How to Train Your Birds to Eat Variety of Food 

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


Training Cockatiel Guide













    Cockatiel and most pet parrot will normally eat variety of food. For me, I provide many type of food to my cockatiel and normally they will take the food provided. However, if we buy new birds and it only take one type of food, we should train the birds to take additional type of food.

     Previously when some one inform me that their birds only take one type of food, I feel funny and strange because my cockatiel will normally take many things that I give them. However, recently in early year 2004, I have bought a pair of Eclectus parrot (red sided subspecies) from a friend which he take from Johor (a south state of Malaysia). When I bring the birds back, I found that the parrot refuse to take vegetable (which I normally give to my cockatiel) and also fruits. I found that this bird is only given only few type of food from the previous owner. Therefore, my quest to find out how to train birds to tale variety of food begins.


Why we should give variety of food to our birds

1. To provide the food with variety of nutrient

       In the wild, birds especially parrot will take variety of food. This is because each type of food will contain different type of nutrient and by taking many type of food, their body will be strong and healthy. The birds also will feel comfortable and happy. However, if the birds become our pets or if the birds are in our possession, they will unable to choose their own food, they will only depend on the food that we provide for them. Therefore, it is our duty and responsible to provide the best food for them.

 2. Longer lifespan

       Birds that is only take one type of food normally will have shorter lifespan compared to other birds which received variety of healthy food. I notice that the birds which is only take one type of unhealthy food will develop lots of health problem and therefore the lifespan will be shorter.

 3. Choice of food supply

       If the birds take variety of food, we will have more choice to feed them in different period of time. Sometimes in a short period, some type of food may not available to us. If this situation happens, our birds and we may get into big trouble. Birds that are not trained will not know how to take other type of food that they are not use to eat. We could avoid this problem by train the birds to take variety of food before the problem is occurred. Well, perseverance is always better solutions.


      Hmm, I believed that there are lots more reason why we should train our birds to eat variety of food. Now, I will move to another important part, that is how to train the birds to take variety of food. Please note that I prepare this article without proper academic research from any ‘expert’ and it is only based on my experience with my birds only. There may be lots more method of training birds out there from other expert. This method work for me so far, but it may or may not work for you birds.

First Method

Step one: Train your birds to recognize his food bowl

       Normally pet parrot or other birds is able to recognized and remember. I usually will train my birds by giving him food in just one specific bowl, in one corner of the cage. Normal food that they take will be provided to them in this bowl. Normally the birds that refuse to eat variety of food is new acquired birds, therefore I will repeat this step until I make sure that the birds is comfortable to take this food. This may take some time and will also depend on each individual bird, some will be faster and some will take longer time.

 Step two: Mixed new food to the dish

        For step two, we should make sure that the birds have recognized their food bowl. We will mix very small amount of new food with the normal food in this bowl.

        In this step, the new food should replace the current food and not just an additional amount. This must be done with care and we must be very patient to train the birds. For example (just an example) if we give our bird 100gram of sunflower seed each day, the new mixture may be 90 gram of sunflower seed and 10 gram of new food. The birds may not even touch this new food for a while and some birds may take up to few weeks.

       When we found that the birds start to ‘try’ the new food that we provide, then we will increase the new food portion slowly by each day until the birds eat the new food steadily.

 Step three: Replace the menu to the new food

         In step three, we will train our birds to be more comfortable with the new food. Replacing the menu to be the new food totally will do this. However, this should not be done everyday. We may do this one in a while only, say one or two day in a week. This step will make sure that our birds will eat as usual when we provide them with only the new food. However, we also should keep in mind that our birds also like us, i.e. would have their favorite food. This will depend on each individual, some may like vegetable and some may like the pallet.

        After step three is successful, which may take up to several month, we may repeat this training process by adding new type of food to the bowl. When the birds is used to this training method, they will soon realize that they can eat everything that we provide and have no problem trying new food.


 Second method

        There are one more method that I used to train my birds, this method is applicable if we have many birds in our possession, and only if majority of our birds have been train using method one i.e. most of the birds take variety of food. I have opportunity to use this method as I have many birds in my possession. However, this method is not applicable to every species, it will do fine with cockatiel because cockatiel will not hurt each other, however if you have other species, you must be very careful as some species of birds will ‘bully’ new comer, especially when they are in the mating mood.

        If you only have one birds in you possession, or all your birds is only taking one type of food, then you should stick to the first method only.

        The second method is by mixing the trained birds with the new birds, and provide variety of food in the same food bowl. (the different of this two method is that the first method, we will train them to recognize the bowl first, in the second method we skip this). The new birds will soon learned from their observation that the food that we provide is ‘eatable’ and will try it. This method is use because I observe that most of my birds are curious about their friends, they will try and would like to have what their friend have. Even then, it may take some time for the new birds to try every food, we just have to give them time that they need and not rushing them, they are with us all their life right?

         Okay, I hope this training method is useful to you and your birds. Good luck in your training session.


Cockatiel Books and Video Tapes from Avian Publications

The Complete Pet Bird Owner's Handbook (Revised Edition) by Dr. Gary A. Gallerstein

Avian Medicine: Principles and Application (Abridged Edition) by Dr. Branson Ritchie, Dr. Greg Harrison, Linda Harrison & Dr. Donald W. Zantop Specials

Blue Ribbon Parakeet-Cockatiel Playpen
Blue Ribbon Parakeet-Cockatiel Playpen

Ideal for those times when you want to let your bird spread his wings and interact with the family.

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15 July 2004

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November 2003