squash seed, you may well end up with weird hybrids next season. We had ‘pumkini’ one year.
Fruits and Vegetables 102

Doing some research on prices at the store… Berries are one of the more expensive items! These usually grow on bushes, so can take up more space in your garden.

6. Spinach:

  • Plant them: in the spring OR autumn.
  • Water: daily.
  • Light: full sun or partial shade.
  • Harvest: with scissors. Leave the roots and cut off the leaves, and you’ll have a continuous harvest.
  • Store: refrigerate. If you leave it out short-term, put it in a bowl of cold water.
  • Additional tips: spinach likes cold weather. It gets bitter and bolts (goes to seed) if the weather gets too warm, as with most leafy greens.

7. Lettuce

  • Plant: in the very early spring (after last frost date) or autumn.
  • Water: daily.
  • Light: full sun or partial shade.
  • Harvest: like spinach.
  • Store: refrigerate.

8. Sweet Potatoes

  • Plant: in summer when soil is WARM.
  • Water: daily.
  • Light: full sun.
  • Harvest: harvest in the early autumn before it gets too cold. You know they’re ready because the leaves begin to wither, revealing the sweet potato.
  • Store: after harvesting, wash and lay them in the sun to dry out. Don’t eat them for a month, which allows flavour to ripen. Store in a cool, dry, dark place.
  • Additional tip: planting in warm soil is essential, or they will rot.

9. Swiss Chard

  • Plant: spring.
  • Water: daily until its roots form, then leave it alone.
  • Light: full sun.
  • Harvest: like spinach (cutting off just the stem and leaves, leaving roots).
  • Additional tip: this should pop up every year after. The stems make a good toy for your birds, and are perfectly edible for both you and the flock (if a bit tough).

10. Peas

  • Plant: very early spring after the last frost date, or in the autumn.
  • Water: daily.
  • Light: full sun.
  • Harvest: when the pods feel full, as if about to pop.
  • Store: room temperature or refrigerate.

 TIP: Watering your plants in the blazing sun will make them more susceptible to burning. Try watering your plant early in the day instead for optimal results.

If you choose to take your parrot out with you to soak up some sun, just make sure that he has access to shade, food, and water, and that you use a carrier or suitable cage/aviary. Because your attention will be on gardening, you can’t have your eye on your bird the way you need to while outside — it is especially risky to have a clipped or unrestrained parrot with you while working. These birds can go miles with just a little breeze, even clipped. While your parrot is out and about, just stay wary of cats, dogs, birds of prey, and other curious wildlife, as well as too-high or too-low temps.

Many plants and herbs can be grown in a box on your porch or window. I will be experimenting with this this spring, so will report back to you on that. Some easy ones include:

  • Cilantro
  • Mint
  • Basil
  • Leafy greens (red or oakleaf lettuce, etc.)
  • Strawberries

(All are safe for parrots in moderation.)

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If you can’t grow a lot of veggies, many times you can at least supplement to help your wallet!

Preparing the veggie patch:

When buying your plants, you should look for a short and stocky plant without blight marks, obvious infestations, or wilting. Start by digging the grass out of a patch of whatever size you desire. The placement should ensure that these plants will get plenty of direct sun. We have one main patch that is about 20×40’. (Yours can be much smaller, especially to start — maybe 4×4’.) Next, turn the earth with a shovel until all weeds/roots are broken up. Remove any rocks, then smooth with a rake.

When I have multiple seeds or plants, I dig a long trench, and place the seeds evenly along it, covering when finished. See plant packets for depth. Don’t pack the dirt. You can use a stick or plant label for a marker.

Cover the area with straw once you’ve planted everything and it’s just started to show above ground. This acts like a mulch, keeping weeds down and moisture in. As it decomposes over time, the straw also adds healthy organic matter to your patch.

TIP: ‘Edible Landscaping.’ For those of you who have limited space or restrictive HOA rules, here is a little ‘cheat’ so you can also grow veggies. Try hiding them in amongst conventional garden flowers like zinnias, marigolds, and roses for visual appeal. These plants will stay through summer, unlike daffodils, tulips, or pansies. Also helpful if you like the idea of gardening food, but don’t want to sacrifice aesthetic.

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Example of edible landscaping. The wet patch towards the grass is going to be peas.

What if my area is too shady?

Even plants that are marked ‘shade’ or ‘low light’ require a few hours of sun every day. IF your patch is not in a sunny area, but you want to grow crops that have a low light requirement, you can try painting the area behind the crops white. Some greenhouses also carry reflective mulches for use in too-shady gardens.

