Parrot Biscuits!

Today, I’m posting a unique topic compared to my traditional fare.

I’ve been wanting to make my own parrot biscuits for a long while, but it never got close to the top of the priority list. I finally did it and I feel great because I think the birds love them. I want to share the process with you!

We have two parrots. Rocky is an Umbrella Cockatoo and Lucy is a Blue-fronted Amazon. They stay in our therapy pool room (just off our bedroom). It is spacious, warm, has high humidity, lots of windows and because we don’t usually swim in the evenings, it provides good, natural lighting (as in when the sun goes down, it gets dark.) That is valuable to a parrot’s overall health, as is the “tropical” environment of our pool room.

When we acquired Rocky (which was very much a purchase for rescue scenario), he was in very bad condition. First, he was in a 24″ square cage – which is outrageously too small for such a big animal. He had plucked most of his breast, shoulder and leg feathers (a habit he hasn’t fully overcome, but he’s much better.) That was twenty-two years ago! He was ten years old (supposedly) when we acquire him. The person from whom we acquired Rocky, was feeding him an exclusively pellet diet (Pretty Bird brand.) When we acquire Lucy at around 8 months old (a year before we got Rocky), she was also being fed pellets (Zupreme brand) as well as a seed mix.

Along with his pellets, I began feeding Rocky the same commercial seed/nut blend Lucy was receiving and personally, I think he appreciated eating more than the same ol’ dry kibble every day. Rocky wasn’t keen on Lucy’s Zupreme pellets and Lucy completely ignored Rocky’s Pretty Bird. So, for a long while, I purchased both types of pellets and the seed mix, adding fresh fruits and veggies as well.

When I started thinking about making home-made parrot biscuits, I reviewed the labels of the pellets (which some veterinarians and parrot experts suggest can or should be the exclusive diet for a healthy bird), I discovered a pretty scant list of ingredients. They are mostly made of corn, wheat, soybean and a few minerals along with artificial or natural flavor.

The seed mix brands vary regarding the list of ingredients, but to be honest, more than half of it ends up on the floor. I have never seen my birds eat the rock-hard pieces of corn or the millet that often comprises a large percentage of the food. That said, while my birds reject the dried corn in seed mixes, they love fresh corn on the cob! The seed mixes also often contain their own version of pellets, which I typically seen tossed to the floor, too.

What seems to excite my two lovely parrots is a product called Nutri-Berries by Lafeber brand. They are balls of grains (grasses, millet and oats), peanuts and corn that are stuck together with corn syrup. They are sized to fit into the bird’s “hand.” They are expensive, but worth it if the parrots waste less (which seems to be somewhat true) but I still think the ingredient list is pretty short. I’m assuming (maybe I’m wrong) that the more diverse the diet the more likely to provide more diverse nutrition.

My quest to make a nutrition-dense parrot biscuit began. Surely, I could create something that was more varied than ” Ground corn, Soybean meal,Ground wheat, Vegetable oil, Wheat germ meal, Sugar” that make up the pellets. And, once I did a bit of research, I realized I could probably make it cheaper than the Nutri-berries, too.

To secure ingredients for my own version of a parrot biscuit, I visited a site I really like. I’ve purchased many products from them previously- but it was for us humans. Nuts.com has far more than tree nuts. They have a vast array of great foods, including nut flours, seeds and fruits, as well as sprouted grains.

Sure, you may be aware of almond flour or even hazelnut flour, but did you know there’s chestnut and peanut flour? There’s millet flour, too. My birds never eat the millet that seems to be a filler in the parrot seed mixes. I suspect it’s too small for their liking. But, millet has nutritional value and if it were part of a biscuit, they could get that benefit in a biscuit. Nuts.com sells human grade millet (yes, some people actually eat it as a cereal) and also sprouted millet. A quote from Nuts.com claims:

Unlike the standard seed growing process, sprouted seeds are germinated, which means they’re soaked and rinsed until they grow small tail-like ends. At that point, enzymes within the plant are activated and the sprouted seed reaches its full nutrient potential; meaning it contains more fiber, protein and nutrients than unsprouted plants.

