Q1 - What should I feed my J?
A - From editor:
Most (not all) species of parrots require low fat low protein diets that are rich in vitamin A and calcium. Jardine's are one of them.
The most reliable way to ensure that the nutritional needs of your J are being met is to feed it a good pellet diet. Pellets are formulated to provide the nutrients required by avian species. However, since parrots have evolved from many different habitats with varying food supplies it is reasonable to think that there may be slightly different nutritional needs amongst different species. Unfortunately, we do not have any pellets formulated specifically for a J. Therefore, many people believe that other high quality people food, such as veggies, should be added to the diet. Especially important are foods rich in vitamin A such as carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers, other orange, red or dark green vegetables.
Offering different foods also allows your J to eat a variety of textures & colors. While some people on this list prefer to feed 100% pellets, others believe there is psychological benefit to eating a variety of food. This may be more important for a pet bird who spends a significant amount of time in his cage than for a breeder or mated bird or a pet bird that has constant human companionship.
Most people on this list would probably agree that your J's diet should consist of a minimum of 70-80% pellets (of total caloric intake). This ensures that the minimum nutritional needs (vitamins, calcium, protein, etc.) will be met. The remaining 20-30% of the diet can include nutritious vegetables and some treats. One should keep in mind, however, that offering high-carbohydrate foods, such as pasta and peanuts, will reduce the J's appetite for pellets. Offer restricted quantities of such foods. As veggies are mostly water, they can be offered in more abundance.
Q2 - Are pellets a complete diet for my J?
A - From editor:
This is a controversial question. Pellets are designed by 'for profit' companies but are touted as a COMPLETE diet, intended to meet 100% of the nutritional needs of the average parrot if 100% of the caloric intake of the parrot is the pellet in question.
Most North American vets believe that pellets are a complete diet, and some will go so far as to discourage including other foods in the diet. However British vets disagree and encourage a varied diet of people foods.
Several breeders on this list have used pellets exclusively for their breeder birds and have achieved good results.
Q3 - What brands of pellets are good for my J?
A - From editor:
This topic is very controversial and there seems to be no consensus. The main issues that have been raised are
a) protein content - some brands have higher protein content than others. Some birds (J and non-J) have developed health problems (i.e. gout and kidney failure) that were believed to be due to high protein diets. Some species of bird seem more susceptible to this than others. List members Jean Pattison and Scott Lewis both recommend using pellets with protein content between 12 and 16% for Jardine's.
b) artificial colors - some members express concerns about the long term effects of artificial colors. Individual birds may have allergies to certain artificial colors. Sally Blanchard has suggested that artificial colors are responsible for some cases of feather picking and other behavior problems. However, many J's belonging to list members eat pellets with artificial colors & according to the owners are doing well.
c) price - some pellets may seem too expensive to use in quantity, though others can be ordered in large amounts at reduced prices.
Here are some posts that raise some issues you should keep in mind when selecting a pellet for your Jardine's.
A - From Carol:
Packages of seed/pellets (at least the types I've tried) give "minimum" percentages of fat/protein etc. I would think "actual" could vary a lot on foods (e.g. seed mixes, Nutriberries) where parts can be picked out and parts left -- depends on what the bird actually eats.
A - From Michele:
Interesting thing for those of you concerned about protein: since protein is listed as a MINIMUM, you may be getting much higher levels of protein than you think.
I talked to Dr. Ed Spencer at the FDA. According to him, there are no federal regulations on what pet food manufacturers put on their labels. The reason you see what you do, i.e. min protein content, is historical, coming from the livestock industry. Apparently in those industries they wanted to guarantee that you were a buying certain minimum standard. He says we shouldn't be too worried that the actual numbers are much off from the label numbers since he thinks it would not be cost effective for them to do so (i.e they want to save money). On the other hand, my friend who works in human-food-marketing tells me I ought to be skeptical as from her point of view food manufacturers often try to "get away with as much as they can & still be legal labeling" in order to save money. So, it's definitely a money thing, I just am not sure if it works in our favor or not.
Dr Spencer tells me there is another organization called AAFCO (I forget what the letters mean). This organization is supposedly made up of reps from each state. They get together & agree on guidelines for pet food. For instance, I guess dog/cat nutrition is better understood so they come up with recommendation that if you want to state "complete nutrition" then you had better have x, y and z in your product in amounts within the defined ranges. Then, each state decides on its own whether or not to adopt the AAFCO guidelines. If a state adopts it, then to sell your product in that state you must meet the guideline. He says about 30 states have adopted the guidelines but of course each state is free to do what they want to when they adopt it (i.e modify if they like).
Then to make it worse for birds, AAFCO cannot agree on what constitutes a good diet due to lack of good research, so many species, etc.
A - From Kelly:
I am a member of AAV. I am not aware of any efforts to have additional information included on bird food labels.
Many states have a requirement for minimum protein and fat content and maximum fiber or ash content for pet food products as well as livestock feed. Everything else is mostly carbohydrates. The reason that the "Guaranteed analysis" minimums are required is because protein and fat are "expensive" ingredients. Unscrupulous manufacturers could, before the law was passed, put almost nothing in their product. The reason that the Guaranteed analysis Maximum is put on fiber or ash content is because that consists mostly of non-nutritional filler (and some minerals). It is the cheapest ingredient. A manufacturer tries to come as close to the Guaranteed minimum as he can without going under for protein and fat contents for cost reasons. This means that he will usually be a little higher than the minimum, but not by a whole lot. Reverse is true for fiber or ash content.