TIP: Don’t plant the same things in the same place every year. Farmers rotate their fields to allow the soil to replenish, and you should consider this too, even if your quantities are smaller.

Make sure to check out the All Natural Feeding Program and Cookbook, so that you have plenty of ideas how to use these fabulous home-grown foods. You can even preview a couple recipes!

Have you tried gardening for parrots yet?

 

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Feed Your Flock Pellets – The Best Out There

 May 5th, 2011
Posted By:
Patty

A lot of people have been asking for pellet brand recommendations lately, so I want to take this opportunity to explain why Birdtricks Feed Your Flock is such a great choice.

Let me begin by explaining that pellets should be considered supplemental to a fresh food diet. Fruits and vegetables should comprise the largest part of your bird’s diet, which should also include grains, cooked and raw, and nuts to varying degrees according to the requirements of your bird’s species. A pelleted diet alone will not fully supply the needs of any bird, but is there to fill in the gaps in the diet, and are especially important to birds with finicky eating habits. It’s important to select a good brand.

This Organic Parrot Food is comprised of 100% certified organic ingredients.There are NO wheat or corn fillers, NO added vitamins or minerals, NO artificial flavors, NO sugars/sucrose, NO animal products or by-products, NO GMOs and NO dyes. They are preserved using natural ingredients and they are suitable for any sized parrot. One of the best things about them is that the pellets are processed using a cold pressed method.

There are three things that destroy the nutrients in our foods: heat, air and time. Pellets are typically formulated in one of three ways: baking, extrusion or cold pressing. The processing of pellets that are baked or extruded uses very high heat, which eradicates most of the naturally occurring nutrients that exist in the ingredients. No matter how wonderfully healthy the ingredients may have started out being, they are not worth nearly as much nutritionally following baking or extrusion.

A cold pressed pellet is one that is simply pressed into shape, using no heat and allowing the full nutritional value to remain intact. (I recommend vacuum sealing half of the bag for later use if you have only one or two parrots. This will help combat the air and time related nutritional losses.)

Here is a list of Feed Your Flock‘s organic ingredients. It’s  truly impressive. You will not find anything in this list that does not come directly from nature:
Rice, hulled millet, barley, alfalfa leaf, sunflower seed hulled, sesame seeds unhulled, quinoa whole, buckwheat hulled, dandelion leaf powder, carrot powder, spinach leaf powder, purple dulse, kelp, rose hips powder, rose hips crushed, orange peel powder, lemon peel powder, rosemary whole leaf, cayenne ground, crushed red chili peppers, nettle leaf.

Of course, the very best thing is that the birds love them. I have actually had to limit the portions offered to some of my birds because I felt they were going more for the pellets than the fresh foods. And for those of you with birds that are not inclined towards a pelleted diet, each bag comes with a recipe for a birdy bread that incorporates the pellets for the purposes of introduction.

Birdtricks did not invent this recipe, nor do they manufacture the pellets. In their search to find the very best pellet for their own birds, they came across this product, which is as good as it gets. They offer it to you through their own private label called Feed Your Flock. It’s the pellet we choose to feed our own birds. We trust it to keep our flocks healthy and vibrant, and that is the highest recommendation I can give you.

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Can’t Get Your Bird to Eat Organic Pellets? I Can Help!

 February 23rd, 2009
Posted By:
Jamieleigh

Galah

It can be hard to switch your parrot’s diet to organic – some people have it easy and their parrots love it more than the first diet, others really struggle with getting their bird to even look at the new pellet. It’s so important for your bird’s health to be on an organic pellet that I’m going to offer some helpful tips in getting your bird to eat our healthy pellets from Feed Your Flock.

All of my parrots eat this organic pellet. My birds love the fact that he crumbles so easy – parrots love chewing things apart and this pellet allows for that while they eat it. Also, there is no waste from this pellet! You can literally take the broken up bits and mix them into a recipe of birdie bread for your parrot. Birdie bread is a HUGE hit among all pet parrots… all of them love it from budgies to macaws.

Congo African Grey Parrot

You can make your own at home and mix in the organic pellets. This is a great way for your bird to develop a taste for the new pellets while eating something it loves. And yes, there is organic birdie bread, too.

Now, birdie bread is fairly high in fat (averages 15%) so it’s not something you want your bird soley on as their diet but it is a great way to get them to start eating healthy organic pellets so give it a try!

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