Nuts.com

There’s also a product made of sprouted grains called Sprouted Super Flour! Nuts.com has many multi-grain mixes that are intended for hot breakfast cereals or multi-grain bread bakers. They are all great ingredients for a parrot biscuit, I think. It has to be better than mere corn meal and wheat flour. Of course, along with nuts, nut flours and grains they also have dozens of fruit products, many are organic and they have no-sugar-added varieties. Nuts.com was a great source for some of the less common ingredients. For the ingredients I could find locally in a grocery store at a lower cost, I did so (rolled oats, almond flour etc..)

BASIC DESCRIPTION

My intention for creating these parrot biscuits is to provide a more diverse, flavorful, exciting and nutritious daily food that will not be subjected to the extreme waste of commercial pellets and seed mixes. I wanted them to be interesting to the parrots that, let’s be honest, don’t have the sort of life they deserve flying through the jungle foraging for various foods which may be seasonal or challenging to harvest. Along with a variety of nut and grain flours for the batter, I added seed, nut and fruit “mix-ins” that can be swapped out when I create a new batch.

I wanted the biscuits to be stable without refrigeration, so I decided to do what was necessary to make them as dry as possible. To do that, I baked the batter on a non-stick cookie sheet covered with parchment paper until it reached a “hard chew” consistency. Then, I cut through the ‘loaf” to create approximately 1 inch squares so that, once fully dried, I could easily crack them apart. Then, I put back the sheet back in the oven at 200 degree F for a few hours until they were hard and crunchy like a biscotti cookie. I hoped to create something that was stable (at least for a few weeks to a month) at room temperature when stored in a sealed container.

INGREDIENT LIST

Everything listed here is in approximate quantities. I’ve made four batches over the past four months and never had the exact same ingredients or ratios, and they all turned out well and the birds love them. Swapping between the batches gives the parrots something different each day.

A binder is necessary, and I’ve always used eggs because it’s a good source of protein. I also have typically used almond flour as the primary flour. I have found that more “nibble bits” that the birds can pick at while holding the biscuit seems to keep them interested (they turn the biscuit over and over in their claw searching for something to pick out.) They also take small bites of the biscuit which gives them a mouthful of variety.

Here are images of some of the “nibble bits” ingredients:

Here is the ingredient list of my most recent batch.

  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 1 cup peanut flour
  • 1 cup 7 grain or 10 grain cereal
  • 1 cup sprouted super flour
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup raw pumpkin seeds (unsalted) or raw sunflower seeds (unsalted)
  • 1 cup dry roasted soybean halves (unsalted)
  • 1 cup organic sprouted sorghum or buckwheat or other sprouted grain
  • 1 cup organic sprouted millet
  • 1 cup Peanut butter stock (these are peanuts prepared to be processed into peanut butter)
  • 1 cup walnut pieces (or other nut meats)
  • 1 cup dried fruit chopped if necessary (citrus peel, pineapple, raisins, apricots, dates etc…)
  • 1 cup organic, dried coconut flakes
  • 1 cup fresh frozen corn (or peas or carrots etc…)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 – 2 cup apple sauce – (I also used apple juice or orange juice, rather than apple sauce)
  • 0.5 – 1.0 cup vegetable oil*
  • 1 cup honey
  • water and/or additional applesauce or juice sufficient to wet all ingredients and create a thick batter consistency**

* some parrot species require more fat in their diet than others – adjust accordingly

** some flours absorb more moisture (coconut flour is one of those)

SET-UP

Equipment required:

  • Non-stick, 11x17x1.5 baking sheet, covered in parchment paper
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Small mixing bowl
  • Mixing spoons

Preheat the oven to 350 F

STEPS

Whisk eggs in the small mixing bowl.

Mix remaining wet ingredients into the eggs.

In large bowl, mix all the flour-type dry ingredients.

Add the “mix in” ingredients like nuts, seeds and fruit, stir to thoroughly combine.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stir thoroughly.

Add additional apple sauce and/or water if needed to make a thick batter.

Pour the batter onto the parchment covered sheet and level with a spatula.

Bake for 1 hour (less for a smaller batch)

Remove from oven and score / cut into squares (size depends on your parrot’s size – should be big enough for the bird to hold the bar in his claw.)

Turn the oven down to 200 F.

Return the sheet pan to the oven and allow to dry until hard. For this large, thick batch, that was around 3 hours.

If you prefer a softer biscuit, dry for less time but then store in the freezer or keep refrigerated before serving.

I work out in the pool every morning, and while exercising I get to watch Rocky and Lucy enjoying their biscuits. They really savor the experience!

It makes me feel so joyous when I see them content and happy!

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