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Birdie's Choice Step-By-Step Plan

Published on Wednesday, 25th August 2021

Choose up to three types of pelleted food

Choose up to three different types of pelleted food for the bird. The goal is to allow a bird to choose among three different pellet types they might like best and transition to that type without having to use other transitioning foods. Always make sure they have access to fresh, clean water; some birds will drink more during the conversion process.

Try pellets of varying colors and shapes to allow the bird to select what they likes best.
Include pellets of different sizes, as some birds prefer a size up or down from what is generally recommended for their breed.

Place the bird on a safe table top

Place the bird on a safe table top that allows them to move around. When placing the bird on a table top, choose a location the bird is familiar with so that they are comfortable. Place the bird in the center of the table, rather than at the edge, so they don't fall off. Allow them a few minutes to explore and to acclimate before you introduce any pellets. Be sure to supervise the bird at all times on the table so that they don't fall.

- This method works best for smaller species, such as Budgies and Cockatiels, that typically feed off the ground in the wild.
- This method also may work better for finger-tamed birds that are comfortable being on or near human hands.

Create small piles of each pelleted food

Create a few small piles of pellets of each type of food on the table. Place the piles of pellets a few inches apart, so that they are clearly separated. Limit the number of pellets in each pile so that the bird can see the distinct pellet types in each of the piles. Do not put the piles too close to the edge, so that the bird is in danger of falling if they go over to a pile to investigate it. If the bird starts heading towards a pile, encourage them by saying something enthusiastically like, “Good bird!” and using their name. If they actually reach out to touch, pick up, or taste a pellet, increase your verbal praise.

- Birds often have specific preferences for certain pellet types, which is why you should include distinct pellet types in each pile.
- Be patient – it may take a bird a few minutes to feel comfortable navigating the table top and moving over to a particular pile.
- Follow a bird’s cues; let them pick the pile they want to explore first.

Tap in front of the piles

Use your fingernail to tap the table top so that it makes a clicking sound like a beak tapping on the table; this clicking sound mimics what a bird’s beak would sound like as the bird reaches down to check out a pellet. If the bird is investigating a particular pile of pellets on their own, wait to see what they do before you start tapping.

If they approach a pile but stops short of touching the pellets, then start tapping. A couple of taps may be all it takes for them to explore further on their own by picking up a pellet with their foot or beak. If they do not approach the piles, tap in front of the piles to get their attention. Spread the piles out a little if necessary. If they doesn’t investigate a particular pile of pellets further after the first couple of taps, try again in a minute or two; if they still don't respond, try tapping at a different pile.

Praise the bird as they eat pelleted bird food

Praise the bird and scratch their head as they start to eat the food. Eventually, the bird will come to anticipate touching and eating the pellets with receiving praise from you. If the bird moves from just touching the pellets to actually tasting them, ramp up the verbal and physical praise, so that they really feel rewarded for tasting the pellets. If the bird doesn’t like to be touched, stick to verbal praise, and skip the head scratches.

- Remember, birds generally work to gain your approval; praising a bird verbally by using their name and physically by scratching their head (if they enjoy head scratches) when they interacts with a particular brand of pellet positively reinforces their interaction with that type of pellet.
- Be sure to say the same phrase, such as “Good bird!” and use their name, over and over, as they interact with the pellets so that they learn to associate touching the pellets with receiving praise.

Place the bird on a bird safe mirror

You can also place a bird safe mirror flat on the table to stimulate the bird’s interest as they see another bird eating the food. Place the mirror with a few pellets on it on the table top next to the bird, and wait to see how they respond. If they aren't interested, move them on top of the mirror, and try tapping. If they seem uninterested or afraid of the mirror, don’t push it; take the mirror away, and go back to tapping on the table top and praising them for contact with the pellets.

- Birds don’t recognize their own reflections; when they look in the mirror, they see another bird. Some birds are intrigued by the “bird in the mirror,” while others may be afraid; see how the bird responds, and use the mirror if they seem interested.

Place selected food in the cage

As soon as the bird expresses an interest in a particular type of pellet, fill up a cup with these pellets, and allow the bird to graze from it all day. Continue to praise the bird verbally and physically, with head scratches if they like, whenever you see them interacting with the pellets in the cup.

- While some birds show interest in pellets during their first table top exposure, it may take others a few table top sessions to try them out.
- Be patient; try a tabletop session no more than once a day over a few days.
- Birds may be interested on some days and not on others; take cues from the bird, and go with the flow.
- Most small birds will show interest in eating pellets within a week of daily sessions.
- Make the pellets they prefer available all the time, and limit offering other types of food initially until you see them regularly eating the pellets.
- Dry pellets can remain in the cage day and night; refresh the bowl of pellets daily or any time the pellets get wet or soiled.
- Many birds love to dunk their pellets in water as they eat them. Don’t be surprised if you offer a multi-colored pellet, and the bird selects out certain colors they prefer while leaving over colors they aren't interested in; this is a common behavior and not a cause for concern.
- Birds selecting out a certain color of pellets may have droppings of that colour; once again, this is not a cause for concern, as long as they are eating. 

Monitor the bird’s food intake

Monitor the bird’s intake to ensure they are consuming an adequate number of pellets each day. Ideally, before a bird eats each morning, weigh them on a scale that weighs in grams to track their weight over the course of the conversion.

- Birds converting to pellets, especially if they have been eating high-fat seeds and nuts, initially may lose a few grams – sometimes up to 10% of their body weight. This is because pellets generally have less fat than seeds and nuts.
- If the bird loses more than 10% of their body weight when converting to pellets, or they seem weak or lethargic, contact an avian veterinarian immediately.
- Another way to be sure a bird is eating enough when they convert to pellets is to count their droppings each day by placing a sheet of paper towel on the cage bottom where the droppings fall. The paper towel makes it easier to see each dropping.
- A bird should produce several droppings a day (at least one every few hours, depending on what they are eating) as he converts to pellets; if you are not seeing this many droppings, especially if the bird is thin to begin with, contact an avian veterinarian to see whether they want you to add back in a small amount of the bird’s old food as the bird makes the transition.
- The consistency of the droppings may change once the bird is consuming mostly pellets; they may be softer and moister. There is no cause for concern if you see these changes, as long as the bird is eating and active. If you see changes in droppings’ consistency, and the bird appears weak or lethargic, contact an avian veterinarian.

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