|The first component of the bird’s daily diet is cracked corn, which comes from a feed store or pet store. It is sold by the pound in a lot of places, 5 pound bags and 50 pound sacks. I always closely examine the cracked corn before I take it home, opening the sack to have a look. Corn, and particularly the cracked corn, gets spoiled very fast and if it is a nice bright yellow color it is fine. If it is grey or greenish in color and has a dust to it as you handle it, pass quickly on this stuff. The bilious color and dustiness means it is spoiled and very dangerous to feed the birds.
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I pour water over the cracked corn...about equal parts corn to water and cook on a VERY low heat for about 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often. It is a lot like cooking a breakfast cereal and should be the same consistency. I season it with a sprinkle of cinnamon as it is cooking, but NO sugar. Seasoning is optional, but I think it helps the bird to eat it better if it is tastier and has the tantalizing smell of cinnamon. Because I have such a large flock, I finely chop up about three or four apples daily and add to the cooked corn mixture, folding it in after the cooked corn has cooled. The taste of the apple is nicely compatible with the corn and I can scoop a bit of this mixture over the sprouts for a “sweet” taste. In season, I also add cut up pieces of orange, peaches, nectarines, apricots or most any similar fruit and stir it into the cinnamon flavored cooked corn. Raisins can also be added for a still sweeter taste from their natural sugar.
In a separate pot, I cook brown rice and split peas. They may or may not be seasoned with a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, Mexican chili peppers dried and ground up or garlic POWDER....NOT SALT. I let the brown rice mixture cook about 30 minutes, then add finely chopped white potato (russett, red or any kind of white potato), chopped carrots, sweet potato, yams, squash of any kind, pumpkin, green beans, snow peas, bell peppers, Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower or just whatever you have in the kitchen that is handy. I stir in the finely chopped vegetables and let this cook in with the brown rice mixture for another ten to fifteen minutes, until the vegetables are done. I add some frozen peas, corn or any frozen vegetable mixture at the last minute after I turn the fire off under the rest. The frozen peas don't need to be cooked, only defrosted. If corn is in season I shave the kernels from the cob and add at the last minute because they don’t need to be cooked.
My basic diet is sprouted, but a mixture of beans can be substituted for sprouts. A bag or container of 16 bean dry assortment can be bought from a supermarket and it would be fine for feeding one or two birds if you didn’t have the time or skill to sprout. The 16 bean mixture is intended for soups and it comes in several size packages. Or you can assemble your own mixture. Either pink or green lentils, pinto beans, navy beans, black beans, mung beans....any kind of bean you have available would be great......and pearl barley, split peas, wheat, garbanzo beans, quinoa, millet or any thing else you can think of. Soak this mixture over night and bring to a rolling boil in the morning. Boil for only about ten to fifteen minutes. Any longer is cooking the "goodness" out of the mixture. This soak-heat-and-serve mixture can be made ahead of time, put into baggies and frozen for daily use. Just thaw one baggie out overnight and warm it up in the morning.
I also use a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables. Raw beets and beet tops are favorites, Swiss chard, dandelion, romaine lettuce and carrot tops chopped up finely....any kind of fresh vegetable is good. I also offer kiwi, peaches, pears, grapes, mangoes, papaya, pomegranates and any other kind of fruit that may be on hand or in season.
I also cook chicken for them, which I look for when it is on sale. I buy up three or four chickens when the price is right, and freeze them for the future. A whole chicken I boil in a pot for at least an hour, using no seasonings. Better to over cook than under cook if it is fed to the birds. Eggs the same way. I hard-boil them for at least twenty minutes. I shred the chicken or the hard-boiled eggs up and use sparing amounts in their bowls. I also serve Tofu several times a week, crumbling it into the bowl. I only offer one of these proteins a day and sometimes they don’t get a protein daily either. I try to give more protein to the breeding pairs who are laying eggs, and especially to the birds who have babies they are feeding.
The birds all get a bit of potato daily. One or two medium to large potatoes are split up many ways here. I dice the potato very finely and add it to the brown rice mixture every morning. I add it in the last ten or fifteen minutes of the overall cooking time (brown rice needs to cook about 40 minutes) along with sweet potato, carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower and on and on....whatever is in season and in the pantry, but the last ingredients are all added in the last ten to fifteen minutes or they get over cooked and mushy. I would say any type of potato would be just fine, and organic even better.
For a real treat, when I make mashed potatoes for dinner, I prepare a smaller batch for the house birds. If I am feeling very ambitious I make up a whole pot full and give the outside crew some too. Talk about excitement! Of course my "human" mashed potatoes get a small bit of milk, salt, pepper and butter as I am whipping them. The bird's mashed potatoes are just potatoes and nothing else added. Mashed potatoes make the best "beards" on the Eclectus and are great fun to fling from their beaks onto the walls, and plaster all over their perches as they wipe the excess from their faces. They enjoy mashed potatoes thoroughly and don't miss all the ingredients I leave out for them, because they never have had my "unhealthier" batch to compare with.
In the late afternoon I give a seed mixture made up of unfortified large hookbill, with some extra sunflower seeds mixed in. Millet sprays are hung from the cage and available all the time for in between snacks.
As far as the box mixes of corn bread, I would say they are strictly the lazy and unhealthy way of making corn bread for the birds. When I compared the ingredients in two prepared boxes of corn bread mix, I was amazed at the ingredients. The first is Trader Joe's brand, and "Sugar" is the *second* item listed on the box. What a surprise....Enriched Cornmeal is the third ingredient, meaning this box mix has more sugar in it than it does Cornmeal! The last two ingredients are Vanilla Powder and Salt.....neither of which belong in a bird's system.
The second box I have to compare with is the cheepie Jiffy corn muffin mix....boxes of which can be purchased sometimes on sale at three for a dollar. The first ingredient in both the box mixes is Flour, Cornmeal is at least *second* in the Jiffy mix, but Sugar comes in as the third ingredient here, followed in fourth place by LARD! Oh happy day.....do our Eclectus need Lard in their diet!!??
And of course toward the end of the ingredients is Salt too.
We all know that sugar and salt make anything more palatable to our human taste buds. Over the years we have become accustomed to these seasonings and additives. However, as we learn more about the intake of sugar, salt, lard, etc.,....well I should speak for myself....the more I learn, the more I stay away from processed sugar and salt. This has been a long slow process for me, but I have just drifted in this direction as I learn more about diet and eating good food. Yeah sure our parrots may like their food laced with sugar and salt, but with them it is all about what is offered to them and we can gradually wean them off the artificial additives to their food too. Ideally, let’s hope they have never had food with any salt, sugar or other no-nos in it to begin with.
Photography by Susie Christian©