Cockatiels have played an important role in the creation of pelleted, or formulated, diets for all pet birds. In the early 1980s, researchers at the University of California, Davis, began conducting nutritional research on cockatiels to determine the best diet for pet birds. To be able to make precise comparisons of the different nutrients, the researchers created formulated diets for the test flock. Avian nutritionists have used the data gleaned from this test flock in creating many of the pelleted diets that are available today.
Pelleted diets are created by mixing as many as forty different nutrients into a mash and then forcing (or
extruding) the hot mixture through a machine to form various shapes. Some pelleted diets have colors and flavors added, while others are fairly plain. These formulated diets provide more balanced nutrition in an easy-to-serve form that reduces the amount of wasted food and eliminates the chance for a bird to pick through a smorgasbord of healthy foods to find her favorites and reject the foods she isn’t particularly fond of.
Starting a Pelleted Diet
Some cockatiels accept pelleted diets quickly, while others require some persuading. To convert your pet to a pelleted diet, offer pellets alongside of or mixed in with her current diet. Once you see that your bird is eating the pellets, gradually increase the amount of pellets you offer at mealtime while decreasing the amount of other food you serve. Within a couple of weeks, your bird should be eating her pellets with gusto! If your cockatiel seems a bit finicky about trying pellets, another bird in the house may show your cockatiel how yummy pellets can be, or you may have to pretend that you are enjoying the pellets as a snack in front of your pet. Really play up your apparent enjoyment of this new food because it will pique your bird’s curiosity and make the pellets exceedingly interesting.
Whatever you do, don’t starve your bird into trying a new food. Offer new foods along with familiar favorites. This will ensure that your bird is eating and will also encourage her to try new foods. Don’t be discouraged if your cockatiel doesn’t dive right in to a new food. Be patient, keep offering new foods to your bird, and praise her enthusiastically when she samples something new!