Welcome to the Harrison’s Bird Foods diet conversion page.
DIET CONVERSION – SMALL BIRDS: The “Bird Bread Method”
Diet Conversion made easy using Harrison’s Bird Bread.
The following is an example of a safe and effective method of converting the diets of small birds.
A very stubborn pair of budgies who were solely on spray millet were brought to us for a conversion trial. (Budgies are shown in this trial – but other small species including cockatiel, canary, lovebird etc. all convert similarly)
The pair was always ravenous for spray millet but turned up their beaks to anything else we offered.
At that point we baked up a batch of Harrison’s Bird Bread Mix in small muffin shapes with spray millet mixed into the bread. The bread was broken up into pieces and placed on top of a clean paper towel at the bottom of the cage.
As expected, for the first few days the pair sorted through the muffins for the millet. On day three though we observed that they were also now eating bits of the Bird Bread. The amount of millet mixed into the bread was reduced and eventually replaced with High Potency Fine. After a few more days the millet was completely removed and High Potency Fine was scattered amongst the pieces of Bird Bread on top of the white paper towel.
Within a few days not only were they off spray millet completely – they were now eating only Bird Bread and HPF. Though continuing Bird Bread as a treat is optional, after another batch-worth of Bird Bread was exhausted we continued with only HPF and the birds are doing excellent!
- Bird Bread can be baked in a number of shapes including muffins, mini-muffins or loaf (loaves can be cut into pieces).
- Baking seed into the Bird Bread can be replaced by baking the Bird Bread as-is then pushing seed (and subsequently nuggets) into already baked pieces with your finger.
- Store baked Bird Bread pieces in the fridge or freezing – then allow day’s ration to thaw or warm prior to feeding.
- For maximum nutrition replace cooking oil with 1 tsp of Organic Red Palm Fruit Oil
Diet Conversion of small bird species is a challenge not to be taken Lightly.
It is imperative to immediately return a bird to its original diet if it refuses to eat the new diet. Small birds have a rapid metabolism and can starve to death in as little as 36-48 hours if they do not get enough food to eat. Owners should consult with an avian veterinarian and set up a conversion program that works but does not harm the bird in the process.
Modifying a bird’s diet is one of the biggest behavioral challenges an owner will undertake. Most issues can be overcome with patience and perseverance. Educating the owner about the benefits of feeding a formulated diet versus a seed-based diet is the first challenge.
Any dietary changes should be undertaken gradually. An important concern is the bird’s refusal to eat a “new” food, leading to significant weight loss. Weighing the bird (in grams) on a daily basis using a gram scale is the best method for monitoring adequate food consumption. Weight fluctuations greater than 10% are considered problematic. Even if provided with supplemental food, birds can starve to death while merely appearing to chew their food but not consuming it. Grinding the food into a fine powder is not the same as eating the food.
Monitoring droppings is an excellent indication of the amount of food the bird is eating. Prior to the diet change, the number and character of the droppings (color, amount, liquid, form, shape, lack of odor, staining) should be noted. Any change in the volume or number of droppings (usually a dramatic decrease in amount) indicates insufficient food consumption.
Owners should not be confused by the appearance of wet droppings, which they may assume to be normal. Wet droppings usually have little fecal matter produced from food consumption. Wet droppings are often a sign of weight loss as fat and muscle are converted to energy and water. The character of the droppings will change as the bird consumes more formulated diet – they usually become more firm with a definite shape.
DIET CONVERSION – LARGE BIRD: The”Controlled Meals Method”
Some birds switch to a new diet with little to no work on the owner’s part. Other birds are very selective about what they eat. Birds should not be left alone to select their own diets. Like human children, birds will often choose the wrong foods and “parental intervention” is required. The single most important thing you can do for your bird is to feed it right.
For most medium to large parrots species a tried and true method is to follow the “Controlled Meals Method” as outlined below. This method uses small periods of hunger to motivate the bird to switch to Harrison’s nuggets and is typically successful within a week to ten days.
Note: All birds switching to Harrison’s should start out and remain on a High Potency formula for a period of no less than 8 months. Many species are recommended to stay on High Potency.
This method is best used in birds who’s eating habits can be individually observed. Split birds up into different enclosures or rooms during this period if necessary.
To follow the “Controlled Meals” Diet Conversion Method
- Make fresh Harrison’s nuggets available at all times throughout the day.
- Select ONE item that you know the bird is known to eat (in most birds this is seed). Discontinue every other item from the bird’s old diet.