A - From Alison:
I decided to go with Harrison's (plus seed plus other food) because I have heard that it has the lowest vitamin A and D levels, is organic, and my vet recommends it.
This information on vitamin A and D came from a book "Feeding your pet bird" by Petra Burgmann. It compares the nutrient content of several different types of pellets (Kaytee, unfortunately, is not one of them). I just looked at it and Harrison's has the lowest vitamin A compared to Hagen, Lake's, Mazuri, Pretty Bird, Roudybush and Topper. It does not, however, have the lowest percentage of vitamin D--it is the second lowest. Hagen has the lowest vitamin D percentage. I spoke to Mattie Sue Athan (a well known bird behaviorist and author of Guide to a Well Behaved Parrot) yesterday. She has been looking into this vitamin D problem with the intention of writing an article about it for Bird Talk. She told me that vitamin D toxicity is a acknowledged as a well-known problem by several breeders she has talked to.
Two more little comments on Vitamin D from the book "Feeding Your Pet Bird."
Birds can make vitamin D in their bodies if they are exposed to natural sunlight (or, one presumes, a Vitalite) even if they don't get it in their food.
Also, few foods naturally contain significant amounts of vitamin D.
This is why I have a hunch that companies are playing with fire when they add more than a very conservative amount of vitamin D to a manufactured diet. I'm even beginning to question if Harrison's has more vitamin D in it than I am comfortable with.
A - From Editor:
Below is a list of pellet manufacturers. Many of the companies will mail you a sample free of charge. (The protein content listed in brackets was obtained from a list member and may not be accurate.)
Brown's (Tropical Carnival)
1-800-334-8816 ext. 62
Okemos, MI 48805
Hagen (Tropican granules)
(14% protein, 9% fat)
Handley Corp. (Brazilia)
Harrison's Bird Diet
c/o HBD Inc.
5770 Lake Worth Road
Lake Worth, FL 33463
P.O. Box 230
Chilton, WI 53014
BT7 92 RR#2
Odell, IL, 60460
1-800-842-6445 ext. 922
Avi-Cakes, Nutriberries, pellets)
Lake's Ultimate Avian Diet
639 Stryker Avenue
St. Paul, MN, 55107
PMI Feeds, Inc.
1401 S. Hanley Road
St. Louis, MO 63144
Pretty Bird International, Inc.
5810 Stacy Trail
P.O. Box 177
Stacy, MN 55079-0177
P.O. Box 908
Templeton, CA 934654
Scenic Bird Foods
Marion Zoological Inc.
13803 Industrial Park Blvd.
Plymouth, MN 55441
(Available only through
Veterinarians, and certain
Topper Bird Ranch
Rt. 19, Box 529
Lexington, NC 27292
Topper Bird Ranch - West
1466 N. Carpenter Rd.
Modesto, CA 95351
Ziegler Brothers, Inc.
P.O. Box 95
Gardner's PA 17324
Q4 - What fruits & veggies should I feed my J?
A - From editor:
Trial and error will work here. The companies listed below also offer prepared vegetable treats.
13330 Bessemer Street
Van Nuys, CA, 91491
Flights of Fancy
1594 Hilltop Drive
El Cajon, CA, 92020-8227
Q5 - What other people food or treats should I feed my J?
A - From editor:
Other healthy foods that people feed their J's are: breakfast cereals low in sugar, pasta, crackers low in salt & fat, breads, shared bits of meals, etc.
Treats which should be used sparingly: peanuts, almonds, grapes, apples, other fruits, Kaytee Puffs
Q6 - What supplements does my J need?
A - From editor:
If your bird is eating a good diet as described above, it should not need any vitamin or mineral supplements. These are all contained within the pelleted formula. However, an egg-laying hen may need calcium supplements. Ask your vet.
Q7 - What things should I NOT feed my J?
A - From editor:
Chocolate, avocado, caffeine, alcohol, foods high in fat (milk, cheese, etc.) or salt content. If it's junk food for humans, then its junk food for parrots. Also, avoid fruit pits, such as peach, apricot and cherry, which are toxic.
Q8 - What's the story with Lafeber's? Are all three products (Avi-Cakes, Nutriberries and the pellets) supposed to be complete diets?
A - From Michele:
Lafeber's claim that 100% pellet diet = 100% avicake diet = 100% nutriberry diet. They also admit in the same breath that the 3 products do not have same ingredients, same % of fat or protein, etc. So, I think this is a contradiction.
I think it also depends on whether or not the whole berry is consumed. I noticed Lafebers claim to be 96% eaten, little waste. Not true with Moe. Much much more than 4% is wasted, which is probably all the good stuff.
I finally got a call back from the Lafeber's person. She said that percentages on the package are either mins or maxs. For every batch they make, they take it to their lab for analysis. As long as the lab verifies that the protein is > the min specified, it is ok. Same for fat, moisture & fiber.
She did tell me that she would be happy to get me actual numbers on the product I have.... I would have to give her the lot numbers & expiration dates (perhaps that also defines a lot) & she could look up actuals for me. I thought that was good that she offered that.
© 1998, 1999 African Parrot Society
Last update: March 04, 2003