- Make that ONE item available three times a day, for a full 15 minutes (no shorter, no longer), then remove that food completely. Do not limit the amount of this food available during the 15 minute window (controlled meal). Space these feedings out by periods of 6 hours. Maintain a strict schedule.
- Offer no other food at any time.
- Taper. Once the bird is eating the nuggets remove one feeding window of the older food. The more the bird eats of Harrison’s remove a second window.
- Once the bird is switched completely to nuggets discontinue all feeding windows.
Birds are notorious tricksters.
Confirm the bird is really eating by frequency, volume and color of their “poops”. Poops should never be hard, dark or infrequent. Once fully converted, items like dark green veggies, sweet potato and carrot may be reintroduced. Feed Harrison’s at around 85% or more of the total diet with the remaining foods being the veggies mentioned above.
Never starve a bird.
Quick Tips for Conversion to Harrison’s Bird Foods
1. Harrison’s Bird Bread Mix can be used as an extremely effective conversion tool. Food that the bird currently eats can be added to the mix and baked in the bread. Gradually reduce the amount of that food and replace with the appropriate Harrison’s formula.
2. Change the bird’s environment. Try moving your bird to a new enclosure, such as a box, aquarium or even a new cage. Remove all the toys, perches and bowls and offer High Potency™ on a solid surface of the floor.
3. Use a mirror or white paper. Sprinkling food over a mirror or sheet of white paper placed on the bottom of the enclosure works especially well for budgies. A bird old enough to be socialized may eat to compete with the “rival” bird in the mirror. A white paper background may draw attention to the food particles.
4. Slowly “wean” your bird from seeds. In the evening, offer seeds from the food bowl for only 1 hour. Then, remove the seeds and replace with High Potency. The next day, give your bird seeds for only 30 minutes in the morning and evening. The third day, reduce the time to only 15 minutes twice a day. And finally, offer only High Potency™ on the fourth day. (Watch the bird’s droppings – not for budgies or finches)
5. Feed your bird at mealtime. Place the food on a plate, move it around with your finger or a spoon and pretend to eat it in front of your bird.
6. Offer Power Treats, Pepper Lifetime Coarse or Adult Lifetime Mash. Birds love the taste of Power Treats™ and Pepper Lifetime Coarse.™ These foods can be crushed for smaller birds. Adult Lifetime Mash also has an appealing taste to help your bird try new food.
7. Use a converted bird as a role model. House your bird near another that’s already eating Harrison’s Bird Foods, or use a “trainer bird” in the same cage as a role model for eating.
8. Heat (warm) or moisten the food. Warm the High Potency slightly or moisten it with a small amount of fruit juice or other liquids.
9. Schedule a supervised diet change with your veterinarian. Some birds do not recognize Harrison’s as food, and placing the bird in a clinic where monitoring can be done will help keep your bird healthy through the conversion.
If the conversion steps don’t work the first time, you can feed the familiar food for a short time and then try again. The effort is worthwhile for the long term health of your bird.
The bird’s weight (in grams), body condition, attitude and droppings should be monitored carefully on a daily basis in small and medium birds and at least twice a week in large birds.
Critical Diet Transitions (CDT)
Transitioning certain difficult or unhealthy birds from a poor diet to Harrison’s may be achieved by veterinary-administered conversion using prepared Harrison’s Juvenile Hand-Feeding Formula to Harrison’s Bird Foods (Coarse, Fine, Super Fine, etc.) as follows:
Juv Formula > Juv Formula mixed with soaked Harrison’s Foods > soaked Harrison’s Foods > dry Harrison’s Bird Foods.
Transition periods may vary widely as needed. Birds should be free-feeding on Juvenile Handfeeding Formula (no longer via gavage feeding) before attempting Critical Diet Transition.
Certain large bird species may benefit from incorporating this method. Certain smaller species may benefit from incorporating other steps in addition to CDT.
Harrison’s advises that no inexperienced person should attempt gavage feeding as this process performed incorrectly may harm the bird.
How to Evaluate Your Bird’s Droppings
Clean white paper or other smooth surfaces can be used to collect the droppings. The normal appearance of the feces is usually soft and brown when the bird is eating a formulated diet but may be abnormally dry and black, yellow or green with a seed diet. The normally clear urine may be increased in amount due to excess consumption of fruits and vegetables. Normal urates are creamy white waste from the kidneys and are often suspended in the liquid urine or are “wrapped around” the feces. Any color change in the urates is abnormal. A sick bird may show a change in the volume, color, consistency or frequency of droppings. Feces from egg-laying females, baby birds on hand-feeding formulas and the first void of the morning may be larger than normal, and urine output may increase when the bird is nervous or ill.